When you are looking for the best property location or the best communities, due diligence at the broadest scale requires some research. Narrow your search by using online tools. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts tool provides county statistics as well as demographic data for cities and towns with greater than 25,000 people. The Census Bureau data set just gives you the bare minimum: population size and density, ethnicity, education, and income level.

Frankly, I’m looking for something a little more interesting when it comes to looking at (relatively) boring demographic information. Check out a search engine called CLR Search. Here, you can research demographic information and explore community attributes with interactive maps. CLR uses Nielson Claritas for its demographic data and Onboard Informatics to power its neighborhood search based on lifestyle values of importance.

There are two features I really like about the CLR Search site. First, I think they offer a valuable tool in being able to compare communities of interest side-by-side. This is handy when you’ve got your “perfect” location narrowed down and need a little help forming a demographic snapshot in your mind. Are the communities growing? Here’s where you can find out.

The other thing I really like is the Lifestyle Segmentation Tool. Here’s how CLR describes it: “The segmentation system defines every zip code and place in the U.S. in terms of 66 distinct lifestyle types using ground-breaking segmentation techniques.”


Not only is this tool fun to play around with, but it provides useful information based on the idea that people living in the same neighborhoods tend to have similar lifestyles. So you can search for the lifestyle traits that suit you. To take it one step further, they’ll even show you the real estate listings in the areas with the highest concentration of that lifestyle segment. Pretty cool. Check it out and let me know what you think.

So, you think you want to find an idyllic piece of property that is “off the beaten path”? Buying remote recreational property or living in a remote area may sound really nice, but finding rural property that’s away from it all can be difficult.

Here’s an interesting little factoid. According to NewScientist magazine, new maps of the world’s connectedness reveal many areas once thought of as remote and inaccessible are not as far from civilization as you might think. They report that “less than 10% of the world’s land is more than 48 hours of ground-based travel from the nearest city (of at least 50,000 people).”


There are some things you should consider before you buy rural property and pack it all in to move to the country. Read post

Property Due Diligence

May 21, 2009

When you’re looking for information about how to buy land or choose a property location, whether it’s for investment purposes, building a second home, or a little R&R (recreation and retirement), you have to undergo some research. How much or how little research you undertake is up to you. Since your real estate investment is likely the largest investment you’ll ever make, plan to take more control of the land buying process by educating yourself. After all, this is time that you are investing in YOU. The more you learn, the better off you will be when it’s time to negotiate. Perform your research on 3 scales: broad, local, and site-specific.

Broad-scale research starts with narrowing your location search to a particular region or state. When you’re looking for property, there are a number of factors to consider, of course. Climate is a big factor for me, but you might be looking for factors related to occupation or family proximity. You probably will want to consider market appreciation as well. I think we can all agree that buying land and recreational property is a good investment. But some markets will always be better than others. I’m from the Inland Northwest where there are a lot of lakes, rivers and streams. Lakefront property is prized for its development and recreational value, and as we know, they’re not making any more lakefront. You might also want to find out what states are gaining population. What states are losing people? What counties in each state are good or bad?

Once you have chosen a state or an area, you can start your local research into buying that perfect parcel of land or recreational property. Affordability and access might dominate your land search at this stage. For example, you might require a piece of property within a convenient location of good schools and work. Perhaps amenities such as hiking trails, public boat launches, and golf courses are what you’re looking for. Is the local economy healthy? Is it dependent on one major employer? Consider the outcome of owning real estate in a market where the only employer in town closes up and leaves town.

Finally, you found it. You found a location you really want to invest in. Now your education really begins with site-specific research necessary to buy the land you want.  Due diligence is that research process. A buyer investigates obvious issues, tests, disclosures and representations, and verifies the condition of a property before closing on a sale. The research or due diligence process is the responsibility of the buyer (you), not the real estate agent, the appraiser, or your lawyer. Due diligence guarantees that you have the best opportunity to verify the property is what you want.

I have some really good tools for conducting your broad-scale research, but you’ll have to read my next post to find out. Site-specific due diligence is my specialty. If you want more information, stay tuned and keep reading. I’ll be including some of this information in my blog until my book, The Complete Land GuideTM is finished. Until then, see you next time…

The Land Buyer's GuidebookWas your land purchase a nightmare? Do you wish you could do it all again, only this time without all the headaches? Buying recreational property or rural land can be an overwhelming experience, especially when building your own home on the most perfect piece of rural land you can find. Your real estate agent may not be the most knowledgeable person to turn to for help. So rather than relying completely on your agent, “take charge, ask questions, and insist on answers before you buy.” So says Marte Cliff in her book, The Land Buyer’s Guidebook.

