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Family land, family home: A new life with old roots

Ask the Thalacker children – Reagan, Sawyer and Boone – what they like best about their new house built among rolling farmland outside Cuba City in southwestern Wisconsin, and their answer is immediate: Their grandparents, who live in a farmhouse just a quarter mile away along a path carved through fields of corn. 

And that’s exactly how their parents, Ashley and Carl, want it. Their house is on the farm where Ashley was raised. “I knew I wanted to be by my parents and my grandparents because family was a big part of our upbringing,” she said. 

That family connection runs through the land where the Thalackers ultimately built their custom shouse (short for shed/house, also lovingly referred to as a “barndominium.”) With thoroughly modern living quarters and extra space for projects and entertaining, the house has everything they wanted – plus something that can’t be built, except by years of tradition: A strong sense of family. 

But getting to their dream home wasn’t easy. With the complexities of building on farmland, the unique design of their home, and transferring land ownership across generations, many traditional banks and mortgage companies wouldn’t help them until they started working with Compeer Financial

“They just get rural America.”  

Both Ashley and Carl were raised on farms, and after spending time in other communities and towns, decided they wanted to return to Cuba City.  

But the house they wanted just wasn’t there. Inspired by a colleague who had built a shouse, Carl acquired some plans and started lining up what it would take to get it built, while Ashley’s parents offered her a parcel of their farm as a building site. 

“I had my folders and went into our local bank, figuring everything was going to work out,” remembered Carl. But it didn’t. The bank wanted a clear deed to the land, which would take time. It was still being farmed and was challenging to survey. And the house design was unique and hard to assess. The bank said they couldn’t help.

On a recommendation, the Thalackers looked up Compeer, which has a long history as a farm lender and now applies that experience to people building and buying in rural areas. “They just get rural America,” Carl said, including not only how people build, but what attracts them to the country in the first place.  

Financing finished fast – and just in time  

An online form led the Thalackers to Jenny Layton, who replied within a day. She came out, and they rode together to the parcel in the Thalackers’ utility vehicle, getting muddy exploring the site of their future home and talking about options. 

“Financing with Compeer is different than a lot of local banks,” she said. “We finance things that other banks don't always finance — unique properties that may not fit traditional financing partner minimums or new-type homes where finding comparables is difficult.” But none of that deterred her. 

“I don't think there was any roadblock that she said that couldn't be figured out,” Carl marveled. “I was like, am I in a dream? Even when we thought we knew what we were talking about, they knew what we were actually talking about.” 

Compeer didn’t require the land transfer to be complete before getting the construction loan, and Jenny served as an educator and guide throughout the process, helping them navigate the unique complexities of building on farmland while offering recommendations based on her experience. Compeer’s flexibility helped keep the project on the timeline the Thalackers wanted.  

“We were able to get them the land, the construction loan and [mortgage] loan all within the same six months,” Layton said, all from one place, and fast enough to let the Thalackers lock in before interest rates and material costs rose too high — a vital consideration. Layton stayed involved throughout, even buying pizza for the contractors as a thank-you for their part in making the Thalackers’ dreams come true. 

Family focused in every way possible.  

Their new home is designed with family in mind in every detail. Not only do their kids have their own rooms and space to play, but the layout was designed to accommodate large family gatherings with extended family, plus of course the path to Ashley’s parents’ home.

“Moving back here allows us to have the Sunday night tradition I had with my grandparents,” Ashley said. “Every Sunday night we would go over to their house, both my mom's parents and my dad’s parents.” Now the tradition continues with her own children, on the same land. 

“Honestly, we would not be here today without Compeer, 100%,” Carl said. “Without Jenny, we would have been lost.” 

Ashley agreed. “And now we're here forever.”

Considering building a home of your dreams in rural America? Check out our other articles and resources.

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