When you’re in the market for a new home, finding your ideal house — in the right location and at the right price — can be a challenge.
Texas Panhandle residents Jason and Joanne Genn — a building contractor and a registered nurse — encountered an entirely different hurdle, however, when they were house-hunting four years ago.
After a long search, the Genns discovered the country home and acreage of their dreams. Yet despite their strong credit rating, the couple had trouble getting their loan approved.
“We were working with a traditional lender, because we didn’t understand the difference between a rural land loan and a home loan,” Joanne says.
“A lot of folks want to raise their children in the country and own a piece of Texas, but they get turned away from a traditional lender. When they find us, it’s a joy to help them. It’s probably my favorite part of my job.”
–Blain Eubank, Plains Land Bank
Finding the Perfect Place
The Genns’ ordeal began in 2014, when they decided to buy a rural home and land where their young children could explore the outdoors and learn the responsibility of caring for animals. At the time, the family was living in Perryton, where the northeastern corner of the Texas Panhandle tucks under the elbow of Oklahoma. Small acreages with homes are rare in this vast expanse of farm- and ranchland. Moreover, Joanne would only consider buying a move-in-ready house.
“Everything needed to be in working condition,” she says. “Our last two houses required a lot of work, and I told my husband I wouldn’t move into another house that needed updating.”
Looking further afield, the couple found their perfect house on 54 acres outside the town of Pampa, an hour’s drive to the south. They submitted a purchase offer, which was accepted contingent on their Perryton house selling. But when the house didn’t sell in 30 days, the deal fell through.
“I remember getting the call, and I bawled my eyes out,” Joanne says.
Two months later, the Pampa house was back on the market, and once again the Genns’ offer was accepted. This time their own house sold quickly, leaving them without a home.
By now it was December. Friends in Perryton graciously invited the family to live in their basement while they were waiting on their loan to close.
“We thought we’d be with our friends for two weeks,” says Jason.
Lack of Comps Delays Process
January ticked by, and they were still living in the basement, because their commercial lender could not find comparable sales (comps) with which to appraise the property.
“Basically, the problem was the comps,” Jason says, explaining that their mortgage broker was able to only appraise the house, not the land. “The lender had no basis of comparison for what the land would cost.”
Meanwhile, the seller was losing patience, and the Genns were losing hope. Jason was even ready to move the family back to the Amarillo area, where he had previously operated a successful business.
“Finally,” says Joanne, “we figured out that we needed a land loan.”
The couple visited with an acquaintance from their church, Jess Wall, vice president and Perryton branch manager with Plains Land Bank. Wall referred them to his colleague Blain Eubank, vice president and branch manager of the Land Bank’s Pampa office.
“I knew that Blain had done quite a few rural home loans and would be able to help them out,” Wall says.
It was now late January, and the seller was anxious to finalize the deal. The one-month window for closing the loan was about to expire, but the seller granted them a one-week extension.
Rain, Rattlesnakes and the Reality of Country Living
Moving day is typically an exciting time for new homeowners. For Jason and Joanne Genn, it might be better described as a comedy of errors.
As soon as they received the keys, they headed to their new house, anxious to move in. Not even a rare rainstorm could stop them.
That afternoon, hauling a large gun safe up wet steps, Jason slipped, barely avoiding being crushed.
Then, two hours later, the family discovered that water would not flow into the master bathroom.
Armed with a flashlight, Jason crawled under the pier-and-beam house to see if the water was properly hooked up. As he shimmied across the dirt, he felt something in his pant leg. Assuming it was a mouse, he slid the pants off, flung them away, and shone his light toward them. A rattlesnake slithered out of the pant leg.
“Jason hollered to us to bring him a gun. But in all the confusion, it took us a while to find the key to unlock the gun cabinet,” Joanne says. After what seemed like an eternity, Jason put the rattlesnake to rest.
In spite of that rough start to country life, the Genns are happy they made the move.
“It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to live in the country with our kids,” says Joanne.
The children — ages 15, 9, 6, 5 and 2 — enjoy raising chickens and would like to get some pigs.
“The kids absolutely love it here. They have a 50-acre playground,” says Jason.
Joanne relishes watching spectacular sunsets from her kitchen window, and Jason talks about buying Dexter cattle, a dual-purpose breed that could provide milk for the family. They are also considering geothermal gardening or hydroponic farming for the future.
“It’s been a huge blessing to have this place,” says Joanne.
Land Bank to the Rescue
Eubank was able to quickly find comps for rural homes with acreages because his Farm Credit association specializes in financing land, unlike a traditional mortgage lender that focuses on urban home loans that are later sold to the secondary market.
“I spoke with Blain, and from then on we took care of everything over the phone, and in one week everything was done,” says Jason.
The loan closing was set for Friday afternoon, Feb. 4. If the loan didn’t close that day, the Genns would lose their chance to buy the property, but Eubank had all of the paperwork ready for the closing.
“Blain delayed a family vacation that Friday so we could get our house,” says Joanne, still grateful for the quick loan service he provided.
For Eubank, closing their loan was a very satisfying way to end his week.
“Helping people like the Genns is a real treat,” he says. “A lot of folks want to raise their children in the country and own a piece of Texas, but they get turned away from a traditional lender. When they find us, it’s a joy to help them. It’s probably my favorite part of my job.”
Nearly four years later, the home-buying experience is still fresh on Joanne and Jason Genn’s minds.
“It’s hard when you’re looking for financing, and you don’t know what your options are,” Jason says.
But today, he knows one thing for certain — if they ever decide to look for another country home and acreage, they’ll look up their rural home lending specialist early in the process.