Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Going to the Land Store...

Well, I wish it were as easy as going to the land store! You could just walk into the shop, find the aisle for good pasture ground, pick out a piece you like, and then walk up to the checkout counter ... where they help you come up with a plan to pay for it. Yep, that seems pretty ideal, but totally unrealistic. Purchasing a land (or farm) is something that is on our mind right now, but knowing how to go about it all is something we need to learn more about.

With all of that in mind I read with interest an article titled, "Finding Your Place" from the February/March 2003 issue of "Mother Earth News" (not highly impressed with the magazine, but it was free). The article was written by the editors of the magazine who have the knowledge of 24 separate, "house-buying and property-purchasing escapades". All in all it was a pretty interesting article, but as one would assume it dealt more with buying property with a house rather than bare land.

At this point we haven't decided on exactly whether we need to buy a place with a house on it or if we can handle just getting the land and then building. We have a couple of positives in that our families have experience building and have offered to help, but that does seem a bit overwhelming at times. Another way to look at the question is this ... what is more important, the land or a house? Because of the high land prices right now buying a 40 acre piece of land that has a livable house on it probably is out of price range, but if we could buy just the land and be creative in our housing (anybody living in a pole-building house?) maybe we could swing a 40 acre parcel ... if the right one came along.

Those are just some of the things that we are thinking about ... but, back to the article. Like any good magazine article they had "nine steps to success". Some of them are pretty basic, but are worthy of repeating just because they are sometimes overlooked in today's "I want it now" culture.

  • Know your budget and stick to it.

  • -Like I said ... that is a pretty basic rule, but in a culture where we want exactly what we want when we want it that is an important reminder.

  • List your "needs and wants".

  • -For us that is things like type of soil, lay of the land, amount of land, and other things. We have a clear vision of the direction we would like to go in our farming pursuit so it is important to find land (or access to land) that helps us obtain that vision.

  • Most importantly, ask lots of questions.

  • -I think the reason this one sticks out for me is because asking lots of questions is something that I don't do very well. I usually don't like to waste the time or believe I already understand. But, when it comes to buying a farm I need to thank the time and I know I don't understand it all!

That is just a sampling of some of their help points. They also mentioned things to check into when buying rural land. Things like: water (well or rural water) ... sewage (does it have septic) ... electricity (how much will it cost to get it there if it isn't already) ... and survey (are the boundaries clearly established). There is a lot to think about, because as the old saying goes: "This will be the biggest purchase you ever make."

Do you have any thoughts to add from your experience or research? Anyone ever dealt with USDA loans (just heard of them and I don't know much about them)? I would love to hear other peoples thoughts on the issue of land and farm purchases...


mommymommyland said...

We are about to move to our land, and are currently in escrow, but we needed a house and land, but put the emphasis on the land. The house you can change, add to, tear down and rebuild, but the land will remain the same only to improve or deteriorate according to what you do to it. You can't build a river, you can build another bedroom or bathroom. I found with ag loans you nee to have a HUGE downpayment, so we are going with a residential loan.

sugarcreekfarm said...

This couple spoke at PFI. They're doing grass-based farming near Decorah. If you click there and then look at their picture slideshow at the bottom of the page there's a picture in there of the barn+house they're putting up. An all-in-one building.

We looked at a farm last weekend, but it was about $150k overpriced. Even our realtor couldn't figure out how the listing realtor came up with that price. The search continues.

Mellifera said...


You should look at some alternative building methods- cob and straw-bale come to mind.

No, seriously! These are construction methods that people can do most of themselves (even- or especially- with a bunch of kids), taking down costs, and some states are now putting out codes for these types of buildings. Iowa probably won't have code for cob or straw bale, but people in non-code states have had pretty good luck using the code from a state that has one and getting it approved. Not that building to code is important, unless you want disaster and liability insurance. : )

John said...

Take a look at Log Cabin Homestead blog to see how they did it. I think they lived in a pole building for a while and built a cabin that they rent and sometimes occupy.

I bought raw land with no fences. I have access to co-op water but it will cost me around 5K to have a water main extended to my property. That was an unknown when I bought (my mistake) but I still would have bought but may have argued more on price. Electric installed at co-op expense for 600 ft into property. Septic. Wireless internet avail and phone to property edge. No fences.

We will live on farm starting March 1st. Will live in camper for a while. Will build pole barn (24x40) first, pour concrete and install a bath and a farm kitchen (use now so that I can install comfort items (dishwasher, washer/dryer). Ill requires separate location for cooking for sell at farm market and we plan to start with baked goods, so that will become the "work" kitchen eventually. Have to get electric, water and septic online fairly fast. Hopefully in 2-3 weeks. Will start main house with builder that will take about 3-4 months to complete.

Have you thought about raw land and a good used mobile home while you sort out your building plans?

Also, checkout -

Lots of info on DIY in forums. I may go this way for a guest house eventually.

Tim said...

Tag, Ethan, you're it! Go to the Nature's Harmony blog for details .

Nature's Harmony Farm

Ethan Book said...

Thanks for all the good advice on searching for land. There is really so much to take into consideration ... including exactly how much can we afford and how big of a loan will they give us.

Lots to learn and lots to think about!

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