We are super excited to start actually looking at land to buy! What an exciting new adventure to have embarked upon.
Tim and I have been on the hunt for a rural property to start to develop. One day we hope to call it home. You can read our full transition plan here:
We want to be more self-reliant and live more in harmony with the nature world. This means getting out of the city and learning new-to-us skills. We are also learning a lot about land and what to look for.
Check out what we learned:
10 Things I Learned Property Hunting
Our first adventure we spent 2 days in Vermont and explored 8 rural properties. Our second adventure to New Hampshire we explored 6 properties. It's kinda like hiking, but the a bit more off the beaten path.
"What's over that ridge?" "Does this stream lead to a waterfall?" "What is this plant?" "Oh, blackberries!" "Ugh, hemlocks and poison ivy."
So many ticks. Overgrown properties, with long grass and shrubs are full of ticks. We stopped after each property and pulled a dozen ticks off each of us. Repeat for every property!
Then we we got home, we stripped all our clothing and ran for the bathroom. There we found more ticks, and took a well earned shower.
Tim then googled to find some sort of tick repellent/killer. But long socks, pants, long shirts are your first defense. The ticks will land on you but you can pick them off before they find flesh. It's gross but all a part of nature.
It also gives us a good idea of what to expect when we visit; mow the grass, get some chickens, and hope for the less ticks in the future.
Or invest in tick killer.
#2 Great Views = It's a Hill
As a part of visiting the properties, we learned how to read the realtor listings. When it says "Great views", it means that the property is a hill. Maybe it's off a road that is a steep hill you have to drive up icy in the winter, or the property itself is sloped.
A sloped property is great for some things, but not as good for gardening. On our second adventure we avoided properties touting their ridge-line views, knowing it meant hiking up a hill. (Dragging your lumber and groceries up a hill.)
Views are nice, but not battling an icy hill every winter may be nicer...
#3 Selectively Logged = Logging Roads
Another realtor translation: selectively logged means there are logging roads built into the property. These roads are not "roads" as normal people would call them. They are a wide path with 2 deep grooves where the tires went.
They are trails cut through the property, often close to the boundaries and could be the start of a driveway. We actually liked the logging roads, because they are the start of rough cut trails and generally lead to open logged area.
Selectively logged wasn't a bad thing in our eyes, it mean there may be spots where all the tree were removed to make a home-site or meadow. It also meant there was some trail system in place.
#4 Selectively logged = Logging Debris
However! Selectively logged also means logging debris. Giants brush piles, with the branches removed from big timbers. It appears to me they cut the trees and strip all the limbs. They leave the limbs in place and haul out the timbers.
This means, your nice home-site/meadow could be overgrown shrubs on top of an even layer of branches from the trees. Which could be nice, or could be harboring a swamp underneath.
We happened upon a property where the branches provided a means to walk over the otherwise swampy area. But don't be fooled, it's truly a swamp! And we are avoiding any such descriptions that include "wetlands" or "swamp".
#5 Retired pasture = Farm Close By
Excited to find a flat property, we ventured out to this "retired pasture". It was really an overgrown field right across the street from a sheep farm that was placed right next to the road. While this was nice, it wasn't the property for us.
We want a mix of flat open land and trees. We also don't want to be too close to the road. So this retired pasture was a bit to close to it's former farm for our liking.
#6 Types of Roads
Did you know there are different types of roads? Not just dirt vs asphalt. I mean, not all public roads are town-maintained. What does that mean for us? It means the road won't be plowed by the town in the winter.
We would like to avoid any property that requires us to plow the driveway AND the road. Plowing the driveway is one thing, but upon driving those dirt roads we found something of a liking for paved roads.
It was mud-season and spring when we were driving these roads, so if we don't like them now...we surely won't like them come snow and ice season.
We may be called city-slickers for this, but we decided we like paved roads.
#7 Property Maps are Old and Incorrect
The realtors of most properties included a map. We found these maps are often old and mislabeled. Cross streets mislabeled, wrong property marked on the maps, lack of a for-sale sign, etc.
One property, in talking with a man fixing his tractor, pointed out that the lot outlined for sale on our map was actually his lot and the for sale one was next door. Another lot was listed to be right off the main road but was hidden down a side road that was missing from the map. 2 miles down this "missing" road we talked to a neighbor who pointed us to a shared driveway and into the woods to find the elusive lot.
Yet another property we went to find, had a side road listed on the map. We went to the side road but found a fully developed community and no lake as was on the map. A google map search of the same main road found another side road 5 miles down the road with an eerily similar looking pond. We ditched the given directions, and went down to the other side road to find the property! Mislabeled side road, no match for us!
Adventure! This is what we mean; hard to find and a bit of a mystery. Of course, the property boundaries aren't well marked on the ground so forest runs into forest and you can't tell what land you are walking on.
#8 Realtors Don't Take Good Pictures
I am not sure what the deal is with these raw-land realtors but their pictures are terrible. With houses, you see gorgeous photos of perfectly arranged bedrooms. You see wine and cheese laid out, with towels neatly folded.
For raw-land you see a picture of the property from the road, maybe a google earth image with the property lines drawn-on. Then 2-3 shots of some trees.
Maybe, we don't give the realtors enough credit, maybe it's really hard to get good photographs of land. But largely the pictures do little to tell you of the characteristics of the land.
#9 You Don't Know till you Get There
If all the other bullets didn't tell ya, I'll say it straight. You just don't know what it's like until you get there.
One property looked great from the pictures with a mix of hardwoods and recently logged. We get there and it's a complete hill-swamp.
Hill-swamp? Yup, hill-swamp. Never seen one before. It was a logging debris covered hill in which there was a boggy river underneath the branches cut from logging. With each crunch you stepped through fully rotted top layer to sink into the mud below while on a steep slope.
Oh we noped all over that place and got out.
One property we thought looked amazing with a great open field, a stream, and logging trails. Turns out the picture was taken of the neighbors abutting field. There was a tiny right of way across the field to the forested hill property behind.
Also the logging road when over/through the stream, which may or may not be flowing year round. (i.e. you need to build a bridge for your driveway.) Sorry, not for us.
#10 Great adventure!
I hope I conveyed through our stories, what a great adventure property hunting has been. As part of our city to farm strategy, I want to enjoy every step of the way.
I don't want to wish away the time, be grumpy, impatient or miserable. Attitude is a big part of that. Life can be an adventure or it can be a miserable tick-infested, poison ivy covered, rotting hill-swamp with skunk cabbage.
(I won't say it's completely your choice to lead an awesome-filled life. Sometimes life sucks and there aint nothing you can do about it. You can make the best, but the best may still be miserable. Life happens.)
We are lucky to be at a time and place in this world where we can enjoy this journey together and share in adventures along the way. We hope you will follow along too, and maybe be inspired to seek your own adventures!
Tips for What to pack:
Since this site is all about being prepared, here are the things I brought along that I found most useful.
- Tick killer
- Bug spray
- Avenza maps
- Free downloadable maps + app for topography. You can add a "pin" where you parked your car, and be able to find it again. They work offline with GPS, even when you have no cell service. (Assuming you pre-downloaded the map before your adventure.)
- Peterson field guides
- Food/water (A picnic basket anyone?)
- Long pants + long sleeve shirt
- Boots + long socks
- Durable car
- Between dirt roads and literally off-roading it, a durable high-clearance car could be handy.
- But not totally necessary, we walked most properties on foot, as logging roads aren't built for street cars.
- Sense of adventure!
- Maybe I have used the word "adventure" too many times already in this article, but I'll add it here for good measure.