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hundred dollar bill, ben franklin

I ALMOST bought land.

beginners landownership management Apr 03, 2020
So. I ALMOST bought some land.
It wasn't a ton of land, two tracts: one 82 acres and another nearby 71 acres. Now I say almost, because we ended up not following through with the offer, but there was a lot learned through the process. . .
First let me back up and say we have been looking to purchase a tract for a while- looking for something that met our goals for investment purposes, and of course within reasonable per acre price point for our budget.
So when we saw these two pieces within 10 minutes of our home, we were EXCITED! I emailed the agent immediately, then called her, left a voicemail (because... did I mention we definitely wanted it?). The price point was amazing for out county limits, the acreages were right there in manageable size, and again, it was only 10 minutes from us!
I called again, and again and again and then finally got through - she said we could see the property whenever we wanted and did not need to meet her or the landowner on site for a visit, but did warn us on the 82 acre tract access was an issue they were working to get a legal easement for.

Being a forester, naturally I did my land analysis quick due diligence - pulled up the tax assessors boundaries, got aerials, topos, wetlands AND soils maps all created to decide if it would meet our investment needs, which for us means if it would be suitable for a pine plantation. Overall, it seemed to meet most of our desires... at first glance online. There were no excessive wetlands covering all of the tract (maybe 30-35% of the land was considered wet), the 71 acre tract had road frontage, and the 82 acres was getting an access easement (not idea, but we were speculating where the easement was coming from).

I called a reliable friend to perform the initial site visits with me for a second pair of eyes and second, unbiased, opinion of the land (my husband also went out with his colleague for additional initial opinions).
And these were our takeaways from those visits:
 1. The 71 acre tract had potential. . . but for a lower price. The internal road was not as suitable for operations and the site held more water than anticipated, so probably (realistically) only 1/2 the tract would be able to be planted into pines (putting the plantable acreage closer to 35 acres and within the "small landowner" category).
2. The 82 acres, as much as I wanted it, was landlocked and the lack of ability to consistently access it was ultimately a deal breaker. We tried half a dozen different ways and couldn't find a reasonable, foreseeable ability to get to it AND manage it for pines.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter how GOOD of a deal it is, if you can't GET to the site.
 Okay, so I called the agent and told her we were only interested in the 71 acres tract but for "X" amount of money, if the seller would consider it as an all cash-offer, dependent on clear title and such. I also asked for a copy of the survey. 

There - was - no - survey

I repeat. . .

- NO - Survey -


We were so excited about owning our own pieces of land though, especially a stone's throw away, we started the steps for the offer:
  • I got property surveying estimates for the tract from multiple surveyors (which ranged from $7,500 to $16,000)
  • I contacted multiple lawyers to get rates and ask about availability to perform the closing on a land sale
  • I called colleagues and discussed appraising the tract, and how that process worked.
  • My husband and I looked up the property deed at the court house to check for any additional liens and see when it was last surveyed (this was an interesting process).
  • I spent some time on the phone with our preferred lawyer about our concerns about the lack of a survey being completed, the seller's refusal to pay to get a survey completed up front, and the liability of buying a piece of property without a survey or paying the survey upfront or negotiating and paying half with the seller.
(This all happened over a course of three days)
During this same time frame the agent had sent over "offer" papers to sign our formal offer to the seller.
But there was still the problem eating at us that there was no survey. Also the contract was written to allow for a 15% variance of acres before break of contract was allowed, which we were definitely not okay, as that would allow for a 10.6 acreage potential decrease of land.
1. It is common for tax parcels to be "off" on acreage, just because the paper and internet state they own 71 acres does not mean there is physically 71 acres present. I have come across multiple landowners all the time that have differing acreages than what tax assessors says, although it is usually only 1-3 acres off (give or take), but sometimes it can be substantially off.
2. 15% variance equals 10.6 acres on a 71 acre tract, and with only about half being usable for planting pine plantations, that put our plantable land down to 25-30 acres, definitely not what we considered desirable.
3. We didn't want to fork out $7,500 for a survey for us to end up NOT owning the tract- but how to come up with the language to protect us from "losing out" if the acreage came up significantly shorter than what was advertised.
Then we got the call - someone else put in an offer (it's now like day 4 since we performed our site visit to the tract). The agent needed our signed offer by 5:00 pm to be considered, and it was then noon. . .
We felt a sting of panic, as we wanted the property so badly, but something in our gut said not to rush it. So, I reached back out to the agent and told her we weren't comfortable rushing and signing the offer by 5:00, but to please let us know if that sale fell through.
So that was my 4 day roller coaster of how we almost bought land.
Takeaways if you're in your own journey to buy your own piece of heaven:
  • Remember it is better to "pass" on what seems like a great deal if you are feeling rushed into a decision.
  • You should ALWAYS sleep on it for at least one night - let yourself settle down from the adrenaline of excitement of the prospect of the purchase. How you feel in the morning will usually be a more real of your true feelings and opinions of the property.
  • Always get a second set of eyes on what you're looking at for the goals you've set.

Your tract is out there - just be patient and DON'T settle for a piece of property that is not going to yield your expectations. It's worth the wait.


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