WANT LIST REVISITED:
As you see, we originally wanted 20 or more acres of land. Realistically, after walking 20 acres of land several times when in Virginia looking at properties, we realized there was no way that we would be able to maintain this much land when we were of "retirement" age. We wouldn't be able to maintain the property during visits from out of state. For a quick reference, an acre of land is roughly the size of a professional football field. You may be thinking, no problem that's perfect. You may think, buy a riding mower, etc. I sure did, but then I realized, 20+ football fields! And not just 20+ football fields, but WOODED football fields! ... Not just wooded football fields, but wooded football fields that continue to grow even if you're maintaining it as efficiently as you can! There was no way for me personally to maintain this type of space.
Mid-Atlantic or Bust... So we thought. While this area of the country was beautiful and I would love to be there, we found that once we really dug into it, that it just wasn't for us. Being from Texas, moving to the Mid-Atlantic region sounded so good. The great seafood and weather really had us wrapped up in this region. The weather is fairly consistent, it gets cold, but not too cold. It does get hot and humid, but nothing compared to what we're used to on the Gulf of Mexico. The one thing that the Mid-Atlantic was going to lack, friends and family. And while we knew people who lived in the area, they weren't the support we needed. We ended up sacrificing our want of weather for our need for support. While Michigan may not get hot, it does get damn cold! But we gave up our weather requirement for family. Most of my family lives in Michigan.
Mountains and Oceans are majestic places, but it's just scenery. When you're of retirement age and older, do you see your self as a mountain climber? I don't see my self as a stair climber much in my future, so mountain terrain was definitely out of the question. We had looked at parcels of land that were on sides of mountains and slopes. While pretty to look at, they weren't very much fun to walk up and down several times a day. The ocean has it's own hazards too. Insurance for anything near an ocean can be increased for hurricanes. And while hurricanes only blow through during parts of the year, the increased planning and measures required just weren't fun to think about dealing with.
Water sources on the property still made it to our needs list, but as you'll notice, we removed rivers from that. A river is unpredictable and flooding is bound to happen. Rain may not fall on your property, but the river can still flood from events upstream. Flood planes are hard to avoid near rivers, and thus flood insurance itself is a requirement. Some properties with beautiful rivers are not even deemed as buildable plots because of the flood plane situation. Rivers got a quick boot from our list when we saw just how quickly and how much of your land gets swept away over time.
UPDATE: For Water sources, much more planning is required! We nixed it all together as certain states require certain measures to be taken with any water source or wetland on your property. We found out the hard way and removed this from our needs list. We purchased 10 acres with no water features, but at least this way I can put in a pond if I choose at a later date.
Access to a main road is critical for us. Parcels can be buried several parcels deep and you'd have no legal access to your own property. You would need to talk with neighbors and see if they'd allow you to put in a legal right of way or a R.O.W. as it's seen on many real estate listings.
Public water adds value to the parcel, and because of this we opted to not look for properties with public water and sewer. Prices dropped significantly because of this, but it also took us out of subdivisions which is what we wanted anyway. We did not want to be tied to HOA regulations and fees for our land, but that's a whole other issue we won't get into right now. Septic and well systems can be found usually with properties with older structures, but then you have to have them retested and that costs money, and if there are problems, that would cost money, so we opted to also look for properties with out any water and septic systems.
Old woods... Very hard to find! We loved the idea of being surrounded by nice old oaks and other century old trees. Realistically, this is not something that is easily found any longer. Most wooded areas have been logged many times over again. This was an area we knew we wouldn't be able to find very easily. Even properties we had looked at and considered were mainly made available because the logging companies were selling off their lands. It's hard to find a good oak these days!
Historical areas, this one was tricky and something I threw into the mix because of my treasure hunting history. This was never really a requirement, but a "want" so it was on the list. However, while you could find a historical property or in an area where history was plentiful, you will end up paying for such a value. The resale value of history can skyrocket at a moments notice. The history of an area won't ever change. It can't be undone. Paying for it on the other hand... well that's where you have to make a choice, as it too can not be undone.
This one was hard to narrow down. We wanted a structure on the property that we could renovate or use as temporary quarters while we worked the land. Unfortunately, a lot of these would ultimately have to be condemned or torn down anyway because they were not in a salvageable condition. It would end up costing more to tear it down and remove the materials than it would be to purchase a property without it. Be careful here, because I noticed a lot of listings like to use these uninhabitable structures as a ploy to 'make you look' and think (like we did) that this would be a great project. Unfortunately, NONE were ever to today's building codes and not worth considering. Be careful! We also found that your insurance rates could increase as well as property taxes because there is technically a structure on the property. Why pay more?
UPDATE: We ended up selling our vacant property because the costs to build from scratch (in our situation with the state) would have cost us 3x more than buying land with a livable home on it. Weigh these options very carefully! In most cases, people get stuck in these situations and can't get themselves out. We were lucky we had the means to make this mistake, but trust me it was a heartbreaking reality we discovered the hard way. And I DID MY RESEARCH!
Weather is something that's unpredictable. We did want something that stayed mild as far as temps. We wanted to be in an area that had average temps in the 80's, low humidity, you know... a perfect world. That limited the locations quite a bit, but obviously things change. In recent years, the areas we looked at had experienced historical snow fall, historical flooding, and historical hurricane activity that also included historical record damage. While we wanted history, this is not what we were looking for! Weather and patterns are definitely something you need to look at! Don't just blindly pick any location for your future home!
Now you see how the NEED list was widdled down to what it was. You've really got to know what you want before you find out what you truly need. Remember, your budget will differ from ours and will directly impact what you can afford in terms of those wants.