Finding Good Land Cheap

A few blogs back I told you about a nice section of woods-and-field farm land around the corner from me that was up for sale. I thought the price was high at around $1,000 an acre. Those who responded to the matter said that, compared to where they live, the price was cheap.

I mentioned this to a guy I know who sells real estate. He told me that real estate in Central New York is priced comparatively less than many other places in the country, but taxes are a whole lot more here. I asked how other states raised the money they needed to run the government. He replied that they don’t need as much to run the government in other states because the government is not so big and wasteful. This is, after all, New York State.

So I looked at the assessed value of my little home on 1.5 acres out in the countryside. My property is assessed just shy of $40,000. When I figure in the equalization rate, the actual full value of the property comes out to $86,500. Based on that value, my school taxes, which I just paid, were $800. My property taxes are around $1,200. So I’m paying a couple thousand bucks for taxes each year on this little homestead.

I’m curious to know how that compares to other rural places in the U.S. I’m not asking for personal info. I’m just wondering if my real estate friend is correct. Does my property tax burden sound high, low or comparable to what you are paying?

As for how to find good farm land cheap, I have a theory for determining where to begin looking.

First, get a map of the United States and focus on the general area you would be willing to live in. For me, that would be from the Northeast, down to the Virginia/North Carolina border, and over to the Mississippi river.

Then take a compass and mark a 150 mile radius circle around the major cities, like New York. Draw a 50 mile radius circle around the large cities like Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester (I’m thinking of N.Y. geography). Draw a 25 mile radius around small cities like Auburn, Cortland, and Ithaca. Trace the coast with a 50-mile swath. Do the same with 50 miles down each side of any major interstate roads. Color in all the marked-out areas. Identify where farmland is within any remaining area. Highlight and start looking there.

Maybe, if I did that, I’d find a rough in the diamond, like this.


N said...

I can't wait to get a map and try out the idea.

Anonymous said...

7 acres and a small home in AR valued around 100K runs less than $200 in taxes per year.
30 acres open pasture with no home, valued at 120K, runs $34 per year.

Rick said...

Our price-to-taxes ratio is about one-quarter of yours here in south Central Kentucky. We would probably be in a highlighted area on your map (the Cumberland Parkway, which is a limited access highway and will eventually become an interstate, is about twenty miles south of here).

Dave said...

We live in the northeast corner of Georgia on 1 1/3 acres with a 1300s.f. house. our tax bill was 700.00 As for the price of land here,any pasture land somewhat level to rolling is 20k to 30k per acre. I would love to pay for upstate NY land at those prices . Here we have a high second home market that is pushimg prices SKY HIGH! And to think thirty years ago the movie Deliverance was filmed here. Things have changed.

Patti said...

I live in north central Iowa on 1.3 acres in the country. We have an old farm house and one large 25x50 outbuilding.. Our taxes run 128.00 per yr. We are surrounded by farm ground that sells for 3,000.00 an acre and I dont' know what the tax rate is on that.I do know that non farm land is alot cheaper than farm land. You can pick up wooded acreage at much less per acre than tillable.

Anonymous said...

In Western KY, our 2500 sq. ft. home on 100 acres is assessed at $81,000 and our tax bill is $600. Land prices are rising drastically here due to a large number of Amish and Mennonite moving in. Large tracts (over 100 acres) are selling for around $3000 per acre.

Marci said...

We live on 29 acres. We do get an agricultural exemption. We are in ENE Ohio. Our taxes are $2200 a year. Our house (pole barn construction) and property would probably sell for around $200,000.

JB said...

Southwest Missouri about 25 miles from Springfield. 27 Acres and old farm house with 2 old barns - market value about a year and a half ago 107k. Property taxes $119. Like most places (I think) our property tax is our school tax, as there is no separate school tax. We also have another personal property tax on the number of roofs, vehicles, tractors and head of some kinds of livestock, but this tax amounts to less than the real estate property tax.

Barbara Frank said...

Now I'm really depressed after reading what other people are paying tax-wise. We are not in the country (yet----working our way there, though). We're in the Chicago suburbs: 2300 sf house, 70'X125' lot, $5700 tax bill (about $4000 goes to schools).

Count your blessings, y'all!

Shawna said...

I just did a fairly inaccurate "50 miles on each side of interstate and 50 miles from the ocean for the Eastern half of the U.S. there was so little white left that I gave up on the other part of the "equation".


Herrick Kimball said...

Wow. Thanks to all of you who responded to my question. I hope more will weigh in on this because I find it fascinating and I'm sure others do too.

Barbara has convinced me that living in the Chicago suburbs is definatley out of the question!:-)

Nicolas, if you try my idea. let me know what looks good.

Shawna, something just doesn't add up with your calculations. Are you sure you're using the right mileage scale?

Kentucky and Missouri sound about right!! But I think Missouri is on the wrong side of the Missippi for me. Does it snow in Missouri? I like snow. (But not too much.)

I know it doesn't snow in Georgia. If Ohio had taxes like Missouri, that would settle it.


The high property taxes in New York state are particularly difficult for the elderly on fixed incomes. People, like my step father, who have lived in their homes for decades and are old can barely afford to pay the property taxes. Many must sell and move to an apartment. This is especially true when an area, like where I now live, has become more populated and developed and property values have risen dramatically.

