The Marsh House: Our Private Paradise

We found our little house on the lake/pond by sheer luck. In fact, we weren’t even in the market to buy a house at the time we stumbled upon it. If anything has ever been meant to be, it was our luck in finding this house when we did, and winning the uphill battle to make it ours.

The year was 2012 (spring) and my husband, Harry C. Marsh and I had just purchased and moved into our very first house 10 months prior. We were completely happy with our current house, fixing it up as we lived there, doing small projects here and there. We weren’t at all interested in finding a new house for ourselves, but we had started playing with the idea of real estate investing and we were looking to explore that. Harry had been searching online through Zillow for a few weeks for a good deal when he came across the little house on Mintbrook late one night. This was long before he was one of Charlotte’s largest Real Estate Closing Attorneys, and a few years before I became a licensed Realtor. Our knowledge of this process was limited, but we were eager to get our feet wet in the game.

Harry found our house online in the middle of the night, sitting on the toilet after a dinner of Papa John’s Pizza. The pizza had given him some indigestion, so while he was on the toilet, he decided it was a good time to search for investment houses online (leave it to Harry). It was there, seated upon his throne in the dark of the night, that he first stumbled across the listing for our house. The photos of it poor and rough (the listing agent did a piss-poor job, thank God), but what caught my husband’s eye was the private lake/pond and the 3.8 acres of land the house sat upon. We’ve both always had an infinity for nature and an appreciation of the outdoors, so the listing peaked his interest, despite the horrible photos.

The next morning was a Saturday and so we set out driving to go find this house in the woods on the private lake that had our attention. The house and land were listed for a grand total of $109,000. The listing remarks warned us that it had been a foreclosure and that the house had been empty for nearly 3 years due to “title issues,” but we were interested, nonetheless. There was just something about the photos, despite how unappealing they were. It was like the listing was calling to us, beckoning that we come explore this house.

I can still remember the way I felt when we rounded the corner onto the private road and the lake came into my view for the first time. The way my heart lurched forward into my throat and I immediately felt sick, because I knew that I would never be the same again unless I could somehow make this paradise mine. The land this little house sat upon, so beautiful and so unique. I knew that we had stumbled upon something special, a true diamond in the rough. Harry and I were both speechless as we got out of the car and walked around the yard and down to the lake. Both of us scratching our heads, wondering how it could be, that a place such as this even existed. We were both emotionally bonded to this house and this land, the moment we saw it and stepped foot on it.

Getting it under contract wasn’t easy. It had been under contract for nearly a year prior and they had been unable to close due to “title issues.” The previous buyer had finally walked away, giving up after waiting around for months. The Saturday we saw the house was the first day it had gone back on the market as an active listing after nearly a year. By that afternoon, we had a Realtor showing us inside, and despite the holes in the walls and ceilings, and the snake skins in the basement, both Harry and I were begging to write up an offer right then and there. “Whatever it takes” both of us said. “We’ll wait 3 years for this house if we have to.” We knew this place was something special that we would never come across again.

We submitted a full-price offer that weekend. At some point, our Realtor informed us that there were multiple offers on the house and that we would need to submit our highest and best offer. I still remember how sick I felt, physically and mentally, before we got it under contract. The nausea. I couldn’t eat. If you’ve ever been heartsick, the feeling is similar to how I felt. The idea of not getting the house became so unbearable, I could barely function. In my head, it was already my house, I just had to convince other people the same. I had imprinted on it, or it had imprinted on me, I still don’t know. Regardless, something magical had already taken place, some force I couldn’t see, but could only feel. I knew in my heart that I belonged in this house with more certainty than I’ve had about anything before. The words needed to describe the emotional bond I felt to it, still escape me to this day.

We raised our offer $30,000 over list price and waited an agonizing, painful, sickening week before hearing the welcome news that our offer had been accepted (we were dealing with a bank seller, so that process does not go quickly). The relief from getting this far was celebrated, but short-lived as the process of getting to the closing table was an entirely separate, tumultuous endeavor that took a lot of work, creative thinking and sleepless nights to get there. The title issues, the fact that Harry and I were both 1099 employees at the time with a lot of student loan debt, the private road issue, the inoperable well, the encroachments, the question of habitability, etc. The list goes on. A new issue every day to battle and fight through.

Had it not been for our relentless problem-solving and sheer will to own this house, we wouldn’t have. Most people would have given up, as the process wasn’t for the faint of heart. Even now, as I sit here, typing these words, the memories of the anxiety from those months, still hit me like a ton of bricks. I can still remember the sick feeling I carried with me for nearly 2 months. But, as I said earlier, this house was meant to be ours forever and through this force, destiny, or whatever you want to call it, we found ourselves at a closing table on June 18th, 2012, signing our names in blue ink to a stack of closing papers, pinching ourselves to make sure it was all real.

The first summer we lived in our new house was nothing short of a dream. Without a doubt, the happiest, most surreal summer of our lives. I remember the giddiness I felt as I went about my day, cleaning and painting, fixing it up as we moved in. We spent the first night in the house on a mattress on the floor in the sunroom, staring out at the water and listening to the bullfrogs sing us to sleep. Every single day was a new adventure on this property, each as equally fun and exciting as the next. That summer will live with me forever, and even now, as I live through my days here, I’m still taken away by the beauty of this house and the land it sits upon. It still takes my breath away when I stop and think about it all…

I started this blog post because I wanted to showcase the house and the work we’ve done to it since we bought it seven years ago (additions and remodels). Instead, I’ve gone and written a love letter to my house. I guess it’s a story that needed told and enough of one to fill up an entire page, so I’ll save the remodel posts for another day, when I’m not feeling so sentimental.

As for right now, I think I’ll walk down to the dock, and as I sit and look out over the water, count my blessings for another day in paradise. #GratefulEveryday

P.S.- here’s what the house looks like today.

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