For the links to videos describing how to buy land in the modern era of the 2010’s, scroll to the bottom. The earlier stuff here is how I came across my homestead back in the early days of the Internet.
I bought my land back in September 1998, from a landowner who had been trying to sell on and off for a couple of years. This land here had been in the family for some time, and there was nothing built on it. At one point, there’d been a house close to the road, but it burnt down in the 30s, Apples had been planted around an open field, which also housed cattle and/or sheep. No structures remained by the 1990s. The field area between the apples had been tractor mowed hired out by the owner I purchased from over time. And someone had done a perc test at the back end of the field.
On the left side of the field was a woodlot, which had been harvested from in the relatively near past. There was an old logging trail going way back into the property, up to an old hemlock field where in the very center was an ancient and humungous maple tree. You could (if small enough) climb into the trunk.
This was the second lot I saw when property hunting, on the first day.
The way it worked then – you get in touch with a Realtor (TM) – whom I found through local friends – who meets with you, and you discuss what you want in property. We met in her living room.
ME: I want 15 acres or plus, a flat place to build a house, road access with a potential flat driveway (I lived with a horrid driveway back down in Connecticut – never again!), electric access, not swampy. My goal is to farm, raise goats and veggies (ie, Goats and Greens). Maybe other critters, but I needed space for the homestead and the out structures.
SHE: I’ll provide you with a list of properties and addresses, and you can go walk them. Here are a couple local ones to start your day off, but otherwise I’ll e-mail you more as you look.
In other words, she wouldn’t be going with me. It wasn’t, anyway, going to be likely that I’d be entering any homes and making off with anything important.
First lot: It was actually, in retrospect, not a bad lot. A lot larger than I wanted, and it was all mowed down by the roadway, and then far enough back it went into wooded hillside. It just didn’t sing. (No one, btw, has ever built anything there since, but there is also no “for sale” sign there currently. Nor for years. Maybe it was simply bought by a neighbor who wanted to retain Open Space? Dunno.)
The second lot was awesome. A field on the right, the Nature Conservancy owning the property to the right of that, and on the left the woodlot which I’d be interested in building into. A logging trail going back into there. I wandered in. Marshy at the outset, but then dry and flat.
Way too many acres though, but the price was very reasonable. Plus, it was only the second property I examined. This was early summer. I wasn’t going to “settle” for the first piece of attractive land. Had to see what else was out there!
I spent the summer, sometimes alone, sometimes with my housemate, once with another friend, exploring land sites my Realtor sent me. We didn’t have GPS, we had maps. Those things on paper. There are certain regions in western Mass where you should NOT trust the maps. (I have since discovered even in recent years, there are places one shouldn’t trust the GPS either! In my own town there is a road that leads to somewhere on GPS, but dead ends today in reality.) At any rate, one road turned into a dirt road, and then ended where a stream flowed over the truncated path we were on, and we were forced to back up until we turned around.
I didn’t count the properties I looked at. I know they were well over 25 lots. Kept coming back to visit the one I ended up buying… Glad I did!
Part II of this will be questions to ask yourself before you even go out to search for land.
NOTE: This applies only to readers in the US, although perhaps Canada will have some overlap, or a cognate service.
The videos I recommend for searching for land today both come from the YouTube channel, The Kraemer Life.
Start with this one: How to Find Property Online in a Tough Market – Farm and Homestead Land Search Tips (Lands of America; Zillow)
Second one: How to use GIS & Google Earth for Property Searching – Farm and Homestead Search Tips.
I will also note that checking municipal records of land deeds is also helpful. I did this online back in the early 2000’s when considering a small adjacent property to buy. I discovered ownership of our bordering creek (mine, actually), and details about any easements or past ownership(s).