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Living with Horses – Literally!

For anyone responsible for the daily care of horses, a house and barn combination offers many conveniences. You can perform routine chores such as feeding and medical care while being protected from the weather. One owner of a combination facility said, "I don't like rain, I don't like mud and I don't like cold. This facility comes as close as you can get to turning horsekeeping into an indoor activity."

Breeders have even more advantages. Foal-watch duties are simplified when you can step out of your house directly into the barn-a huge improvement over a cot in the barn aisle on a cold night. The same is true when handling any medical situation that requires constant vigilance or round-the-clock care.

When your house and barn are attached, you will hear noises from the barn when you are in the house. While this could be annoying during a suspenseful episode of Law & Order, it can be a blessing when a horse gets cast in his stall and the noise of his thrashing against the wall allows you to reach him before he hurts himself.

Such facilities have less-obvious benefits also. Gil Ryan, an owner of a combination facility, said that the barn's wide aisle way makes a great place for the Ryans' small children to play when the horses are all in stalls or turned out and serves as a perfect place to entertain friends without regard to the weather.

Rudy and Benita Watkins keep Arabians in their combination facility and enjoy having their horses so close that they actually have a window from their bedroom that opens into one of the stalls. One of their horses would knock on the window so that Rudy and Benita would open it and the horse would "watch TV" with them.

Combination facilities primarily come in two styles. One places the living quarters and the barn on a single level, with the house and barn sharing one or more walls. The second places the living quarters above the barn, using its loft space. A lesser-used split-level style keeps some part of the living quarters on the ground floor but extends to a second floor in the barn's loft area.

Many who have built one of these facilities love it and have no regrets about the decisions they made to build it. However, you should be aware of disadvantages to this kind of facility, most of them financial.

Dennis Rusch of Morton Buildings said that about 5% of the barns Morton constructs each year contain attached living quarters. Often these consist of small apartments, but some incorporate full-size houses into their plans. Whenever a client asks for a house and barn combination, Morton account representatives discuss some of the problems to ensure that clients are aware of the potential drawbacks. They emphasize four main areas of concern: 1) future marketability, 2) loan difficulties, 3) insurance and 4) noise and odor control.

One style of house and barn combo keeps everything on one level, with the house adjacent to the barn.

Future Marketability
Whenever you build a structure with a specialized use, such as a barn, you decrease the number of people willing to purchase the property. This population of possible buyers becomes even smaller when you combine the house and the barn into one structure.

Therefore, owners of a house/barn combination facility should expect an extended marketing period when placing their property up for sale. They also may not be able to recover their full investment upon resale, especially if the property must be sold quickly.

Loan Difficulties
When building or purchasing a facility, most of us must finance our project through loans from a financial institution. This means dealing with loan officers and appraisers.

Loan officers will take a much closer look at a proposal that includes a combination facility. The loan officer will be concerned with the future marketability of the property, since the bank will be holding it as collateral and will need to sell it if you default on the loan.

You may have difficulty finding a bank willing to accept the property as collateral. This means that you will not be free to shop the mortgage market looking for the lowest mortgage rate. Owners of combination facilities should expect to pay higher interest rates than people owning a more traditional property. Banks may also require you to have a higher equity in the property, limiting the amount they are willing to finance.

Appraiser Rand Bouldin, a member of the Appraisal Institute, explained how the limited pool of prospective buyers affects a property's appraisal. Because of the difficulties associated with resale, the property will have a higher functional obsolescence than a standard home accompanied by a free-standing barn. Thus, the appraisal value of a house/barn combination will be less than a comparable property where the house and barn are not attached.

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