December 2014 – Cheap Land

Looking for cheap land in the North Carolina mountains? It’s a good idea to know what “cheap” really means. Most of us think cheap means less money – lower cost. Another way to see it is lower cost for an item actually worth more. In other words cheap is best defined when it compares the dollars involved vs. the benefits received.

For example, if someone offers you a handful of dirt for 10¢ – that would seem cheap, however just look at the benefits you receive (or the lack thereof). On the other hand, if the Ford dealer offers you a new pickup with a retail price tag of $23,000 for just $3,000 – now that would be cheap. You get all the benefits of a brand new truck with many features, amenities, and -0- mileage for a fraction of the price.

What would cheap land look like? One example might be 100 acres of mountaintop with views to forever, a bold mountain stream, acres of rolling meadow, plenty of paved road frontage, abundant wildlife, high elevations and huge trees – all priced to you at a low $700 per acre. Now that’s cheap – but it “ain’t gonna happen!”.

In short, you get what you pay for. Want better features and amenities? You’ll pay more. If you’d be satisfied with a rough, steep land parcel on which all the trees have just been cut, at the end of a 2-mile long 15′ right-of-way with no power, the value would be minimal at best, thus it would also bear a low, or cheap, price.

Cheap, then, is not just a low price, but a property whose price is substantially less than the value offered by its features and amenities. Because the old adage that “there is no free lunch” is as true today as ever, it is highly unlikely that you will find a property that is truly cheap when compared to its true value. The owners of valuable properties do not tend to give away value for the fun of it.

If on the other hand, you are a “value” buyer, meaning you look for value that exceeds the asking price, you will occasionally find properties offering more value than the owner is asking in price. When you do, such property can also make an excellent future investment, far beyond the recreational use you may have intended for it.

When deciding on a price range from which to make your land purchase, first identify your financial abilities to make a purchase. in other words, how much can you actually afford. Then, once you have a dollar range in which to act, decide on the benefits you want to receive. Finally, narrow your search to 3-5 properties that offer you the best value for the money you plan to invest. Your final choice should, by then, be evident, and you can complete your purchase with enthusiasm and satisfaction!

How To Buy Land

Comparing Apples With Zucchini

Buy a home in a subdivision, and you may have a choice of five different floorplans – probably no more. That makes it easy to compare homes and their prices. If you look at five different homes with the same or similar floor plans, it becomes easy to determine which are priced fairly – and which are not. But –how to buy land?

If you plan to buy land, you’ll face a much different situation since no two tracts are alike. There are just too many variables to make comparisons possible. For example, you would need to compare price, tract size, elevations, topography, streams & springs (or the lack thereof), timber size, road frontage vs. right-of-way, and numerous other factors. Get the picture?

Oh sure, you can begin to make value judgements after seeing three, five, or ten properties – but still no two will compare equally. So – here’s our suggestion:

1. Evaluate your financial commitment.

Decide how much you plan to spend on a property and whether you will require financing to achieve your objectives. Know how much cash you have available up front.

2. Evaluate your emotional commitment.

Before thinking of buying land, be certain you and other family members involved in decision making are fully committed to a land purchase. If not, wait until a solid decision to buy has been made before beginning your search.

3. Be prepared to act.

Because it is not possible to make meaningful comparisons, another method is required for decision making. With financial considerations and a firm commitment to buy in place, be prepared to act when you find a property which meets your expectations. If you miss the opportunity to tie up that perfect piece of heaven because you hesitated, you will not be able to go down the street and see another like it. In other words – be ready to say “YES!”

If you’ve ever asked yourself how to buy land, you may begin by asking someone that specializes in land, such as a real estate agent that specializes in land, a land consultant, or a savvy land investor who’s already acquired the know-how on how to buy land. Paul and Chris at Mountain Land Company know a great deal about buying mountain land, and will be happy to answer any questions you have to begin your search for that special property that you’ve dreamed of. Also, for a crash course on how to buy land, download our complementary Landbuyer’s Guide entitled “Carolina Dreaming“, written by Paul Christian Breden. This guide will answer most questions landbuyers should ask when considering buying land.

