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Buying land Expand / Collapse
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Posted 8/6/2012 7:27:05 PM
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DH are starting on our journey to buy a bit of land to start some small scale sustainable farming. (A little background -- we are both on the back side of 40, DH spent the early years of his life on a Georgia farm, me in the suburbs but I'm learning all kinds of things farmy as DS#2 does 4H). We're looking for about 20 acres or so in MI near where we live with or without buildings. The plan is for DH to commute to the property and work on it while I work at my full time job. Anyway, we've never bought raw land before so we're thinking that the questions we'd ask when buying land would probably be different than those we'd ask when buying a house. So far, here are the questions/things that we've thought of. If anyone has some things I should add to or take off the list, your suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Our List:

1. Does the land perk? Is there a perk test we can get a copy of? (Eventually we'd want to sell our house in the suburbs and build a little house on the property)

2. Tax id number of the property so we can get a parcel map from the county and check on back taxes.

3. Are mineral rights included and, if not, can we negotiate for them? (We reall don't want to put a whole bunch of $ and work into the property for someone who holds the mineral rights to come along and destroy our place to get to their mineral rights as those rights supercede surface rights in MI)

4. Is there a survey on file?

5. Are there any building restrictions? Is there a time limit between when you buy the property and when you have to build a house? (We've looked at some townships where you have to build a house within 6 months of purchase and that just isn't in the cards right now.)

Thanks again for any suggestions.

Post #29299
Posted 8/7/2012 7:28:45 AM
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Might want to check into the water system. They passed a law over here that you can't dig no new wells unless it for the livestock only.
Post #29300
Posted 8/7/2012 7:35:03 AM
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Thanks. Will add that to the list.
Post #29301
Posted 8/8/2012 4:56:04 AM
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What about animal restriction?

Someplace down here can't have turkeys.

Post #29310
Posted 8/9/2012 12:13:33 PM
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You might want to check what the lease agreement is if the land is being used currently by a farmer. Rural laws are unique in that if there is a farmer who is utilizing the land, even if it is just a handshake deal between the farmer and the previous owner, you either have to let him continue to use the land, or pay them for the inputs the farmer put into that land. It does not matter if you are the owner now, leased agreements in the country carry over despite ownership changes.

Rights of Way and Easements: Powerlines, Railroads, roads, water easements, snowmobile trails, atv trails, etc...there are a host of them out there and they go with the land as well. Some of these are handshake deals back in the day, but they still stand legally.

Boundaries: Are they clearly marked. It costs substantial money to have a survey crew come in. I know at my farm I have two boundaries that are marked by rock walls, these were just bulldozed out of existence so a hundred years from now when someone tries to figure out the boundary lines...good luck because they will be looking for rock walls that no longer exist.

Timber Harvesting Tax Easements: Here in Maine we have tax easements for forestry purposes. As an owner, if you want to put up buildings on some farms and woodlots, you have to pay the back taxes on what was refunded to the previous owner going back 10 years to do so.

Registered Farm: Is the place you are buying a registered farm, if so you have special rights that extend out into YOUR NEIGHBORS property. If I registered my farm here in Maine, my neighbor cannot do anything within 100 feet of the boundary...on his side of the line.

Soils: What does the land have for soils? Good soil is the only thing that grows crops and fooder fo livestock. People often buy swampland thinking more acreage for the same amount of money is worth it. The same goes for rocky and steep ground. The truth is, some land is unfarmable. If it is, it is better to buy less acres that you can use, then struggle with land that cannot support what you are doing. ALWAYS MATCH THE FARM TO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, NEVER TRY AND MAKE THE FARM FIT YOUR PLAN. There is no substitute for quality soil and a fool thinks he can make bad soil good without spending a lot of money. It is far better to buy good farmland up front.

Acreage: Don't be an acreage hound. Far more people have bought too many acres suppressing their incomes from bigger mortgages when it would have been better off to buy less land, and leased what they needed. A lot can be done on 5 acres, and are you really going to have time to devote to 100 acres? I have plenty of land but I can attest higher property taxes are part of that burden, as well as being unable to effectively manage most of it. But do not go too small either. There is only so much you can do with an acre of land ethically.