I’ve worked with some really outstanding realtors. But, the real estate industry has plenty of room for unscrupulous or inexperienced real estate agents clamoring for your business. You can’t assume that your real estate agent has accurate information about the property you want to buy. In fact, when it comes to buying recreational property, vacant land, or Idaho property in a rural or remote area, Marte suggests that you protect yourself by not telling your agent anything you don’t want the seller to know. She also offers excellent advice on things like negotiating your purchase and reviewing your title commitment as part of your due diligence list.

The Land Buyer’s Guidebook can save you thousands of dollars on your next purchase of vacant land or recreational property and help you avoid the costly mistakes (like not checking property boundaries) that are so often made by people who want to build their own home. Just knowing what questions to ask can point you in the right direction and save you money in the long run. Marte provides 26 critical questions to ask as you investigate buying land for your new home. Does the parcel have legal access? Can I get fire insurance? Is this land “open range”? She also discusses when it’s appropriate to ask the seller to cover certain costs, saving you even more money.

If you’re thinking about building building a house on vacant land, make sure you do your homework to avoid any hidden costs. The land you love may not be a legal parcel or there may be covenants that restrict your building site. Marte’s experience buying and selling northern Idaho land and property, and building homes on vacant land gives her a unique perspective when it comes to living in a rural environment. She really helps you think about the services you’ll need and asks questions that shed light on hidden development costs.

Marte’s style is credible, personable, wise, and respectful. She is an advocate for buyers becoming more aware of the pitfalls associated with purchasing recreational property,  building a home on vacant land, and living in a rural area. Her real life experience with clients and the way she conveys her knowledge through story telling is a gift. The personal stories she conveys are poignant and drive home her message. Even the best agent can make mistakes. Take responsibility for your land purchase by doing your due diligence.

Welcome to the maiden voyage of Land and Soul. As you continue to read, what you’ll find are topics that interest me. I hope they’ll interest you as well. These topics change as I get older and either  grow weary of the same tired information or have little to gain from their pursuit. On the whole, my primary interests fall into a few categories.

First, I’m interested in educating people about land issues. Based on my experience, I’ve noticed that private landowners know very little about the bundle of property rights they actually own and ways to make government programs work for them. Better yet, how can landowners get the government or other organizations to pay them money while still retaining ownership? I’ve also realized over time that few people really understand how to find the information they need when it comes to buying land. They depend too much on their Realtor for all the answers. I believe buyers should take more control of the buying process by becoming more educated about land itself.

Just so you know, I’m not interested in land development. I certainly understand it and I think there’s a place for it. It’s just not part of what I promote. Actually, let me qualify that by saying I can stand behind limited development so long as it offers a cutting edge solution to sustainable living, or it isn’t dishonestly marketed as having great conservation benefits when lands are set aside that otherwise have little development value.  So, I’m going to be writing about buying land and what I think people should know before, during, and after they buy it. I’ve got a ton of experience in this area, but my focus was never on subdividing, building a home, or otherwise developing land. When it’s appropriate, I will refer readers to information that I think is credible in these areas.

Second, I’m interested in conservation. I’ve built a career in wildlife habitat conservation, and there’s a whole world out there that people know very little about. I’d like to share that world with my readers. Mitigation of fish and wildlife habitat losses, specifically, is interesting but it’s a very small niche and doesn’t go far enough in sparking my need for something much more meaningful. Where things really get interesting is in the world of biodiversity conservation. There are some great things happening around the world in this area and new markets are being developed. For many of us, going “green” is really a baby step to something much, much bigger. I want to show readers what that looks like.

Third, I’m interested in ways of fostering an understanding of indigenous communities, traditional land sovereignty, and cultural land use practices. Specifically, I want to explore the role conservation, development and tourism play in benefiting and/or impacting native cultures as well as ways of promoting sustainable economic alternatives by and for native cultures and communities.

Finally, I’m always interested in fun and interesting ways that ideas are presented to appeal to a wide variety of learning styles. So, whenever I come across something I think you’ll enjoy, I’ll share it with you!