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Straylight Hatfield
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

I really feel for you in wanting to leave the city.  Not long ago, I was living in Seattle and waiting for a land deal to go through. Though not an expert, I have some relatively recent experience.   

For land hunting, I like  Questions to ask about parcels of interest include how much of it has been known to flood and how much is within a protective buffer zone of wetlands. I wasted a lot of time considering parcels that had minimal portions of legally usable land. 

Another thing to watch out for in cheap parcels are electrical towers.  I'm not sure what legalities are involved in grazing beneath them, but I suspect the area immediately around them might not be usable for various reasons. They aren't always mentioned in short parcel descriptions.

I wish I could remember the soil survey site that describes the slopes and percentages of loam, sand, and clay for all of Washington State.  I want to say it was affiliated with Thurston County. Though we found out that "well-drained" soil may still puddle to a surprising degree.

As for my story, it comes with a warning. My partner and I came to our homesteading project having done extensive research, but were still repeatedly bitten in the butt for being under-informed about the gnarly details.
We hunted, bought a parcel, moved onto it in a hurry and are still playing catch-up. If I had it to do over again, I would plan on spending a year or more land hunting, a year or more to ensure the purchase goes through, a year or more for septic and well installation. It's possible for it all to happen much more quickly, but I found every step took longer than promised and involved potential irreversible loss. Rushing cost us and the stress was beyond anything I have known.

Long story short, I wish I had approached with a greater respect for the fact that to develop land is to risk discovering you have bought land that will never be legally livable.

For instance:

Plan on >$30,000 for septic and well, though of course it will depend a lot on details. Even though our parcel is plenty wet, the first well drilled was "dry."  That means it wasn't pumping a gallon a minute of clear water, which is the minimum for our county. We had to apply for a second drilling permit, pay to fill the unusable hole, and wait with gnawed fingernails to see if the second hole would be any better. Another surprise was the need of a pump house as a place to join the septic, well and electric. This would be the heart of the system and it's placement would effect all designs thereafter.  These were designs we had hoped to slowly evolve.  Our off-grid intentions complicated everything further, as 12volt pumps are outside the knowledge base of most septic designers and there simply may not be a model that meets code.  Our solar set-up had to be ramped up far beyond our realistic needs to accommodate the heavy-duty pump that meets code for septic.  One would like to think a person could just buy land, set up humanure compost and collect rainwater. Nope.

If I were still in Seattle, I'd rent a place with a garden on a good busline to my job.  It wouldn't even necessarily be cheaper to be on the outskirts of the city, if you are willing to live with a homeowner who is renting a room. If your employer will pay for the ferry, it is luxurious and cheap to rent on Vashon Island.  It's deliciously woodsy and there is a strong community of organic gardeners there. It would not be unheard of to have yard work pay a portion of the rent. In any case, I would buy land, map it, dream, plan and develop all from the comfort of a stable home and life.

I sincerely wish you the best of fortune and success with your five year plan.  For the record, I could not be happier with the land we bought and love more each day.  I am sure you will find the adventure as ultimately rewarding as I have and hope my story has not been in any way discouraging.


Pam Hatfield
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

It sounds hardhearted but look into bank repos and tax sales in the area you are interested in. Many have simply been abandoned so you  would not be turfing anyone out of their home. (you could check on that before going forward). Some of the prices of these things are literally pennies on the dollar of what they otherwise might be sold for. The banks don't want to hold onto them; they need cash flow too; and the tax people would rather have someone paying taxes on a property than having it sit.

