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Advice on buying land

 
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Folks were quite helpful in my last thread (https://permies.com/t/132953/Advice-plot-land#1042197) so wanted to start another one.

Looking to make some decisions about buying land ASAP. Trying to determine whether to purchase a property, about 13 acres, towards the top of a small mountain, hilly, with a cabin on it. This property requires a fair amount of infrastructure development—needs to bring power in maybe ~200 feet, drill a well, put in septic (legally), not to mention permitting costs and the difficult to assess costs of expanding cabin and/or building a new structure.

My other option would probably be to continue looking for/at and hopefully purchase raw land—ideally, a parcel largely wooded with some cleared, perhaps have some infrastructure (a driveway, power, a well) and hopefully a few more than 13 acres. Then to quickly put up some kind of structure, possibly a yurt if permissible.

My interest is basically to keep as much wild land as possible, have perennial/annual gardens, fruit/nut trees. Currently not loads of interest in animals.


Much of this process is obviously personal—I've been at this a while and it's difficult to relate the narrative that this is all part of, and all the factors going into it——but any thoughts, please chime in!


Will
 
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you don't say where your looking, is it Siberia, Alaska , Alabama?
 
Will Solol
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Whoops, it's in the last thread, mid / northern New England
 
pollinator
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It depends....

You need to set down your absolutes.  Make that list as small as you can (the things you REALLY NEED).

Then an honest endpoint (sounds like you have one, if you are being honest with yourself) remember that happiness is not at the endpoint.

Keep your mind open to all the options, but expect anything to do with infrastructure to cost twice what you think so do NOT stretch your budget past your comfort zone.

Are there any tax breaks or zoning/permitting changes if you have at least so many acres?
 
pollinator
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I would get the plot that already has a cabin on site with no infrastructure.
You can get the infrastructure for around $12,000
Well = $3,000 to dig + $1000 for pump/pipe/tank/etc
Septic = $4,000 too
Electric = 200ft*$10/ft + 2 pole * $1,000 per pole +  = $4,000

You can stay in the cabin and if you every feel like it you can still build your dream house.
 
pollinator
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If the cabin isn't livable, I'd lean towards something with access and water first, electricity next, and then whatever else you're looking for.  If you have access and a well, you can park a $500 camper on the land and you'll have something to live in while you build.  If the cabin needs a lot of work, it can often be better to tear it down and build new.  You can also build a 12x12 shack for about $2-3k in materials (a shell with insulation) that you can live in and then use as a shed/shop/barn.

Around here, wells start at $10k for drilling alone, septic is much more than $4k (especially if you don't have soil that meets a perc test, requiring fill), though electricity is a little cheaper than $4k.  Access will require a 20' culvert and installation.  I haven't priced that out yet.  

I am considering a holding tank for black water as it's cheaper than septic, is acceptable here, and I compost my humanure, so I won't use it anyway.
 
Will Solol
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Thanks for the input. S Bengi / Timothy—I have indeed been thinking on my own about essentially the same points you are separately making.

The cabin as a structure is livable—newly built, good condition. But it has no water or electricity. That doesn't make it non-livable but those improvements will be part of the initial costs.

While I might seek alternatives to a septic, that's unfortunately not really possible in Vermont. The land perks, but that's it—no septic design or permit.
 
gardener
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Will,

I am just trying to clarify things a bit.  In your last threat I thought you were pretty much set on your 13 acre patch.  It wasn’t absolutely perfect, but to be perfectly honest, no patch of ground will ever be perfect and actually I thought your 13 acres sounded pretty sweet.

So are you having second thoughts?  An early case of buyers remorse?  I know that when I found my land, it had imperfections, but I jumped on it because in the end, it was a sweet deal.

I am not trying to push you one way or the other, but I just want to understand what the thought process is.

Eric
 
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Not sure how old you are, or how many people you intend to live there with you, or how long you think you'll stay on the land, but buying land ASAP might turn into an emotional decision rather than a practical/rational one.

It doesn't sound like the cabin was built with a permit, no water, septic or electricity, so chances are it wasn't.  If it wasn't built to code, it will be pretty shocking what will be needed to bring it up to code, especially the foundation.   The county will be all over that property telling you "yes" and "no" about all kinds of things.  If you can't crawl under it to put in plumbing for grey and black water, that's really bad news.  If it's on a slab and the plumbing is not in the slab, it's bad news.  Having the building inspected by a professional could save you thousands of dollars.

Check for:

-Water, water, water.on the property...find out how deep the wells are in other houses near there, what kind of soil/rock they go through.  Drilling companies might give you this info.  Wells usually need to be lined to keep them from caving in, and sometimes that's the code=expensive

-Don't just assume the water will be drinkable.  It might be safe, but it might taste bad.  Up on a hillside/mountain it's usually better, but in a low-lying area it might not be okay.  Hauling water sucks

-Water rights on creeks/ponds.  Illegal ponds that withhold water from people downstream who have water rights can possibly end up having to lose the pond.

- Road/driveway access in the muddiest/snowiest times of year (long driveways are expensive to maintain and take a lot of maintenance, especially if on a slope)

-backup sources of heat/cooking like propane, and how far is a source of it.  We used to use 10 gallons every 2 weeks with heat in a very small house, so that was a lot to keep on hand, a lot to have to constantly be making trips out and back for, also having a spare 5 gallon tank around for emergencies.

- the potential for solar panels with 6-8 hours of light on them in the most wintery month of the year.  No tree shade, no building shade

- Does anyone, including a utility company, have a right-of-way through the property....that's not good.  Would your driveway go through other people's property to get to yours?  Can get complicated.

- Where is the nearest hardware store that is really stocked well?  If it takes more than 2 hours round trip to get to such a store with supplies for something broken or you're up against a storm, plan on a shed full of hardware/tools to save you trips.  I buy three of each item, one to replace, one to break or lose, and one to have on hand for the future.

- if supplies have to be delivered, whether it's UPS or a load of lumber, will those trucks make it up the driveway?  A lot of companies won't allow their trucks to go into muddy/rough conditions, and where would your packages be left outside?  

- would your driveway go over a private bridge over a creek that could wash it out?  That can be why some properties are cheap, because the people couldn't afford a bridge to code, which can sometimes amount to $40,000+ because it's engineered into the sides of the creek.   Delivery trucks won't go over private bridges unless they are engineered, like propane trucks and fire trucks, gravel trucks for the driveway.  It would be close to impossible to legally occupy a house that the county says fire trucks can't get to.  

- how far do you have to go to get mail?  PO Boxes are expensive, and often there's a waiting list.  Mail often gets stolen in lone boxes on the road

- What kind of erosion can you find, and be merciless about it, because it will only get worse and worse, and will need work

- What kind of wind conditions are there on the top of a hillside/mountain?  If the cabin is in a very windy location, it will need a lot of maintenance.  Frank Lloyd Wright said don't build on top of the mountain, build just down below it, out of the wind.   Tall trees, even healthy ones, can come over in a bad wind storm and hit the house.
 
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