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Monday, March 26, 2012

F20G (Farmhouse 20 Guy) Update #1 – Figuring out the Land

There’s been a lot of activity with FH20 over the past month.

Let’s start with acquiring the land. The play we ran was fairly simple but looking back, we definitely got lucky. This is basically how it worked: (1) I would scour web sites, individual broker listings, and MLS aggregators for land listings I thought looked interesting and fit within my budget. (2) After compiling, culling, cutting, I had a “top 5” or “top 10” list of possible build sites. I sent these to Chuck and he ran them through his various filters. (3) Chuck and/or his contacts would typically know something already about these properties or know someone who knew something about these pieces of land. Many of these properties had been on the market for some time, or they were represented by certain realtors that dominated listings in certain developments or local towns.

I was amazed at the various factors that made plots suboptimal or even unsuitable for building. Tiny road frontage and railroad-car, cookie-cutter layouts. Wetlands or poor drainage. Road noise. We even found an amazing, secluded plot with sweeping views, varying elevation, gorgeous old trees, and an attractive offering price. Perfect, right? Too bad that small creek and gulley that ran alongside the property line meant no direct or easy access given the property lines, and building a “bridge” of sorts might require months or even years for DEC permits and cost tens of thousands of dollars! There is no way anyone could have done this by themselves – even with the help of real estate agents, who might have a whole different set of incentives. It was critical to rely on Chuck’s eyes and ears, many years of experience, and local contacts to whittle things down to possible build sites.

Since I think the farmhouse building and planning parts are a lot more interesting than the land search, I’ll just fast forward and say we’re in contract on a good-sized plot with lake rights in Sullivan County. Chuck even helped negotiate the asking price down to what I’d say is a pretty fair level. Could we have squeezed another thousand or two if we really tried, given this economy? Probably, but what’s the point? The effort, hassle, and bad-blood weren’t worth it at that time... we’d be past the point of diminishing returns. This was the best, most appropriate plot we found for our purposes, and it’s entirely possible I’d still be out there searching if we didn’t find this piece. So we got lucky. I think we found great land and settled on a fair price where both buyer and seller are eager to move forward, and I’m excited to close in the near future and get started on FH20.

Lessons learned:

* Web sites and MLS aggregators are great resources, but I found the best listings were “broker login” listings from their respective MLS. Many times those listings would have exact addresses, maps, clearer photos, tax info, and other details not on public sites. I generally had good success contacting selling agents and asking for these pages; as you can imagine, they all preferred working direct without a buyer’s broker.

* Again, you’ll have to go local for the best info and advice. Chuck has your back.

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