We Purchased 5 Acres In The Northwest, And Are Starting From Scratch
Categories: Life Stories
We purchased five acres of land in the Pacific Northwest in September of 2015 where we will be living off the grid and developing our off grid property 100% from scratch!
Many of you requested that we make a video giving a tour of our property. We barely squeezed it in because just a day or two after this video, we took an excavator to the flat spot to move stuff around and pave our driveway! Be sure to check out our channel to see what we've been up to!
After a couple years of hard work, in September 2015 we were finally able to purchase 5 acres of land in a rural part of Idaho. It was a dream come true. In this post we would like to share the details of our land upon purchasing it, what it looks like per-development, what we plan to do with it, as well as some of the pros and cons.
Back sometime in 2014, we had some long discussions and picked a place to settle down. We decided that we were going to aim to buy land in Idaho. To make it work we knew we were going to have to work hard, stay focused, and come up with a substantial amount of money for a down payment. We also had to find land that would be suitable for our needs.
Today, we have been living on our land for 3.5 weeks and it feels surreal. As we talk about our land a lot (obviously!) we thought it’d be cool to have one post that just talks about our land as a piece of property. We really want to focus on what the land looked like when we bought it and even how things worked out financially as we want to be transparent as possible in hopes it is helpful to some.
A Video Tour of Our Land
Let’s jump straight in to the fun, shall we? In this video, I will give you close to a full tour of our land. I cut out a lot of the “boring” stuff (because who wants to watch endless video of me walking through a forest?) and tried to focus on the highlights of the property. This video was taken shortly before we decided to pave our driveway, dig the footings for our barn and before we had our septic system installed. Things moved quickly so we did the video just in time!
The Financial Ramifications
As you may know, it can be difficult to get a bank loan on bare land. If you are able to get a bank loan on bare land, it is uncommon to get the terms longer than 20 years and an interest rate lower than 8%. As we are both self-employed and don’t enjoy making a large amount of money on paper ( Self-employment
penalties taxes, yo! We like to spend the money we earn, wisely mind you, so that we aren’t heavily penalized taxed). When we were ready to buy land, I had only been self-employed for a year and wasn’t making much money (didn’t need to… that’s a different story) and even though Jesse was making $130,000+/year with his business, he didn’t look attractive to a bank. We were going to need to find someone that would carry the loan.
We only looked at properties where the owner was willing to carry the note. Often in an owner-carry, the owner will want a substantial down payment (20%+ is not uncommon) to minimize their risk. We were hoping to find a piece of property for $40,000 or so and were expecting to pay around $8,000 down.
This property was listed for $49,000 which we were willing to pay happily. However, we were able to work the price down to $46,500 because there was a per-existing claim to the land: someone back in the day claimed 50% of mineral rights (probably not a big deal, if the people even have the rights anymore as they are likely deceased but we don’t really know for sure). We wanted to lower the cost so that we could do a quiet-title action which would cost money.
The owner was willing to take just $5,000 down to our surprise. You don’t know until you offer.
That left us with a payment of around $350/month which we are happy with. We plan to pay this off as soon as possible… hopefully within the next year if all pans out.
As we bought a travel trailer to live in while we build our home, our monthly living expenses are actually quite low. We aren’t paying rent, woo hoo!
The layout of this land is excellent in our opinion. The previous owner had leveled out a spot for building, so the flat spot is around 1 acre or so. This is where we plan to build our home, barn, garden, and even have some livestock. One acre is plenty to do things with. We can also build into the hillside if we need to.
The view is AWESOME! We were hoping we would get a view, but we didn’t and don’t expect this to be our forever property. In the future, we will probably want to live more remote but by going too remote too soon, it would likely result in failure because it may be too difficult and too much of a shock for us.
