Thursday, April 2, 2009

Finding the Farm

Once we decided that we wanted to buy some farm real estate, the next question was how to find a place that would suit us. This is one place where the web came in handy. A couple of Google searches yielded several sites which seemed to specialize in the kind of property we were in the market for. But my favorite was United Country, where I could search nationally, regionally, by state, or browse listings through specific offices.

To be useful at all for hunting, I figured we would need an absolute minimum of 40 acres, so Ii limited the search to tracts larger than that. The price was tricky, since I wasn't sure where to start: setting our limit too low filtered all the good places out, while setting it too high showed me places that made my mouth water--but which were simply out of reach. So it rapidly became clear that we needed to figure out how much we could afford.

"Afford" is a rather elastic term in real estate, isn't it? It often means "how much can you borrow?" But in this case we made up our minds that we didn't want to borrow any money and have a mortgage on the place. so we had to figure out how much cash we could scrape together between us.

To spread the pain of this kind of purchase, and to put this all on a proper legal footing, we organized an LLC (maybe more about that another time!), and anybody in the family could invest in it and be part-owner. What each member was willing to invest gave us the total we had to work with, and I started searching the websites for properties in our price range, with (a) enough acres, (b) a live-able house, and good hunting prospects. Once I identified some properties, I contacted the agents, and spent some Saturdays riding around north-central Missouri looking at farms. And this place northwest of Macon stood out as the pick of the litter!

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