Sunday, March 29, 2015

Yes - Size Matters

In 2010, I thought that I could move back to Austin and forget about the country. I told myself that I never wanted to mow another over-sized lawn or cut up another fallen tree. I moved right into the heart of the city and eventually bought a nice little condo with a small courtyard. Any wilderness around here is sliced wide open with a steady stream of traffic.

Even with the sudden crush of people and cars, I was happy to pay ridiculously high HOA fees to have someone else do the mowing. Tammy had a big house with a big yard. But it was suburbia. Given the choice between the burbs and the city, I would still take the city. Tammy handles suburbs better than me, but you see that picture up there with the stream of traffic? It's coming from the burbs. So, Tammy needs no convincing that the perfect balance is to keep the tiny courtyard, but also buy the wilderness back. I've had 4 years to realize I'm too tired during the week to care about my yard, but I am all about a weekend with a chainsaw.

That's a leap! How much land is too much land?

It depends on the person looking for land, but I would say, "More than 5, less than 30." I realize that's a stretch, but here are the things to consider as you start getting serious about a land purchase.

  1. How anti-social are you?  Personally, I can be pretty reclusive and introverted. I'm going for as much land as I can get so that I can keep people as far away from me as I can.
  2. Do you like to laze on the weekends?  You're a 5 acre owner. You don't want much to manage because you know that land is WORK. A nice little weekend getaway is all you really need.
  3. You know that money thing I had you do?  We did a little net worth exercise a few blog entries ago. I think most people who are really serious about getting away from it all are going to fall into the 10 - 15 acre set. You WANT 30 acres, but like me, you can't really afford 30 acres within driving distance of the city. Start looking for small acreage that isn't just an oversized lot.

Day trips are nice, but spend the night, then start with the internet

I'm all about taking a day trip to some slightly remote place about an hour away from Austin. And I would seriously warn against buying a big ol' piece of property in some place you've only driven through. Take a few over nighters and make sure you can really handle the culture of that little town or area. Rural cultures vary greatly.

Once you find an area you like, use real estate website that specializes in land. Here are a couple of sites you can use:

I'm sure there's a "lands of" for many states, but I'm in Texas, so I use that site. Use the Advanced Land Search feature to drill your search down by price, price per acre, acreage (size), property type, listing type, and additional options.  You can also search by location or region or county.

If you did your financial homework, it's the place to start. Plug in your price range and property type, and you'll see very quickly what's available for your budget. In our case, we searched for only acreage. We had a pretty good idea of what land cost an acre, so we could hone our search down pretty fast. Just take your time. Look around. Then take another drive if you find something you fall in love with. Do a drive-by before you call the listed agent.

Tip: Small acreage costs more per acre than large acreage. For example, 5 acres may be $15,000 per acre, but 15 acres may be $8,000 per acre.

O.K., then! You know a little about financing, and now you have a basic idea about how to search for land.  So my final tip is this: Do NOT drive a Prius when huting for land. It's shameful, and you'll get the thing stuck.

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