In general, the word “improvement” means something that enhances value or utility. In real estate, an improvement is defined as a specific and permanent change to a property that enhances that property’s value, utility, or desirability. In real estate lingo, that usually means a building like a home, office building, shop, or garage. However, when we talk about land, improvements can take many forms which, more often than not, don’t involve buildings. If you are looking to “improve” your property, here are a few ideas that will not only significantly enhance your personal enjoyment, but also the value and desirability of your property.
Drilling a well and adding power – The distance to available power and depth to drill for water can vary, and the costs associated with both can run into the thousands of dollars. Nonetheless, both can provide creature comforts that will make trips to your property much more enjoyable. Let’s face it – no one likes lugging water and tending a generator.
Building internal roads – Providing access for vehicle traffic on your property is essential. The best internal road systems involve a combination of all weather roads for two wheel drive vehicles and a network of ATV and walking trails. Remember that road building doesn’t have to involve a bulldozer. A woods grinder and other less invasive equipment can create serviceable roads quickly and inexpensively.
Adding a lake or pond – Lake building is never cheap and is often difficult to get permitted, but it is always a good addition. If you do build a lake or pond, make sure you budget for stocking and ongoing management. You’ll get endless personal enjoyment from wetting a hook, plus your property will get a value boost that often exceeds the cost of construction. In fact, a pond almost always adds more value to your property than it costs to build.
Enhancing Wildlife Habitat – Whether you are a hunter or not, having abundant wildlife on your property is a benefit. Just seeing deer standing in the woods or a turkey strutting in the field makes you feel closer to nature….and further from the city. You don’t need to spend endless dollars on high priced feeders and exotic plantings. Check with your state wildlife agency for recommendations on ways to enhance native plant species, attract wildlife, and establish wildlife habitat management plans.
Adding fields and open spaces – Everything from a small clearing to a large field adds character and value to your property. Any area with a concentration of small trees or brush is a potential field or wildlife opening. In many cases the transformation can be done with a tractor, good rotary mower and a disk harrow. When larger equipment is needed, be sure to check with your state forestry commission. In many states, these agencies can offer budget priced land services to help with the process.
Fencing and gates – In addition to controlling access, attractive fencing and a nice gate can really dress up the road frontage and provide an aesthetic “boost” to your property value. Plus, these additions make your property look “lived in” and discourage trespassing and poaching when you’re not around.
Building a small cabin – The operative word here is small. Just make sure your cabin fits the property and provides comfortable accommodations. Building a 5000 square foot home in the center of a 200 acre hunting parcel just doesn’t make sense and it may not “improve” your property, especially if it looks like it belongs at the country club more than it looks like it belongs in the country. Comfortable and cozy is the best bet.
Whatever improvements you decide for your property, apply some common sense. If it enhances your enjoyment, then it will probably enhance the perceived value of your property for potential buyers, if and when you decide to sell. When you spread the cost of any improvement across the acreage you own, you’ll find that it comes down to only a few dollars per acre, with a resulting value improvement that is often measured in hundreds of dollars per acre. In every case, if you focus your improvements on enhancing usability, personal enjoyment, aesthetics, natural resources, and wildlife, you can’t go wrong.