After a couple years of hard work, in September 2015 we were finally able to purchase 5 acres of land in a rural part of Idaho. It was a dream come true. In this post we would like to share the details of our land upon purchasing it, what it looks like per-development, what we plan to do with it, as well as some of the pros and cons.
Back sometime in 2014, we had some long discussions and picked a place to settle down. We decided that we were going to aim to buy land in Idaho. To make it work we knew we were going to have to work hard, stay focused, and come up with a substantial amount of money for a down payment. We also had to find land that would be suitable for our needs.
Today, we have been living on our land for 3.5 weeks and it feels surreal. As we talk about our land a lot (obviously!) we thought it’d be cool to have one post that just talks about our land as a piece of property. We really want to focus on what the land looked like when we bought it and even how things worked out financially as we want to be transparent as possible in hopes it is helpful to some.
A Video Tour of Our Land
Let’s jump straight in to the fun, shall we? In this video, I will give you close to a full tour of our land. I cut out a lot of the “boring” stuff (because who wants to watch endless video of me walking through a forest?) and tried to focus on the highlights of the property. This video was taken shortly before we decided to pave our driveway, dig the footings for our barn and before we had our septic system installed. Things moved quickly so we did the video just in time!
The Financial Ramifications
As you may know, it can be difficult to get a bank loan on bare land. If you are able to get a bank loan on bare land, it is uncommon to get the terms longer than 20 years and an interest rate lower than 8%. As we are both self-employed and don’t enjoy making a large amount of money on paper ( Self-employment
penalties taxes, yo! We like to spend the money we earn, wisely mind you, so that we aren’t heavily penalized taxed). When we were ready to buy land, I had only been self-employed for a year and wasn’t making much money (didn’t need to… that’s a different story) and even though Jesse was making $130,000+/year with his business, he didn’t look attractive to a bank. We were going to need to find someone that would carry the loan.
We only looked at properties where the owner was willing to carry the note. Often in an owner-carry, the owner will want a substantial down payment (20%+ is not uncommon) to minimize their risk. We were hoping to find a piece of property for $40,000 or so and were expecting to pay around $8,000 down.
This property was listed for $49,000 which we were willing to pay happily. However, we were able to work the price down to $46,500 because there was a per-existing claim to the land: someone back in the day claimed 50% of mineral rights (probably not a big deal, if the people even have the rights anymore as they are likely deceased but we don’t really know for sure). We wanted to lower the cost so that we could do a quiet-title action which would cost money.
The owner was willing to take just $5,000 down to our surprise. You don’t know until you offer.
That left us with a payment of around $350/month which we are happy with. We plan to pay this off as soon as possible… hopefully within the next year if all pans out.
As we bought a travel trailer to live in while we build our home, our monthly living expenses are actually quite low. We aren’t paying rent, woo hoo!
The layout of this land is excellent in our opinion. The previous owner had leveled out a spot for building, so the flat spot is around 1 acre or so. This is where we plan to build our home, barn, garden, and even have some livestock. One acre is plenty to do things with. We can also build into the hillside if we need to.
The view is AWESOME! We were hoping we would get a view, but we didn’t and don’t expect this to be our forever property. In the future, we will probably want to live more remote but by going too remote too soon, it would likely result in failure because it may be too difficult and too much of a shock for us.
The flat spot is surrounded by a hill… it’s somewhat in a bowl. We love the hillside because it gives us lots of additional building options. It also gives us the option to have many gravity-fed systems, like our water. We can also have a hillside garden if we want to utilize more of the flat space for other things. We also have a couple of neighbors close by, but the hill acts as a barrier so that we can’t see them. This is a win for us and a win for us, although we do like our neighbors! They probably just don’t want to know about our naked Thursdays (just kidding…. or am I?).
On the backside of our property the hill slopes back down to flat. Here is where we have a lot of trees that we can use for timber. We will be selective in the trees we cut down but if it looks bare in certain areas, this will be okay.
Overall, we couldn’t be happier with the layout and we see a lot of potential.
Proximity to Town
We are actually really close to town… maybe five miles. While this can be a negative to some, the town is small, and so far it has helped us tremendously with the transition. There have only been a couple days over 3.5 weeks where we didn’t need to leave the property for one thing or another. Whether we are meeting people to pick up tools or supplies, or running to the hardware store, being close to town saves us money on fuel while we are running around trying to get settled.
We also need to frequently dump our RV septic, fill up on water, and take advantage of wifi at the local coffee shop, so again, we have been loving the proximity to town.
