Heartland House

Photo taken July 2016

Photo taken July 2016


It all started when...

I found a house listed for sale for $7,000. No, really. I was living in Marion, Indiana and working at Indiana Wesleyan University. This house happened to be just a few blocks from where I worked and a mere one block from campus. I was itching for a project. I had been researching tiny houses quite a bit at this point, but I hadn't taken any steps to start building one yet. 

Dan was on a trip to Barcelona, Spain and Minneapolis in the spring of 2011. I had three weeks by myself with my dogs, and I admit I got a little bored. I was also somewhat bored at work. It was my fourth year working there, and although I still had plenty to do I felt confident that I understood the process and could handle my workload. In other words, the timing was ripe for me to make a MAJOR change.

I was browsing the real estate listings (not because I've actually bought that many houses, or was really in the market for one, but just because I'm a weirdo who was probably a real estate agent in a former life. I browse real estate listings A LOT.) and I when I sorted by price low-high this gem came up.

$7,000. 1,200 square feet. Steps away from work. On a decent street. 3 bedrooms. Corner lot. Extra big single car detached garage. Needs work. ~Heartland House Real Estate Listing

HA. Needs work was an understatement. It wouldn't have passed FHA or any kind of conventional mortgage process, but for $7,000 who would need such a thing? I had my little stash of savings and I thought, well, what would it be like to pay cash for an entire house? Since Dan was out of town, I immediately called a real estate agent, Susan, and asked her to show me the house. It was terrible. Of course I fell in love.

Dan likes to say that he was in a meeting in Minneapolis with his phone turned off, and when he turned it back on there were about 5 missed calls, 3 voicemails, an email, a Facebook post AND a Facebook message, and a tweet from me waiting for him. He thought someone had died. But nope, it was just me freaking out about this house that I had to have. He was puzzled. As far as he knew, we weren't in the market for a house. I had to explain that it wasn't a house for us to live in *yet* but rather a project house for me to learn on. I had traditional architecture schooling and I managed construction every day; I hadn't really done much hands on work since I was in middle and high school helping my dad finish our basement. I wanted hands on experience.

The closing was about two weeks later. Dan was barely back in town from his trip and because the paperwork was all handled while he was away, his name isn't actually on the title. I bought Heartland House on June 1, 2012. Dan affectionately calls it the "Poop House" because there were some pretty major sewer issues in the house when I bought it, and one of the first things I had to do was clean it all out, top to bottom. Here's a little photo tour of the day I purchased Heartland House:

She's a beaut, right? I spent every weekend and many evenings that summer working on Heartland House. Actually more pressing than working on the house itself was getting the garage into shape and powered up as my workshop, so I would have a place to work out of. And get the garage secure, so I could store things there and not have to drag them back and forth between my rental house and Heartland House in my Prius or on my bike. Dan was working a lot of weekends out of town, so he often would leave on a Friday with our car and I would use my bike for the weekend until he came home. It was an adventure going to the hardware store on my bicycle!

By the end of the summer I had bruises, callouses, and a lot of good stories from working on Heartland House. I blogged a bit about it over at Wordpress if you are interested in the details.

Before and After of the garage at Heartland House, otherwise known as Base Camp.

Before and After of the garage at Heartland House, otherwise known as Base Camp.

When I was hired kind of unexpectedly by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company that winter and we moved to California, I mostly shuttered the house. I had a few volunteers with a local non-profit come to work on it, but for most of 2013, 2014, and 2015 it sat partially finished and empty. There were a couple of minor break ins while it was sitting there, and when 2016 rolled around I knew I had to get it finished before it started regressing into the condition it was in when I bought it. I bought a flight for myself and my dog Squirrel and planned to work on it for the entire month of April in 2016. My dad, mom, and even my 80 year old grandpa came to help me. We did some major work in a short time, and even though I extended my stay another week into May it still wasn't done. It looked much better, of course! 

When I left, I had high hopes that I could organize what was remaining to be done long distance, and hire some people to work on it. I also took a closer look at the budget and realized that was not an option. So when I was booking my flight to the Tumbleweed Chicago Workshop in July 2016, I extended my stay by a week to finish it off. My dad (bottom left picture, above) was a fantastic building partner. He came with me to work in 90 degree temps with the humidity level also nearing 90%. But we survived and finished it off, mostly because my mom is genius and suggested we bring a window air conditioner with us from their house so we could at least be comfy while we slept. I'm convinced that's the only reason I was able to put Heartland House on the market to sell on July 29, 2016. It's listed for $79,900; it's a far cry financially and visibly from where it was when I purchased it for $7,000 four years ago. And now for the full before and after tour: