Farside needs advice

Discussion in 'Buy, sell, trade, give away & exchange' started by Farside, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. Farside

    Farside Junior Member

    Aug 15, 2012
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    Hi all,

    I'm looking at buying a 1/2 acre lot with a house on it. It's in the Northern hemisphere, zone 7 (it's -36 C here this morning), and gets easily into the mid 30's (Celsius) during the summer.
    The site runs NW - SE and slopes toward the NW by roughly 3-5 degrees. It is currently pretty much all grass with a densely planted pines along the South facing boundary.
    There is a septic field at the front of the section and it's the only flat part of the land.

    Any suggestions for developing it? It slopes away from the sun and has a septic field near the low point in the property which has me a little stumped. Oh, and the property is on Canadian shield which means the topsoil is shallow, boggy and acidic. I'll need to check but there may not be enough soil to build a swale.
  2. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

    Apr 7, 2005
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    Farside, you might want to start your own thread because this thread is really about SOP's property and her system of Permaculture.

    Your questions will probably get lost in here. I've got a list of things to look for that I give to people looking for real estate in my area, and I'd be glad to post it, but it probably shouldn't be here. :)
  3. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

    Feb 9, 2009
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    Consider yourself moved...
  4. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

    Nov 9, 2005
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  5. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

    Jul 8, 2011
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    Oh God, one comment about Brian's looks and I'm labelled a girl.
  6. annette

    annette Junior Member

    Jul 8, 2010
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  7. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

    Apr 7, 2005
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    SOP, oh, I'm so sorry! I don't know where I got that impression!! My bad! :)

    It is really interesting how your food forest is going. You have inspired me to keep better records!
  8. Farside

    Farside Junior Member

    Aug 15, 2012
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    Thanks :)

    I just got back online...
  9. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

    Apr 7, 2005
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    Real Estate considerations: This is not a comprehensive list, nor does it
    guarantee you'll find out everything you'll need to know.

    STAY SKEPTICAL: It's easy to find what looks like a great place,
    only to find out it is a sinkhole of expense, and didn't really
    have the qualities we thought it did. Just because a house has been
    in place for 50 years or more doesn't mean it isn't riddled with
    very expensive repair/drainage/septic/plumbing/mold/water issues. I thought
    anywhere in a rural location on the coast would work for me, but it
    turns out I really wanted very specific criteria, lots of sun, lots of
    water, lots of room (I'd rather have acreage than a big house).
    Being rural for me is enjoying the out-of-doors, not maintaining
    a large dream house (or nightmare house, however you want to look
    at it. I'd rather be outside surrounded by privacy,
    than just sitting on a porch looking at nature, or looking out a picture window.

    Living in a rural place is very maintenance oriented. We either pay
    for someone else to do it, or we do it ourselves. If it will
    be days before help arrives, we need to know how to do it on our
    own. Spare time is often just checking on things to make sure
    nothing is going wrong.

    Make sure all additions/remodels were done with permits. If not,
    some counties give the new buyer 18 months to bring things up to
    Code, and that can add huge expenses to what was already paid
    for the property, and swallow one's life and surroundings in
    contractors, mess, dust, construction noise, unexpected expenses.

    One story or two story? I found when I had a two-story house, every
    time I needed something it was on the floor I wasn't on. I was
    constantly going up and down stairs.

    It really creeped me out to be upstairs and night and hear noises
    downstairs. I always had the feeling I couldn't escape if I needed

    Can you get up on the roof? Small leaks and occasional repair/maintenance
    will have to happen, can you get up on it safely? Walk around on it safely?
    My parents had a large pine tree come down in a heavy rainstorm, the
    branches crashed through the roof and walls. The house was redtagged
    and the contents would have been ruined if my dad couldn't get up on the
    roof and chainsaw out the limbs, and put a tarp over it until help arrived.

