Land searching methods that worked for me

Started by DemianJ, February 15, 2007, 03:47:11 PM

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My wife and I ended up finding land in rural, central VA by trying many of the methods offered in that Dirt Cheap book recommended by John.  What eventually led us to find our land was putting up a flyer in a rural post office.  I was driving around various back roads and asking anyone I saw along the road (i.e., on their tractor, checking their mail, etc) whether they knew anyone who was looking to sell land.  Some folks on a walk recommended a certain post office (most in my area don't allow flyers so I hadn't tried any).  A friend of the owner saw the flyer at the post office and told him about it.  It wasn't on the market and he lives across the road from it (and his family is an old part of the local community) and he didn't want to sell to a developer.  In my flyer I gave a summary of why I was looking for land and emphasized that I wasn't looking to put in a subdivision.  I think there are farmers out there who would like to sell some of their land, but don't want to go through the hassle of dealing with the general public or are afraid they'll end up with the wrong sort of neighbor.  The former owner ending up making a hefty profit over what he paid 30 years ago, but chose to give up some profit, in order to sell to someone he would like to have as a neighbor.

Another method is to go to the county tax dept and buy a copy of their tax map book.  Drive around with a map and choose various areas you would like to live in and look for large tracts shown on the tax maps in those areas.  Then look up the addresses in the book and mail letters asking if the owner would like to sell.  This method yielded about 3 options (be prepared for a couple of angry letters, as well).  We didn't end up choosing these options, but I think it was useful to help put some pressure on the owner of the land we did buy (I sent letters to his neighbors; our negotiation process took over a year; time that I was unemployed b/c I had been planning on starting to build once we moved to VA).

Another method we used to go after large tracts which were way out of our budget range (and get a cheaper per acre price) was to find other folks looking for land, form an LLC, and buy the land as an LLC and then divide it amoung the partners.  This can be complicated and should involve a lawyer, but ended up getting us a bigger and better piece of land than if we were shopping alone.  Plus, it doesn't come anywhere near the total 10% real estate agent commission you'd pay if you went the more traditional route.

Our transaction ending up taking so long and being so complicated that I'm still amazed it worked out in the end.

Homegrown Tomatoes

Demian, Thanks for posting this... I hadn't read it before, but it gives me some more ideas for when we do move.  My husband has gotten a job offer which would include buying our current home if we aren't able to sell it within 2 months... it is not exactly where we'd hoped to be, but it is a lot closer than we are now.  The pressure to sell quickly is off if he takes this offer (which is good, because by the end of that two months we'll most likely be busy with another newborn....)  I found a 10 acre property nearby with a small, liveable existing house listed for $50K... we could pretty much buy it debt free and live in it until we could build a house, and then remodel the existing home to use as a MIL apartment.  It has outbuildings, etc. already.  Anyway, your suggestions sound good, and it may be that we could find something even better using some of your suggestions... thanks again.


great idea on the land LLC Demian... but you better make sure you like yer neighbors... I am always afraid of problems...Not that I am violent or anything... but I know that if ever someone starts giving me greif about the way I am using building on or have my land... they are in trouble..I will not have it... I am scared to think of what I might say or do to a neighbor that got all up in my business about how I was living on my land...

If I will throw my mother in law out of my house for criticizing the way I live....Imagine what I would do to a neighbor that was not related to me...

I guess if the acreage was large and the tracts of land were large there would be a buffer so the neighbor would not have to be in your face so to speak


Dirt Cheap also mentions running a classified of what you're looking for and where.
We did that for a few weeks last summer.  It didn't yield any concrete results.  However, everyone we know now knows we're looking and the word spread.  So I guess ultimately it did do what I wanted and that was to make it know we're looking.

Kind of a, "hmm... I wonder if those kids up on Wilder's are still looking?  We've got that piece in the corner of the Shakey pasture that we could cut out and make a little money..."
The wise woman builds her own house... Proverbs 14:1

Homegrown Tomatoes

As we've been looking, one good thing I've found is that there are a lot of places in OK for sale with well, septic, and a fence, but no house.  Some of them even have a barn with electric and running water.  I am assuming that at one time they probably had a mobile home on them?  Anyway, I've got to find out if it is OK to hook up an RV to the septic and well and live there while we build.  I think we'll probably start with a 14' by 24' little house with a loft, and then when we can afford to start building debt free again, build a bigger house as a main house and use the little house as sort of a MIL cabin.