That said, when we are old and self-sustainable, we may like to be further away from town. Already, we have told people that we’ve moved to the area and they’ve responded with “Oh, do you live (insert our location)? We’ve seen you! You have the RV and the little car port! Yea, we were wondering who bought that land and what they were up to!” So needless to say, people notice us. But also, this means lots of neighbors have stopped by to say hello so we’ve already developed quality relationships that we feel we can rely on if we are in need of any way, which is invaluable to living in a rural area.
Proximity to a County Road
Another thing that was of concern to us when we were looking for property was proximity to a county road. If you are in a snowy climate in winter, county roads are generally plowed where private roads may not be. If we lived 5 miles down a private road, it may or may not be maintained by anyone, and we didn’t know that we would be in a position to plow constantly. We also didn’t want to buy a snowmobile, and we also don’t know how frequently we would need to visit town in the winter but probably a lot, so this was a real concern to us.
We are right on the county road. Our driveway is extremely short, so this is an advantage to us right now.
The disadvantage is that lots of people travel on this road, so to some degree we have a spotlight on us. While we aren’t going to do anythign bad obviously and we are in a community of like-minded people, it could lead to “tattling”. And example of this is if building codes were strict and someone saw us building, they could report us to the building department. This happens A LOT. Luckily, we aren’t concerned about that but it is worth mentioning that if you are right on a county road, expect people to keep an eye on your property (again, good and bad, we also like that if we are gone our neighbors will notice if an unusual car is on the property).
Before we bought the property we called up a well driller to see what he thought of the water potential on our property. Many wells are off the record as they were only recently recorded publicly. So while there are many wells, he didn’t have a way of knowing. The drills that were nearby were at I think 300 feet and 500 feet, both with great flow. We don’t think we’ll have a problem but we had to start somewhere. If you are a well-meaning critic and want to tell us that we shouldn’t have bought the property, read this blog post!
If all else fails, we can connect to city water at the hefty cost of around $10,000. Not ideal but not a deal breaker as we have to start somewhere. Once we build a home we will have a lot of equity in the property and could sell it at a huge profit. If all else fails, we could get a few 3,000 gallon cisterns and have water trucked in.
While there aren’t a TON of usable trees on the property (it was logged a while ago), there are some trees that should be great for timber framing. We hope that we should be able to build at least our barn, if not a barn AND our home.
The trees consist of primarily pine with a bit of doug fir sprinkled in.
Wifi Access & Cell Service
Even though we plan to be off grid, wifi and cell service are important to us.
Wifi access: We have confirmed with a local internet provider that we can get decent wifi on our property. We may have to be creative with getting it to our house but in short, it CAN be done. We should be able to get at least 1.5Mb if not 6Mb+. We won’t be getting wifi on our property any time soon as it’s easier to just run into town, and many days we are working outside all day.
Cell service: We have excellent cell service! This makes us very happy.
And that’s about it!
If I missed something, or if you are curious about something else, let me know and I’d be happy to update the post.
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Great post! I was wondering if you did any soil tests for the septic? It looks like the land was surveyed due to the posts, was that done before you purchased or did you have that done after? Did you research solar compatibility before purchasing?
Were there any other properties you were considering in the area? If so, what made you choose on this site? Were there any learning lessons during the purchase of raw land that are worth sharing?
Thanks so much for sharing your journey!
Thanks Amanda! We just did soil tests for the septic yesterday and have a video and blog post in the works! Feel free to subscribe to receive our emails to be notified of the post. Good stuff.
Originally, we wanted the land surveyed before purchasing, and really we just wanted the corners marked. We had an idea of where they were according to the map but weren’t 100% positive. Long story short, we closed on the land without seeing the stakes because we lived 10 hours away and only wanted to come up again for the move, so we risked it. The property lines were exactly where we thought, plus there was a large chunk in the middle of the road that we didn’t know we had lol.
There were two other properties we considered. The first was 5 acres in the exact part of the county we wanted, but the property was about 140 feet wide the entire way, so it was kinda like a landing strip on the side of a steep hill. To get to the land we would have to go across the properties of 4 different people and we really didn’t want to deal with all of those easements, road maintenance drama, etc. It was also fairly far from town, and we would have had to do A LOT of work just to get the land liveable. It was also $40,000, didn’t have septic or water, so we weren’t passionate about it.