    Wind: How windy does it get there, and how open is it? Wind does more damage
    than just about anything. It brings down trees, it causes power outages
    it rips structures apart. If it's close enough to the ocean, the wind
    might actually blow all day and not stop at all.

    Flooding: Whether the house is on a creek or river, or uses a road that crosses a creek
    or river, will that flooding keep you from getting there or damage the
    the structure if the floor (and well) gets covered in water?

    Power Outages: What alternative source of power do you have if the power goes
    out for two weeks and you have a freezer full of expensive food, no heat,
    no way to pump water out of the well?

    Location: How long will you have to drive to and from work? The real estate agents
    told me when we bought our place that they stay friendly with people
    for two years because a lot of them can't stand the 2 hour total commute
    each day, through mudslides, heavy rain, fallen trees, hitting deer, driving
    over large rocks and damaging cars, sliding on hidden ice patches, time
    constraints, etc.

    Social life: Almost everyone you know will come visit once, but after that they will
    say it's too far, they don't like driving back after dark on mountain
    roads. You will end up doing the driving to maintain old friendships.

    Make sure you like your neighbors, because they will be your social

    Vehicles: Sports cars on mountain roads don't have clearance over rocks, and deer
    and that hit the front end just slide right through the windshield. Lawyers
    Equipment I've worked for told me I was driving a rolling coffin when I had
    my RX7.

    Mowing becomes a way of life. Regular lawn mowers cannot handle weeds,
    especially in the spring when growth is vigorous.

    Hauling - unless you want to pay for everyone else to haul in gravel,
    household things, lumber, large items, you'll need a truck.

    Chainsaw - you may not need it often, but when trees die, and they
    often do for no obvious reason, they need to come down so they
    won't fall on a shed or a house.

    a chainsaw helps with firewood. Clears away branches and dead trees for
    fire protection.

    Barking dogs: Seems like everyone has a barking dog in a rural location, they bark
    24/7, and sound carries like crazy because there are no intervening
    houses and fences to block the sound. Raccoons and critters wandering
    around at night often set off the barking.

    Bicycles: If the main road to the property is a popular road for bicycles, it can be
    very dangerous driving on weekends. Large groups are hard to get
    around, especially on blind turns and they are either going 2 miles an
    hour or 30 miles an hour and are difficult to get around.

    Cars coming the other way often cross over the line, without regard to
    blind corners, to get around bicycles, and suddenly you'll have a
    fast oncoming car in your lane.

    Where I am helicopters have to take people to hospitals. The ambulances
    take people from where the crash is, sometimes several miles to
    where the helicopter can land, being taken over fields in a stretcher
    to get into the 'copter. Get really good insurance.

    Local Events: Is this property near to where large events are held, Wine Festivals,
    Pumpkin festivals, bicycle races, farmers' markets?
    Is it on a road leading to these events? Does traffic get so heavy it's
    stop and go? Is parking in front of your
    place going to be an issue when these happen?
    Find out how many people each of these things brings in, and you can
    see how many cars will need to park where there usually isn't
    much parking.

    Neighbors: Neighbors tell on neighbors, so if you can see your neighbors, they
    can see you, and they are watching. If you start doing things that
    require a permit,odds are you will be outted and made to either get
    a permit through proper channels or tear things down.


    1. Water - If you don't have year-'round, clean drinking water, you are probably
    paying too much for the property. Land without enough water is
    a constant struggle. Don't believe remarks like, "Oh, there's plenty
    of water around here." If it isn't there already, something is fishy.
    New wells needs expensive permits and are expensive to find and drill.

    Every week you'll have to have water brought in at
    big expense and effort. Cooking/cleaning and
    drinking water, showering can be 5-6 gallons a day per person.
    This does not include flushing water, which could be grey water instead.

    Well? spring? How many gallons per minute? all year or part of the year?
    tested for minerals like iron, and contamination?

    What kind of pump in a well - electrical =$$$

    How deep in the well, how many fractures did they hit?
    Is it lined so it won't cave in?

