I have bought two properties... and I am starting to look for a 3rd. Both times before, we bought with a house/electricity/water/sewer already there and ready to go. The first was 2 acres, the second was 6... so neither was huge, but gave quite a bit of room.
This time around, I am looking for something with 5+ acres, and I still want water and sewer and electricity... but I don't care about a house. I'm looking for places that used to have a single wide mobile home, but the trailer has been moved or is falling apart. Or maybe a run down house that is about to fall down, but still has all the hookups. These types of land would be cheaper than if there was a house, or a livable house, but you still save the time and expense of getting the water/sewer/electric. This puts you in a good spot to put some sort of RV, tiny home, or bus on the property and still maybe give the option for building down the road.
"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." C.S. Lewis
"When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind." C.S. Lewis
I bought a property with existing structures. My daughter had just had a baby and needed something move in ready. She got the big house that was in good shape. My house needs a lot of work, but it's livable. Our systems were set-up, off-grid solar, well, septic. Even with all of that we still have so much work to do. I would never buy raw land at my age. It would just be too long until I was happy with things. We've been here 3 years and it's just now starting to feel like home, nice garden, landscaping, adding animals etc. If I had to build everything from scratch I can't imagine that any of this would be done. We have 80 acres and are never planning on selling. I'm not a mover.
I don’t know if my good luck is replicable, but in late 2019 we bought property with a well built but not quite finished house. It also had a perennial spring fed and solar power pumped water system w 6000gal of tank storage, a 20,000gal pond, solar for the house, and propane for cooking. Its 25acres of very steep land at the top of a watershed on the edge of a national forest, so its not for everyone but perfect for us.
I can build soil quite well. I’m a decent carpenter and jack of many trades, but I could not have built a house and other systems this well in less than a decade, if ever (he was a damn good carpenter). The seller was a general contractor who built it to retire to, but family pulled him away to Maui. He was also a small scale organic grower of a plant that had a precipitous drop in price in the preceding years, so we got it for 2/3 of what he put it on the market for a few years before. I happened to have good reasons and references to believe in his environmentalist/organic credentials, which otherwise, with that plant in particular, could've been a deal breaker. I’d do my due diligence if you look at similar properties that are probably popping up now with prices at 5% or less of their peak for a plant that has recently been vastly overproduced. Almost always they will have garbage to clean up, but in our case it was worth it. On the bright side, our property had many thousands of dollars worth of organic potting soil all around, and it was well leached of any excessive salts (which can still build up organically in heavily fed flowering plants) by our 100”+ of rain every year. It also came with a sweet doberman who was born on the property, and the former owner and us wanted her to live out her idyllic life where she’s happiest, and she is good company for our pry-akbash Willie.
This is all just my opinion based on a flawed memory
Ben - I think that was the point I was trying to make. If you are patient and lucky, you can come upon amazing deals. Our property is off-grid, when we bought it, it was extremely difficult to secure a loan. There were multiple offers that were accepted but they couldn't come through with a loan. So when we came through with cash, it secured it. We bought our property 3 years ago, and it's almost doubled in value since then, wild right.
I have done both. My decisions depended on the availability of targets......and $$$$ available. I built my cabin in Minnesota because I ran into some incredibly cheap land that didn’t have any buildings on it. My current property had a house and barn on it, and I had the cash available. It had an incredibly good location for me.
We live on Blue Planet that circles a ball of fire. Our Planet is circled by a Golden Moon that moves its oceans. Now tell me that you don’t believe in miracles....Unknown
I totally agree Stacy, cash was what did it, and we were lucky that what we want was so undervalued. It’s a great example of a time it was nice to be a salmon with instincts compelling me to swim against the stream.
This is all just my opinion based on a flawed memory
Bad ones are more trouble than starting from scratch.
I have 4 small farm buildings: a 2 story about 400sf, and 3 single story about 1000sf each.
They were built by morons with no regard at all for longevity or quality. I am attempting to patch them up anyhow, because I like the character of them.. but it sure eats time compared to a clean slate.
The impact of these on my property price was zero, compared to identically sized neighbouring properties... but the impact on my planning was significant, starting with things to utilize but also limitations..
I'd prefer a clean slate if starting again.. unless it was really good quality stuff.
'Theoretically this level of creeping Orwellian dynamics should ramp up our awareness, but what happens instead is that each alert becomes less and less effective because we're incredibly stupid.' - Jerry Holkins
D Nikolls - I agree context is important. One of our family friends owned a property in a very exclusive California area with a relatively small house. He used to joke that his property was worth $1.5 million with the house or $2 million without, and he was right. Demolition isn't free.
I also agree about poorly built structures being more trouble than they are worth longterm, but sometimes they are the best choice among suboptimal options. My first/prior property took a huge amount of work and money to convert from a borderline teardown to a sound and sustainable structure. However, It was probably the only way I could afford to enter into real estate. We made out well all tijngs considered while improving biodiversity and biomass on the property, and the current owner is thankful for it. Still, I am immensely thankful for my current property’s builder, while I cursed the dumbass decisions I had to fix at my old place. We were able to talk directly with the owner/builder of our place now, and it was clear he is very intelligent, and in some ways I am not so gifted. However, finding somewhere your skills complement what what has already been done or is already readily abundant is a good way to go. I can build soil and earthworks, someone else was much better at homebuilding. I’d say, identify your strengths and find somewhere that they fit in with minimal resistance.
