The goal for our blog and YouTube channel has been and will always be a three-fold endeavor, to share with you our existing homesteading knowledge, to share our experience of acquiring new knowledge and skills to run a country homestead, and to share all our experiences in transitioning from a city to a country lifestyle.
One of the greatest challenges to date has been to find property to start building our homestead. This is an exhausting process that has been frustrating to say the least. We are sharing our experience with this issue in order to help you prepare your mindset for the roller coaster ride that is country real estate.
We have chronicled several of our property search challenges on our Youtube channel, www.youtube.com/channel/country living experience. We will continue to bring you along for the journey when we search for land and show you our positive and negative findings for each piece.
Land in East Texas is a HOT commodity right now. In the area we have decided we would like to settle, there is a huge influx of oil company retirees that are looking to fulfill their lifelong ranching fantasies and they have the capital to snatch up any size property they wish in a matter of minutes. No joke. This week alone, we have lost out on two different properties. The first property was about 5 acres and had been on the market for 16 hours when we stopped by to see it. As we pulled up we noticed several cars and many people milling about the property. We were confused because we thought we had an exclusive time slot to see it. The property had a well, 1.5 acres cleared of trees and fenced, and it came with a female donkey the owner did not want anymore. We put in a cash offer the next morning and were informed that 6 people had looked at the property in 24 hours and there were 3 offers. Needless to say, we lost out in a bidding war that quickly escalated past our available capital. We do have a pre-approval on a land loan as backup but the price per acre quickly got ridiculous so we let that property go.
Property number two was a large tract for us, 18.2 acres. This property was inherited by out of state relatives who just wanted it to go but had been on the market for 299 days. After our initial investigation, we discovered a potential legal issue with the property called adverse possession (www.lonestarlandlaw.com/Adverse.html) and asked the agent if he would give us permission to talk to the neighbor whom this potential conflict could occur. We were doing her job for her essentially. She stated that it would be ok but we wanted it in writing from the owners. In a matter of 24 hours waiting for that permission, an offer came in and was accepted by the owner. Does the potential buyer know about the legal issue? Probably not. Does the agent care? Nope, she gets her commission and leaves someone else to battle out a legal issue. Don't get me started on agents, we have had zero positive experiences so far with buyer or seller agents. (more on that later)
- Always go to see the site in person and walk every square inch of it! Look for signs of dumping or past chemical storage, etc. Look to see if the site is easy to build on. The more steep the terrain, the more it will cost to build.
- Steep terrain will be difficult to farm and grow food. It is not impossible but it surely is more challenging.
- Always get a professional survey of the land from the agent beforehand. This helped us to identify the potential adverse possession legal issue with the property we mentioned above.
- Look at Google Earth mapping (free to download). This mapping shows change over time as well which is very helpful. Google Maps does not have the depth of information that Google Earth does.
- Always find out if there are restrictions on the property. One piece of property may look great but it could have restrictions on how many dogs you can own and how many cars you can have in your driveway. Yes, seriously. This one happened to us too. You can only have two dogs and two cars. Are you kidding me?? This is in the middle of the countryside, who are you to tell me how many dogs I can have on my small farm. Nope, Bye!
- Always obtain an address for the property and look on the FEMA mapping website (fema.maps.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html). This site will help you see topography (if not included in the property survey) and will show you the flood zones for areas surrounding and on the property you are considering.
- Don't go see the property without contacting the agent or owner first. I know this is self-explanatory but there are a ton of good country folk with shotguns who will want to know what you are doing there.
- If you are in an area where country real estate is moving, make your decision fast and act on it. If you wait a few days, the whole picture can change.
Prepare yourself to lose out on numerous properties depending where you are located. This is just the way it goes. I am sure that if you have purchased a house before you are aware of this but it could be thought that buying property is different...it is not. We have "lost" a total of 4 properties now, all for various reasons. Keep moving forward and keep asking GOd to show you the place he wants you to be. He wants the best for you so realize that something must have been amiss with the properties that have slipped through your fingers.
Needs vs. Wants
In one of our previous articles, we wrote about the needs for a country homestead property as we understand them. Those needs encompass size and certain attributes. You can read it here: Land: What-do-i-need-for-a-homestead? Our needs are specific and we have looked past several properties that meet some criteria but do not fulfill others. Could we have purchased land already? Yes. Would it be ideal, easy to build on, easy to cultivate? In those cases, no. We weighed extra costs to build, put in a challenging driveway, build up land, clear land of timber, etc against the price we were willing to pay. These are just realities and you must weigh costs yourself. Just don't rush out and grab the first thing you see (unless it's awesome), take your time and investigate. You may lose the property but maybe it was not meant to be. Balance your needs, wants, resources against what is available.