How to Buy Land at a Bargain: Unveiling the Secrets to Affordable Rural Land Ownership

Since the dawn of time, humans have lusted after land. It's no different today, with everyone wanting their own piece of paradise. However, the prevailing belief is that land prices are always exorbitant, making it...

Since the dawn of time, humans have lusted after land. It's no different today, with everyone wanting their own piece of paradise. However, the prevailing belief is that land prices are always exorbitant, making it seem impossible for the average person to afford. But fear not, my friend! In this article, I will reveal the hidden secrets to buying land at an unbelievably low price, even if you're not a millionaire.

The Allure of Tax Sales and Foreclosure Auctions

Tax sales and foreclosure auctions are often seen as the holy grail of affordable land deals. The idea of getting something valuable for a price we can actually afford is enticing. However, tread carefully, for these methods can be more complicated than they appear. Many pitfalls await the uninformed, resulting in the buyer not obtaining a marketable title or facing unexpected troubles. Moreover, you have no control over the location or type of property available through distress sales.

The Hair Shirt Theory: A Fallacy Debunked

Many people believe that if they have limited funds, they must settle for subpar land with undesirable characteristics. They think they have to compromise on aspects such as proximity to landfills or lack of deeded access. However, this notion couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, the best way to save a fortune on land purchases is to find someone whose plans have changed. Unwanted land still exists, waiting to be discovered by those who know where to look.

Let me share a story to illustrate this point. Arlene and Bob, two free-spirited individuals with dreams of living off the land, bought forty acres of wooded property with a charming cave. However, their relationship deteriorated over time, and they went their separate ways. Now, Arlene hardly thinks about the land, paying the meager annual taxes on it without much thought. Little does she realize that her forgotten property holds value, as her circumstances have changed. People like Arlene can be found everywhere, and with the right tools, you can uncover hidden gems.

Essential Tools for Acquiring Land at an Unbeatable Price

To embark on your quest for affordable land, you'll need a few essential tools:

Tool Number One: A County Ownership Plat Book

Each county makes its real estate ownership data available to private mapping companies, which create detailed maps showcasing all the land ownership in the area. You can purchase these plat books at the county courthouse or access the data online. This valuable resource will help you identify potential properties.

County Plat Book showing Arlene Doosis' 40 acres Image: County Plat Book showing Arlene Doosis' 40 acres

Tool Number Two: Maps

Maps are indispensable for your land-hunting adventure. County highway maps, available online, can provide valuable information, including the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) grid, helping you identify properties. U.S.G.S. 7.5-minute topography maps, available both digitally and in paper form, offer accurate and beautiful representations of the land. Lastly, Google Earth® is a dream come true, offering aerial photography of the entire world. With this tool, you can explore and measure properties with incredible precision.

Topography map showing Arlene Doosis' 40-acre parcel Image: Topography map showing Arlene Doosis' 40-acre parcel

Tool Number Three: The County Assessor's Office

The final tool you need is the County Assessor's Office, where land ownership records are kept. You can obtain names and addresses of out-of-area owners of vacant land in your desired area. These owners, who may be more willing to sell, can be your ticket to an affordable land deal.

Making the Offer: Crafting Your Letter

Armed with the information from the County Assessor's Office, you can now reach out to potential sellers. Write a letter expressing your interest in their property and offer a specific price you are willing to pay. Keep the letter simple, straightforward, and friendly. Don't beat around the bush; lay your offer on the table.

Example of a letter to a potential land seller Example of a letter to a potential land seller

The Art of Negotiation: Closing the Deal

When your letters start yielding responses, you'll encounter three types of replies: those who ignore your letter, those who accept your offer, and those who believe their property is worth more. For the latter, negotiation becomes an option. Remember, your cash offer holds significant appeal, as it provides immediate financial relief for the seller.

Once you find a buyer who agrees to your terms, it's time to handle the closing process. You don't need an attorney for this; a title company in the county seat can assist you. They will examine the title, distribute costs, and finalize the sale.

While this method requires effort and funds, it has proven successful time and time again. By helping landowners in need and securing a great deal for yourself, both parties walk away satisfied.

So, my friend, if you're ready to embark on an adventure to buy land at an unbeatable price, arm yourself with the right tools, and explore the opportunities waiting to be discovered. May luck be on your side as you uncover the hidden treasures of affordable rural land ownership.

Excerpted from Neil's latest book LandBook - An owner's manual for rural land (second edition)