. . . only usable land.”
That was my first real estate lesson about land. I learned those words from an old-timey country realtor who drove around Nevada County in a beat-up blue Pinto buying and selling land. He didn’t look the part of a big-shot realtor, but he made a zillion dollars . . . and he knew just about everything there was to know about dealing land . . . usable land.
Just what does that mean . . . usable land?
Typically, “usable” means that the land is flat, or has some flat areas suitable for various purposes, or that the topography is gentle enough that you can do things on it without falling off the side.
But there are two other considerations, beyond flatness, that are even more important:
1. What activities can be accomplished on the land in a cost-effective manner?
2. What do you want to accomplish on the land? That’s right, you. I’m talking to you. Suppose a big parcel of land is ideal for cattle ranching, but you have no interest, zero, zip, nada in raising cows. How usable is all that ranch land for you?
What is the point in (a) buying, (b) paying annual holding costs, and (c) maintaining one hundred acres if you are going to use only the quarter of an acre site your house actually sits on? OK, before you start arguing with me, I concede that there are “passive” uses for big land parcels.
Here are three:
1. Privacy. Surround your home or business with a lot of land, and you can create a visual and sonic buffer against the cruel world outside.
2. Lifestyle. Some folks embrace the idea of snuggling themselves down in the bosom of Mother Nature, enveloped in the sights, sounds, and smells of trees and birds and running water.
3. Investment. A big spread may not be your cup of tea, right now, but good ranch land may appreciate in value so that you can make a killing when you sell it sometime down the line.
But for effectively “using” large land parcels, here are some of the more conventional pursuits:
- Subdividing the land for residential or commercial development
- Livestock raised for food or dairy
- Apiaries (bees)
- Growing dope
I bet you can think of plenty of un-conventional uses for land: campsites, seaweed drying flats, swamp tours, zip lines, ferries, toll booths, hot air balloon launching pads, wildlife sanctuaries, trout streams, koi ponds, sacred groves, truffle forests, ATV courses, Druidic dance circles, and, OK, I’ll stop now before I get really silly.
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