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Your criteria for buying land

jesse markowitz


Joined: Apr 09, 2012
Posts: 31
Location: Hudson Valley, NY
    
    1
Hi there!

My girlfriend and I are looking to take the jump and finally buy land within the next year or so. I wanted to ask what factors you personally would consider when purchasing land. Here's what I can think of off the top of my head-

total price
price per acre
total acreage
seclusion
distance from nearest town
population of area
slope
what property was previously used for
any water source
taxes

Am I missing anything important that you would consider?

Also- how would you rank these in importance? Would the lack of south facing slope be an absolute deal breaker? Would you only buy land where you are completely secluded? I personally think my list is arranged from most to least important, simply because I wrote down what came to mind first.

Thanks for your help!
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6563
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
135
There are so many factors involved. You need to look at what your goals are, and go from there.

While price is important, you need to avoid the extremes. If it is too high, you are putting yourselves into debt for many years. And don't forget, property taxes are based on valuation. If it seems very low, you may be buying a property that you will never be able to sell at a decent price.

Many people look for isolated properties, which is fine if you really want to 'get away from it all', but if one (or both of you) need to work off-farm to make the mortgage payments, then you need to be looking near where your job skills can earn you the required money. Forget about a veggie stand to sell excess produce if you are way off of the beaten path.

If you truly want to homestead, I would suggest getting outside of city limits. Cities have a way of making new laws to satisfy the influential people within the city...no livestock, lawns must be maintained at a certain height, no commercial vehicles parked overnight on the driveway, etc. If you live in an agricultural zone, they have a hard time passing restrictive laws, and you are usually 'grandfathered in', if they pass a new restriction that would effect what you are already doing.
Kari Gunnlaugsson
volunteer

Joined: Jun 22, 2011
Posts: 308
    
    8
ok, here's a couple more that come to mind right away..

-soil, soil type
- is there a woodlot?
-general character of the community, tough to homestead without community
-will you be far from family and friends? support?
-proximity to good markets (if you're farming)
-the nature of any industries nearby, or plans for any new developments / changes in land use
-access, difficult access can be ok, but carefully consider your goals and be realistic, how do you want to be living in ten or twenty years?
-regulatory regime...how laid back or up tight are local lawmakers / enforcers about building codes and usage zoning, etc...

just a couple of thoughts...there's lots to think about. I wouldn't jump into anything. Doesn't hurt to camp around, see places in different seasons, meet people, etc..
have fun , good luck!
J D Horn


Joined: Jan 23, 2012
Posts: 154
    
    2
adding to your list:
1. Neighbors. And I don't necessarily mean the people. A lot of the land that I look at is surrounded by timberland held in land trust by insurance companies. So that land will be clear cut and replanted with seedlings at some point. This principle extends to mineral rights, riparian rights, ect. For example, I'd be very concerned about being in area where fracking is taking place, even if its three neighbors over.
2. Mineral rights to the land you are looking at. You definately don't want to find out down the road that someone else owns the right to mine silver or drill on the land you bought.
3. Easements. Does someone else have an easement across the land, say, to the public roadway? Are there utilities easements to other properties? Or old railroad easements?

Dan alan


Joined: Feb 16, 2012
Posts: 40
If I had it do over again I would save more and buy the land that fit my goals. The property I bought has rock and its such and huge labor to work and everything takes for ever, or I rent machines and then when I add up the cost of machines over the years I could have bought good land instead of getting this "deal".

Also, I would look for sand/loam with clay under it or on it, but NOT be all clay. I have found that mixing sand and clay I can build many things like clay straw walls, rocket mass heaters, bricks, water pots ect ect. Further, a little clay really helps water retention. So check out the resources of the land including slope and opportunities to harvest water from storm runoff.

If you get a hill side, try to buy the top, the side, and part of the valley otherwise you'll regret it because erosion comes form the top when cleared, the slope is hard work to use but good for a earth sheltered home, and the land that levels out is richest and best for growing.

4700 square feet can grow 1 persons diet if you water and plant intensively, but you may want 1 or 2 acres per person IF you want to grow all your own food with little or no irrigation.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________



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John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6563
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
135
I noticed that you questioned whether the lack of south facing slope should be a deal-breaker. It should NOT be a deal breaker.

Many times, a north slope is preferred for fruit trees. If you are in an area known to get several days (or a week) of warm spring weather, followed by frosts, you may want to plant your fruit trees on north slopes. Those on south slopes can break dormancy and begin to blossom in the early warm spell, then along comes the next frost and kills all of the blossoms. That results in NO FRUIT that year. Trees planted on a north slope are less likely to fall victim to such a scenario.

In many areas, and for some crops, an east facing slope can be better than a west facing crop. East facing slopes allow for early morning drying of moisture, thus helping to avoid many mold/mildew type problems. It also gives them some relief from the scorching heat of the afternoon.

Depending on the region you wish to live in, and the types of crops you wish to grow, you need to look at many factors.
A key phrase in permaculture is "It depends". Without knowing where you plan to buy, and what you plan to grow, it is difficult to give anything but generalized suggestions.

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Avoid a flood plain or other flooding hazard, or if you choose to buy land that has one, be prepared for extra work and expense. I learned this the hard way. "Significant drainage" means "catastrophic flooding."


