Prep Monday—Finding the Right Property

We spent Saturday on the Great Property Search. I suppose I could call this chapter one, because it might yet turn into a full-length novel . . . I do a lot of research before we even get in the truck and head out: location, size, terrain, area, neighbors and developments, aerial view, plat, etc., and yes, we’re working with an agent. We left the house around 7:30 and got back at 2:30, covering 200 miles.

It was a LONG trip. Long. My point is that I’m not in very good shape when it comes to driving that much, so now I have something else to add to the prep list. Besides Advil, that is.

The parcels we looked at? Oh, yeah:

The first one was 42 acres, plus a lake lot at an adjoining development. That last part worried me. According to the mapping, etc., there were two parts of a development surrounding two lakes—now, each lot was about 5 acres or so, but it was still a planned community and we don’t want that.

We only made one wrong turn, and didn’t go too far out of the way, and then we found the road into the “subdivision.” I thought surely it was the back entrance . . . but no.

Ever driven through a creek bed? This was exactly like that.

The term “gravel road” can apparently apply to anything that has gravel on it. Anything.

This road was about as wide as my truck. Barely. It dropped straight down from the paved road for about 20 feet, crossed a slab of concrete that passed as a bridge, then rose straight up for another 50 feet before curving to the right. And by “gravel,” I mean rocks ranging from pea-sized to boulder-sized.

We pressed on.

The road leveled out some, and by that I mean no more ups and downs, but it was far from level. Or a road, for that matter. So we wound around for a few minutes, dropping into first gear a few times, then we reached the intersection. The property was to our right, so we turned onto the next road.

All we could see through the trees were, well, more trees. And a huge drop-off, about 20 yards in; to my relief, the word “development” appeared to mean “one or two houses actually built back here, because no trucks could possibly deliver materials.”

So there was that.

I pulled over into a flat-ish, cleared area, and my husband decided to walk down the clearing to check the lay of the land. I waited for our agent, who arrived in a tiny Toyota. She’d come in the “main entrance.” Finally, my husband showed up again, and announced: It’s a damn cliff down there!

Cliff or not, I’d already had nightmares of trying to bring in anything—even a trailer—and so we left. Barely. The road out was almost as bad, again, exactly like driving through an up-and-down creek bed. Exactly.

The next stop was about an hour south. Seemed farther than the map had shown, but not by much.

It was darn near perfect, in spite of being at the high end of our allotted budget. We parked in a 30-foot clearing that was actually owned by a neighbor; we stepped over a stretched cable and walked another 30 yards or so to a chain barrier—this was also owned by a neighbor, a different one, but had deeded access. I should also add that, in spite of the cable and chain, there was a fairly level but slightly overgrown gravel road that lead back to the center of the property. This was also 40 acres.

We walked around for half an hour or so and decided that yes, we could do something with this. Beautiful.

On the way out, we saw a couple come walking in—they said they had permission to be there, and had seen it before, and were going in search of boundary markers. We shrugged and moved on. While standing by the cars, talking with our agent, a pickup truck pulled up.

Out stepped a rather large man, dressed in camo. Naturally.

Was I worried? No, just wary. Especially since he’d blocked us in.

Turns out, he was the neighbor who owned the second part of the access road; said he was supposed to have been notified and no one was allowed to come out without an agent. We had, of course, and had been told he’d gotten a call. Oops.

The other people who were there, no idea. Not my problem, but the guy left after a few minutes of conversation:

He told us that it would likely cost $20K to bring in electric from the road and to drill a well. Yikes! About four times my previous estimate! Which, of course, if that pans out, will move this property off our list. Very fast!

He also said that the access on which we were parked was NOT deeded, and that the owner, Butch, had refused to do so. Not sure why, I mean, come on, 30 feet? Whatever. That, too, could be a problem at any point. Regardless, we’re on hold here until the utility estimate comes in later this week. He could be way off base. Maybe.

Oh, and by the way: there is definitely WiFi out there!

We still have nearly a dozen properties to go look at, but not till the end of the week. Most are further out than I’d like, but that’s where the cheap land is—it will, however, make developing and moving a little more problematic. Not impossible, not at all, but a little more difficult.

Time to be flexible, which is, of course, a basic tenet of prepping. You can plan, but things don’t always go according to that plan . . .



4 comments on “Prep Monday—Finding the Right Property

  1. Robin, this post brings back some memories… we went through the same kind of search in the 70’s. What a headache…lol…We ended up building a half mile of road and power line too, to service an isolated 160 acres that really had nothing but a historical ‘trail’ to it, ie. a dotted line on a township map.
    Timing is everything. When we were searching, NOTHING good was available. We were ideally looking for a useable, or an old farm with wood lot, water, etc.
    In your search I wonder if there are ‘abandoned farms’ available that might be a great choice, perhaps already on-grid (or potentially usable grid) and workable access roads that might ultimately be a reasonably good option even if the property is more expensive initially?
    Looking at that angle might easily offset or balance the cost of having to build power line, septic, well, etc.for raw land.
    Btw, in the 70’s here, 500 yards of power line=$5000.00 and septic system was $4,000.00, and a ‘skim of gravel’ for a half mile of road was close to $5,000.00. The dug well (32′ big backhoe) + cement tiles was over $2,000.00 . Those were 1975 prices.
    The point being, traditional old farms have normally-usable access, infrastructure in place, power lines, ,developed water sources, and even orchards and usable buildings remaining in some cases.

    Driving up and over difficult terrain, crossing creeks, surprise beaver dams, etc. (we fondly called them 4×4 bleep-filters’) to access raw land on ‘almost roads’ in winter can be next to impossible in wet summers, never mind winter — if roads (read cow paths) are, or were never included on any maintenance roster or map. To research that ‘road’ status is an astute move, if ‘right-of-ways’ are not legally-located on frontage (surveyed) , the road may never be approved even if you do build it.–but something most searchers don’t realize, another neat trick from the PTB, the ‘power authority’ will not generally approve power lines on ‘unathorized, non-approved’ right-of-way’ either.(a good reason to think solar)
    Property being land locked” –if there is no legal access (ie, deeded,60 feet wide or not) can be a nightmare. An expensive one. Caution is certainly warranted….yep. So, not to discourage, but to be aware is good.
    Have fun looking, best of luck with that search.


    • We have plenty to still look at, but of course we’re always adjusting our criteria; we may have to go a bit further out, or purchase fewer acres, but some things we’re not compromising on. Still has to be mostly wooded, bare minimum of 25 acres, and we’d prefer electric and a well already on site. But access is crucial…


  2. Last time Lesa and I looked for a house, we kept reading about all the wonderful trees. When we showed up, those trees were on adjoining property and could be seen from the house. Forget it.


    • Reminds me of an episode of Two and a Half Men, when Alan’s looking for an apartment. Evelyn tells him, “Oh, no, ‘cozy’ means ‘barely enough room to turn around in,” or something like that! We’re looking for “mostly wooded,” which seems to often mean “too much undergrowth to walk more than 2 feet” and doesn’t take into consideration if the 40 acres are horizontal or vertical!


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