You need to be careful though, and check the rules and regulations around these things; they vary from place to place. For tax sales, most have a time frame in which owners can change their minds and pay the taxes and reclaim the land; in that case you normally get your money back plus interest.  Check all the details out carefully before you sign anything so you know exactly how it works in your area (and what you are getting!  Maybe the property was abandoned because they couldn't get drinkable water or some such thing. The guiding principle here is DEFINITELY  let the buyer beware.) My understanding though, fwiw, is that you don't have to worry about  liens and such popping out of the woodwork unexpectedly later, but I certainly would consult a lawyer if a piece of property in such a situation appeals to you. It doesn't cost anything as far as I know,  to find out what's available.
Elfriede B
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

Lots to consider. Do you want quality or quantity?  What do you plan to do on your land?  Very important, do you have to work and commute?  How independent do you want to be energy and water wise?  We did very well on two acres,  when the children were growing up. Actually much better than we do now.  the quality thing, and the climate.  Now we have enough acreage to provide a lot of privacy and a lot of extra work.  It all depends,  and nothing is 100% perfect. 
Joel Hollingsworth
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

A declining urban neighborhood might be worth considering. Property will be cheap enough now, to live within a reasonable commute distance. As homes are condemned, plots will become available to buy or at least to garden on surreptitiously. If you can maintain a rural lifestyle without drawing the attention of local authorities, you'll help shield your neighbors from any attempts at gentrification. It'll be important to relate well to the neighbors, which can be difficult enough to drive people into the suburbs/countryside, so this plan isn't for everyone.
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

Build permanent structures, like a home or business. The more land you own, the more permanent objects you can have out.Have more control over what can and can't be done and who can and can't be there. Before you buy land you really should look at the current prices.Look at what land prices for the rating and size you want are.

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Dusty Trails
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

Driving two hours or more a day and putting sixty miles a day on your car .. is not saving you rent. Pay more and get closer or pull the plug and jump in.

What do you really want out of life and how are you going to support yourself. Many are predicting a market crash. Where do you have your money. Don't let a failed bank take it and they also legally vacuum your safety deposit box while they are at it. The right land .. ready to occupy .. is a great investment.
Ardilla Esch
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

It may be obvious, but be careful when looking at properties that are priced low but will cost a lot to develop.  Things that come to mind are steep/north facing slopes, poor access (river crossings, bad roads), difficult conditions for drilling a well, expansive soils...  Some calls to local excavation contactors and well drillers can give you ideas about the relative costs for a potentially difficult site.
wombat McCoy
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

As for finding the perfect piece of land, I would go to the area where you think you want to purchase and drive around and see what is there.  Tell everyone you meet that you are looking for land.  And go to the local land assayer's (tax collectors) office and find out what is up for sale. 

Personnally I would try to find the owner to complete the sale rather than use a real estate agent.  If you don't mind paying their fee, real estate agents know the area and they know the market.  It might be worth it to pay for their services.  In my experience though they will try to sell property that needs to be sold rather than the whole range that may be available.

When you do complete the sale you will need an attorney to draw up the papers.  Make sure there are no questions about rights -- check the mineral rights for example -- and property lines.  You will need to have they property surveyed even if it has already been surveyed.
Brenda Groth
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

well i don't know what your job situation is..but for 90 K you could buy an entire repod farm with buildings, house and land here in Michigan now..our property values just dropped again this year..two years ago we just sold a beautiful piece of land with 2 ponds, flowing well, open and wooded land, house with all new everything and a huge pole barn with loft..and it went for $110 K then (a loss to us of well over $100 K) and property values have dropped hugely since now it would sell for about your 90K...

it would have been perfect for you..a wonderful farm/home/property

there are other states in our similar situation as Michigan..but i dont' think property is going cheaper than it is here..beautiful homes and land for next to couldn't pick a better place to buy right now
wombat McCoy
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

I would say right now is a great time to buy land -- there is so much of it available.  Where I live there are farms and pasturelands that are being split up.  I am in rural Alabama.

At one point I bought a 25  acre lot in rural west Tennessee.  It was a beautiful piece of land with  two streams on it forming a braided stream channel -- a waterfall and fish in the stream.  I always wanted to live there.  It was about an hour from Nashville but otherwise so far out in the country it would take a whole day to  go to town for supplies.  Eventually I had to sell it to pay for the town property I have now.

So my point is land is a good investment no matter what -- better than a savings account.

