Raw Land for Retirement

Toddi Gutner

A few months ago I blogged about whether my husband and I should buy a vacation home. The idea was that we will use it in the next ten years as our home in retirement. One of the blog readers suggested buying raw land instead. Not a bad idea, I thought.

Then an email showed up in my in box that described “tips on buying land for a second home in the country: Common mistakes to avoid and essential features land buyers should look for.” Of course, it was pitch from a representative of a private home community, Quechee Lakes, Vt., that would appeal to second home buyers turned retirees. But the tips still had value to me.

I figured if I was thinking about the transition to my retirement then some portion of the 77 million other baby boomers might be thinking the same. So with them in mind, I thought to address what buyers should look for - and avoid - when buying a country house lot.

First, a few questions you might ask: Is a heavily wooded lot a wise choice? Will I tire of shade, and will that affect my gardening? What about a lot close to a lake? Will I incur more maintenance fees due to the proximity of water and have a future mildew/moisture issue?

You’ll also want to consider some of these tips:

* The importance of the lot's orientation and location. You’ll want to think about what geographic direction your future second home will face and consider the lot's exposure to the sun; southern exposures give more sunlight and warmth, but western exposures afford lovely sunsets. You must also be aware of the lot's proximity to lifestyle services.

* Access to necessities. Will the lot have access to electricity, public drinking water and town sewer lines? If not, have you considered the expense of hooking up to town electricity, installing your own well and maintaining a private septic system?

* The value of a second opinion. You should be an informed consumer and hire a civil engineer to assess the lot. Civil engineers offer an objective opinion and can address your site layout expectations. For instance, if this property could handle a specific home orientation or a driveway placed "just so", and the condition of the land and drainage issues.