Chris and I have changed the direction of our lives as we prepare to buy land, build a yurt, and live a different kind of lifestyle. Naively, we imagined that the hardest part of this journey would be the building process.
Since houses in our price range are in a higher demand than land in our price range, we thought that buying land would be much simpler than buying a house. We wouldn’t necessarily have to worry about bidding wars, or house flippers taking great deals off of the market. Yet we are discovering that finding the right property is quite a confusing process.
Our Dream Property
After looking at many properties, we fell in love with one in particular. It had caught Chris’ eye when he scanned the online local listings a while ago. It was 20 acres of beautiful woods with amazing views, all for a price that couldn’t be beat. The listing showed high tension power lines in one of the pictures (which we knew we would have to investigate), and explained that 18 of the acres were conserved, while only 2 were zoned for building. This didn’t bother us, it actually intrigued us. We could have most of the perks of owning 20 acres of land, like adding hiking trails and keeping others from building right next to our yurt, while getting a break on property taxes. Realistically, two acres for building was generous for our needs.
The location was vague on the listing; it only offered a street name and no street number. We asked our realtor for more information. He said that it would be easy to find if we just drove down the road and looked for a real estate sign.
We spotted a sign right away, but continued to the end of the road just in case we found another. We didn’t see one. So we went back, parked, and walked around. The land fit the description on the listing to a tee. It described a roughed-in driveway, a two acre area reserved for building, which appeared to be a man-made clearing, and westerly views. We found the high tension power lines, which luckily were far from where we would build our yurt.
We left believing that it was the best property we would be able to find with a price we could afford. The excitement we felt from this property, knocked anything we had seen so far, off of our list. We saw ourselves there among those peaceful trees. But how could a property so lovely be priced so much lower than its counterparts? It seemed too good to be true.
Time to Think
Though this property was very inexpensive for what it offered, it was still a considerable amount of money above our budget, making our timeline much longer. We needed time to think it over. If we were going to act on this property, our whole plan would change, but the payoff could be very much worth it.
After giving ourselves a few weeks to think, we went back to the property and walked around again. Our hearts swelled, as the ideas flooded our heads with what we could do with this special piece of land.
If we were going to put an offer on this property, we had to get serious. We created a list of questions we needed answered before we could proceed, and emailed them to our realtor. And then we waited.
Time to Wait
Waiting when hopeful can be a tricky time. I spent the next few days dreaming about that property, even though I tried not to. It came up in conversation easily and frequently. We were prepared to buy it and we both knew it. We started hypothetically discussing things we would need, like maybe a tractor or a truck for snow removal, since it had a very long driveway. Being an avid disc golfer, Chris mentally mapped out a personal disc golf course with those 18 acres of extra land.
Then halfway through the third day, I received an email from our realtor. My heart skipped a beat. I finished out the workday and got home to Chris. We opened it together. We went through the list of answers, liking each of them. There was a survey map attached at the bottom of the email. This was the most important part. What if the land we saw wasn’t quite right? What if that beautiful clearing wasn’t part of the land for sale? What if the high tension power lines occupied most of the property? My heart hammered away as we opened the map.
It was very confusing. Nothing from the map looked familiar, which terrified me. After trying for a while, I handed it over to Chris. He pulled up a map of the road online and tried to compare. Then he noticed that the top corner of the page showed a small basic road map with the property shaded, indicating its location. Oh no.
From what he could tell, it was far away from the land we had looked at. It was on the opposite end of the road. What we had looked at was another parcel of land all together.
But how could that be? My mind fought the news. How could the land we saw match the description so perfectly? Even one of the answers in the email included a landmark that we had seen. I thought that maybe we were still reading the map wrong, or the map itself was wrong. Then Chris pointed out that the property was very close to two other roads. What we saw was far from those roads. I could almost hear our hearts shattering.
Time to Change
I thought we had it this time. I knew that by purchasing this land, we might have to wait longer to build our yurt because of the added expense. I also knew that this wait would be absolutely worth it, because we would end up with a yurt on an unbelievable property.
I figured that the second it was ours, we would spend as much time there as possible, slowly transforming the landscape. I even pictured us having camping trips there with our friends next summer. Our dream was so close, and it seemed that our chances were so high. We weren’t entering into a bidding war. We weren’t trying to buy a house on a short sale (which we had tried to do last year) and be at the mercy of a bank. As soon as the information checked out, we were going to buy it, and it was going to be ours. But no, not this time.
A sliver of hope was still alive as we remembered about the real estate sign that had originally led us astray. We searched the online listings and found a small parcel of land right in front of the one we had seen. It was dramatically out of our price range, explaining why it hadn’t come up in our original online search. What we had seen, wasn’t even for sale.
The Real Property for Sale
We felt like we needed to go see the real 20 acre property for sale since the pictures and descriptions still looked great. The approved building site appeared to be right next to high tension power lines on the survey map, however, so we weren’t very optimistic.
We pulled up to what we thought was the property and saw the real estate sign, which was very tiny, and set back. Very easy to miss. We started walking down the ‘roughed-in driveway’, which was really just grass with a couple of tire marks, and as soon as it turned into woods, it disappeared. Then the confusion blossomed. We scoured the forest, trying to just find the power lines as a reference. After a while, we turned back, discouraged from seeing houses nearby. We didn’t want to walk on another person’s property, or worse, fall in love with the wrong thing again. So we turned around and went back home.
When house hunting, finding what’s for sale is pretty straight forward. The listing often shows an exact address and even when it isn’t perfectly accurate, there are pictures and descriptions. The pictures can easily be compared to reality. Yet when land hunting, the process isn’t as easy. Many times even land owners are uncertain of property lines. Pictures on the listings are of forests and patches of grass which can easily be mistaken for any clump of trees or greenery they are compared to.
A few days later, we got into a conversation with someone who happened to know the real property for sale very well. He explained that the building envelope really was right next to the power lines. Worse than that, he said that the building site consisted of rock, thinly veiled by moss or earth, making building expensive and difficult. We let that property go.
I have to remind myself of that dreaded phrase, “if it is meant to be, it will be”. Part of me wants to take that phrase, tear it to shreds, and throw it down the river. But another part gently reminds me that however annoying it is to hear, that phrase is right. If we had been able to purchase that short sale house last year, we would never have discovered the joys of yurts. And who knows what kind of financial hole we would be in with that money pit? As frustrating as it is to think of that stupid phrase, I whole-heartily agree with it. Maybe this land is not ours. But ours is out there somewhere. One day soon, we will find it, and it will work out. And when it does, we will look back on this property and say, “Imagine if we really bought that property last year? We would never have found this gem.”
Photo via Visualhunt