This is all just my opinion based on a flawed memory
Because of supply chain issues, inflation, and labor shortages, I would caution against buying plain raw land. It can take months to get water well supplies, septic equipment, housing materials, etc. Lumber is sky high in most places. If you plan on building naturally you might get around some of this but there are costs involved in that and it isn't realistic for everyone.
I ordered a second pump for my well recently and it took six months to reach me. That was with me order it through my very reliable local company.
I would second the notion of trying to at least get land with whatever utilities you need/desire.
Before COVID (and the following waves of shutdowns, supply chain chaos, and now the war in Ukraine) I would have answered differently. But the world has changed. It might go back,it might not. It will probably become something new entirely, hopefully with more localized production. But it will take time and tremendous amounts of capital
When you reach your lowest point, you are open to the greatest change.
Interesting ... I must be the only glutton for punishment, as we did everything from scratch!
We knew we wanted raw land, of a certain type and with certain characteristics, all of which took lots of planning, thought, & driving around. Our prime motivation was getting mortgage-free, off-grid, building the homestead to be self-sufficient, etc. Can't emphasize enough the "site planning" aspect of things ... this must be done!
- lots of acreage ... pine forested, no nearby neighbors, up in the mountains (cool/cold weather year-round, no heat)
- little to no codes or such, no HOA of any kind, ability to build everything ourselves
- ability to practice every piece of homesteading lore available, past/present ... led to humanure, composting, recycling, etc.
- too late, we found permaculture (permies.com), so working backwards on such goals, overlaying the concepts, reworking where necessary
We bought our perfect piece of raw land, 40 acres of pine forest in the foothills of S. Colorado. It has nothing on it, as the former landowner ran cattle. 5 acres was too small, as you could still see your neighbors; we found this out on our grand driving tour (before we had kids).
We sorted out the (somewhat) minimal code issues, and came away with ... had to put in a septic system (which we did ourselves) to ante up to the table; after that, we're pretty much on our own and able to do what we want. Not code-free, but code-smart ... what did they intend, what can we do to avoid the money aspect, and what can we do better.
We put in roads (road-base), our utility shed (solar, water, etc.), generator, and got the house foundation done. We haul water, the source of which is a nearby pristine mountain lake.
No grid-power, as we are fully our own power grid ... don't need them, don't want them. No shortage of electricity, no compromise, just no grid-madness. The kids can operate it ...
All systems put in ourselves (electric, plumbing, etc.) ... that way, we can fix things ourselves. We should not ever need a tradesman on the property.
Got a 900 sq ft house done, along with all the systems (off-grid); option to expand it to 2700 sq ft, but honestly, we're going smaller ... lots of TinyHome activity, planned and underway.
Chickens, composting, etc. (all the homestead systems) all in ... the systems feed each other (if we did things right ... if not, they are headed in that direction). Stacked functions ...
About 10 years to get to this point ... 5 to get everything done, 5 of being in it ... with the CoVID disaster, we got through it mortgage-free, and mostly with enough money to see the other side. That's survival prep! Lost my primary (IT) job, and it ain't coming back, but that's OK ... with PC, we'll replace that income with stuff that *rebuilds our soul, not steals it away*! If done right, our children won't be in that cycle any longer!
Even with all the planning we did, we could've still done more ... and we will!
Now, moving into a phase where we can experiment on the rest of the 40 (about 35 acres or so) ... bringing in other families, trying alternative construction (earthbags, TinyHomes on Skids, tipi's ... lots of room), all to see what sticks to the wall. If you wanted to experiment with something that won't fly anywhere else, come here and test it! No need to buy in ... land already paid for ... just do it, although you would have to be a serious caretaker family for the land (details coming later).
While it's been hard (what isn't, that's worth it?), it's been fun ... wouldn't have traded a bit of it (other than to not make mistakes here and there)! We're going multi-generational, with the kids saying "I don't want to live in the big city" (yay!) ... and building their own TinyHomes!
Wow ... what a ride! All I can say is "go for it" ... and, read permies.com forwards and backwards!
Jt Lamb - Sounds great. If I were 30 years younger and had a partner I would have loved that. But I was able to buy my 80 acres with all the systems and structures without a mortgage. And honestly, I needed to get rid of that money for my future.
I definitely don't think there is one right answer for everyone. I just know what worked for me, and I love that you found what worked for you. Enjoy.
I just purchased acreage with an existing manufactured home. It is a complete tear down, occupied for twenty years by hoarders and destroyed. But the property is on top of a hill with a scenery to die for and is at the end of a dead end road, with no neighbors within eyesight (although there are houses on the road below). The previous owner fenced/cross-fenced, so that is one task I won't have to worry about, at least. There is power, septic, and a well, albeit not a good one, and I "inherited" the huge water holding tank, so at least I have a head start. A small vernal pond. There are some existing but pretty sad fruittrees and some possibly salvageable raised beds. Otherwise, the value comes entirely from the land, and that is what I paid for. My hope is to have the manufactured home demolished, then to build a tiny home on the higher part of the property, with maybe an additional deck and outside kitchen where the manufactured home sits now.
As noted by others, any infrastructure on site is a bargain compared to the cost of installing it new. If it lets you spread out your major expenses, you're miles ahead.
I think any building is a resource. Dry storage is a big deal -- protecting your stuff from the elements. Even a disgusting house or outbuilding can be gutted and used as a workshop, for dry storage of tools, equipment, lumber, firewood, you name it.
This. Exactly this. This is what my therapist has been talking about. And now with a tiny ad: