Buying land for your homestead can be very stressful if you have never been through the process before. We found many great tips and strategies that we used for finding land through google searches. After 2 years of actively touring properties, my favorite tip that I didn’t see on the internet is to look past the current condition of the property.
As you are browsing through photos of a property, don’t let the current condition of the property scare you from scheduling a tour. In our price range, every property had some level of disrepair. The property we eventually purchased had been on the market for most of the time we had been actively searching for our future homestead. The property had an older mobile home that was not salvageable. That one picture kept me from considering this property, even though it had a nice existing well and was in an area with a good aquifer. Water is a huge consideration in the desert and I was letting the current condition scare me from even touring one of the few properties that had a decent well in a good water area.
After many months of refusing to even tour the property and having no success with any other properties, we decided to see what it offered. We started walking around with our realtor and it was even worse than the pictures showed! There was a trailer filled with trash. Furniture was strewn around the house and barn area. The amount of trash around the property was astounding. I literally wanted to cry. Our realtor, experienced with land in the area, encouraged us to consider the well and the features of the land and how they met our needs and wants.
Because the property was a foreclosure, we were able to return several times without our realtor (with the owner’s permission) to really get a feel for the property. We realized that we were letting cosmetic and fixable issues keep us from making an offer. Yes, it would take work and money to fix the problems. But the positives far outweighed those negatives once we could see past them and see the homestead it could be.
In the end, we used 7 strategies to manage the negatives and purchase what will be our homestead paradise. The strategies we used were:
- Determine if an issue is fixable
- Research options for fixing issues with the property
- Talk with neighbors for ideas
- Live with the problem
- Compare the pros and the cons
- Reduce your offer
- Ask the seller to correct problems with the property
Determine If An Issue Is Fixable
Immediately after we toured the property and saw all the problems, we were responding emotionally. After letting our emotions settle for a few days, we realized we needed to evaluate the property with facts and information. We made a list of our concerns and evaluated each one by asking “Is this fixable?” We decided that there would be only 3 possible answers – yes, no, or maybe.
At this phase, don’t get caught up in trying to figure out the details of how to fix it. Use this question as a quick screen to help determine if you want to continue your research. If you aren’t sure if something can be fixed, answer it with “maybe”.
Once we had basic answers for each concern, we realized that almost every issue had a possible solution. We had one problem that we could not think of a possible solution, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker for us.
Research Options For Fixing Issues With The Property
Even though we knew most problems could be fixed, we didn’t always know exactly how it could be done. We brainstormed possible fixes for each concern on our list. Once we had the list, we started to research each solution. Doing the research is key – there may be legal, financial, or other restrictions you may not know.
During this research, we learned that some of the solutions we thought were possible were not. For example, there is a 1970’s single wide mobile home on our property. It had the hitch and the axles in place. Our first thought was to hire someone to tow it away. We quickly learned that our county would not allow that for our mobile home due to its age. The only way we could dispose of the mobile was to have it demolished and hauled away.
Talk With Neighbors For Ideas
While we were evaluating our property, we were able to spend a full day on-site. During our visit, several neighbors stopped by to chat with us. Visiting with them helped us further refine our list of solutions. They had specific knowledge of legal requirements in the area and they helped answer our concerns with the well.
We had the initial thought of burning the trash that could be burned. When we mentioned that, we learned that we would need to obtain a burn permit from the local fire department. Because we are in the desert and fire is such a huge concern, burn permits are limited to certain times a year. We realized that hauling away the trash would be the better solution.
By visiting with the neighbors, we were able to answer our questions about the wells in the area. The neighbors shared that they have not had any issues with wells running dry or the static level dropping. This was a huge concern of ours and talking with neighbors allowed us to hear the experiences of long-term residents.
Live With The Problem
There may be issues with the property that simply cannot be fixed or that aren’t worth fixing. If these issues don’t interfere with your plans for the property and they aren’t deal-breakers, then the best solution is to live with them.
The majority of our property is flat with some minor areas where rainwater runs. There is a small part in the back that has a significant drop down to a flood plain. We aren’t going to be able to change that. It will not interfere with our house build, and it doesn’t prevent us from gardening, having animals, or an orchard. We aren’t at risk from it flooding the rest of our property. We can live with that issue.
Compare The Pros And The Cons
Once we were able to move past an emotional response to the problems and determine possible solutions and their costs, we made a list of the pros and cons of the property. This property met so many of our needs and wants. We had not found any other property that checked off so many boxes for us.
A private registered well in a good water area was our top criteria (except for price). There are many properties for sale here in the desert, but only a few in our price range had a private well. We were amazed at how many people bought properties in the desert with no well in place or in a bad area for wells. We did not want to rely on hauled water. There are people harvesting rainwater for their water needs, but we didn’t want that to be our only option. This property was one of the very few we saw that had a well in place.
The well and several other factors overwhelmingly dwarfed the problems with the property. We could fix or live with all the concerns. After we completed all the research for possible solutions, what initially turned us against this property no longer scared us compared to the positives.
Reduce Your Offer
Once we determined that the property, problems and all, was a good fit for us, we wrote an offer that accounted for the costs for tackling all the repairs ourselves. We started with this strategy because it allowed us to begin with the lowest offer that also left room to negotiate. Because of our research, our realtor was prepared to explain our offer in detail to the seller’s agent.
If you use this strategy, make sure you can financially or physically handle the corrections. We had room in our budget to account for the purchase price and the repairs. I don’t recommend this strategy if the price is already at the top of your budget or if you physically can’t do the work yourself to save money.
Ask The Seller To Correct Problems With The Property
If you aren’t comfortable with taking on the repairs yourself or if the seller rejects your reduced offer, ask the seller to tackle the corrections as part of the negotiation. The seller of our property rejected our initial offer but countered with a lower price. We chose to respond with an offer that raised our purchase price but also asked him to correct the top 2 problems – the mobile home and the trash.
Depending on how long the property has been on the market and how much interest there is, this strategy can be very effective. Our property had been on the market for a long time. The seller had acquired it as a foreclosure, so he had no emotional attachment to it. We knew from conversations with neighbors that, while there had been interest from potential buyers, they all rejected it because of the current condition. Instead of rejecting an otherwise great property, we chose to utilize these facts to our advantage.
Finally, We Had Our Future Homestead
In the end, the seller agreed to some repairs and an additional price reduction. Because we stepped back and didn’t let our emotions guide our decisions, we were able to purchase an amazing property. Now we can begin the hard work to create our homestead paradise!
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