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11.30.02
As promised many moons ago, I will take the opportunity here to disclose the details of my land purchase, providing contacts and lessons-learned, where appropriate.
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For starters, I would have to say I looked at parcels of land either in person or over the web for about 2 years before I found what I wanted.  I would likewise recommend you take your time and thoroughly aquaint yourself with what is available as well as the price ranges.  There are lots of subtleties that can radically affect the total cost and enjoyment of your investment.  Even after 2 years of searching, I can still see how I might have done better overall with my land purchase, but I still certainly came out much better off than I would have had I proceeded without the self-imposed education.
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Some of the resources I used in my search are listed in the right margin.  Auction sites and tax-sale services and publications seemed very tempting at first, but be very careful with these.  For instance, in New Mexico there are several areas, including Carson Estates near Taos, that offer 1/4 acre lots for very attractive prices.  What they don't tell you is that the official minimum acreage to build on is usually 3/4, which means you not only have to buy three, you have to find three adjacent to each other.  Additionally, these parcels are often not part of official subdivisions with well kept documentation.  This may become a headache later on down the road if you decide to sell, or if the county decides it wants to start enforcing codes there.  Additionally, the roads to these locations can be very rough.  On the plus side however, they usually constitute some of the least expensive land, with the fewest enforced building restrictions.  Just stay abreast of what you are dealing with is my advice.
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In the end, nothing that I found on any of the auction sites tickled me in any special way.  I wanted Taos for the mountain, the mesa, and the gorge for emotional reasons, but also for more practical long-term investment reasons.  I like to be balanced that way.  Unfortunately for me, there's a lot of other people who like Taos as much as I do, and it seems obvious that they have a lot more money than me :). Buying anything connected to the grid was untouchable, and even much of the off-grid acreage I found was quite expensively priced.  There were a few 2 acre lots about 16 miles west of the bridge going for about $10,000, but the mountain from that distance is considerably less inspiring, and the added distance to town was not very attactive either.  In the Greater World Community, developed by the architect who invented the earthship, 3 acre parcels carried an asking price of 22k as of the summer of 2002, with the stipulation that the Earthship Biotecture company do the building for you.  There the location was pleasant, but the price and restrictions were unattractive.  It was finally by accident that I learned about a 5 acre parcel available a few miles south of Greater World.
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I was looking at the real estate section of the Taos News when I saw an ad for 40 acres against the gorge for 89k being offered by Jeff Jackson of Taos Land & Film.  I could not afford to buy 40 acres at that price, but thought I'd call to see if the seller would be interested in entertaining a group purchase, or be willing to sell me just a portion of the land for less.  He did not, but my interest got him to thinking about how he could accommodate me with a smaller piece of land available close by.  The parcel was about 5.6 acres actually, but since the CC&R's allowed a minimum division of 3 acres, we worked out a deal to shave off a piece of an adjacent lot to make it an even 6 for just a little more.  This would provide me with the opportunity to subdivide and sell off 3 acres at a later date.  At $21,500, it would be the largest single investment of my life, but the most important one for me personally, and well worth every penny in my opinion, in terms of comparable lots in the area, as well as the amenities of the location.  If I ever sell off half the acreage, I might get to keep the rest for myself at very little cost per acre.
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So that is my story, and the moral is that you never know when your opportunity will come knocking, but you can certainly increase your odds of finding a deal that's right for you by diligantly investigating and asking questions.  And by all means, do not leave the internet out of this equation.  Without the internet, I sincerely doubt that I would be this far along in my plans.  In retrospect, I might have looked at more secluded plots with fewer restrictions, possibly in Arizona, but my need for space and nature is not quite that extreme.  I like the idea that the center of town is just 10 minutes away, with a pleasant night-life and lots of interesting shops.  Hell, there's even a Wal-Mart there (not that I shop in it).  At the other end, the BLM protects the area near the gorge from over development to protect the wildlife, so in the worst-case scenario my view will never be radically impeded.  I simply have to manage my view with respect to the few homes built on the land in front of me.
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related links
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. Bid 4 Assets
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. Government Auctions
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. FDIC: Real Estate Retrieval System
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. US Treasury Seized Property Auctions
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. NM State Real Estate Sale Schedule
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. BLM Aquisition Outreach
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. Mortgage Free (Book)
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. Taos News Classifieds
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. Taos Land & Film
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