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About fifteen years ago, when I went to Oklahoma with a friend of mine, we met a man in his mid- to late-fifties that offered to sell us some land that he said he owned. When we went to look at the piece, we saw a small travel trailer sitting there, surrounded by dense stickery brush, and he told us what a good deal he would make us. After we headed out to discuss buying it from him, the next door neighbor down the road stopped us and asked us if he was trying to sell us the land. When they learned that he was, the neighbor informed us that the guy did not own the three-quarter acre that he had shown us and that his mother had willed him a measly ten feet from the edge of the dirt road. We were relieved that we had not been conned and taken for every cent that we had.
The other day, I was looking at a house on about an acre of land that was for sale on the internet and thought, for the price of about sixteen hundred dollars I could own it, clean it up and either keep it or sell it for a bit of pocket change. Well, after further investigation, I learned that there was no house at the address that the advertiser had specified nor was there anything in the vicinity for sale which even resembled what I saw on the site. All the red flags were up and I ran as fast as my mouse would click.
The world is full of con artists so anxious to stuff their pockets with greenbacks that they will steal you blind if they have the slightest of chances. But not today because I am going to give you a crash course that will help you avoid looking like a meal for the ruthless vultures. Now, I am not a real estate agent nor do I know the laws of every state but the principal I am about to share may be applied no matter where you are looking at buying a home or land.
Well, here we go. First, you must look at the land, walk it and verify that the corner posts are in. If you cannot find any then the seller needs to show you exactly where they are. The corner posts are placed into the ground to determine where every edge of a parcel of ground sits. Without a survey, a landowner will not know where to put a fence, home, buildings, garden, etc. and be assured that they are not infringing on their neighbor’s dirt. Again, verify that a survey has been done by seeing, for yourself, that the posts really are in place.
Second, you need to do a little easy footwork which will probably take you under thirty minutes per parcel. You should never sign a contract or hand over any cash/trade until you personally, or by phone, contact the Treasurer as well as the Assessor of the County where the land or home is located because their records will enable them to tell you who the actual owner is, what their address is, how much the land is valued at, if the taxes are current or delinquent, the type of use the land has been zoned for such as Recreational which will not allow you to be there year round, Residential which is usually year round or Ranchland which has it’s own set of rules that are dependent upon the location, possibly if the land is landlocked or legally accessible as well as other details of which only they can tell you about.
If you do not know how to ask for the details, just tell them that you are looking to buy Parcel Number (such and such) in (whatever) County and would like to know what they have on record. For obtaining the specifications, always have a pen and paper handy, know the parcel number and/or site (situs) address, and the seller’s or real estate agent’s name. Also, most Counties have web sites and there are many which provide parcel, tax and other information which is made available to the public.
Please note that, in certain parts of the country, the EPA has a choke hold on land so, if there is a source of water on or nearby a piece they may require that you have an Ecological Study done which will tell you whether or not you can even live on it but be prepared to pay through the nose, or far more than the land’s worth. And, when purchasing any home or land, verify that an illegal drug dealer, user or manufacturer had ever used the premises because, if they were, the chemicals or drugs that may be left behind can affect your health.
Third, an Escrow Agent must always be involved because their job is to find out if the title is free and clear. You do not want to purchase a parcel of land or home only to later find out that you cannot take full possession because there is a lien or other things tying up the title.
Looking for land is simple if you know where to look or how to search for it. A lot of land goes through Real Estate Agencies and some agents keep a list of properties that they were advertising which they can refer back to if you ask them in a nice way.
Driving around looking for “For Sale” signs, empty or dilapidated houses and paths that are used by vehicles which head onto a parcel of land can lead you right to a purchase.
House and Land Brokers may have what you are looking for or they may know someone who does. Never overlook a broker because they are in business for selling and turning a profit. Check with them for “fixers” that need attention/TLC because if they have been sitting on something for a long time, they are not making any money, and no money means their pockets are not filling up. If you run into a stubborn broker, one that would rather not sell because they believe the right buyer will come along, just move on and keep trying because, odds are, the tables will turn in your favor.
Banks finance homes and sometimes land. They also like to sell what they foreclose upon because they do not want to lose the interest they would have made by the time the contracts were to be fulfilled. So, all you have to do is call a bank, ask to speak with someone in their loan department and then ask that individual if the bank has any foreclosures.
County Offices are notorious for selling homes, land, and homes with land, foreclosed and abandoned. They acquire them when the owners fail to pay their taxes after a certain period of time. This is where the public lucks out because for the price of the unpaid back taxes they can purchase the properties outright. And they can do so through either the regular annual or multiple yearly auctions, or surplus sales which are properties which did not sell at the County-held auction(s). To obtain the properties, most Counties require that you submit a bid with payment and then if your bid is accepted, they will provide you with legal documentation. The County Treasurer always knows when an auction will be held, will have a list of available properties to be auctioned and important information and facts that only they can provide to you as every County and State varies in regards to their rules and bidding processes.
The Internet contains millions of properties for sale. There is so much of it that it would take you years to get through it all. If you like to find things on your own but want to know what to type into the search box, enter “cheap acreage for sale in (the state or location where you are looking)” or “cheap fixers for sale in (again, the state or location where you are interested)”. You could also type in the first two letters of the state followed by -realestate.net or check your state’s MLS (Multiple Listing Service) which is generally free to the public.
“Owner financing”, “no- or low-down” and “low monthly payments” can be a little hard to find so it is important that you specify that information in the search process but do not give up if you do not find what you are seeking right off. Just be patient and persistent because a search engine contains a lot of information that you may have to sift through before you are successful.
Hopefully our economy will not turn out to be like Greece’s or any nation that has suffered with bankruptcy and we find ourselves “wishing” we had found property and stuck in situations where we cannot even plant food because there is no room, regulations prevent us or we do not have the means or supplies to. Those who have not found their dirt pie in the sky, what are you waiting for? Do not let your current situation determine when you may begin. Start looking now, begin rounding up the money by selling what you can and working a few extra jobs whenever possible to fill up the piggy bank to secure your future asap.
M.D. Creekmore adds: I found my first property on this website – the bank had foreclosed on it and I bought it directly from the bank. A great book that covers every state, with an eye towards long-term survival is Strategic Relocation: North American Guide to Safe Places.
- For Sale Land $1,000 Per Acre
- Modern Homesteading: Rediscovering the American Dream
- The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!