Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Homestead: Search Adventures

We have all seen Real estate For Sale signs along roads and streets as we drive along. They can lead to the dream home or property or a nightmare. It is interesting how people look at things, some with endless optimism and some with a hard look at reality. I think Ralph and I are in the middle somewhere.

We have learned a lot though and now look at property in a much more detailed way. In our search we have developed a set of questions and a set of tools.
We now understand the Term Fixer Upper has a very wide parameter!

Fixer Upper...with some love and elbow grease you can restore this lovely old home to its former glory!

  The term fixer upper scares us now...right to our toenails! One of the very first properties we looked at had a "fixer upper"on it. We know we can deal with minor repairs or basic repairs but if a home has not been lived in for some time and grown up with brambles it is going to cost a fortune to repair. 

  We ask if the Mineral rights convey?  You want to own your property, all of your property. Check if the owner is selling the surface rights and timber rights. We learned to check this thoroughly, one property we liked very much and we had on our list to visit was a case of an owner not wanting to give up anything that paid, he retained the Mineral rights, the timber rights and the rights and income from a Cell tower on the property, he also wanted to maintain hunting right for his friends. Scratch that place of the list.

  Timber rights can be an adventure. We want some woodland on our potential property. One of the most beautiful properties we came across taught us to ask, first if the timber rights convey and second has the land been timbered and how recently. 
  This Property had a nice website with lots of information. It had photos of a lovely wooded section with great trails through massive trees. The website stated the Mineral and Timber rights convey!  Ralph had an extra day off one weekend so we thought we would drive down and look this place over...it was so lovely and fit so many points on our list!
 When we arrived the Realtor met us at the gate. He was friendly and loaded us into his SUV for a land tour. We drove long the tree lined driveway and around a lovely bend in the road to be shocked at the sight of a massive logged area. It had been clear cut, it was a mess and I think one of the worst logging jobs I have ever seen. Tree stumps were torn up and the small trees just run over and left. I actually gasped at the sight!
The Realtor had never mentioned the place had been logged and he dropped the price $50,000.00 as soon as we saw the devastation. Now we ask about logging and when and if it has been cleaned up and restored, also if it has been logged to what size of tree, have they left any young trees?

Logging leftovers [Image from Google]

 Mineral rights are another path you want to look into. Our first searches were done in West Virginia.Mineral rights are crucial in that state due to the mining Industry. Find out if all the mining has been done and if the Mineral rights are available or have been used. We looked at a lovely parcel, 147 acres. It had been strip mined but extremely well reclaimed and restored.
 It still had a wooded area on one side and had a lot of potential. We assumed since it had been strip mined we would not face any mining issues. We thought we could drill a well for water and our ideas started to flow! On the way back down the road the land was on we met a farmer with and enormous water tank. Ralph pulled over and stopped and found he was turning into a gate not far from the land we looked at. Ralph though it would be a good idea to talk to him. He was quite a source of information, none of it good. 
 Yes the land had been strip mined but it had not had some areas deep mined. He got rather agitated just talking about the mining! The mining company had just deep mined under his land...he had three drilled wells that supplied water to his pastures. When the miners came to the well casings of his wells they just cut them off and he lost all three wells. Now he has to haul water for all his livestock and his home. There is no restitution as he did not own the mineral rights!  It was a disturbing thing to learn! Scratch that potential property off the list.
Deep Drilled Well with casing into bed rock

 Surprise neighbors can be a consideration. We have looked and researched a lot or land in all sorts of condition. We use Google Maps and they are a wonderful tool to find out all sorts of things, but the imagery is not new, sometimes it is actually quite old. Some buildings that show up on Google are no longer there, sometimes things that are not on Google spring up as a surprise! We have accepted offers on the land we are selling....this has lead to a number of land tours. When the deals fell through we of course were disappointed but we have to look at the good things....these land tours continue to teach us a lot about land selection.
 We are concerned about things like landfills, industrial agriculture feeding operations and of  course power lines. Early in our research we had not started to use Google Maps. I am not sure why but it was a resource we did not take advantage of. 
  We had an offer and then decided while we were waiting to see if it worked out we took a land tour. Three properties in Kentucky, all a good size and a fair price. It was going to be a great trip! We had checked all our information concerning mineral rights, timber, house condition and age, acreage, buildings, wooded land, open land, fencing....you know the list! The first property was really nice but the road in front of it was super busy. We had not found out it was a bigger highway.
  Okay next property, we found the road it was on and as we drove along with about 4 miles to go we started to smell something...yes Hog barn. There really is nothing like it for a strong horrible smell. It had to be close...so was the property according to our directions. It was a horrible shock to find both the property and the hog barn at the same time! 6  commercial hog barns right across the road from the farm that we were interested in. Well that was that! This property was eliminated. On the way home Ralph kept wondering how we had missed that...then he thought about using Google maps to see the country. It has been a marvelous tool.

Commercial Hog barns, Satellite Imagery from Google Maps.

One more property to go, now we are a bit paranoid, what are we going to find this time. The third property on this trip turned out to be a good one. A quiet road, a lovely home, good buildings, a perfect field for the gardens and a SOLD sticker on the Realtors sign!

Yes looking for the right land is a big job with all sorts of pitfalls and challenges but it is how we learn. The delay in getting a property has been frustrating but it has also been a blessing. We are so much smarter now and we know the right questions to ask. We have tools that help us research more than just the land.

As to us and the current Buyer...we are still waiting and trying to be stoic about it all.
Our plans are still evolving and we continue to learn. Bless you all as we cruise down the highway to the perfect homestead!


No comments:

Post a Comment