Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside

Hi-De-Ho Rene!
Well, we’ve done it. We’ve gone past the point of no return on our quest to get out of the suburbs. We did not head towards a thriving urban core. We headed back to our roots – back to the country.
Our offer was accepted on a home in rural Leavenworth County. It’s a few miles north and west of Kansas Speedway, which you had an inadvertent chance to view on your visit last month. We close in a month.
Isn’t it cute?

It sits on a little more than three acres, on an asphalt road that connects to other asphalt roads to Kansas Highway 7, then Interstate 70 into KC. (I point that out because other homes we looked at in the area were a few miles off blacktop, on gravel roads.) We will have neighbors on similar-sized lots, but across the road, it’s all farmland. The rear of the lot is wooded, with a creek cutting through the lowest elevation.
There are tradeoffs, of course. The nearest grocery store is about six miles away; the nearest hospital or movie theater 11. It will take the better part of a day to mow. We knew going in that cable TV would not be available, but there’s always DirectTV, Dish Network, or a good old-fashioned antenna. More significantly, we learned this week that the house is about a mile and a half too remote for DSL service. That means either a return to dial-up or an experiment with a wireless high-speed provider, either satellite- or tower-based. The hardware associated with the wireless options is pricey on the front end, which is scary when we don’t really know how well it would work. Any advice from you or readers will be appreciated.
On the economics lessons front, this search highlighted some things I found interesting: 
  • The last two homes I’ve bought – one on my own, this one with the Other Half – were listed by Realtors, but both had spent some time on the market, unsuccessfully, as For-Sale-By-Owner. The FSBOs are at a big disadvantage in reaching potential buyers. The Multiple Listing Service is not as accessible to them, and the MLS is the main way that buyers and their agents scour the market, either directly or online, at sites like this one (I had access through my agent; other sites, including, don’t require logins but are not updated as frequently). In any case, there is no way a newspaper classified ad can compete with the detailed information on the MLS.
  • It should have been obvious, but attached garages add more value per square foot than additional living space. One reason we could afford the home we’re buying is that the previous owners had converted the two-car, side-entry garage into an additional bedroom and a home school classroom. (They didn’t just seal the garage; they reclaimed the space, removing the overhead doors and reframing so that it no longer looks like a garage, inside or outside.) A home located a few miles away, also on 3 acres and with an otherwise identical floor plan, but with the two-car garage intact, is currently listed on the market for 10 percent more than the home we bought. Both homes also have detached workshop/garage outbuildings.
  • Despite the wonders of the MLS, nothing can beat seeing a house in person. We were drawn to four other homes in the area based on their MLS listings and online photos, but none of them were as good in person as online. (One was so deficient that we turned around on the front porch without even going inside.) Another home we were led to by a buyers’ agent had not interested us online, but in person was very impressive (and a bit above our price range). The home we’re buying was interesting online, but wowed us in person. Digital photos have a hard time capturing the broader setting of a home, particularly in a rural area. 

And keeping up the tradition of Virginia Postrel tie-ins, on the subject of housing bubbles, it’s safe to say that Kansas, even in the KC area, is a great place to buy. The own-to-rent ratio is great here; using Arnold Kling’s rule of thumb, the ratio of home price to monthly rent is very low – from 120 to 180. And that’s in the KC area – out where we’ll be, it’s hard to calculate the ratio, because very few rural homes are for rent. If you’re in it for the long haul, buying is by far the best option around here. 


Blogger Rene said...


You'll have to give us periodic blog updates on the interior decorating process. If I recall you are quite the fan of the show Trading Spaces.

And since you will have so much exterior space, some photo essays of what you do with all that would be great too!

Not having cable and not having much space to work with I've not become a fan of the show. My interior decorating projects are very modest as I live in the city (not downtown however where there is an effort in the last few years to convert old commerial and industrial buildings into residential lofts) in an apartment with all of 600 square feet!

Anyway, go ahead and send me your snailmail address off-blog and will be sure to send something for the housewarming!

7:58 AM  

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