The other property was 10 acres (heck yea!!), had a hunting cabin on it that we thought we could make liveable fairly easily, already had a septic (although no saying how well it worked) and was $65,000. We would have had to put $10,000 down, the land was heavily logged, we could hear the highway fairly loudly, the neighbors seemed kind of (uhh, trashy?), and we didn’t get a good vibe from the place so we withdrew our offer.
I think the biggest lessons we can share are: know what you need, know what you’re willing to give on, know what you’re able to pay, know what having septic or a well is worth, and see what you can find. We were willing to give on some things but others were extremely important to us. Really, we knew we would be putting in A LOT of work on the property, so in the end we wanted something that just felt right and ultimately, this property did.
Chances are you can’t have it all, and we needed to start somewhere. I’m sure this property isn’t perfect either and we will likely run into unforseen issues but we will do the best we can, and that’s all anyone can do. I say it’s all a good learning experience.
We’re writing another beastly blog post on how to find the perfect and and perfect area for your needs, so stay tuned! Glad you find our journey useful, we hope you stick around!
LOL to trashy.
Already subscribed ;o)
Y’all are great on frequency of posts and topics. I was writing a reply to my previous e-mail on this very topic and saw you had already posted it… score!
I can’t wait for the beastly post! I read that y’all camped while you were land hunting. If you could touch on that process, length and whether you involved a realtor(s) that would be cool too! Thanks a bunch!
Score for responding in a timely manner on my end! The WordPress app on my phone is terrible and I can’t seem to respond to comments on it so we have to wait for wifi access lol. #offgridproblems
I think those are two great blog recommendations. We were hesitant to use a realtor but used one anyways and have some experiences we can share for sure. It’s definitely tough to find one with your best interests in mind, that’s for sure. The camping idea is great too… I’ll go make draft posts so we can touch on both of those things.
Where are you at in your journey, Amanda?
Information dump mode and living vicariously through bloggers 😉
We will get to see this property in it’s beginning stages, as in Sunday 11th. You 2 are doing a great job, so cool to have a tour of the property we will see in person soon. Glad Alyssa did the walk for us!
I am Jesse’s Aunt & want to be Alyssa’s too. I’m a romantic pest, have some rings you might like Alyssa…off the grid of course!
I’m the peskiest nephew you’ll ever have. Then again you wouldn’t trade me for another nephew. Or would you? Haha. 🙂 Will be good to see you soon!
Great tour Alyssa. I’ve missed a few posts but it seems you guys are getting on with the job which is fantastic.
Have you not had much rain for quite sometime, hence the dust ? It seems rather dry under your feet too. I was also wondering, did you consider building on the hill to give you more of that view ? Obviously expenses would be a lot more, but living up in the canopy would be awsum
I lived on some land with full solar power and batteries totally off grid and I was on the crest of the ridge. But I suppose because your ridge is so close to the border of your land that’s hard to do. Where I was, was amazing. The breeze that came up the hill and into the house was wonderful.
Just interested to know if you guys had thought about that option Peace
I am just starting out as well. It is so wonderful to see the process at the very beginning.
Luckily I have septic water and power on the land….Whew!
I’ll be following and praying for your success (and mine…lol).
I’m so excited for you. 🙂
That is awesome that you have septic and water already! We were kinda hoping for the same thing but quickly learned that we weren’t going to get it all. Are you building your home as well?
DJ Graf says
Congratulations! As a fellow Idahoan I will live vicariously through you now because our circumstances preclude us from following through with our dream. So, onward and upward! I’ll be watching your posts with interest!
Just found your blog and Youtube channel. Great stuff!
First let me say you guys are awesome. I absolutely love people who follow their dreams and do things that are not the norm. Though I think getting back to nature and homesteading should be the norm. I am actually in the process of looking for land to do the same. After checking out a few states I am leaning towards Idaho myself. The lack of building codes is a great thing. So far I have looked around Sandpointe area but also looking to check out further south. My uncle is interested in the Boise area. Internet is important to me as my business is all online.
We think getting back to nature should be the norm too! There is definitely a movement going that way but I’m not sure how mainstream it will actually get. I think many are frustrated with the way things are today and realize that doing what we’re doing, the majority will never achieve the “American Dream” but instead will die trying. Whichever area of Idaho you settle on, it does seem that there are a lot of off-the-beaten-path internet providers. We went with the first one we heard of because they were nice folks and the setup seemed reasonable and it’s working well, but it seems there are a handful that are maybe smaller. I think it would be wise to ask around a bit… we really didn’t want to go with HughesNet because we use SO MUCH DATA in any given day (sometimes we have to rent VPSs because our two MacBook Pros aren’t enough!). But if we didn’t spent so much time on the internet (15 hrs a day often when we’re working) then it may have worked just fine for smaller tasks. I think there is also a bit of cheaper land in SE Idaho but we never made it that far and I don’t think it gets as much moisture.
