Editor’s note: The Internet has been a partner in the home ownership explosion of the last decade, prompting anyone with a computer to find his or her perfect home. In this special three-part series, we explore some of the more unique homes people have found online. These are homes that, pre-Internet, would’ve been difficult, if not impossible to find. (See Part 1: Dream homes on eBay (Barbie not included) and Part 2: Historic home travels from Michigan to California.)
Chasing a long-held dream of owning acreage, Kit Strandberg this year traded the congestion of city life for 47 acres of farmland and a 55-mile commute to work each day. Ever since 9/11, she considered moving out of urban Portland, Ore., but she never thought it would happen so soon.
Using the Web, Strandberg looked at virtual tours and color photographs of properties she’d otherwise spend hours driving to and from to see. She searched and pined over farms for a year before making the move.
“I’d lived in the city ever since I left the chicken farm at 18. I was sick of it. I hated the traffic. I hated the fact that developers were tearing down houses and building multiple units with no yards. I hated all the people, the noise and the stress,” she said.
The Internet has become a powerful tool for people looking for homes or land in rural areas. Buyers now can easily compare properties 40 miles apart without having to drive to each one. Urbanites can feed their fantasies of buying a ranch or farm and even make the move they previously thought was either crazy or impossible.
On sites like RuralSpace.com, home shoppers can find listings like the 140-acre organic dairy farm for sale near Finger Lakes, N.Y., for $425,000. Or they can bargain hunt for land like the 112-acre parcel in Kittson County, Minn., that includes a pond and a cabin for $50,000, or the 40 acres of land near Cotton, Minn., that boasts “lots of deer” and “one mile to nearest neighbor” for only $22,000.
Strandberg’s Realtor, Terri Fiyalko of Kastings & Associates, specializes in helping people move from urban to rural areas. She’s dubbed herself Portland’s “Get out of Dodge” real estate specialist. She’s also an urban transplant who moved from Los Angeles to Northern California and finally to rural Oregon.
Recognizing the marketing power of the Web for rural properties, Fiyalko set up her Web site to accommodate people looking to relocate to the country. She displays 10-30 photographs of each property, a map and links to local weather reports, inspection services, power company and school information so prospective buyers don’t have to do as much research and driving.
Another one of Fiyalko’s clients, Janine Manny, also migrated to rural Oregon from California. She found Fiyalko on the Internet and last year bought a six-acre horse ranch about an hour’s drive from Portland.
“There’s no way I would’ve found this property without the Internet. I wouldn’t have known about any of these properties,” Manny said.
Since she wasn’t tied to any particular area in Oregon, Manny searched for listings statewide. By the time she was ready to visit homes in person, she’d narrowed it down to about six properties, which made it a lot easier to manage.
Manny’s property has a barn and a four-bedroom house built in the 1940s. The barn has enough stalls for up to five horses. She already has two horses that she owned while living in Carson City, Calif., where she had to keep them on someone else’s property across town.
In addition to helping people find those middle-of-nowhere bargains, the Web has simplified the rural home search for those looking from overseas. Consider Robert and Roni Anderson, who started looking for their dream home in rural Montana while doing missionary work in the Middle East with the group Concern For Kids.
Several years ago, Roni Anderson came across a Web site called MontanaHereICome.com, where she met real estate agent Dorothea Lowe. The Andersons struck up a friendship with Lowe, who regularly sent them her newsletter and listings matching their search criteria.
Rather than return to Georgia where they already owned property, the couple decided on a place in the mountains where they could decompress and rest from the 12 years they spent in Turkey, Iraq and Cypress.
“We’ve lived the dangerous life. Now we need a place to calm down and have safety…That’s why we chose the remote mountains, and it is filling the bill,” Robert Anderson said. “Our farm in the suburbs of Atlanta was out of the question because it’s too crowded there now.”
Since they’d communicated with Lowe via e-mail, she had properties lined up for the couple to see once they arrived in Montana.
About one month ago, the Andersons bought a 2,800-square-foot log cabin near Nye, Mont., in the Cathedral Mountain Ranch. The cabin sits in a community with about 27 other cabins, and encompasses a few hundred acres of common area. Only about six families actually stay there at one time. The closest town is about 30 miles away.
“It’s one of the quiet little secluded beauty spots of the world and we like it that way,” Robert Anderson said.
The couple can see Yellowstone Park from the cabin and watch horses and deer walk past. Similar cabins in the area are listed for about $180,000.
While the Andersons were surfing listings from the Middle East, Lowe’s Web site also attracted the attention of Chris Goozee, a resident of Birmingham, Ala., who was shopping for property in the western U.S. Last year, she bought 40 acres of undeveloped land near Redlodge, Mont.
After doing some research online, Goozee saw the purchase as a good investment, regardless of whether she planned to build and settle there. Her dream is to build a small cabin where her family could spend vacations.
“The Internet–it’s just unbelievable,” she said. “Before, you’d have to drive out there, but now it’s right there on your computer.”
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