Idle dreamer

Yone' Ward


Joined: Feb 14, 2012
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
How much do you like other people telling you what you can do on your own property? Some states will place a lot of restrictions on you "for your own protection". We moved to what was a remote libertarian county of Washington 20 years ago. It has since been infested with new laws and neighbors that insist on being in your business. It can be a make or break factor in whether you can do what you want to do.


Just call me Uncle Rice.
17 years in a straw bale house.
Mitsy McGoo


Joined: Apr 04, 2012
Posts: 22
Location: zone 6b in upper east Tennessee
jesse markowitz wrote:Hi there!

My girlfriend and I are looking to take the jump and finally buy land within the next year or so. I wanted to ask what factors you personally would consider when purchasing land. Here's what I can think of off the top of my head-

total price
price per acre
total acreage
seclusion
distance from nearest town
population of area
slope
what property was previously used for
any water source
taxes

Am I missing anything important that you would consider?

Also- how would you rank these in importance? Would the lack of south facing slope be an absolute deal breaker? Would you only buy land where you are completely secluded? I personally think my list is arranged from most to least important, simply because I wrote down what came to mind first.

Thanks for your help!


Our requirements were as follows:
- at least 20 acres in a mountainous region
- primarily south facing (we live on a north-facing mountain now, and deep, dark winters suck)
- total privacy from neighbors
- low property tax rate
- no restrictions
- extremely rural
- end of road location
- a dependable water source (creek, well, river, etc)
- something that we could afford to buy while still owning our current house and move onto at a later time
- a habitable structure (a tiny trailer would have been fine as long as it wasn't super trashed)
- hot summers and warm spring and fall
- financeable if not cheap enough to pay cash for
- few social services (= lower taxes)
- friendly people (not a deal breaker and hard to judge anyway)
- somewhat of a blank slate, meaning not a bunch of junked cars or oodles of trash to remove (not a deal breaker)
- four seasons but not buckets of snow (not a deal breaker)

Factors that we did not deem important:
- poverty rate
- employment rate
- crime rate
- quality of schools
- existing fencing, ponds, barns or other farm infrastructure
- proximity to friends and family (we are close with our family and will miss seeing them regularly but are also very independent and can thrive on just occasional visits)

We looked at desert land (NV and AZ), the Ozarks (NW Arkansas and southern Missouri), western North Carolina, West Virginia, SW Virginia, northern Georgia, SE Kentucky, and eastern TN. While I love the peace of the desert, building a homestead in an arid climate seemed like an exceedingly daunting task. The Ozarks were pretty but not quite mountainous enough. NC was too expensive per acre. Couldn't find anything we really loved in WV or GA. We needed to be able to research property assessments and boundary lines online, and some counties in VA and most of KY do not have this data available. We also needed to be able to see any potential property in aerial views from Google or Bing maps. We needed to be able to do 95% of our research of a listing from a computer and then spend the money to fly out and see it ourselves if had serious potential (foregoing traditional "vacations" for several years and utilizing FF miles).

We closed on the second of two properties we looked at in person in eastern Tennessee. It is in an extremely impoverished county (2nd poorest in TN) that has a lot of pill use and meth problems. There's a junkyard a half mile down the road. And another one two miles away. It is a dining desert to say the least. It is most definitely the Bible Belt, and we might have to start going to a real church (as opposed to my backyard "church"). We will need to drive at least 30 minutes for a decent meal out. An hour for home/farm supplies. These things don't matter to us. There are no jobs, so we plan to engage in a variety of self-employment endeavors and find the best ones that work for us coupled with and extreme take on frugality. Everyone we have met has been incredibly friendly. Our neighbor watches out for our place. People have randomly invited us into their homes for a home-cooked meal not knowing any more than our names. We've been asked if we need financial help from folks much, much poorer than us. Our land was tended to as a hunting spot (was farmed more than 20 years ago) and is a blank slate waiting for our future gardens and animals. Our tiny cabin is water tight and cozy with a wood stove but plenty big enough for just us two. While our land may not be perfect for everyone, it is lush and beautiful and just perfect for us, waiting to be sculpted into our shangri-la. We can't wait to move to our homestead this summer.

I sincerely hope you find what you're looking for!

~ Mitsy


read about mitsy and jaybird's adventures at http://mountainstead.blogspot.com
jesse markowitz


Joined: Apr 09, 2012
Posts: 31
Location: Hudson Valley, NY
    
    1
Lots of great stuff in here, thank you all.

Someone mentioned fracking. Unfortunately, we're in the finger lake region, so we're waiting on New York's decision on keeping the ban or not before buying anything. It is sort of putting everything on hold. Either way I think we are going to try and buy outside of the Marcellus shale zone (however, because of family reasons, we need to stay in NY). We think that even with a state ban, fracking will still eventually come to New York, especially if there is another economic contraction ahead. As a side topic, would any of you consider buying land if it was in danger of having major drilling nearby? Just curious.

Hanley Kale-Grinder


Joined: Sep 30, 2011
Posts: 112
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
    
    1
I would definitely NOT buy land near drilling or mining. Everywhere they go they ruin the water. If you don't have water you can't live.
 
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