DIY DIVA
DIY diva

The Great Property Search Continues

December 27, 2011 | 8 Comments | Hillside Cottage
DIY diva

Here’s an idea: Spend two days eating sugar-laden Christmas treats, then take all that extra energy, put it in a car, and drive around in circles (on dirt roads) for a few hours. Go ahead and set that one on the shelf of awesome ideas I’ve had, right next to “live in a garage for a year and a half.”

But the truth is, I’ve been in my rental for a little over a month now, which means I just waved goodbye to 1/6 of my allotted time to find property, finalize my house plans, and build a place to live. I’ve got a fabulous start on the house plans, which I’m super excited to show you next week when I get the revamped versions from my architect, but the property search had been going in fits and starts. I find a property, it takes forever to track down the seller, I finally get some additional information only to find out there’s a problem with the property lines or perk tests or crazy neighbors. And then my dreams collapse and whoosh across the room like a deflating balloon.

With the holiday craziness over, it was time to get serious about the search again though, so I set out to find a few more potentials.

This one has 2-3 times the amount of property I need, and costs about 2-3 times what I want to spend, but it’s gorgeous and secluded, and only two dirt roads and a 20 minute drive away from civilization.

DSC_0556

DSC_0558I could be persuaded, but I’m more hoping I can do the persuading and talk the sellers into splitting the property. It’s worth a shot.

Another contender is this piece of property, which is actually within my price range…

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But it looks like my option for housing would basically be to build a houseboat and park it next to the ducks here. Actually I’m pretty sure a big chunk of this farmland is a part of the property as well…

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It’s on one “busier” roadway, which isn’t my fave, but it’s still not nearly as busy as the road Memorial was on, and there aren’t close neighbors. Plus I’d definitely make my driveway a drawbridge so that people would basically have to cross a moat before getting to me. So what I’m saying is… it could work.

I also spotted another place as I was driving home, and did 2 U-turns (don’t ask about the second one) in order to get a picture of it. 15 acres and a big old barn? I thought this could be the one.

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That is, until I was looking at the photos to post this and realized it was 135 acres. So. That would be a little excessive. Also noted for future property searches: less sugar, more paying attention to the sale signs. (I even said to myself while doing the first U-turn, “it’s really weird they have a big commercial development sign up for 15 acres…” sigh.)

It’s possible that neither of these properties will pan out, which means I will have exhausted all of my options for property in the size, price range, and area I’m looking for that are traditionally “for sale.” I say traditionally, because there are other ways to get your hands on some farmland I hear… mostly from my father who keeps telling me to find an area I like, then go to the county and get the plat maps and start making phone calls.

For once I’m actually taking his advice without putting up too much of an argument, and I started by doing this…

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What you’re looking at is the big editable map I started piecing together in Photoshop from screenshots of Google Maps. Then I highlighted properties I liked (green squares) properties I didn’t (red squares) and streets I’ve driven down that would be awesome to live on (green highlight) or a good second choice, if it came down to it (yellow highlight).

property_map_mockup

(This, by the way, is fake… as in, not the actual streets or properties I’m looking at. I’m not exactly afraid of stalkers since I own several firearms, but I hear there’s a lot of paperwork involved in shooting someone, and I just don’t have time for it right now.)

Anyway, the old-school way of finding property owners was to get the plat maps from the county (according to my dad), but turns out there’s this newfangled technology called the Internet, and some places have the maps available online.

plat_map_screenshot

For anyone in Washtenaw County or surrounding areas you can look up plat or parcel maps here. For everyone else, if you Google search the name of your area + plat or parcel maps, you’ll probably turn up something. The Washtenaw County site is awesome since it also includes elevations and structures along with the street address.

Once I find a parcel on a road I like with no house, I can look up the owner information through the county assessors office online. God I love the Internet.

assessor_data

If only it included email addresses, I would be all set. But an old fashioned phone book will also suffice.

My desperation level isn’t quite to the point of cold-calling people to beg for property, but since I’m hoping to be under contract no later than mid-Feburary, it’s good to be prepared. Also, if you’re wondering about the lack of posts lately, now you know that I’ve been hunched over my computer at all hours of the night cyber-stalking old farmers, but I’ve got a couple of new projects (and tools) to show off soon too.

DIY diva

    Comments

  • Gayle


    Good luck in your property search; I can’t wait to see what you do next! When my sister was looking for property in a specific area near Portland, Oregon, she wrote up a standardized letter and delivered copies to everyone living in the targeted neighborhood: “We’re looking for a house/land in this area, and wondered if you were planning to sell, or knew of any property available, etc. etc.” It worked for her; she was called by some people who were going through a divorce and were planning to sell, and they bought the property. So this may be another option for you along with your amazing Internet searches. Best of luck.

  • Guerrina


    A lot of work, but for a worthwhile project! Hope THE site turns up soon!

  • mom taxi julie


    We use those assessor maps/site all the time for work to prove that the people that say they own it really do.

  • Robin @ 3 acres & 3,000 sf


    Exciting stuff! I had to LOL at the 135 acres. The mini donkeys would get lost. That is normally where you’d find a barn of that size. And the semi-busy road might not be that bad. We live just off a busy road (read country highway) and we weren’t sure at first but we’ve discovered it has a lot of benefits. It’s very easy to give directions, our house is often “on the way” so picking us up or dropping off tools/lumber/etc is convenient for family and friends (it’s also saved us on delivery fees for things like shingles or the windows since they were already delivering in the area), the street is frequently used by police and emergency vehicles (makes me feel safe being home alone every night…all I would have to do is run down to the corner and flag someone down for help if there was ever a problem and it normally takes longer for firetrucks and ambulance to reach country homes so our location saves a lot of time), good high speed internet is hard to get in the country over here but ours is run underground along the busy road so we have the 15 MB service, and most importantly in this climate the busy street is always the first to get cleared of snow and ice! We only have to slip and slide our way to the corner and we can drive off. The people up the street from us often get snowed in and can’t leave their house all day or longer. If you have the space you can have a longer driveway, angle your picture windows a different direction than the busy road, and add some nice evergreen trees in a random planting for natural looking privacy (sorry I had those lines of arborvitae). Something to consider.

    • Kristen


      Watch how long you make that driveway though–we have a 900 foot gravel driveway that is a pain in the rear!!! Always has ruts and the cars are covered in dust/mud ALL THE TIME. I’m sure there is something we could do to minimize the damage (I see other driveways like ours that look manicured around here) but it has to take equipment and time. It also drifts with snow making it impassable with a car for a few days a year. Scary when you are 9 months preggo, btw.

      In short–love the privacy we get from the long driveway. HATE the driveway.

      Something to consider in your hunt for property!

      • Kit


        This is definitely food for though Kristen, thanks!

  • Kristen


    I feel your pain–we went through this a little over a decade ago. Almost got to the point of cold calling the farmers when we found our land. We ended up with twice what we were looking for plus 3 acres, but love having the elbow room now.

    Good luck!

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