First let me say you guys are awesome. I absolutely love people who follow their dreams and do things that are not the norm. Though I think getting back to nature and homesteading should be the norm. I am actually in the process of looking for land to do the same. After checking out a few states I am leaning towards Idaho myself. The lack of building codes is a great thing. So far I have looked around Sandpointe area but also looking to check out further south. My uncle is interested in the Boise area. Internet is important to me as my business is all online. The search continues but I hope to have neighbors like you guys!
I know that you don’t want to disclose your location, for obvious reasons, but I am curious as to whether you are in the upper portion of Idaho – say Grangeville northward or below? We are on the other side of the country in TN, but our hearts are in mid to northern Idaho. We’ve been out to look (and dream) several times 🙂 We are a bit older than you guys with children, so we are desperately trying to sell our properties, but it is not happening (yet!). I am following along for inspiration!! My husband is so tired of corporate life and we are ready to get started!!! I am glad I stumbled across your blog (via pinterest)! By the way, my husband could care less, but the internet and cell phone are sacred to me – lol — so it is good to know that you are able to have both in “rural” Idaho 🙂 Best of luck to you!
Hey Pam! I think it takes some time for things to fall into place but if you go after your dreams and try to make logical decisions, I think things will work out in your favor, maybe sooner than you think! We still have a rental property we are hoping to sell and are keeping a close eye on the market back home… we hope that if we can sell it that we can use the equity to pay down our land, but yes it’s a timing game, so we can sympathize with you. Glad you found our blog, and we hope it continues to serve as some sort of inspiration! Our Facebook page is extremely active if you want to join the community there. Lots of like-minded folks working towards similar goals. You’re right that we prefer not to disclose our location as there’s no way to ensure the safety of our family. I think there are many beautiful locations in Idaho… time for a vacation! Yes, many rural areas still have cell phone signals and internet usage. In our area, there’s not much for high-speed internet by looking on the internet, but after talking to the locals it seems that there are A LOT of internet providers… just really small companies or one man shows. But it is possible without having to go to Hughes Net! In a perfect world we wouldn’t be so tied to technology or the internet but hey the world isn’t perfect so we try to make the best of it 🙂 Completely understand where you’re coming from. Keep in touch!
We have a shallow well on our property but it does not have a lot of water so when we built our house we put a cement cistern under the basement that holds 9000 gal. It is filled by rain water for the most part but in the fall we top it off by pumping it full from the well using a garden hose. This can take a few days. We bought 2 rain barrels that we drilled holes in the side half way up. Then an outlet was inserted through the hole which runs to the cistern inlet. The reason for the raised outlet is it allows dust to settle to the bottom & only clean water comes off the top. Also the top of the rain barrel has a screen to keep out leaves, maple seeds etc. We scrape the junk off the screen as needed & the water remaining in the barrel at freeze up is swished around & then dumped. This removes the dirt & the chance of damage due to the water freezing & splitting the barrel. I am enjoying your adventure.
Really like the blog. I have 7 years until i retire from the Army, and are working on our bare land right now in East Texas. Just to let your subscribers know that i went through the Veterans Land Board and was able to purchase my 14.43 acres at 6.75% on a 30 year note (although we plan on paying off before I retire.) Keep up the good work on the blog
I like what you are doing…I plan on doing something similar on 10+ acres, if possible, in northern California or even Oregon. If you can build into the hill, you can put part of your future home in the hill and save on heating & cooling. Or do some research on “earthbag” homes — very good option that is do-it-yourself. super inexpensive, and they last for hundreds of years with little maintenance (unlike wood or log homes).
Thanks for the inspiration! My husband and I live in Colorado (near Boulder) but visit family in north Idaho frequently. We dream of buying property there but often feel held back by the security of our current situation. I hope that we can one day take the plunge and move forward with our dream. Until then I will enjoy reading about your adventures!
Chris Nordstrom says
This post is about a year old, so I’m hoping you know by now that drilling a well 500 feet deep could very easily cost more than $10,000. Then there is the energy you’ll need to run the pump. Solar can be done but that’s another large capital expense (I’m pretty sure Jesse is on top of this though).