I always resent that I could not live on my dream property though, but it did prove to be an excellent cushion for when the going go tough.
Virginia Gent
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

Pay for your land in full (100%) and make sure to acquire the land patent to the land you have just purchased, IE get the full assignment to the Land with a true Title to the Land (a Certified Abstract not simply the alleged assurance of Title Insurance); also, make sure the Land and its appurtenances are free and clear of all encumbrances before closing.
jacque greenleaf
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

Be sure to check into the legalities of living in a travel trailer. In Klickitat County, you have to have a building permit in order to legally live in a trailer while building your house. In order to get that permit you have to have a well and septic already in. King County and environs are bound to be at least as strict. And yes, your neighbors are very likely to turn you in.

I second the idea of buying a place within reasonable commute distance of a city. We are not within commute distance, and it is hard for me to make money (my partner is a consultant who works online, so it's a different story for him). Selling things from your place requires a market, and it's much easier to find one in a city. You can do a lot on a half-acre, and you might find that's all the work you really want to do. Living way out there is wonderful as long as you have figured out the adequate income thing. If you haven't, you can lose your money and break your heart. And, especially while you are developing your infrastructure, homesteading in the country is not necessarily cheaper than city living.

The most important things in buying country land are water, sewage and zoning. Wells are *expensive*. Make sure you understand what you are getting into. The seller and realtor are legally responsible for telling you certain things. Therefore, they have a vested interest in not finding out about all of those certain things. Talk to the neighbors and the folks at the planning department as well.

Consider making a deal with the owner of a run-down place, one that no bank will lend money on. Cash talks, and you have some. Then you have a legal, if crappy, place to live. Just make sure you have an attorney review the deal before you sign anything. 

I don't know your current living situation, how old you are, or how much you have pondered your options, but buying a house or duplex with a large lot in a small town is not the worst of all worlds. Nor is renting a room in a house while you continue to save.

Good luck in your search, and keep us posted!

Leah Sattler
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

90k will buy you a big chunk of land around here

we looked at several places that were around 100k that were 10-20 acres with a stick built homes in pretty good condition. if outdated somewhat. but you would probably want to renovate to make them off grid or more eco anyway. 
Kerrick McCoy
Post     Subject: Re: looking for some advice on buying land

There ought to be a more general abbreviation for "I Am Not Qualified To Give Advice On This Matter." And yet...

Why not save yourself the step? A small piece of land within 30 miles of the city might be all the homestead you need, if you find the right parcel--and it's a great way to test out your homesteaditude, where you already have a job and community to call on. Don't count on being able to sell it for more than you paid for it, or even as much--the people I think know what they're talking about say we could see 15% more decline in many areas, although being close to a city with a somewhat stable economy would insulate you some from that (and I think Seattle's economy is comparatively resilient, but that's just a feeling).

Even if you are within the reach of city power and water, you can still get "offer grid" than you can in a rented apartment. You may not be able to keep beef cattle but you can probably find space for a goat. You may not be able to grow all your own grain on acres of perennial grassland, but you can probably grow enough fruit and vegetables to trade someone local for a bag of flour now and then. And there's a lot of peace and quiet to be had just a few miles outside of Seattle, if I remember right from my limited travels in the area.

You'll want to cost out your commute and make sure you're not paying more to work than your job is worth, though.
barefooter McCoy
Post     Subject: looking for some advice on buying land

My current 5 year or less plan is to live as cheaply as I can while saving up as much money as I can to eventually buy land and create my homestead. I have a job in seattle, and also live in seattle, but I can't stand being in the city anymore, so I'm looking into renting a cabin outside of the city where I can have a garden.

However, I've been thinking of an alternative which I would like some input on. I already have some money saved up (about 90k) and I could buy a small piece of land within 30 miles of the city and live in a trailer on the land and save a lot of money over paying rent. I would also have my own land to do whatever I wanted on (of course there are tons of laws near the city). This would of course be a temporary place for a few years until I am ready to really move out into the country and off the grid. The thing that worries me about this is the uncertainty of land prices. Although, even if land values dropped, I may still come out ahead because I would have no rent or mortgage.

Does anyone have any thoughts on my situation. Also, recommendations for best websites for searching for land, finding a real-estate agent that deals with this sort of thing (or should I try to find owner sales?), and anything else I should consider. Thanks, I really appreciate the advice.