I’ve been so excited to tell you…. we bought land!
Did you notice the new menu category up above called “P+M Upstate Adventure“? Well if not I’m here to tell you about it! Our new adventure we’ll be starting is the journey of starting a once in a while getaway in Upstate New York. This is somewhere we’ll escape the hustle and bustle of NY, where we can expand our garden and eventually build a small home and maybe even a pond! We won’t be leaving NYC, this will be a place we run away to maybe 30 days out of the year, some place to call our own for the first time.
We’ve lived in a big city since we were 18 years old and sometimes you grow tired of all the rules and not being to do what you want. Plus there’s the issue of space, does anyone know of 7 acres of open land we can buy in Brooklyn? Unfortunately Prospect Park won’t sell us any.
We have the garden on the rooftop and that’s awesome (and we’ll be keeping it) but in the past years our building has gotten stricter and in reality any day they could tell us we can’t garden on the roof anymore and it would be gone. So we set out to see if we could purchase land that we would be able to do all sorts of things with that we wouldn’t be able to in the city.
I will be posting every step of the journey, from buying the land (below) to building to figuring out how the heck we’re going to build things and make it all work. We will be trying to do everything ourselves, but thankfully Matthew is Mr. Handy Man!
We are first time land owners so this will be full of ups and downs. I hope you enjoy the ride and I hope if you’re visiting the page for the first time and are in the same situation you’ll find some helpful info.
What we wanted:
-At least 5 acres
-A section of open meadows
-About 3 hours max drive from NYC
-In the Catskills
A large garden full of fruits and vegetables
Fruit trees along with pine trees
A modern shipping container home with deck with full view of Catskills
A place for friends to stay when visiting
A basketball court (I can dream!)
Lots of animals (I can dream!)
I think it was in late August that we seriously started to think about buying property. We’ve always tossed it around but not seriously because at the time we couldn’t afford it. Plus it seemed far fetched.. we could own land?
This is something that many people own all over the world but living in a city often erases that possibility from your mind. We looked at our finances, figured out our max budget, named our wishlist, drew a map of where we’d want to settle and then started to look at endless listings of land online.
Here’s something I’d like to say right away, don’t get your hopes up online. Although the land we eventually ended up buying we did find online, many of the properties we fell in love were actually sold and just weren’t removed from the website. This is disheartening, especially if it goes further in the process (more about that heart break below).
With a handful of properties that we wanted to see we set up a appointment with a real estate broker who is from a popular firm that specializes in land in the Catskills. We met her at the insurance company and then followed her as we drove from property to property.
The further you get away from NYC, the less money it is. The land that is closer to NYC is both extremely expensive and hard to come by. All the property we looked at was in the 2-3 hour drive range from NYC. It got to the point of what’s 1 more additional hour to drive if we get everything we want?
We wanted at least 5 acres so we found the areas that would allow for that in our budget. Matthew printed out a map and plotted everywhere we wanted to look at. I’m not going to mention his Excel sheets that still make me shake in fear.
We looked at some properties that were great and not so great…..
Beautiful and amazing views, but too much work to do in the beginning to clear away space for a garden. The garden is our main priority to get up and running for Spring. Plus this was max budget so if we cleared out some of the trees we’d already be going over.
This was was on a farm road with a farm across the street and next door. I have a strong romanticism with farms and farm animals because I didn’t grow up with any of that and I want to mother all the animals in the world. I liked this one, and it had a well already dug, but Matthew didn’t like the farmer across the street (lol). I took this picture as the farmer drove away and Matthew was shaking his head. I teased him throughout the entire day about this.
This one was big and had a beautiful stream. We fell in love with this so we decided to visit a week later to look at it on our own without the real estate agent present. We met the neighbors who were oh so nice but told us the stream flooded the entire land. So that one was off our list…. Tip here, talk to neighbors, they’ll be honest with you!
This was the last piece of land we looked at on Day 1. It was just a slab of open land with a beautiful view. Look at that wow factor during sunset! We looked into this land further but this was max budget and there was no negotiation from the seller. We also didn’t love the power lines down below. We could later on cover that with trees but decided to move on…
Here’s the heart break. We looked at this piece of property and fell in love.
We visited the next weekend to view it one more time, measuring everything out and getting way too excited. We gave an offer to the real estate agent because we wanted it. Bad. The day later she came back and said the land was sold and they didn’t know this. Heart breaking.
