Four years ago my husband and I took the plunge and purchased the mountain land we had been dreaming about for years. With careful thought and planning, we are now the proud owners of our retirement homesite. The process was long and tedious, but we knew we couldn’t afford to get it wrong. Although it is only 2.5 acres, it is big enough for the garden I want, but small enough not to be too overwhelming to mow. We have a high flat area for our home, a wonderful spring and a small river that runs through the bottom of the property and are only 4 miles from the Blue Ridge parkway. We chose southwestern Virginia for its mild climate that also allows for the change of seasons.
Please give careful consideration to several important key factors before jumping head first into your dream. Otherwise, it could potentially turn into your worst nightmare. I have covered the top 5 areas you should research before you purchase, or even seriously look into any piece of property.
- Location, location, location! IF you already have a really good idea of where you want to buy your rural property, that’s great, but if you don’t, then you really need to get this right. Are you longing for the mountains, prairies, foothills, coastal or maybe even lakefront property? Consider what the area you choose will be like during every season.
If you choose the mountains in a northern climate, can you stand being snowed in for possibly weeks or months? If you head towards the coast are you willing to risk enduring a hurricane? How far do you want to be from “civilization?” Can you access electricity easily, or will you have to have solar power or another alternative? What will the resale value be like if misfortune hits and you are forced to sell? Being within a few hours of a large city increases your real estate pool of potential buyers who may want a summer place within an easy drive.
- Acreage: How much land will you need? Buying too much land can almost be as bad as not buying enough. If you are intending to homestead or keep large animals, then obviously you will need much more property than if you are like me, and just want a decent sized garden for personal use. Keep in mind however any future uses you may want to incorporate into your dream property so you don’t run out of room.
- Special features: What do you want your property to do for you and how do you intend to use it? What natural resources are a must have on your property? Water, of course is a given, but in what form do want your water to come in? Obviously, at the very least you will need a fresh water source for drinking. This can be a spring or a well, but it is imperative that you find out before purchasing how difficult and expensive getting an adequate well dug will be. Is having a creek, pond or river on the property important to you? How wooded is it, and how expensive and difficult will it be to clear the land for not only a homesite, but a garden? If a wonderful mountain top view is high on your priority list, will it be worth it come winter when the road to your property turns treacherous?
- Timing: Just like the stock market, the real estate market rises and falls. If possible, time your hunt during a time when the market has a glut of property and the ball is more in the buyers court. You also need to consider how long it will be before you will be making actual use of the property. OUr property came with an old trailer and cleared land, and because we won’t be moving there for quite some time, we have to maintain some upkeep there, which isn’t easy to do from 6 hours away. We were lucky enough to find a farmer who was willing to bushhog our little piece of paradise for next to nothing several times a year in exchange for the right to hunt deer on our land.
- Price: Everybody now seems to have the “I want what I want right now” mindset. You should only be seriously pursuing your land ownership dream if you can truly afford it. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, then this isn’t the time for you. IF you are going to be making rent or a mortgage payment along with your land payment, then you better have your financial house in really good order. Ideally, saving up and paying cash would be the optimal way to buy your dream property, but I know realistically, that isn’t going to happen with most people. At the very least, you need to have enough of a down payment available so that if you need to resell your property, you can easily get enough money out of it to cover your loan. Also, as previously stated, don’t buy more land than you need. Lastly, shop around! Don’t fall in love with the first piece of land you see. Get to know the area and what is available in your price range.
Buying your dream property doesn’t have to be out of reach if you do your research, plan carefully and keep realistic expectations.