Buying land - is it worthwhile?

So I’ve long had this infatuation with buying land. Somewhere in the 5-40 acre size. Since I’m in lower NYS, land down here is either sparse or large and expensive (we’re talking hundreds of thousands for 10 acres).

My goal is to eventually build some sort of “shelter” whether it’s a container home, a yurt, or even a log home. Not to live in, but to have a vacation property without having all of the headaches associated with vacationing. Not that we’ll never go to the beach ever again, but something within an hour or two of our home would be great. A wooded plot with privacy on all four sides and a creek or lakefront would be ideal. Since I work from home, I could possibly work from the “cabin” providing there is good enough internet and power service there. This would allow us to stay there for more than just a Friday-Sunday thing.

My question isn’t about the structure itself (as we’ll just use the land for tent camping in the immediate future), but more about buying the land. My process is to find land within a two hour radius (I’ve been looking for years), then find something under $50k (no idea why, just feels like it’d be easier to stomach under $50k), and then looking at topo and wetlands maps. Am I missing something? Typically all of the plots I find have electric service at the road and would need a septic system put in.

For instance, I just found two plots that are about 5 acres a piece, on pretty flat land, with many trees, and a creek running through the back part of the lots. Lot A is asking $70k, and has about 1/3-1/2 wetlands. Lot B, directly adjacent, is asking $30k and has maybe 1/8 wetlands. What am I missing here?

…and, for those of you that own land either through inheritance and/or purchasing yourself, is it worth it? I know I’ll eventually tire out of driving two hours each way, but for the next 5-10 years, I can absolutely see us going there nearly every weekend. Gas, wear and tear on the car, etc. is not part of this equation at the moment, but I do recognize it’s a real cost.


A lot more info needs to be provided about Lots A and B.
does the map include 100 year flood planes (wetland does not necessarily equal flood plane)? If not, perhaps 99% of Lot B is in a flood plain, while 50% of Lot A is in a flood plane? Just because the land is ‘flat’ doesn’t mean it’s “build-able”. Does lot B have direct highway frontage or do they have an easement?

My parents bought land in N GA in the 70s and built a cabin there 135 acres with highway frontage, so my sister and I will each essentially inherit 65-70 acres one day. When they bought it, it was about a 3 hour drive from our house, with construction of new interstates it’s around 1 hr 45 min one way. Even though it’s 135 acres, there are really only 5 “excellent” spots to build cabins. there’s another 15 or so spots where something can be built. So that’s 20 spots over 135 acres or 1 spot per 6 acres of land (LOTS of mountains/steep inclines, creeks and streams).

We did use it a LOT as I was growing up. Did we use it enough to offset the cost of similar vacations? It’d be close (not factoring in appreciation in land value which is significant after 40 years). In essence, it’s like 25 years of vacation funds purchased the property outright.

There are smaller lots nearby, including three lots that are 8-15 acres that share a boundary with ours. There’s one lot that’s 8 acres with 3 build-able sites that is listed for $35k last I saw (just under $5k/acre. There’s another 8 acre lot with just 1 build-able site, listed for $10k less (around $3k/acre. The ability to have multiple build sites (i.e. the land could be split apart later) increased the list price by close to 50%.

Nowadays, mom has passed and, dad is busy, sister lives in Europe, and I’m busy with work and young kids. the property gets used maybe once every 2 years - when me and some buddies decide to act like idiots around a campfire.
But my dad has turned around 80 acres of it into a tree farm - will pay for his grandkids college.


You also have to be aware of zoning and environmental factors. You could acquire a plot of land that turns out to limit what you could build on it due to those factors. Especially if there’s running water, you may have additional restrictions.

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No raw land here. I’d say it’s a good bet if you’ll actually develop it or use personally, but otherwise it’s just an illiquid asset you’ll have to pay taxes on.

I’ve toyed with buying random New Orleans empty lots in my IRA and just sitting on them, but I’m a little too late now.