Chris, Well-meaning-critic (“Well”, get it, LOL) I live in Post Falls ID. so not too far from you guys.
Yes we’re very well aware that drilling a well may cost more than $10k… we know even $20k isn’t out of the question… hence the reason we haven’t done it yet! Today, we get the water we need for a month for $1.25. Many folks out here never drill wells. Sure, that’s not “prepper” friendly, but it is reality. And yes, even if we had a well, we don’t have the power available at this moment in time to pump out of the well. Glad you see that… many say “Just drill a well! You can do it by hand and it will only cost you a couple hundred bucks!” We do have an option with out popup to request that it never be shown to anyone on the list. It also shouldn’t show more than 1x in say two days to people that aren’t subscribed. That said, it doesn’t follow those rules all of the time, so not sure what the issue is. We feel it’s necessary to keep at this point so all we can hope is that people who wish to follow us try to respect this decision and scroll past it!
What’s the water table level in your area? What would be average cost of a water well on the homestead? I enjoy the blog. Keep up the good work! 🙂
Sorry you already answered my question
Steve Jones says
Mon / 27 Feb 2017
Just found your website. Watched the video regarding your temporary portable potable water solution.
Question: Could those Jerry Cans be stored so that they could collect warmth from the sun during the day? Maybe cover them with black plastic trash bags to aid in absorbing the heat from the sun.
Question: Have you considered covering the walls with cardboard and /or newspaper to act as insulation in the room with the wood stove? I’m assuming of course there’s a window. (Gotta watch those assumptions)! 🙂
I’m impressed with what the two of you are attempting and what has been accomplished.
Take care. Stay safe. Keep the faith. Looking forward to following your progress.
Best regards, Steve (in lovely Louisiana) 🙂 🙂
Jerry Can: http://blog.charitywater.org/post/143491921667/the-story-behind-the-jerry-can
Mike Wilson says
I, too, just found your channel. Belatedly, welcome to Idaho. I live in Boise County so we’re almost neighbors. We put in our well 2 years ago. It is 420 feet down and after casing, pump, plumbing to the pressure tank, and filters, let’s just say we spent a bit shy of $30k. Sure, we probably could have gotten it done for less, but we went with the best recommended and most professional well driller in the area,. He wasn’t the cheapest, but I can say we are not one bit sorry; his service and helpful attitude have been excellent. If you can hook to city water for $10K, that’s probably the best way for you to go, especially if you plan on staying off the electrical grid.
Any grizzly bear in that region of Idaho? Any of the locals advised? Just curious. I know they’re building up their numbers in select portions of Idaho and the commission is opening up a hunting season for them. Just wondering if they might be in that region. Enjoyed the tour. awesome spot
There are grizzly bears but they aren’t seen often!
Larry Schweitzer says
I had friends that homesteaded near Moyie Springs, ID about 1970 when it was all the rage to do. They stuck it out, raised their kids there. On visiting them soon after they started building they had discovered that the growing season for their garden was a lot shorter there than in NE. They were going to “live off the land” but that didn’t prove practical on 20 acres. Nice people but not well prepared for the transition. A lot of work!
Hope you the best, a great adventure.
Tybee Wilcox says
Hello Alyssa! So awesome to see you two doing this. I currently live in my RV and I am looking to buy land in the near future. I have a question about the zoning for the land you purchased. What does the state allow (or not allow) you to do on your land? Was this something you considered when looking at properties? Thank you!
I don’t think anything is really state-wide when it comes to land, but things can be different county to county, and things are also different being outside of city limits. Also, if a neighborhood or area of development has CC&Rs, you’ll likely be restricted with what you can do with your land in which case, good to know going into such situation! It all comes down to research 🙂 I know this is vague but hopefully it’s a place to start!
Just finished binge watching your youtube series, all 151 videos. I admire your courage. I have always dreamed of doing the same thing but never dared to take the plunge. It’s too late now but I always want to learn new things and you two are great teachers.
I totally agree with the hot tub decision. A good soak and a cold beer will take away the days aches and pains.
This is so awesome! Hubby and have been watching your YouTube videos for the last year or so. We are on our way to do the same exact thing as you. We bought a piece of land, getting ready for our move from the East coast to the Rockies. Big changes! We plan on living off grid and want to have a garden. Eventually hope to get to the point of being able to help our neighbors and sell some of our veggies in town. Can’t wait!
Thanks for sharing your journey. We will keep watching your videos.