The Almighty Umbilical Cord of Society: A lot of people have dreams of living off grid, but everyone I know who has had this dream, within 5 years was installing power lines to their house way in the back forty at considerable cost. Plan for electricity because you will want it. No one says you have to live right on the road, but you won't want to be hand pumping 100 gallons of water for cows for very long either.

Locals Know Best: The best land to buy is the ones that are not offered. Everyone wants or needs money these days and as long as your vision meshes with the landowners, often times you can get a great deal on farms that are not even up for sale. You just gotta ask around and feel people out.

There is probably more, but I am getting tired of typing. I'll type some more after a little more thought. These are just some quick ones off the top of my head.
Post #29322
Posted 8/9/2012 5:16:50 PM
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Thanks for all the great information.

We were aware of the lease requirements if the land was being farmed. So far, none of the properties we've looked at have been farmed recently. One that we looked at yesterday supposedly had a crop on it until October according to the listing but when we walked the property we didn't see any crop. I suspect we may have been on the wrong piece (many of the listings and agents don't give good directions) but luckily no one called the law on us. Other than being able to harvest their crops when they're ready and allowing them access to tend their crops, are there other crop rights we should be aware of? Do we have to allow them to spray chemicals? We want to raise our food as naturally as possible without chemicals so this would be and issue.

Would easements be listed on the legal descriptions of the land? We're running into listing agents who know nothing or next to nothing about what they're selling. Plus depending on what county the property is in, getting a parcel map can be a hassle.

Boundaries have been hit or miss in the properties we've looked at. I think maybe one has had any kind of fence or corners marked with stakes. DH has been trying to rely on parcel maps when we can get them prior to looking at the land. There don't seem to be many parcels that have been surveyed. Would it be wiser to make an offer contingent on a survey or am I complicating things?

I'll make sure to look into the timber harvesting regulations. Most of the timbering that is left in Michigan is a UP thing. We're looking down in the LP by the base of the thumb so I think we're probably ok with that.

Thanks for mentioning the registered farm thing. I will be sure to look into that. We want to be sure that whatever land we get we can use the entire 15 to 20 acres.

Sorry for peppering you with so many questions but I want to make sure that we have everything covered. Thanks so much for your time.

Post #29324
Posted 8/9/2012 7:07:51 PM
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Hello I don't mean to be noisy but where are you looking my family is north of Detroit what was once a small farming community is now the suburbs. My sister has an apple orchard that she is constantly fighting the taxes they want her to pay. The subdivision next door wants her to not have animals. Luckily she is grandfathered in. Her husbands family has been there for generations it's the new city people that are a pain. Some day they will starve as they have no clue where their food comes from. Anyway farther north around Brown City is still nice area and not to populated. Good luck with your search. My husband and I bought property near Lapeer we were only there 1 year before moving to the U.P.

Please God remember me.
Post #29325
Posted 8/9/2012 7:58:50 PM
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Basically, we're trying to restrict ourselves to the area around the base of the thumb in the LP. We can't go too much farther afield than that because I'll have to be close to work. We have an appointment to look at a place in St. Clair county tomorrow.
Post #29326
Posted 8/15/2012 1:51:39 PM


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We left city life and bought our 20 acre farm ten years ago. The main thing I would do differently is that we bought undeveloped land because of cost. It would have been cheaper in the long run to spend more on developed property at the beginning! We have since cleared the land and developed pasture as we have been able to afford. Add that to the cost of fencing and raw land was not a bargain. The UP side to our approach is that is cleared exactly the way that we want it.

Sheila Temple
Sun Spiced Alpacas
Homosassa, FL

Sheila Temple
Sun Spiced Alpacas
Homosassa, FL
Post #29351
Posted 8/15/2012 3:22:17 PM
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We have an appointment to see a property tomorrow. Wish us luck. Almost 20 cleared acres with a house on it.
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