Now we were feeling a little bitter. I know it takes time to find that perfect land, but being this was our first time and important to us and in general being very quick to sadden people, we were disappointed. We were renting a car to go up and visit these properties every time so felt like we were losing money and time was being taken away from our work
But we kept looking….
We booked a motel and spent a weekend there with a new list of properties on our own. We would just show up, walk around the land and write our pros and cons down for each. We also took pictures and took a 360 video to review .
There we found 2 great ones.
If Matthew is reading this, he will sigh at this picture. This is the dream. This was a former farm and boy was it beautiful. It had amazing views, wide open area and look at that old fence that we would keep. Goodness molly golly, I love you.
Unfortunately though we looked at this land just for fun and it cost 8x our budget because it was 50 acres. So we said our goodbyes. I lied, we went back and saw it again the next day and tried to figure out how we could afford it, lol. Ok, it wasn’t happening.
And there was this one… it was perfect. Or close to it.
It was 7 acres. There was meadow land, woods and a flowing stream. You could hear the sounds of the stream as well as the sound of moo cows far in the distance. The land was completely isolated by trees on all 4 sides. WAS THIS IT?!
We visited it twice, we met the neighbors, we drove a shovel through the ground to test the soil, we researched about the land and the watershed.
WE MADE A OFFER (for 2K less!). WE WAITED. THEY ACCEPTED IT!
Now what do heck do we do? First, we had a lot of paperwork to fill out. And there was just as much time spent on other people following the trail to the deed and past owners. What we found in the deed is that this land went way back to a family… The Reeds!
My last name is Reed and this land and all surrounding areas used to be part of the Reed Farm. Across the street from our property is one of the spots that the Reeds bought as a “Man getaway” for the husband. Down the street is Reed Road. Across the way is the Reed Farm. How cool is that?
The paperwork (and I’m forgetting some!)! we had to fill out:
Agricultural District Disclosure Form and Notice
Seller’s Oil and Gas Lease Disclosures (always make sure of this!)
Disclosure Regarding Oil, Gas, Mineral and Timber Rights
Utiity Electric Service Availability/Surchase Disclosure
NY State Form for Buyer and Seller
Standard Form Contract for Purchase and Sale of Real Estate
And for the lawyer..
Credit Line Mortgage Certificate (we were paying in all cash so this was easier)
Good Faith Estimate of Title and Related Charges
Title Insurance Company
Purchaser’s Home Equity Theft Prevention Affidavit
NY State Form Real Property Transfer Report
Quite alot, isn’t it?
Final thoughts on the forms:
This was a learning process because we didn’t know in the beginning what many of these mean. Don’t feel bad for bugging the real estate agent and attorney. And use Google to the full extent, other people have gone through this.
Deed forms are old looking, you feel like you need a ink quill to sign them.
Lawyers and real estate agents slack. You need to keep on top of them. I bugged my attorney. I called the real estate agent when I had fears of a watershed map I saw. When the attorney told me to call him I called immediately. When the lawyer showed confusion on how Matthew and I are married with different last names I gave him a puff of girl power. I sent him followup emails to make sure the sellers did their part on time. Towards the end I started to make a calendar with dates I wanted him to meet.
Now for some transparency, here were the total fees that we ended up paying for the paperwork. This list does not include the price we paid for the land. Thankfully we were able to still have a small amount left over from our land sale price + closing costs. The deed wasn’t as hard to find as the attorney thought it would be so they didn’t have to hire a deed searching company to find it.
Real Estate Agent Profit- 10% (paid for by sellers)
County Clerk (transfer tax and TP584 filing)- $93.00
County Clerk (Recording Deed, RP 5217 Form)- $315.00
Attorney Fee (Title Premium, Searching fee of county records) – $578.00
Attorney Fee for work done: $400.00
In the end the closing costs were less than what we expected they would be. Besides those above fees we’ll also be paying city and school taxes starting next year too.
In the end it all worked out. Forms are filed and our names are written there in horrible cursive… we got our land!
So now the journey really begins. Stay tuned for building, my lack of knowing how to lift with my knees, my love for that one mooing cow and more!
Update: Our project was featured in the NYTIMES Real Estate section in Fall of 2017!