    Lakes, Ponds Looking for property in the driest time of the year allows you to see
    Streams: just how low the water gets, especially wells and springs. If you
    get a well tested in mid-winter, it may not even have half that much
    water in the summer.

    Do you have water rights? Is there a limit on the amount of water
    you have a right to?

    Is there contamination happening upstream? Whether it's cows
    pooping in the water, or old septic pits (not tanks) leaking
    out of the soil, check for contamination with a swimming pool
    tester kit.

    Are any fish in the creeks protected by State Law, and therefore
    the water cannot be used? Salmon come up local creeks
    every year and are protected.

    2. Sloped? Flat? How does the runoff flow - check Google Maps for aerial view of surrounding land

  10. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

    Apr 7, 2005
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    3. Kind of soil, clay (meaning water will not flow quickly away and it will expand and contract,
    allowing foundation to move.
    loam or sandy soil?

    4. Talk to the neighbors, find out the history

    5. Are there houses uphill from it, and how will their runoff/landscaping affect you?

    6. Access to sunlight all year 'round, even when sun is low in the sky? Redwood trees often block
    out light completely, it's very wet and moldy underneath them

    7. Get it tested for Mold inside walls or under house.

    8. Driveway, gravel? Cost to maintain gravel? Gravel in clay sinks continuously, and needs to
    be replaced every few years.

    9. Redwood trees - there's often mold created underneath these that require professional
    removal and make people sick
    they continually drop "leaves" that leave redwood stains on cars, decks, etc.

    10. Pine trees - shallow, large roots get into septic lines, septic tanks, get under foundations
    and crack them, constant dropping of needles need sweeping and unclogging
    gutters. Constant dropping of pitch, hard to clean off of decks and roof

    11. Insects/rodents - they get into everything, they eat everything. it is a constant vigilant
    effort to find them and stop them. Ants get into electrical and phone connection
    boxes, and walls and short things out. Rats and mice chew through floors,
    then get into walls and tear everything up.

    If you aren't going to live on the property full time, there will be constant
    cleanup and damage control when you do go there.

    12. Get it checked for radon and other conditions that large underground rock
    formations create. Granite contains uranium, even granite countertops.
    Some rock formations near the ocean leak radon, which is unhealthy, but it
    also contaminates water.

    13. Make sure it's a legal parcel. If it's not big enough to be a legal parcel (some
    rural locations require minimum acreage before one is allowed to build on it)
    If you can't build on it, how can you sell it? Always have the parcel
    surveyed to determine official property lines. So often it's discovered that
    a house or garage or well is a foot or two over a property line. Surveys never
    get cheaper. Putting this off may keep you from finding out your neighbor's
    structure is on your property, and that affects the value of the property.


    1. Be sure to get a professional inspection and written report

    2. Heating: Type and Cost of heating? Having to bring in propane is
    expensive and prices keep going up, especially just the deliver

    truck cost.
    Wood is also expensive. Starting up a woodstove takes a good
    hour before any heat comes out, and if it's started too late
    at night, what's the point, unless it is maintained all night long
    by you getting up every couple of hours.

    Some days are Spare the Air Days, and if you have another
    source of heat, you might be fined for starting a fire.

    Where would you store cords (plural) of wood?
    Rats, mice, hornets love to live in wood piles, have easier access
    to under your house.

    3. Year house built - bolted to foundation? Insulated? Kind of insulation:
    type of foundation? Engineered foundation, i,.e., piers deep into the soil
    in bedrock? or just piers on, shallowly in soil. See if there's a
    soil engineering report available.

    4. Check for Galvanize pipes that often rot out in about 20-30 years.
    In the 1960's and 1970s lots of plumbing was done
    with galvanized pipes, which start leaking and have to be completely replaced.
    Condominium associations are having lots of problems with this. Eventually PVC pipe
    started being used.

