Choices – Starting With Buying Land

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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It is hard to decide if the next choice would be to choose a piece of ground to put a home on or to choose a home  and then find a piece of land that would suit that home. Actually it probably doesn’t matter very much either way. I think most people do much like we did and buy the land and then later decide on the home you want to put on that land. Making the decision on which home choice takes much more consideration than buying raw land.  I’ll cover our home choice and the thought process we went through in another upcoming blog.   

Our purchase of land was done in 1978 sight unseen.  I would not recommend that anyone purchase land without giving it a good look first.  We were able to do this because the developer gave us a written guarantee that when we saw our property if we did not like it we could exchange it for equal property elsewhere in the development. At that time less than half the community was developed.  As it turned out it was exactly as represented to us and we loved it.  A few years later the adjoining property was defaulted on by the purchaser and the developer offered it to us if we were interested.  We were very interested and soon had two adjoining 5.5 acre lots.  

When we first visited the property we immediately realized that this raw piece of land was going to require a lot of work.  There were dead trees, tangled trees, under growth, large rocks and not much in the way of flat to build on since it was high up on the side of a mountain.   Since we then lived in Florida we knew that building would not be a problem as a house could be built on cement pilings like they do along the coast line for protection from tidal surges.  That grading a home site was also possible. We also liked the idea that no development could take place behind us as it backed up to the developers property and there was a large designated green belt between us and him. 

As we looked at our new property it was important to see beyond the jumble of trees and imagine instead  the home site potential.  Having acquired the land it was now time to make long range plans for turning that land into our future home and clearly a lot of work was required.  The property had springs that formed creeks which then ran on down the mountain. Those were not good places for a home to be built.  There were plenty of aspen trees which would be excellent for firewood.  There were spruce, fir and   pine trees.  It was a very thick and heavy stand of healthy trees and once the under growth and dead and dying trees were removed it would improve greatly. 

We have been burning dead aspen trees now for 15 winters and it seems the more we use for firewood the more we have left to burn. Those small two foot trees when we moved here are now 20′ + and it is a never ending cycle. Aspen trees are interesting trees as they grow as a family of trees, all connected by a common root system.   We still have years of quality fire wood to use and  the more we use the more we seem to have left  and we will probably never run out barring some catastrophe.  Some tell us that our property looks like a park, and perhaps it does, but on going effort is needed to keep it looking that way. Once the hard work is done then it just becomes a matter of minor yearly maintenance.   When you look at what needs to be done as a whole it is enough to make you freeze up and do nothing. An overwhelming amount of work.  Where do you start anyway?   We took our property and divided it into small doable sections and did one each year, starting further from the house and working closer so when we get older we will not have to haul firewood the entire length of the property.  We did set a priority of clearing where the house would go though and creating a substantial wild fire break.  

We have created corridors for birds to fly through and the deer and elk prefer the more open effect as they can see greater distance and have clear access to escape should the need arise. See the photo above which reveals how the elk apparently like the open aspect.  (The hay was what was left from our annual family hay ride)  We trimmed tree branches up to 20 feet high for fire protection and removed many smaller trees and unhealthy trees.  We mulched the tree limbs to use on the driveway and milled lumber for projects out of the larger trees.  Some we gave to friends for firewood.  Nothing much goes to waste and it all goes back to nature or into a needed project. 

To sum it up when you purchase raw land you need to develop a plan that can be achieved in segments over years and not expect immediate and complete results if you plan to do it yourself. Take it a step at a time and don’t wear yourself out the first few years trying to do more than is realistically possible. This was our process of purchasing land and I hope our experience helps others planning on doing the same thing.  Next we will discuss our process of selecting a home to go on this land. 

Photo taken in our back yard with our trail camera.  For more on our current lifestyle go to: