It could be to build your tiny house on or to start a homestead, many of us want a little place to call our own. Finding and buying land is a tricky thing, but there are some things we can do to help making finding land a little easier.
Before we start looking it’s really important to understand what we actually are looking for and to that we need to understand what we actually need our land to do. Many of us dream of a 100 beautiful acres with a nice river, great views and easy access, but the reality of managing that much land would be too much for most people.
Determining Your Needs
In my own search for land I thought I wanted 20-30 acres, but after some careful examination all I really needs was 3 really good acres, anything beyond that was bonus in my mind. It can be hard to figure out what we really figure out exactly how much you need, so start with understanding that an acre is a square that is 209 feet long and 209 feet wide. That really helped me grasp the true size of an acre.
From there I sat down and listed all the things I wanted to do on that land. For me it was the following:
- 1 small home
- 1 big workshop/outbuilding
- 10 chickens
- 2 pigs
- 2 bee hives
- 10 fruit trees
- 1000 square feet of garden
It took me a while to really nail down what I wanted to do now and in the future, but those things were critical to do on the land I want to buy. From there I was able to estimate how many square feet I need for each and any spacing requirements (like I wanted the shop and pigs to be hidden from the house). From that I concluded I needed three main areas: the house (1 acre), the animals/garden section (half acre) and the shop area (1 acre). Adding in some buffer space I came up with my 3 acre target if all the land was totally usable.
The important part here is to figure out what you are actually going to do. Being realistic, too often people dream of a place with lots of cows, horses, and other animals or a little house miles away from their neighbors. Be honest with yourself and realize that you most likely don’t need massive swaths of land unless you have a very specific need which you already have experience with (ie: you’ve raised cattle before and want your own ranch).
Determine the area
When it comes to land we all know the saying: “location, location, location”. For me it all comes down to two main factors: proximity to employment and my willingness to drive a certain length of time on a daily basis. For other people there will be other factors, but all I really care about is if I need a job, can I find one and how long do I want to be in car.
Don’t get caught up in the trendy areas or close to the city center because those places often have more rules, higher prices and more buyer competition. Being open to more areas and being flexible will improve your likelihood of finding a great spot.
Figure Out Your Budget
Before you get into the search figure out how much you can afford and agree on a upper limit. This may be the time you get pre-approved for a mortgage or land loan if you’re going that route. If you don’t have much money, check out our post on how to buy land with no money.
Use Online Tools
At the time of writing this post, Zillow.com is my favorite tool to find land. I’ve setup several saved searches that automatically find and highlight properties that meet my criteria. The one major downside to this tool is there is no option to filter properties without restrictions or HOAs, that was a big one for me and will be for many of you. Since I did my homework on what I wanted I knew that what I wanted to do on the land wasn’t going to be allowed in a community with restrictions.
Some people have had luck with Land Watch or Craigslist, I personally haven’t found much luck there and the usability of their sites is a deal breaker for me.
Check this video out below about how I search for land and evaluate listings. I’ll dig into the tools, plus some awesome tricks.
There comes a point where you just need to get out there and driving around the area you want to be in can give you some good leads. You’ll find “for sale by owner” signs which most likely aren’t listed online anywhere. You’ll see a property that you like that you could approach the owners about if they own a large parcel and you want to buy a part of it. There is a lot to be gained by driving around even if you don’t find any leads, you learn more about the area you’re thinking of buying in.
Work Your Networks
People always discount the opportunities that might be sitting right in front of them the whole time. Get clear on what you’re looking for, what you can afford and the areas you’re looking in and create a digital flyer. Take that flyer and post it on all your social networks, email your friends asking them if they have any leads and if you know any old timers or farmers, reach out to them too. All these people know other people and by getting the word out there, you might find some great options.
Use A Realtor
A Realtor is some that you can use to find land if you’re ready to buy. Since you’re the buyer, there is no fee to use one since the seller will pay all the commissions.
It took me about a month to find someone that I liked working with, that was helpful, communicated well and we clicked pretty well. I found that there are a lot of realtors that will just try to get a quick sale or only kind of listen, I weeded those out quickly if they kept bringing me poor listings.
Once you do find a good realtor, understand they are investing their time to help you find your land and they don’t get paid unless they close. If you go this route, make sure you’re ready to buy and respect their time. It is fine to end a working relationship if they aren’t delivering what you need, but if they’re doing a good job make sure you close with them as your agent so they can get their commission.
I found mine through doing inquiries through Zillow; there was one agent that stood out from the rest for me and I stuck with him.
Go Old School
If you’re in smaller towns, looking for farm land, or if you’re really scrapping for leads check out the newspaper or local print listings. These are often a lot of older listings, duplicates of online, but you may be able to find some new leads.
Check out local shops and community centers for bulletin boards. While your at it, leave your flyer you made earlier to see if you stir up any new leads. Again, we may not find a lot of options, but if you do get a call the person might be willing to strike a deal or know someone who is selling land.
Talk With Farmers
Land is a tool of the trade for farmers and they usually have more of it than most people. I find that they are also very practical people, so if you’re a younger person with dreams of building a homestead or small farm, they might be willing to do owner financing. In some cases you can also rent land for a while until you do find the right property.
Farming folks are also really great to have as friends. They’re handy, they have a lot of local connections and they have equipment that they might be willing to lend you. You might even hit it off with some of them and offer to help out on their farms for free at times to learn some particular skill. I remember weeding strawberry beds with one farmer and while we were working I’d ask a bunch of questions.
Take A Break
Sometimes things just aren’t working for you or the market is over-valued. It’s better to buy during low periods because you can find more options and better deals. If we buy at the height of a market, we might end up paying too much for that property and will have to wait a long time, if ever, to get out from under a property we paid too much for.
So those are some of my suggestions on how to find land to purchase for your tiny house or homestead. Let me know in the comments what you’ve learned in your own search!
- What tricks and tips have you learned to find land?