Metes And Bounds Surveys

Finding your way on mountain properties can be a real challenge – using a metes & bounds survey. Descriptions often begin at “an old pine stump” and continue “with the center of the branch 116 poles to an old iron”.

Often called “leaps & bounds”, old metes & bounds surveys can be complex, confusing, and sometimes downright mysterious. From a beginning point, a surveyor follows a series of distances and directions until arriving back at the point of beginning.

A sample description might read: “Beginning at an old pine stump, corner with Jeb Boone, then travelling north 10º east with the center of Fall Creek 130 poles, thence north 100º east 100 poles to a pile of rocks, thence South 10º west 130 poles to a buggy axle, thence South 100º west 100 poles to the point of beginning, containing approximately 81.25 acres, more or less.”

Many mountain tracts were surveyed on foot by previous owners – years ago. Errors are common, creating overlapping boundaries and ownership disputes. These boundary errors are easily remedied by adjoining landowners willing to sign a “boundary line agreement” to establish a permanent line between their properties.

The best assurance of ownership for future buyers may be a current survey, marked boundaries and title insurance. It is far better to establish property lines accurately before closing a land purchase, than trying to remedy the legal description in a deed after it has been recorded.


How Not To Buy A Pig In A Poke

OK – so you’ve heard the expression about buying a pig in a poke before. It involves making a purchase without knowing all the facts – right?

So – who would buy a large tract of mountain land without first learning its size, location, physical characteristics, elevation, price, and access to roads?

The answer – hopefully – is “no one”!

When you call a broker for information about land, you should expect to promptly receive a detailed information package. It should include a location map, topographical map, a survey (if available), tax maps, and loads of information about topography, streams, views, wildlife, and unusual amenities such as waterfalls, the grouse population, and special seller financing.

If you call for information and all you receive is a barely readable, xerox copy of a 65 year-old hand-drawn survey, stop right there. You may be staring that empty poke right square in the eye.

Don’t settle for misinformation or none at all. The best properties are offered openly, with all details square on the table. Ask for, and expect to receive, accurate, up-to-date answers to your land buying questions. Accept no less without suspicion of receiving the proverbial “empty poke.”


The Higher You Go The Higher It Gets

Why is it that land in Watauga, Ashe, and Avery counties may sell for $500, $750, and even $1,000 more per acre than land in Wilkes or Caldwell counties? The answer is elevation, elevation, and elevation.

The higher above sea level a property is located, the more spectacular the views. Also, temperatures drop 3° for every 1,000 feet of elevation. A property at 4,400 feet in Avery County could be as much as 9° cooler than one in Western Wilkes on the 4th of July.

High mountain streams tend to tumble over the rocks with more energy too, and the fresh summer breezes at higher elevations are enough to tickle the fancy of any flatlander. Air conditioning is rarely required above 3,000′.

In short, properties at higher elevations excite the interest of buyers, which in turn increases the demand for such tracts. The higher the demand, the higher the price buyers consider fair.

As a land buyer, you are competing with all other buyers for land at the higher elevations. This extra demand drives up prices which, even though considered to be “fair”, are nevertheless higher than those below 3,000′.

While elevation is not the sole determining factor of price, it is a major factor. Other factors include streams, size of timber, lay of the land, and distance from town.


How To Read Those Funny Topo Maps

Mountain land is not flat (an obvious understatement). So, how can you tell where the ridges, valleys, streams, and peaks are located on a map? A “topo” map is a special map which shows the topography, or lay of the land – where it rises and falls.

Each of the many lines denotes a change in elevation of 40′ or so. The closer the lines are together, the faster the land rises or falls away. Areas with many lines very close together may indicate a bluff or sharp mountain peak, while areas with lines farther apart may indicate a more gentle slope or level land.

