I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

clickity-click-click

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Making an offer with snow still on the ground?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 48
Location: Grand Marais, MN
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Well, I'm not sure where this topic goes, so I'm just going to smack it down here, where all my other questions reside.

We are very close to making an offer on a 5 acre piece of property. The thing is, there is still at least two feet of snowpack still on the ground, and that land won't see the light of day again until late May/early June.

There are several neighbors on this private road...this is the only land for sale on the road. So clearly, the land is buildable, right?

Right?

This land is...well, have you ever fallen in love? It was like that when we went to visit this parcel. It is everything we want and nothing we don't.

Would we be making a huge mistake by making an offer when we can't truly see the layout of the land yet? My instinct says, mistake. My heart says, do it.
 
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You can still walk the land and get a greater sense for its potential, even with snow on the ground.

1.  What's the soil like?  Dig down and get a sense for what you will be working with.  Is it well-draining?

2.  Is there a slope?  How much?  Is it south facing?  Any naturally occurring earthworks (rock/stone outcroppings), gullies, hills and dales . . . etc.

3.  What evidence is there of water on the property?  Is there a well or a spring?  Is there currently a pond or any other water features?  Will you be able to dig swales and other water capturing earthworks?  Are there wetlands on the property (which can be a pain in the ass to deal with if you want to move things around with earthmoving equipment --- environmental no no's)?

4.  Will you be able to subdivide it naturally into paddocks, gardens, etc.?  Is there some evidence of that already?

5.  Is there any evidence of environmental remediation needed?  Erosion?  Toxic junk? 

6.  Have they been farming it or gardening on the land?


Before you buy the property, talk to whomever it would be that would issue a building permit.  You shouldn't have to guess at this --- get a clear answer.  Don't take the realtor's word for it.

Talk to the neighbors.  What are they like?  Is there a sense of community with the others on the road?  Any wierdos or crack-pots?

One last thought: it seems you might have already fallen in love with the property, and as we all know, love is blind.  Is there someone else who can walk the property with you and have a more objective perspective on things?  You want someone knowledgeable in permaculture or homesteading if that is your ultimate aim (which, I assume, is what your desire is because you are posting this on Permies).  Walk the land with them once or twice and get a view of the land through their eyes.  Perhaps even map it as you walk the land, so when you go home, you'll be able to noodle on your maps.  Take tons of pictures, print them, and attach them to your map. 

Maybe you'll get a warm snap and that snow will melt for you.


Best of luck.
 
pollinator
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Satellite images may help.
 
Lisa Gergets
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Marco Banks wrote:You can still walk the land and get a greater sense for its potential, even with snow on the ground.

1.  What's the soil like?  Dig down and get a sense for what you will be working with.  Is it well-draining?

2.  Is there a slope?  How much?  Is it south facing?  Any naturally occurring earthworks (rock/stone outcroppings), gullies, hills and dales . . . etc.

3.  What evidence is there of water on the property?  Is there a well or a spring?  Is there currently a pond or any other water features?  Will you be able to dig swales and other water capturing earthworks?  Are there wetlands on the property (which can be a pain in the ass to deal with if you want to move things around with earthmoving equipment --- environmental no no's)?

4.  Will you be able to subdivide it naturally into paddocks, gardens, etc.?  Is there some evidence of that already?

5.  Is there any evidence of environmental remediation needed?  Erosion?  Toxic junk? 

6.  Have they been farming it or gardening on the land?


Before you buy the property, talk to whomever it would be that would issue a building permit.  You shouldn't have to guess at this --- get a clear answer.  Don't take the realtor's word for it.

Talk to the neighbors.  What are they like?  Is there a sense of community with the others on the road?  Any wierdos or crack-pots?

One last thought: it seems you might have already fallen in love with the property, and as we all know, love is blind.  Is there someone else who can walk the property with you and have a more objective perspective on things?  You want someone knowledgeable in permaculture or homesteading if that is your ultimate aim (which, I assume, is what your desire is because you are posting this on Permies).  Walk the land with them once or twice and get a view of the land through their eyes.  Perhaps even map it as you walk the land, so when you go home, you'll be able to noodle on your maps.  Take tons of pictures, print them, and attach them to your map. 

Maybe you'll get a warm snap and that snow will melt for you.


Best of luck.


Hi Marco, thanks for your thoughtful reply. We've looked at satellite images and walked the land twice. We've researched the surrounding properties' wells as far as depth, flow, and what needed to be dug through. We live in an area of glacial til (upper northeast Minnesota), and this property more likely than not sits on a few inches of soil, and then bedrock.

Our plan is to build a cordwood tiny home this year, and begin on our lifelong home next spring. We're not homesteaders, but this year we'll likely be doing without a well or proper septic.

A warm snap of a couple weeks might get rid of that snow, but it's far more likely that the land will be free of the white stuff by the end of May and no sooner.

