Oh, Land. So complicated.
Now that I'm actually back in the realm of believing that it's totally possible for me to purchase rural property (after a mid-30's faith crash that centered on "there is no way I'll ever be able to afford this"), and now that I live in Seattle and not Portland, I've spent a significant amount of time - online and in person - exploring Central Washington.
I've been focusing on the area around Tieton, WA for a while for lots of reasons but mostly because of the ways the group Mighty Tieton is working to revitalize the town - it seems like an exciting project to be a part of. However, after visiting twice and spending lots of time looking online at property opportunities in the area, I've realized that I don't think I'm going to find the right type of property in the Tieton area - most close-in land is already orchards or small-acreage farm-ettes, and larger acreage is delightfully more rural remote but with challenging to undesirable access.
During a camping trip over Memorial Day Weekend there was a day-long exploration of many of the small towns aorund Yakima (Moxee and Zillah and Sunnyside and Mabton, etc.) and then a visit to a 10-acre parcel in the West Valley of Yakima that I can't get out of my mind.
This particular piece of land has several things going for it (and a few non-ideals):
* the east property line borders the Audubon-owned Hoegar Preserve - no development in it's future ...
- beyond the Hoegar Preserve? The southern edge of the US Army Yakima Training Center. The property owner says he only rarely sees a random jeep on the access road and there is periodic munitions noise but it's definitely at a distance
* the south property line borders the 10-acre parcel owned by the owner of this parcel. He and his wife have their home on the property complete with 3 romping dogs and a chicken coop. He seemed to be a regular guy - a bit like my dad in his khaki shorts, t-shirt and tennis shoes. No camo, hunter orange, or giant-wheeled pickups in sight. Me? Judgemental? Hell yes - this is my dream property we're talking about here.
* the price is less than $60k and the owner is willing to carry the contract
- I still don't have a pile of cash waiting to make a down payment right now, but an owner contract is way easier than traditional financing for what the banks consider recreational property (but which I consider a non-negotiable need)
* again ... the owner of this parcel owns the parcel next door. Right of first refusal in the contract anyone? (I'll build my land empire yet ...)
* it's located off a rural county road on a well-maintained private gravel road, in an area where the parcels are 10-acres minimum. The road dead-ends at the end of the owner's property next door and both he and the owner of the parcel across from him have no desire to apply for an easement to extend the road.
- the parcel just north and those across the road are undeveloped - who knows what might go in someday? Of course the fantasy is that the 10 acres on the north side will eventually be sold ... to me! :)
* electric and phone are at the road. Water is not in, but the parcel just south has a 550 foot well, and a parcel 10 acres NW has a 360 foot well - that at least gives a pretty reasonable idea of what to budget for drilling a well.
* it's 10 acres
- it's only 10 acres
The opportunity to wander these ten quiet acres has opened up new thought processes for me. This isn't the type of property that is a natural destination for some type of eco-tourism venture. It's not outside the realm of possiblity but it doesn't immediately strike me as the perfect location for it. What it does make me crave is a wide deck overlooking the hills and valley of the preserve, a cool breeze, and the sound of that breeze through the grasses. And maybe the smell of grilled steak and perfectly baked potatoes being prepared for my dinner. A girl's gotta eat ...
The drive home took me through the Thorp area which is also beautiful and peaceful in a much more bucolic, river-y sense. I've always imagined that a stream or creek on the property would be dreamy, but what I'm discovering is that it's going to be difficult to find this particular type of landscape in an affordable piece larger than 5 acres. Affordable is the key word here - there are plenty of larger parcels, but they've got a premium pricetag due to the location, usually right on the edge of touristy mountain areas or within commuting distance to the city. 8-10 acres seems like my minimum, so a 5-acre piece within my price range might be beautiful but it just wouldn't fit the plan. Plus the commute from Portland clocks in at around 4 hours including a drive over the mountains, and that's a big blocker in my desire for my friends to consider the property easily accessible. (Yakima? about 3 hours from Portland, and an easy route: I-84 East to Hwy 97 North)
Though I've spent 20 years imagining all sorts of self-supporting ventures for the property (who remembers the sheep plan? Alpacas? Culinary herbs?), I'm working on identifying if that's what I really want to do with my life or if it's just the only path I could see to be able to own property. Certainly at 20 it seemed difficult to imagine ever having the money to purchase a house to live in, let alone imagining being able to afford a second home that was just for pleasure. Even at 40 (almost 40) it seems like a daunting goal, but I can see how I could make it happen. Over the years I've often lamented that if I could just own property - a place I could drive to on a whim, to camp, to get away... something that was mine and private and available whenever I wanted or needed some peace - that it would be enough. As I move towards turning the dream into reality, I'm realizing that it indeed may be enough.