A Place of Your Own Part Three: Get a Plan

It is a simple, undeniable fact that most of us aspire to own land. We all want a place in the country, a get away, a retirement retreat, a legacy to leave the kids. And while most of us want, unfortunately, most of us won’t.

We all have the desire. We all have the ability to dream big dreams that start out, “Someday I’m going to own…..” So, why is it that most people never seem to get past dreaming about land ownership and actually pull the trigger? Is it fear? Is it lack of knowledge? Is it lack of finances? Maybe, but I think the real reason is that most people have a difficult time translating their dreams into concrete actions. They know what they want, but they don’t know how to get it.

I frequently have folks who come to me looking for land, and I try to pry out of them what it is specifically they want to own. They often lament that they wish they had bought the tract they looked at 3 years ago. These folks are looking for a dream tract, but have no idea what one looks like. They can’t translate their subjective dream into objective evaluation criteria. They are hoping for a “eureka” moment. They are waiting for a tract of land to offer an in-person emotional experience that matches the one in their dreams. Well, sometimes that happens, but usually not.

So, how is it that some people figure out how to overcome obstacles and live the dream? Those folks know the secret. They know what seasoned land investors know. The key to getting from dreams to reality is to have an effective plan to get you there. You have to plan to own land. Otherwise, you’ll spend the rest of your life dreaming and miss out on actually living the dream.

Here is my blueprint for a successful land ownership plan.

  1. Define EXACTLY what you want and write it down. Include land characteristics like water (creeks, streams, or ponds), timber, road frontage, and topography. Think about things like location. How far is too far? Make sure you are clear on how much land you want. Do you want pasture or timberland? Do you want a ready made play place or do you want a fixer upper where you can go piddle?
  2. Be honest with yourself about how much you can afford. Discuss it with your spouse, sibling, parent, or whoever you’re going into this with. Write it down and stick to it.
  3. Determine how much time you can spend in the search. Be honest here, as well. You’ll get out of this process exactly what you put into it. You have got to spend time in the field. You are going to get some mud on your boots. You might get lucky and find the tract of your dreams on the first day, but don’t plan on it
  4. Be clear about why you want to own land. What is the purpose? How will you use it? Could it change over time? Figure it out, and write it down.
  5. Get smart. Allocate some time in your plan to educate yourself on land. Read. Learn. Talk to people who have been successful. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be in any decision you make.

Why go through all of this? Why write it down? The reason is simple. If you can’t write your ownership criteria down, then you don’t complete understand what you want, and it is hard to find something, if you don’t know what you are looking for. A written plan is a control document that will keep you focused on the goal. It is effective in the same way a family budget or a business plan is. It keeps your eyes on the prize. It gives you guidance and evaluation criteria that can snap you back to reality when you get emotionally attracted to a tract of land that is way outside of your budget, or beyond your desired drive time, or lacks the dogwoods and native azaleas you so desperately wanted. A written plan is a commitment to do something. It is the roadmap that will help you turn your dreams into reality.

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