The flat spot is surrounded by a hill… it’s somewhat in a bowl. We love the hillside because it gives us lots of additional building options. It also gives us the option to have many gravity-fed systems, like our water. We can also have a hillside garden if we want to utilize more of the flat space for other things. We also have a couple of neighbors close by, but the hill acts as a barrier so that we can’t see them. This is a win for us and a win for us, although we do like our neighbors! They probably just don’t want to know about our naked Thursdays (just kidding…. or am I?).
On the backside of our property the hill slopes back down to flat. Here is where we have a lot of trees that we can use for timber. We will be selective in the trees we cut down but if it looks bare in certain areas, this will be okay.
Overall, we couldn’t be happier with the layout and we see a lot of potential.
Proximity to Town
We are actually really close to town… maybe five miles. While this can be a negative to some, the town is small, and so far it has helped us tremendously with the transition. There have only been a couple days over 3.5 weeks where we didn’t need to leave the property for one thing or another. Whether we are meeting people to pick up tools or supplies, or running to the hardware store, being close to town saves us money on fuel while we are running around trying to get settled.
We also need to frequently dump our RV septic, fill up on water, and take advantage of wifi at the local coffee shop, so again, we have been loving the proximity to town.
That said, when we are old and self-sustainable, we may like to be further away from town. Already, we have told people that we’ve moved to the area and they’ve responded with “Oh, do you live (insert our location)? We’ve seen you! You have the RV and the little car port! Yea, we were wondering who bought that land and what they were up to!” So needless to say, people notice us. But also, this means lots of neighbors have stopped by to say hello so we’ve already developed quality relationships that we feel we can rely on if we are in need of any way, which is invaluable to living in a rural area.
Proximity to a County Road
Another thing that was of concern to us when we were looking for property was proximity to a county road. If you are in a snowy climate in winter, county roads are generally plowed where private roads may not be. If we lived 5 miles down a private road, it may or may not be maintained by anyone, and we didn’t know that we would be in a position to plow constantly. We also didn’t want to buy a snowmobile, and we also don’t know how frequently we would need to visit town in the winter but probably a lot, so this was a real concern to us.
We are right on the county road. Our driveway is extremely short, so this is an advantage to us right now.
The disadvantage is that lots of people travel on this road, so to some degree we have a spotlight on us. While we aren’t going to do anythign bad obviously and we are in a community of like-minded people, it could lead to “tattling”. And example of this is if building codes were strict and someone saw us building, they could report us to the building department. This happens A LOT. Luckily, we aren’t concerned about that but it is worth mentioning that if you are right on a county road, expect people to keep an eye on your property (again, good and bad, we also like that if we are gone our neighbors will notice if an unusual car is on the property).
Before we bought the property we called up a well driller to see what he thought of the water potential on our property. Many wells are off the record as they were only recently recorded publicly. So while there are many wells, he didn’t have a way of knowing. The drills that were nearby were at I think 300 feet and 500 feet, both with great flow. We don’t think we’ll have a problem but we had to start somewhere. If you are a well-meaning critic and want to tell us that we shouldn’t have bought the property, read this blog post!
If all else fails, we can connect to city water at the hefty cost of around $10,000. Not ideal but not a deal breaker as we have to start somewhere. Once we build a home we will have a lot of equity in the property and could sell it at a huge profit. If all else fails, we could get a few 3,000 gallon cisterns and have water trucked in.
While there aren’t a TON of usable trees on the property (it was logged a while ago), there are some trees that should be great for timber framing. We hope that we should be able to build at least our barn, if not a barn AND our home.
The trees consist of primarily pine with a bit of doug fir sprinkled in.
Wifi Access & Cell Service
Even though we plan to be off grid, wifi and cell service are important to us.
Wifi access: We have confirmed with a local internet provider that we can get decent wifi on our property. We may have to be creative with getting it to our house but in short, it CAN be done. We should be able to get at least 1.5Mb if not 6Mb+. We won’t be getting wifi on our property any time soon as it’s easier to just run into town, and many days we are working outside all day.
Cell service: We have excellent cell service! This makes us very happy.
And that’s about it!
If I missed something, or if you are curious about something else, let me know and I’d be happy to update the post.
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