I've done the bare plot already, but my GF family property is heavily wooded. There's already a drive and a place next to theirs I can build on but i have plans of making a rather massive food forest.
My property was once a hay field and the soil was very compacted, there were places where the previous owners burned brush, and dumped piles of gravel for a reason I cant figure out. The piles are gone but a lot was left in/on the soil. To make a garden here I had to move lots of compost/leaf litter to get anything going very well and will continue having to do so for a long time.
On the other property there are cedar trees (a weedy tree here that has destroyed native forest areas and is a huge fire hazard, they are not native). I Will be cutting them down and ripping out as much of the root as I can get. I believe they are slightly allelopathic and might take some time to prepare the area for replacement fruit and support trees. The cedar timber will be used for building materials as well. The surrounding trees are dropping leaves every year and have built up a nice deep black soil so when I replace the cedar the filler fruit tree should have all the moisture and ground cover it needs from the surrounding trees.
Slowly taking down and filling in the cedar areas with food forest spots across the whole 80 acres.
Then if a native tree dies of age/lightning, that area will be filled in as well with production.
I don't want to take down anything native, but will be ready to pounce when nature does it for me.
There is still plenty of room in already cleared area near the houses to grow quite large gardens and places for some fruit trees so I wouldn't have to go hungry waiting on the fruit forest to be at its prime.
This to me seems the best/easiest approach.
Starting with bare ground allows more customization of the land however. It will of course cost more for earthworks and such and you will need to figure out a way to get inputs for compost/mulch.
Also starting bare and building a food forest or healthy productive gardens over time will turn the "useless" property into something more natural and productive which I think is a HUGE positive.
I would say it depends on how much funds you have to start with and how quickly you want the property to be "done"
wooded property is a benefit if you slowly fill openings with production, its a headache if you plan on clearing some/all of it. Which I would suggest not to do except for drives and home location.
I think it depends on what you want to do with the land. If you want an acre of garden, the open plot may work better. If the woods are productive (berries, venison, etc) that may be enticing. If the less wooded lot had pictures taken in the summer it would "look" much more wooded. I like a mature woods myself so I'd probably go for that lot but it all depends on what you want to do with it, how the neighbors seem to be, distance to town, can it pass a perk test, building codes, etc. Good luck!
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
If I was purchasing the property I would focus more on the orientation to the sun, slope, and water availability. It all depends on what you want to use the land for but having good sun orientation, a slope that works for your interests and water (not a well but things like ponds, marshes, wetlands, streams - both seasonal and year round, etc.) will make a huge difference in what you can use the land for.
When I was buying my property I wanted land that was fairly open so I would have the ability to put the trees where I wanted. My dream property would have had an established forest on the north side of the property and then be open to the south. What I ended up with was a property that is almost all open with some trees right on the property line on the west side. Great sun exposure and I have good seasonal water supply but now I wish I had a few more trees.
I have been doing a lot of hugelkultur beds and also mulching with wood chips. If my property had a forest that was overgrown and needed to be thinned for its health I could have sourced much if not all of that on my own site. Instead I have been having to bring wood chips and woody debris in from offsite. I would not want to cut down a healthy established forest but thinning a unhealthy forest can do it a lot of good.
I don't know the ecology of your area but looking at the pictures the forested property looks like it could be thinned in places without hurting it and potentially could improve its health. The soils are likely to be better on that property due to the leaf litter and other debris that collects in a forest. But if you are wanting to put in gardens and fruit trees you will need to do a fair bit of thinning or removing the trees in certain areas. My personal view is that healthy forests should be zone 4 or 5 depending on the management plan with zone 1-3 using the degraded landscapes. I can't tell from the pictures how much healthy and unhealthy forests there are on the forested property.
The other thing to note is that small trees and shrubs does not mean it is unhealthy. The land could just be in an early stage of succession from an open landscape. In that regard the open property could just be a bit early in succession and using permaculture techniques you could help it along. The same goes for the forested land of course.
I would look at other aspects of both properties and ask the question what do you want to use the property for. When I asked myself that question I decided to stick with mostly open properties due to how I wanted to use the land but it could have been nice to have a few more trees than I currently have. But in my view water availability is still one of the strongest deciding factors - a big selling point for me was the fact that my property has two seasonal streams which creates a lot of options for me.
I am in kind of the same position right now. We are looking for land, 40 to 120 acres or so. It is very dependent on what you want to do with it. Personally, I don't want to be a farmer, so 40 acres of tillable land isn't what I'm looking for. I do want big annual gardens and a couple of acres of food forest area, so we are looking for land that is 75% or more wooded. We just found a 40 acre spot we are considering that has 15 or so acres of pasture that currently has 5 cows on it with a pond and a stream thru the property. For our needs, that is about right. It gives me plenty of room to "play on" with gardens and food forests, but still largely wooded. We looked at another place last night that was 40 acres with only about 5 acres of trees. Great for a farmer or someone that wants a large restoration agriculture-type property, but it would take thousands of trees, probably large machinery, and the rest of my lifetime to get it where we want it.
"People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do."
Others have said it, It will all depend on what you want to do with the land.
The non forested land appears to have been used for some type of either tree growing or crop growing, that soil will most likely be depleted.
The Forest land gives you the opportunity to use on site trees for lumber so you would have building materials come from the areas you clear for access and home building site, etc.
The soil in the forest area will be in better shape than the open field land, meaning less money and effort to arrive at a great soil. Plus the microbiome will be more complete at the start.
Both can be turned into beautiful areas that are rich and lush, it all depends on your vision of your perfect spot on the earth mother and how much effort you want to invest.