More Farmland Stories
While I’m at it, I might as well include another amazing farmland story. So help me, I couldn’t make this up if I tried. It’s the most amazing tale of appraising and selling farmland in my book.
A year or two before, I had spent time in the Altona area. I was promoting log homes and underground shelters and had somehow come in contact with the Altona Credit Union, perhaps enquiring about mortgages for that purpose. The only thing that came out of that was one day Helmut Dyck from the Credit Union gave me a call, asking if I was interested in giving an appraisal on some property west of Winnipeg and submit it to him. They had three parcels they wanted to dispose of in a quasi bankruptcy situation and would appreciate my help. (It was more like a forced sale.) I would be competing with other realtors but I should give it my best shot. I would, and I did, so they gave me the co-ordinates in their terms and the name of the owner/occupant. I could get hold of him at Arc Used Autobody Parts. His name was Nate Fingold.
I tracked Nate down in the messiest junk yard I’d ever seen. There was junk everywhere, up against the counter, on the counter, behind it and into the shop. Two or three people were waiting on customers, all the while yelling at Nate to find this or that. Every time he would come up with the part out of all that rubble. It was amazing. He seemed to know where every piece or part was. I could have stood there all day watching this.
When I finally got his attention, Nate suggested we go down the road to the Salisbury House where we could talk in peace. We got our coffees and sat down to talk. It turned out that Nate was really a cattle man, even in his native Poland. When he came here he started up again, doing quite well. The Auto Parts business came from a lack of things to do and it turned out to be handy in terms of cash flow.
His wife, he said, while being a good manager, was fairly high maintenance so he had to do a lot of juggling to keep things afloat. His troubles lately had come from cattle prices dropping due to “mad cow disease” in England. They just bottomed out and wouldn’t recover so he had to give up his beloved cattle and rely more and more on the Auto Parts business. It was really a bad patch for him.
Finally we got round to the location of the properties which were not too far away. I had to just go down Jefferson Avenue until I hit the number 7 Highway and it was right there on either side of the road west of the Highway. I couldn’t miss it. He also gave me the dimensions of the three parcels, where they began and where they ended. Somehow it sounded strangely familiar. I took Nate back to his shop and headed for Jefferson Avenue. It was not much of a ride, what with washboard gravel, pot holes and overgrown spots. Finally I hit the number 7 Highway and my mouth fell open.
‘Oh for God’s sake!’ I muttered under my breath. I found myself at our boyhood playground! To the left was the big old elm tree we had all shinnied up and carved our initials in. It was right beside the pond we used to swim in. On the north side of the road was the bigger pond that I now supposed had been a gravel pit at one time. It held a body of water that was fed by an artesian well. Oh my, the stories I could tell you about that place!
After I got over the original shock, I drove on to the farm yard. There was a long, low unoccupied bungalow there and a few outbuildings – nothing much to speak of. Of course nobody was home so I didn’t bother to poke my nose in anywhere. It was clear that Nate was a frugal cattle man, allowing for his animals to shelter under an open roof. There was a separate area for hay storage and a machine shed that I presumed held his equipment. There were no longer any animals on the property.
Stopping again by the old elm tree site I had another good look around and then headed back to my office by a more familiar route. Assessing the real value of the property wasn’t as easy as expected. I had to take into account the inflated prices of the East Reserve and even to the West where the farm dealers were steering their customers. That was all fine and dandy if you were prepared to wait a year or two (or three) for the right set up to lure European buyers in. My understanding with the Credit Union was that they wanted to sell it and get out of the farming business. Actually it was more that they wanted to get away from Nate Fingold who had already agreed to make a payment in person, but given his busy circumstances, the only day he could come in was December 25th. (He chuckled at that the next time I met him.)
Of course, if you live in Altona and its Christmas Day, you’re either in church or at home with family and friends. That’s one day you don’t do the devil’s dirty work! Nate, the wily old fox knew that and exploited it as much as possible.
So I set about doing my sales comparisons from about every angle I could, including the number of days until a sale was made. It was quite an extensive survey. What I came up with was quite a different number that what was floating around presumed land prices. So I wrote it all down with an explanation of my findings and sent it off to the Credit Union.
When the owner of the company I worked for saw a copy of my letter to the Credit Union, he literally flipped out. I could make a list of all the things he called me, but it would be too long. Suffice it to say that I told him I was off to Altona this afternoon to pick up the listing agreements. He would most certainly be welcome to write whatever offers he had in mind as soon as I got back. I left him fuming in his office and went about my business.
Of course there hadn’t been a lot of happy faces at the Credit Union Board room either when they discussed my proposal, but as detailed as my analysis was, the choice they had between my assessment and that of the other realtors was relatively clear in ridding themselves of Nate Fingold and the whole property issue in a relatively short time, so I came away with all the listing agreements.
Within a week all the properties were sold and the whole business wrapped up nicely to everyone’s satisfaction, even Nate’s who no longer had the burden of the farmland on his back was living leisurely with his wife in their Garden City home. While he was reluctantly out of the cattle business, he’d never given a rip about the land except as a means to feed his cows, so he could now concentrate on his Auto Parts junk store exclusively.
It was a happy ending pretty well all around.