    5. Is there the potential for passive solar heating? Small eaves, large windows,
    house walls down to the ground - not up on piers with open crawl space.
    completely insulated, roof and floor, to hold in solar heat. Dark house color,
    dark roof shingles, longest wall facing sun for 8-10 hours a day? No overhead
    trees? No trees blocking sun.

    Can a fan be installed in a hot attic to bring that heat into the living area?

    Can heat pumps be installed underground, below freezing soil, to take advantage
    of Earth's constant temps? A lot of houses are on rock formations that
    are good for foundations, but you can't get low enough for a passive heat

    6. I found it helpful to ask everyone to leave and have a good half hour or hour
    to sit still in the house alone, see how it feels, not just how it looks. See how the
    sun comes in, really look at the views, try to pick up on the mood of the place
    and the mood it puts you in.

    7. Taxes are forever. Staying put will enable you to pay off a mortgage, but taxes
    never stop. The more you sell and buy up, the higher the taxes will be, and
    can often become extremely high when you get to the point in life where you
    don't have a mortgage, but have to pay a lot every month in taxes.
    and they will almost always go up.

    8. Homeowner Association Fees: The real estate people tried to convince me that
    in a rural location there are lots of issues with geography/geology/maintenance
    that don't happen in established neighborhoods in a city, and that if
    everyone pays towards maintenance, insurance and communal areas, that
    that makes a rural life easier. But it makes it very expensive, especially if
    some parts of the association are precarious, vulnerable to sliding/road
    damage by large delivery trucks and heavy use (asphalt repair and replacement
    is extremely expensive. fast runoff down a slope can undermine it, making it
    sink, creating expensive repairs.) Lawsuits involve an expense for everyone.
    Get at least 7-8 years of records and minutes of the association, find out what lawsuits
    there have been/are, and what kind of maintenance issues they've had.
  11. Farside

    Farside Junior Member

    Aug 15, 2012
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    The site is a semi-urban location and permaculture is not the primary reason for purchasing. I'm hoping to make the best of a less than ideal situation. No worries, I'm up for a challenge ;)
  12. Farside

    Farside Junior Member

    Aug 15, 2012
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    Hmmm... Any advice for a houseboat LOL :-D
  13. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

    Apr 7, 2005
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    Maintaining a boat? Good luck with that! You didn't have anything else in mind for your spare time, I hope!! :)

    About the property, sounds like you have made up your mind? Then the only question remaining is, can you sell it? If you change your mind or the challenge becomes too much, can you get out of it? And the best scenario would be, can you make a profit, after real estate agent fees?
  14. Farside

    Farside Junior Member

    Aug 15, 2012
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    haha, I saw the comprehensive list and my first reaction was "overwhelmed".

    We moved into town about 3 years ago and have been looking to buy a house ever since. Good houses are hard to come by and I work a lot from home so we need something big enough for an office and the tribe.

    It's situated close to a lot of outdoor recreational facilities and is quiet so the kids can ride their bikes etc without much traffic danger.

    The site gets sun all day even in winter which has a lot to do with the lack of mature trees. Driveways and fences here suffer a lot from frost heave and other ground movement so yes, there is maintenance issues to think about but that is city wide.

    The roofs here last about 15 years which is another item to consider.

    The area is on city water and septic. With the bedrock being so close to the surface, there are drainage / flooding issues but this site is sloping and elevated so I don't think this will be an issue here.

    I'm used to houses being built in harmony with the contour of the land, but where I'm currently living, they tend to build cube houses and just carve a flat spot in the land to fit the cube if the site is not flat. It's pretty darn ugly and it interferes with the indoor / outdoor flow. As a result, we'll need to address that with some decking and maybe a bit of terracing or landscaping to soften the lines and make it more functional in the summer months.

    I'd love to create a micro climate here but I suspect the aspect means it's going to be an uphill battle in that department. the climate is marginal for a lot of things (like tomatoes). If I can extend the growing season by even two weeks then that would make a huge difference.

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