@imbatman i’m from N. Atlanta area (Alpharetta/Cumming area) too and am interested in buying land. can you send me a few links to those lots you mentioned? appreciate it. been a FWF member from 2002 :slight_smile:

it looks like I spoke too soon. The lots around our property appear to be sold (or at least pulled off the market). I should ask the neighbors what’s up.

Here’s 5 acre lots under $30k with road frontage in Gilmer/Ellijay

We’re on hwy 52 in NW Gilmer, almost in Murray County. It looks like highway frontage there is going for $12k/acre on smaller lots. goto zillow, search 30540 zip code, and follow hwy 52 until it ends to search what’s available up there on a map.
Makes me wish I’d bought it all up in 2008/2009 for under $1k/acre (lots of developers went under)

In my rather limited experience looking at land/lots for investments…I’ve noticed prices that vary wildly, for no good reason. It could be that you just have 2 sellers with much different motivation. Compared with homes in a populated area…rural land is a very illiquid asset…and can take months/years to sell. Creates a difficult thing to really “comp”

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I’ve had similar ideas. The only thing I’ve learned is that you are going to have a hard time getting a mortgage (might need 50% down and triple the interest rate of buying a house, 10% in today’s climate), and also you’ll be paying property taxes on it forever, even though you’ll get virtually no benefit of that taxation and the taxes might be $500 or $1k or more per year depending on the location.

Very interested to see what you come up with since it’s something I’d eventually like to do as well, later in life.

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Our plans may have changed in the blink of an eye…

Any deer on your property? A couple friends and I are always looking for a good hunting lease. It might pay your taxes. I live in Cumming, myself.

I completely understand the desire. I can’t really explain it, but I am also fascinated with the idea of owning 10 acres some place with some woods and water. I don’t know exactly why. Always grew up in suburban neighborhoods but loved hiking and camping with the Boy Scouts and love those N Ga mountains. :slight_smile:

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There is some value to raw land relatively unconstained by pesky neighbors and unimaginative city permitting and zoning officials.

It’s a primal instinct to want to own your own land. People have this unconscious fear of being converted into landless serfs again. But unless you have some specific use for the land, land ownership just means you’ve earned the right to pay property taxes like clockwork.

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Yea. We have some deer. But we let our neighbors hunt on it. In return they keep an eye on the place and cut trees across the road in if we let them know we are coming up. He got a 12 point buck on our property in recent history (last 10 years or so).

I have been interested in owning some land since my teenage days. That’s because I like doing stuff outside, such as camping, fishing, hiking, etc. Unfortunately, I haven’t really done a lot of that simply due to where we live and how busy our lives have become. No doubt, I’m sure I could make the time, and my laziness has gotten the best of me (as shown by my ever expanding waistline).

I have no fear of the apocalypse or whatever. I just want to not have to pay $40 a night to go setup my tent in a field, around a bunch of other people doing the same thing. I want to be able to go to my land, stay up and drink beers with friends and family as late as I want, for “free.”

Paying a couple grand in taxes per year for a plot of land within a couple hours from my home does not bother me. At that point, it’s up to me to get the value out of the taxes I pay.

You could pay anyone a whole lot less than $2k a year and go do this on their big piece of land whenever you want. And you won’t feel the need to do it every year.

What are the “headaches associated with vacationing?” you mention in the OP?


Airfare, hotel, rental car, “scheduling,” travel in general, etc. If we had a piece of land with at least a shed on it, we could lock up our tent and supplies in there and only have to bring a cooler with beer/water and a cooler with food. The rest of it could stay on the land. Makes it easy to stay for a few days and leave, or plan to stay a few days and then leave early if we wanted. Meaning, leaving home is a simple job and leaving the land is a simple job.

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It’s interesting how the grass is always greener. I’ve always lived in rural or suburban-ish areas. My idea vacation getaway is an apartment in NYC.


I’m going to be playing the disaster recovery game of relaxed permits and zoning due to CA wildfires , to stick some RVs on land that would never normally allow it

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I remember there being an old FW thread about buying state land in Alaska. You could even use a credit card to make the purchase. Not sure if the state is still doing it…The land was pretty much inaccessible