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Questions from Owner-Builders about Where to Buy Land
with replies by Thomas J. Elpel


Questions Policy
      To avoid re-writing my book Living Homes for every person that comes along, please read the book before you write to me. Then, if you have any questions beyond what is presented in the text, then yes, please do write and ask away! I may be a little slow to answer, since I have more than a few distractions, but I will get back to you in time, and I will answer your question to the best of my abilities. Please let me know if I can post your letter and name to the website. Thanks!

      Also, if you have a better answer to a question than I do, or additional useful information, then please send me a note through our E-mail Contact Page, and I'll add your commentary to the web page. Questions and answers on these pages will help guide revisions of future editions of Living Homes.

      For your convenience (and mine) here is a mortage calculator to figure out your monthly payments when buying property. Ideally you want to pay down as much as you can upfront, and pay as much as you can every month, to avoid losing too much money towards interest payments.

Where can we find cheap land with good water?

      I really love your ideas and can't wait to read your books. We plan to move this summer from southern Arizona to possibly eastern Oregon or Idaho, wherever we can find cheap land with good question is, where do you think are the best areas? It seems that our wilderness is quickly disappearing. Thanks, Rob

Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.


      Land-wise, a "good place to live" depends on a lot of factors, the most important of which is usually dependent on where you grew up. Most people are strongly attached to a climate and scenery similar to what they experienced extensively as children, and may not be content in a new environment--even if it seems spectacular and exciting when they first arrive. If you moved around a lot as child then you may not be so anchored to any one place.

      Personally, I spent much of my childhood in what is now the Silicon Valley of California, but every summer we came to Montana for three months to be near family. That was the time when we got out and played in the woods and creeks and mountains. Today I still have the strongest attachments to Montana, and I love living here. But I'm not much of a winter person since I didn't grow up experiencing winter at all. We also have orange trees, a fig tree and a banana tree (among other things) growing year-round in our greenhouse to help fill the connection to the California part of my childhood.

      As far as wilderness goes, you are correct that we are rapidly losing it, and one of the greatest contributing factors is that so many people want to get their own piece of wilderness to build a house on before it is all gone. Here in Montana we also have some incredible scenic vistas, and most of them are being destroyed by people trying to build houses in places where they can get a really good view. So I would encourage you to think very carefully about where you choose to develop. If you can be part of a small community near wilderness then that would be much better than trying to be out in the middle of your own private wilderness.

      I hope this helps!


Thomas J. Elpel

Dear Thomas,
      Thank you kindly for your reply. Your thoughts and concerns are very well taken. I've always tried to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem and you have again made some points I've not considered. We have a lot in common, I'm sure. It's always a pleasure to meet another person who comes from a place of "whats best for everyone?" rather than "what's best for me?" and "how can I get more of it?". At 50 years old, I've travelled quite a bit, but now with a wife and 3 small children, we are looking for a life on the edge of civilization where we can live the REAL "good life". I've always taken the family camping and hiking and I'm so happy to hear the kids ask me regularly "when are we going to the mountains again, daddy?" Arizona is nice, but water is very scarce. Montana is surely too cold, so we'll probably choose somewhere in between. I'm certain I'll have more questions after reading your material, and who knows, perhaps we can talk over a campfire sometime. Blessings from our family to yours, Rob

How can I get informed about real estate before buying land?

      Presently I'm trying to gather resources in purchasing land in the east coast. I've been surfing the web and looking for books that will prepare me in the laws, zones, flood areas, taxes, liens etc and I can't come up with one. As a novice in this venture I came across your website and decided to email you in hopes of possibly directing me in what I need to look for. To be a little specific, I'm interested in purchasing a few acres of land that has wooded areas and/or land where the fields are flat. I'm interested in having this land as an investment. Maybe you can direct me in what I need to do and advise me on reading materials.


      Thanks for writing. I don't have a lot of detailed information, but enough to get you started. First, any time you work with a piece of undeveloped land, be sure to take the time to imagine how your actions will impact the land down the road, 10, 100, 1000 years down the road. Even if you just buy the property and resell it, you become part of the place and it becomes part of you. What happens on the land a thousand years from now is partly dependent on what you do with it today.

      I realize that you are looking for land in the east, but I would still recommend you read the "Welcome to the West" guide offered by the Western Sustainability Exchange.

      For an overview of the steps in buying land, and everything you need to keep in mind, there are about five really good pages included in Carla Emery's Old Fashioned Recipe Book. I hope this helps!


Thomas J. Elpel

Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.
Check out Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.

      Looking for life-changing resources? Check out these books by Thomas J. Elpel:

Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams.
Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, and the Blossoming of Human Spirit
to Reality
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
in Nature
Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
in a Day
Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids

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