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Advice for a city gal trying to buy acreage?

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Natalie:
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 oceanedgeblue.blogspot.com).  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 :)

Redoverfarm:
Natalie

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.

Natalie:
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.


poppy:
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.

ScottA:
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.

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