Elevations above sea level are also indicated at 200′ intervals, giving the map reader a better perspective. An experienced land specialist can take one look at a “topo” map, and gain an immediate understanding of the land’s physical characteristics.

We provide “topos” of all properties listed for sale (both here on the Web and in our brochures) to give you a better idea of how the land lies. If you need additional details on how to interpret the topography of a property, or want to learn more about reading topography maps, just ask Paul or Chris!

Avoid Land Hassles With Title Insurance

When buying a home, lenders have long required that title insurance be secured. Title insurance protects the owner against claims by others as to clear title, and to matters of survey – the boundary lines. If a legal claim is pursued and won against the property’s owner, the title insurance pays up to face value to the owner for damages caused by the claim. It also pays legal fees for defense against the claim.

Buying title insurance without a recent survey, however, is like buying only half the protection you need. In the old days, surveying instruments were not as accurate as today, thus buying a property without a recent survey is tantamount to inviting a boundary line dispute with adjoining landowners. Overlapping boundary lines are common, and are best resolved through a current survey. Once boundary lines are established, it may also be wise to sign a boundary line agreement with adjoining land owners.

Because most land transactions involve seller financing, rather than a mortgage lender or bank, buyers have rarely asked for title insurance on large tracts. – until now. If you plan to purchase land, it can be a wise move to request title insurance which not only protects your title, but also your surveyed lines. To insure the integrity of title to your land, consider obtaining this valuable protection.


Expect Property Accessibility

In years gone by, many mountain land tracts were accessible only by wagon road or logging trail. Freedom to travel over these undefined roadbeds was only as good as the temperament of the property owners. As long as all parties along the road were comfortable with the traffic in, out, and over these paths, there was no problem – and the path remained open and unobstructed.

Occasionally, though, a squabble would take place between property owners resulting in a chain or fence being placed across the road to halt traffic until a peaceable solution was reached. Then traffic resumed, and all was well until the next disagreement.

Land buyers today should expect more – much more. It is highly unwise to purchase a property which does not have either state maintained road frontage, or a deeded right-of-way.

Expect accessibility . . . or nothing at all!

In North Carolina, all state maintained roads are identified by a road sign which displays a road number, i.e. 1373 or 1791, etc. State maintained roads may or may not have a name displayed on the sign. A road sign with only a name (and no road number), i.e. “Yellow Brick Road” is most likely to be a private road.

Access to some properties is over a “deeded right-of-way”, a road which has been clearly identified, and hopefully surveyed and which passes over the land of adjoining property owners. A “deeded” right-of-way is one which has been reduced to writing and is recorded at the Register of Deeds office. The landowners over which the road passes have, in writing, given permission to use the road to other landowners. The written agreement may also stipulate how the road will be maintained, and how the costs of maintenance will be divided between the various individuals using the road.

When purchasing mountain land, insist that it be accessibile either from a state maintained road, or via a deeded right-of-way. Accept no less.


4 Easy Steps to Owning Mountain Land

1. Make a list. If you are planning to purchase a large land tract, one thing is for sure – you have your reasons. What are they? Write down your primary purpose for buying, then list all the features and amenities you hope to find.

2. Share it. Call our senior land specialist, Paul Christian at 336/973-8640 (Toll-Free 800/849-9225). Tell him what you hope to accomplish with your land purchase. Share it all, every last detail. The more information you provide, the more likely Paul is to identify a variety of tracts that fit your list.

3. Ask for more information. After you’ve seen our brochure (or this website) with general information, ask us for details on those properties which seem to meet your requirements. We can provide area & topographical maps, and a complete description of each property listed in our brochure and here on our site.

4. Come to the Mountains. You can’t buy land through the U.S. Mail, so let us know when you plan a trip to this area. If you are serious about owning a mountain land tract, follow steps 1, 2, & 3. Then, we’ll show you a sampling of possibilities that meet your expectations.