Monday, April 27, 2009

The Farm as Family Project

We were looking for an investment that didn't depend on the vagaries of the stock market. One option, of course, is real estate. If you own land it never simply evaporates (unless it's in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans or something), so it's never worth nothing. Or so they say. Several of us in the family felt this way, and we'd been thinking about it (separately) for a while.

I also wanted a place to hunt. Hunting deer on public land in Missouri isn't bad, but it's inconsistent, and you always have the feeling that you're hunting the spot where somebody just got the big buck -- or worse, that some other (less careful) hunter will be shooting from the other side side of the thicket. Besides, landowners get a nice break on deer (and turkey) tags to hunt game on their own property!

Deer and turkey are the major game in northern Missouri, but with proper land management the area is good for quail, too. Even ring-necked pheasant can be encouraged (though for those big birds, the closer to Iowa the better!).

My in-laws needed a place to retire. The ideal spot would be closer to their children and grandchildren (but not right in anybody's lap, perhaps). They would be more comfortable in the countryside than in a city. The house needed to be decent, but not that large; one story, big garage, cheap to heat, modern kitchen. It had to have a good spot for a garden.

Since "retirement" was part of the plan, it meant that we didn't want a real, working farm with all the maintenance and chores and daily hard work implied by the term! We didn't really want to get into the farming business of planting and harvesting crops or caring for livestock. Ideally we wanted a place that would basically pay for itself (or at least cover the taxes) with little or no work on our part. Finding a place with most of the acreage enrolled in the CRP program (more on that another time!) fit the bill very well.

In the back of our minds was the future option of putting another cabin or two on the place, so more of us could stay there and not be in each other's hair too much. And that meant it couldn't be too small a farm; we wound up with 100 acres, split by a paved road, with two or three potential building scattered around.

In all there were seven of us interested in pooling our resources to buy together. Combining our assets meant that we could get a bigger, nicer place than any of us could afford alone. But it also complicated the arrangements a bit, especially since the amounts we could invest were equal. After doing some reading on various options (incorporation, joint ownership, etc.), we decided to form a "limited liability company" (LLC). It cost us a few hundred bucks (using to put the paperwork together, but after that the paperwork and tax process is quite simple, and we don't need to worry about complicated estate law or probate tying the place up. Since we thought (and still think) that we might eventually own more than one property, we called the new company "Wind Hills Properties LLC" -- drop us a line!

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