We are planning on having a friend of ours with a mind for seeing potential problems go out to the land with us to tell us what he thinks. It's rather level with a very slight slope to the southwest, and a perfect southwest facing building site. No water on the property, or wetlands to deal with. No farming or anything has been happening on this land for decades. It's about a raw as they come. Wouldn't be able to have a perc test done until after the thaw, but since there are neighbors in close proximity, we're assuming the land surrounding has passed a perc test.
 
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If there aren't any wetlands on the property and it looks as high and dry as the neighbors, it sounds like it's buildable. 

I wonder if having bedrock so near the surface may make the foundation for your cordwood house easier than usual.  Just find a big chunk of bedrock and build up from there.  No need to go down 5' if the rock the house sits on goes down 20'.

If there are lots of black spruce then the land may be wetter than you think.
 
Lisa Gergets
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Mike Jay wrote:If there aren't any wetlands on the property and it looks as high and dry as the neighbors, it sounds like it's buildable. 

I wonder if having bedrock so near the surface may make the foundation for your cordwood house easier than usual.  Just find a big chunk of bedrock and build up from there.  No need to go down 5' if the rock the house sits on goes down 20'.

If there are lots of black spruce then the land may be wetter than you think.


No black spruce that we could see. Beautiful stands of jackpine. But as far as a foundation goes, I'm not sure building on the bedrock would be up to code. But yeah, we're thinking more frost footings than poured foundation at this point.
 
pollinator
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Like Tyler suggested, look for images. The google map views are taken from airplanes, and are generally dated. Hopefully the plane didn't fly over mid winter   Identifying the trees and plants that are growing there are a good indicator of the soil/water table. I live in Tennessee and if I see a weeping willow or rhododendron, I know it's perpetually wet. My other suggestion is to go knock on the neighbors doors and chat them up. Maybe one or more of them gardens, and can tell you a little bit about the soil, the kind of foundation their homes are built on, how deep their wells are drilled, etc. Hope this helps and good luck!
 
Marco Banks
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I grew up in Minnesota (south of the Cities in Apple Valley).  We used to drive up to a friends cabin near Brainerd for opening day every year (fishing, not deer).  I spent many summers paddling around Superior National Forest/Boundary Waters canoe area.  My dad was a real outdoorsman.  I could clean a walleye by the time I was 9.  Old memories.

How far NE?  North of Duluth?  Are you on or near a lake? 

Its cold up there, but you know that.  Now I live in Los Angeles, so I'm too old and soft for that lifestyle anymore.

 
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Lisa Gergets wrote:Well, I'm not sure where this topic goes, so I'm just going to smack it down here, where all my other questions reside.

We are very close to making an offer on a 5 acre piece of property. The thing is, there is still at least two feet of snowpack still on the ground, and that land won't see the light of day again until late May/early June.

There are several neighbors on this private road...this is the only land for sale on the road. So clearly, the land is buildable, right?

Right?

This land is...well, have you ever fallen in love? It was like that when we went to visit this parcel. It is everything we want and nothing we don't.

Would we be making a huge mistake by making an offer when we can't truly see the layout of the land yet? My instinct says, mistake. My heart says, do it.




Do not let your love or heart determine a real estate purchase-especially if you have a goal to make it a lifetime home, and also if you plan to do permaculture/farming.
I am not sure what the price of the parcel is (nor do you have to state but I searched for 1 1/2 years to find a place in the arid southwest.

If you are looking with a realtor, ask the realtor to inquire if you can take a soil sample. follow soil sampling procedures and bring you snow shovel. get the soil analyzed. A thorough analysis will run you from anywhere 40-250 (a USDA extension is cheapest to a professional agricultural lab) trust me it is worth it.

Besides looking at aerial photographs. Search the area around your parcel for past sold plots of land. often sites like Zillow or LandsofAmerica will have past sale information. If you find a parcel within a mile or two of yours, dig into the information provided and you will often find great tidbits on the type of land you are looking at. (this can vary but it is worth the 'googling')

You should be able to call your local housing/county authorities and find out your building code(s)- a must.

I would, even if you planning on making/building a tiny house. Call a licensed contractor, (even better if the person seems into natural or sustainable building, but any licensed and bonded contractor) and explain your situation, and offer to pay them a small consult fee to come to the land and talk to you about building on it. I had 2 contractors meet me for free on land I was interested in purchasing- both to discuss renovating old farm buildings, and also to discuss building on the terrain. Many individuals will do a free consult-or charge a nominal fee. (I paid one world expert on adobe building/restoration $250 to look through a detailed PDF on the condition of a home I was looking at- money very well spent) There would be nothing worse than buying the land and then finding some weird problem (and trust me they come up) and going bankrupt and losing a dream because most of the homes on the private road suggested you could build.

