The land around Sonoita, Ariz., has amazing grazing and beautiful vistas. Photos by Renee Benoit
Don’t Tell Me It's Under Contract!
We’re living on a fixed income so this is the way it goes: you look and you look. You look at this property here. Too much clean up. You look at that property there. The soil is not soil, it’s rocks. Then you find a property that looks perfect, you call the agent and it’s already under contract.
My advice to you is cultivate patience when you have to stick to a budget in the purchase of property. In contrast to the city where there are many homes on the market, in the country the homes are few and far between, and to make matters more challenging in our particular situation, we have to find property that is suitable for horses. No sides of mountains for us!
How Our Property Search Began
We sold our small ranch in the Central Valley of California in 2020. We did all right. We had fixed the place up very nicely and within five days we had four offers. We accepted one offer and 45 days later it closed. We banked our profit against the time when we would want to settle down so we would have a hefty down payment. Then we hit the road in our travel trailer to:
1. Have fun, and
2. Scout areas where we might like to live.
The first place we found that we both loved was Montana. What a beautiful state! However, we ruled out Montana because of the hard winters there. Then we saw some nice areas around the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming but ruled that out for the same reason.
Then we wended our way south through Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona and eventually settled on southeast Arizona as a really good area to check out in depth. Because of the altitude and southerly location, it had the right weather – not too hot and not too cold. The elevation helped with the heat and the southerly latitude helped with the cold and, believe it or not, Arizona has some mighty fine soils and water depending on where you look. For example, around the delta of the Colorado river near Yuma it’s a truck farming paradise.
A beautiful field of yummy broccoli near Yuma, Arizona
Finding an Affordable Country Property
Then it came down to finding affordable property. We had $150,000 in cash which means we could make a hefty down payment and finance a little bit to make up the difference.
We crunched the numbers to see if we could buy bare land and add in the basic necessities: well, septic and power. It turned out that buying something that already had utilities was going to work better for our budget. For example, drilling a new well is not 100% predictable. Drilling is charged by the foot and you never know how deep you will have to drill and even if you will actually hit good potable water! Your local well driller will have a ballpark idea.
Power can be very costly. If power is already on the property you’ll be ahead of the game. If it’s not, then you have to pay the power company to put in a pole and conduit. If you can’t bring the line from the pole to the house yourself then you have to pay the power company to bring it. This can be very costly. There’s the alternative of off grid with solar and wind but keep in mind that this has up-front costs, so it all depends on your situation. If you’re way off the road, off grid is most likely the best solution. Otherwise, it’s a toss-up. Hopefully, the power pole is at your property line and not across the road or, heaven forbid, a mile away.
In the final analysis we decided that finding a property with everything already on it made the most financial sense to us.
There is so much that goes into buying property and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully, this will give you something to think about. People get emotional about property purchases but unfortunately the cold hard truth is that you can’t afford to get emotional. Yes, love your property but don’t let it overwhelm your ability to think about the truth of it. If the truth is not 100% positive then you need to cultivate the ability to walk away. The good thing is this: the earth is big and there will always be another property. Be patient. It’s like baseball. Just keep stepping up to the plate. You might get a foul, strike or walk but eventually you’ll hit a home run.
Renée Benoit is a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who currently lives in a 26-foot travel trailer with her husband, a cat, and two dogs while they travel the Western United States in search of beautiful, peaceful vistas and hijinks and shenanigans. Connect with Renée at RL Benoit, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.
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