When people can not be secure on their land because of an oppresive tax burden, that is wrong. It is immoral.

Thanks again to you all.

Scott Holtzman said...

"When people can not be secure on their land because of an oppresive tax burden, that is wrong. It is immoral."

Amen to that Herrick!

Jeremiah said...

We have a little over 300 acres of land here in the Upstate of South Carolina, classified agricultural, and our property taxes on that are less than $400 per year.

Shawna said...

My husband saw the map awhile ago. Didn't ask. When he saw your reply he said "so that's why the map is all pink!

I'll look it over again tomorrow. See what I can figure out but I was sure I had it right. Hmmm.... Have to use another color!


TNfarmgirl said...

We have 45 acres, 2 homes (2200 sq.ft and 1800 sq. ft.) 2 barns, greenhouse, 2 story shop, equipment shed...we have an agricultural exemption and property tax is $1200 per year....far less than the $3000 we were paying in FL for a small home on a small lot!

Land prices here go for about $3000 per acre but you can do much better if you aren't in a hurry....we get snow (not a lot) lots coming down but little we have the advantage of the beauty without the hassle of driving in it. We usually get one good snow (6 - 10 inches) every other year or so for sledding.

Sure would love to parcel off a piece for you guys :) Lots of critters for the boys to shoot!


R.G. said...

coming to the party late...

a house, garage, out-buildings on 6.5 acres, SE Wyoming, taxes are $900 a year. The property might be worth $160,000. I guess Wyoming is not the low-tax state I thought it was, though it is lower then many. But it is a little steep for ground that gets precious little rain and has no topsoil. You could start a pretty good wind-energy farm here though. ;-)

How do the various states compare on other taxes? Wyoming has NO income tax and low sales tax (4%, and food is exempt).

R.G. said...

Herrick, I'm going to try your idea with the map... but I think out west, I'm also going to have to exclude huge tracts of public land. I don't expect a lot left over.

Some days I'm mightily tempted to just squat down in a pretty mountain meadow and stay there. Feds be damned. I have no idea why leviathan needs to own so much real estate, do you?

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Cheri,
Judging from the photographs you have posted to your site, we would like like Tennesee just fine! I actually have some New England kin that moved down there a few years ago and like it. They all talk different now, though. :-)

Better late than never.

No topsoil?! That doesn't appeal to the agrarian in me. :-)

Sales tax where I live is 8% (food exempt here too) and we DO have a state income tax.

I don't think the government needs to own so much real estate either. And, for that matter, I don't think large corporations should own much land. If the land is owned by individuals and families that live on and care for the land, then it's a good bet that the land will, indeed, be better cared for. That is a fundamental agrarian precept.

Thanks for your comments on this subject.

Teri said...

I used to own a house built in 1941 in Camas, WA (which is across the river from Portland, OR). It is on a third acre of land, in an area with mostly 5 acre lots. It cost me $105k in 2000 when I bought it and property taxes this year were running about $2400 a year. That's part of the reason we sold out. We bought 2.5 acres in the woods about 45 miles east for $70k with property taxes of $349 a year. Everything seems expensive out here.

valora said...

I live in Northern Arizona, one acre with 2800 ft house. Our taxes are $4000.00/year.

Five blocks North in Utah, same sqare foot house, same acreage is $900.00/year.

Wish we would have known what the taxes were when we built.

Jill said...

Love the sharing-
We are in KS- just outside of Wichita. We have 3.3 acres and a 2500 sq ft house. Appraised at 191K and taxes are about $3600/yr. KS also has oppressive personal property taxes. For a '05 Suburban and an '04 Grand Prix we have to pay more than a $1000 in taxes per year. I have lived in quite a few states and this is one of the worst tax-wise comparatively.
Also land prices continue to rise here and $1000/acre is pretty cheap. With wheat and other grain prices rising the farmland is getting quite pricey.

ruth said...

live in Nebraska - outside Lincoln. we have a greenbelt/ag exemption (for now...they are trying to take it away). We do farm, have 20 acres, 1800 sf house (that includes the basement). our taxes with our exemption are $1924. i have heard Nebraska's property taxes are very high. the other day i had a flash of a vision that tennessee was the place to live, i do not know why, as i have never in my life thought of it. now i am wondering :)

Jennifer said...

We're in East TX. 4.5 acres. Front 2 acres have house & several outbuildings and is Homestead exempt. The back 2.5 acres is not exempt at all. Together our yearly tax is around $600. If I would pay to have it all appraised, then it could all be taxed as one piece with the exemption. I like it here!

Ryan said...

Why go through all that effort with a map, wouldn't letting Walmart figure it out and going where they are not work?

Jenny said...

I am new to this blog, but am finding these numbers astonishing. I own 1/2 an acre with a 2,000 sq ft house. We pay $2k in taxes a year, and that is going up, and my property is worth $280k/year. It is approximately $125k an acre here. I dream of the country life

Erik said...

Try this one on for size!

Urban/suburban Vermont.1/3 of an acre. Not a particularly stellar 1500sq ft home (somehow) appraised at 230k. Taxed 2400/year.

Fueling my agrarian dream. :)

James C said...

West of Fort Worth, Texas, House & 1 acre, appraised at about $211,000 and taxes are about $4800/year. No state income tax though, but sales tax of 8%, food is exempt. Ag exemptions can really reduce the property tax though.