I sound like a cranky granny, (ha! but truly I am sending good loves and optimism) but it is important when you are making what might be one of the most important purchases of your life-to carry out due diligence. I do not regret any of the consultations I received. (I also hired hydrologist, had both my wells looked at prior to buying, etc) None of these things were required in the real estate sale/contract, but I would advise against purchasing any property in which the person who owns it has any problem with you doing these kind of tests- especially when it concerns water, or the ability to build. I probably spent a total of under 1000.00 for what will be my home for life-it was worth it. It helped me avoid making mistakes that you can miss in the "my heart tells me yes" moment- (because you want so much to have your own land, your own home, to grow food /homestead and you've been dreaming and thinking about it all the time- trust me. I was there!)

good luck.
now make some phone calls!



 
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We are facing the same thing.  Looked at a parcel on this one road before the snow flew this year, but in the long run decided against this particular parcel due to encroachment issues with a neighboring landowner and the price.  A few weeks ago several more parcels of +-5ac each came on the market.  We've driven by several times, but are planning on waiting until the snow is gone and things have thawed out before making a firm commitment because the first property has a much different topography than the second.  I will feel more comfortable being able to see and walk over the land when it is snow free and thawed instead of frozen and with three feet of snow on it. 
 
pollinator
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Emotions are poor indicators of making great decisions; I would wait until the snow melted.

My Great Uncle wrote in his book about doing this very thing; and soon lost the farm and had to move because the snow covered up bedrock and boulders. It just was not farmable.

As hard as this advice may be, farms are built upon soil, and if you just cannot see the soil, all the satellite imagery and soil reports just will not do it justice. Soil reports on my farm, and even visits by a soil engineer said ledge rock was 15 feet down, but it is more like 2 inches. I know that because my bulldozers grousers are 3 inches high and I am pounding over ledge all day long.

I know it may seem like forever, but you really want to wait. It is not like it is October with snow on the ground until April, you just have a few weeks left, wait it out and make a sound decision after the snow is melted and you can see everything. In fact it is a really good time to see what the land looks like at its worst...Spring...with all that snow melt...BEFORE you buy it.
 
Lisa Gergets
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Okay, well! The land we're interested in is nearly snow-free, but not all the way. We visited it this past Friday, and saw that there are a lot of erratics that would need to be moved, and our first choice for a home site is likely too wet. We did suss out another building site closer to the road, on higher ground, so it's not a total deal-breaker.

We're going to wait another week or so until the ground thaws a bit more and everything dries out a little, and then make a decision.

In the meantime, we've been amassing quite a collection of doors and windows to recycle into our new home. We live in a tourist area, and a local lodge was redoing some of their rooms, so we got 9 large windows with trim, a few smaller windows with trim, french doors with trim, three steel exterior doors with locks, a half dozen interior doors with trim, and a few narrower exterior doors with paned glass. Probably got more than we'll need, but we can always give the extras away.

From this same hotel, we also got a log queen headboard, two log bedside tables, a bathroom vanity cabinet plus sink and faucet, vanity mirror, and two futons plus mattresses - great as they can serve for sleeping and relaxing, too.

All for a whopping investment of...$0.

Can't beat that!
 
Walt Chase
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WOW!  Great find Lisa. All those window, doors, fixtures and furniture will come in handy.  Hopefully your land will be what you want and be suitable for your use.  We went back yesterday as well to see if enough snow had melted to be able to walk on the land we are looking at.  Snow depth is much less than it has been and my wife and I tried to walk over the lot to at least see what the forest looks like and get a general lay of the land.  So far, so good.  Didn't get far into the woods though as the snow is still up to my knees in most spots.  We will give it another couple of weeks, and as long as we continue getting these 40* days we've been having should be able to actually walk it over.
 
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I am with Travis in this one.  I purchase the 60 acres I used have " in haste" I missed a small spring that was uphill from my foundation and a few other surprises. This is my own personal experience and anything could be dealt with.   I feel in love with the land cause there was an 18x18 foot A frame in a stand of white pines 1/4 of a mile in on a great brookie stream. I did not spend a lot of time looking looking at it objectively ,,,,Larry
 
Lisa Gergets
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I can relate. We're having a hard time being objective too, as there are stands of pine on either side of the natural clearing that just speak to us.


 
Lisa Gergets
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Well, we believe that particular property is a bust. It is damp, as we saw last week.

And a significant issue is that there has never been a proper survey done on it, and the cost for that would be $3000. There are also no road maintenance agreements in place...So who pays to have the private road maintained and plowed? Just too many potentially negative issues.

The good news is that we found a different parcel of five acres that is tucked behind another​ five acres parcel that's on a paved road. The driveway back to the parcel we're looking at is already in place, a survey has been done, and septic sites identified.

And, it backs up to 1000 acres of federal land that was forested, so lots of usable slash leftover.

The lot is greatly wooded with a good mix of pine and birch, with lots of young pine coming up.

We identified the best building site, and are going to go back with a couple friends from the area to get their opinions.

Keeping fingers crossed!
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