This Space for Rent

The joy of real estate shopping

We've finally got enough money to start thinking about buying a chunk of land somewhere for a summer camp, and aside from the expected debates about location (I am, not surprisingly, really keen on land north of the 49th parallel; the best would rather have land that's closer to P*rtl*nd, so that the trips up to build the camphouse won't be a Canadian Death March. My suggestions of "We could move south build a camp close to Montreal (rubber-tired metro, ex-CN suburban electrification, commuter trains) Toronto (metro, trolleycars, commuter trains) or Halifax" have, oddly enough, not been greeted with great enthusiasm. There's something about a 2500 mile drive to the summer camp that raises the suspicion that the plan is less of a summer camp and more of a permanent residence in a free country, but I'm not sure why) I've come to the distressing realization that the real estate agents in Washington State really don't want you to be able to look up their offerings on the computer, but instead want you to sign some sort of real estate contract with them before they'll let you at their MLS listings in any sort of usable manner.

We're not sure whether we want small buildable lots or acreage (or if we can even afford acreage; if, for example, I wanted to buy a chunk of land on Vashon Island [convenient to Seattle, at least until the PNW economy collapses to the point where they can't run the ferryboats anymore], I'd be looking at at spending at least US$20,000/acre. It gets cheaper further south, but the lot sizes get larger, so unless you're a .com millionaire or a member of the Weyerhauser family, the purchase price gets a little iffy) but the online searches aren't going to go out of their way to make it easy to find the land. One of the big real estate companies has a feature-ridden website that gives you a nice map where you can click on a region and get a list of houses for sale, but if you want to look for land it gives you the much friendlier "city:" text entry box, since, presumably, nobody would be interested in looking for land for sale unless they already knew exactly where that land was located.

My grand scheme is to get some land and build a summer camp on it for under US$70,000; a nice little earthy-crunchy strawbale house would be a nice thing to get away to on those hot (and, thanks to global warming, getting hotter) summer days and it would still let us roll our house onto the market and (maybe; Vancouver, BC is a strong preference for the members of my family who don't like snow, and it's a town that's got a very west-coast style housing bubble going on) buy a house north of the 49th parallel after the best and the CIC agree that life would be better in the land of long o's. But that pretty much means that the land would have to be <US$30,000 to leave me even close to being able to pay for permits, a basement, and the huge pile of wood, strawbales, galvanized metal, and plaster I'd need to build a summer house.

Perhaps it's time to buy another lottery ticket. It would certainly be easier than trying to roll some of my IRA money into a self-directed IRA which could buy the land, then lease it to me (a terrific opportunity for a split personality), because that's the only other way I'll be able to break the US$30,000 barrier.