Advice for a city gal trying to buy acreage?

Started by Natalie, March 10, 2009, 09:56:47 PM

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Hey everyone!
  I suppose this is my real inaugural post, since I've been lurking for a few months. My carpenter husband and I spent December 2008 - June 2009 completing our first "conventional" home construction here on the east coast of Canada (I've got a blog with random thoughts + some house pictures at  Since I'll be finishing my Masters in this city, we have placed it on the market and were very lucky to sell it right away.  My thesis writing has been thwarted lately by my new obsession - tiny living, green building and homesteading.  We are planning to move back to the neighbouring Maritime province (where all our family is located) to build a small cabin in the woods & start a family. 

I am a research-oriented gal, and while I was comfortable in the urban market (especially in this city and my hometown city) I'm afraid I don't know squat in terms of the right kinds of questions to ask when buying acreage.  I realize it may be somewhat location-specific, but I'm freaked out we may miss something important as the n00bies.

The deal is: a private seller, advertising on a local classified ads website, is selling 100 acres of wood lot (about 4 acres cleared for light hobby farming) which has a three bedroom, three story house on it about 25 minutes from the city where I grew up.  Even though the asking price is cheap (50K), it will eat up every penny we have earned from the sale of our house, as well as prevent me from paying down student loans.  So, it's important we don't mess it up.  There are two brooks running on the property, lots of game (including the odd bear!), and has tons of road frontage.  The house, although liveable, is sorta a wreck.  Let's just say the area is not known for its forward-thinking  urban chic residents.  Tyvek is currently the major exterior finish on the house.  We want to build an off-the-grid 300 square foot, one-bedroom home either on the current 25x25 stacked-rock (dirt floor) foundation with excellent passive solar exposure, or move the whole party 1 km down by the brook, where we may be able to harness some hydro-power.

So the questions so far include: property taxes? possible utility accent roads? easements? survey markers? surrounding land being private or government owned? where do the predominant winds occur? are there swampy areas, especially around the running water? who plows the main road (important around here!)

Am I missing anything?

We are probably going to make a second 6-hour round trip this weekend to check it out again before getting lawyers involved to draft up an agreement.  Help me out folks :)



Sounds like a pretty good piece of real estate.  Had you ever thought of buying the compete track and then determine the best possible building site to incorporate all your demands and then sell off the portion (less desirable) to offset the original purchase price. This usually takes some time but it maybe be a solution in the long run to get what you want. If it were anything at all it wouldn't last long in my neck of the woods.

If there is a structure is it something that you could live in for the time being?
Is there a well or septic installed?
Is there power at the structure or the distance it would have to be run?
Has the portion for sale ever been surveyed or is it part of a larger track?

Sorry I cannot comment on the legalities associated with Canada.  Maybe someone will ping in on your post from that area and assist on those.


Indeed, even in my dirt cheap hometown, this is a good deal.  When we went to see it the first time, we were among 25 other people.  She received a lot of interest, but I got the impression she cared who lived there (not some crazy developer).  She lives just up the road (moved to a bigger house in preparation for baby #6 hee).  So I wrote this one page letter describing what our plans are (not sell it in chunks if at all possible, unless to siblings or cousins) and she must have liked it.

Link to classified ad for the curious: [removed]

There is a 3 bedroom, 3 level structure.  It is liveable.  Exposed insulation batts, missing drywall around the perimeter of the room near the ceiling, huge random holes here and there, no vapour barrier to speak of in some places.  Apparently the family prior to her raised 18 kids in that house.  It's seen better days.

Leech field with hemlock septic tank, and spring-fed well.  Again, no way that would ever pass inspection these days but it's grandfathered and out in the sticks. 

Power currently available, as the house was lived in last year.

Not sure about surveying, but I believe that will come up with Title search?  Correct me if I'm wrong, I'm not sure.  I haven't seen a certificate of any kind, but will insist before buying.


I too, can't speak to Canadian issues, but for sure, with this being a private seller, and you are paying cash, you definitely need a lawyer.  Don't try to do this on your own.  I speak from experience.

And not just any lawyer, but one familiar with the area, and one experienced in realestate.

Besides easements, there may also be mineral or logging rights.  Get an attorney that will look under every rock, you are making a once-in-a lifetime decision that may determine every future decision.


I'll add to the good advice the others gave and suggest you have the well tested. We had a house in the mountains in Colorado years ago that turned out to have a contaminated well from mining that was done decades before. Also look the property over good for signs of old dumping and mining.


The land sounds awesome - just looked up ad and your blog.  [cool] 
My wife has family around Memramcook and I really like the area.
One thing which we never thought about when we went for our land here in CB was that you will need another vehicle when you're out in the boonies.
We just bought an old pick up for the build. It was cheap but by the time we insured and registered it.... Still we figure it's really a necessity - if one of you is away the other is potentially stranded.
Just a thought
good luck with the land!


Its been ages since I last posted and as you can imagine we are in a totally different situation.  Ha! (isn't it always the way?)
I finally graduated, we moved out of our conventional city home in Neighbouring Province without a hitch, and took a luxurious 3-week vacation in Europe. Peachy keen. The sellers from above informally accepted our offer for the house & land in Albert County. BUT the only biochem job in the area (which I was supremely qualified for and incredibly excited by) was 45 minutes from Hometown in the other direction.  I was prepared to commute 45 minutes to Hometown from Albert County, but no way could I cope with 1.5 hours to the nearest University Town.  That's nuts.  People don't move to the country to spend the day in a car.  Anyhoo.  The options became: plow onward with the deal in Albert County and work at a pizza shop owned by a family member in Hometown or drop the beautiful land and base ourselves in the University town where I can work in my field.

The latter won out, the land went to someone else.

Nothing in University Town or nearby sells for nearly as cheaply as Albert County.  We could only scrape by paying 50,000...anything else we needed a mortgage.  And the bank wouldn't fund raw land purchase.  But all was not lost, as we lucked into a stunning property not 10 minutes from my job, within sight of the Bay of Fundy and with 135 acres!! Paid 130K for it, and boy was it a steal. A gigantic multi-generational farmhouse, view to die for, huge farm, multiple outbuildings, circular grassy driveway, orchard, cranberry field, bunny rabbits.  The whole shebang.  Just not the tiny strawbale I was hoping for (yet....I've got my eye on the field next to the barn as the ultimate spot for an in-law or rental cabin).

All this to say thank you so much for the welcome, I swoop in and check up on everybody ('specially those out here on the East Coast) but I probably belong in an Old House forum now, debating the pros and cons of keeping 100-year old wood windows.


Wow!  Looks like you got quite a deal  [cool]  35 acres & everything else - close by work - couldn't ask for more!  Congratulations  :)

Post some more pics & you can make em bigger...   ;D  You know we all like pics!

You will know the truth & the truth will set you free


I'm updating a decade old thread to say:
1. The century old farmhouse is mostly restored now, and is just as dreamy as when we first bought it. We are both still employed with our original employers, and while we didn't expand our family as I thought perhaps we would in 2009, everything is AWESOME.

2. That guest house got built after all! It sits right were I imagined it in 2009, and I created a builder's blog to document the process:

3. This forums remains a great resource on the internet, and I'll add a thread in the owner-builder section for the guesthouse so that I may contribute too.