Author Topic: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land  (Read 3263 times)

Offline vivificus

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Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« on: June 06, 2016, 08:07:27 PM »
Howdy Folks,
My wife and I are thinking about starting a company that can offer land evaluation services for people looking to buy property or get more information about their own property. I could also see this as a useful report that someone selling property could use to help market their property. It is almost like a "Bill of Materials" for a piece of land. Below are some of the services that we could offer to our customers.

Off Site Services
Topography Maps
Soil Data
Well Sites
Water Table Depth
Floodplain Information
Aerial Photos current and historical
Proximity Searches
   Chemicals Storage
   Public safety (EMS, Police, Firehouses)
   Security Risks (Prisons, County Jail, High Crime Areas)
   Medical (Hospitals)
   Oil Wells/Pipelines
   Recent EPA Violations Nearby
   Undesirable Neighbors (Feed Lot, Water Treatment Plant, Power Plant, etc.)

On Site Services
Plant Identification
Wildlife Surveys
Soil Identification
Soil Testing
Water Testing
Site Photography


Free "Off Site" reports can be done for those in the US, if you live near us in Texas, we could do some of the "On Site" services. In exchange for the free report we would like to share a censored version of your report on our website as an example of our work, and would remove any information that regarding your location except for something like "Central Texas" or something to that effect. Also we would let you review the "public" version before we would publish it. We are looking for a handful of people who might be interested in this arrangement. Contact me if this is something you might be interested in.

I am very open to hearing feedback on things that you would like to know about land you own or are looking into purchasing.
Thanks for reading.
Viv

Offline vivificus

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2016, 08:21:59 PM »
My wife and I are currently looking to purchase a few acres as a beginner homestead. We have been spending a lot of time gathering information about any potential sites, and have started compiling a list of things that we would want to know about the land and the surrounding land. Can you point out some things we may have missed?

Basic Climatic Data
Topography Maps
Soil Data
Well Sites (Water/Petroleum)
Water Table Depth
Flood Plane Information
Aerial Photos current and historical
Plant/Grass Identification
Wildlife Surveys
Soil Identification
Soil Testing
Proximity of the following
Chemicals Storage (Oil, Gas, Hazardous Chemicals)
Public safety (EMS, Police, Fire locations)
Security Risks (Prisons, High Crime Areas)
Medical (Hospitals)
Oil Wells/Pipelines/Power Transmission Lines
Recent EPA Violations Close By

We have been able to find a surprising amount of this data from Federal, state and local governments.Flood plane data, soil data, topography and things like that are available, but difficult to navigate and scattered through different sources. We are thinking this may be a viable business opportunity since my wife has a background in this sort of work, there is more information about this in my other post here http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=58079.0.





It turns out there is lots of information online that can be found, but its not easy to locate or all in the same place. Based on the difficulty we are having gathering all the data, we are thinking about starting a business to offer this service. More about that here http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=58079.0.

Offline date_a_prepper

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2016, 08:22:15 PM »
Don't need the service you're offering, but it sounds good; I would suggest including a land restrictions report; such as, how many pets you're allowed, can you raise livestock, grass height, fencing setoff, number of buildings allowed on property, etc.

As an EX Realtor, I've seen too many people buy what they thought was going to be their dream home, only to find that city, county, or township restrictions wouldn't allow them to use the property as they (buyers) had planned.

Offline vivificus

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2016, 08:27:09 PM »
Thanks for the idea.

We have been going through all this effort because we are currently looking for our own land with a home, or land to build on. We are almost paranoid that we will somehow purchase in a HOA or Deed Restricted area without knowledge and be stuck under another layer of government. Is it difficult for someone to find that information? Is that information that a seller must legally disclose at the time of sale?

My parents bought into a neighborhood without knowing that they were entering into an HOA. They have been pretty unhappy with some of the community rules.

Offline date_a_prepper

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2016, 08:38:47 PM »
Every State has it's own laws on what must be disclosed by a seller. In my State (Michigan) you must as a seller disclose if the home is part of a HOA, or any known problems with the home, but if you're not part of a HOA, as a seller you're not responsible for telling a potential buyer about restrictions a city, county, or township has. Michigan is a buyer beware state, which amounts to buyer be aware before signing anything.

Offline I.L.W.

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2016, 08:26:40 AM »
For your business, definitely invest in the arcGIS software and data packs. It's the single most useful tool for what you're proposing.

https://www.arcgis.com/home/gallery.html#c=esri&t=maps&o=modified&a=US

Look at crime rates for one example:
http://nation.maps.arcgis.com/apps/OnePane/splash/index.html?appid=8125e8f4244a47d986f4cd840824eef3

This can also be used for mapping local economic growth, population growth, regional ethnicities, climate, wildlife, transportation systems, public works and infrastructure, crop planning, politics, tax rates, the effects of zoning on electoral processes, internet and telecommunication grids, power, water and gas utilities... If you can put it on a map, this will do it. It's costly, but for your business, it will drill down through mountains of data and give you useful information.

There are torrents of the desktop software available, but for a business, it's worth paying for (especially to gain access to additional mapping data).

Common uses are by police (to plot patrols and get feedback on crime hotspots in the area), by researchers to chart the spread of pandemics, by environmentalists to follow oil spills, animal migrations, invasive species encroachment etc... Most high-end realtors have this, and it works behind the scenes on many websites which offer such statistics.

Offline Zef_66

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2016, 10:28:37 AM »
The problem with the business model is trying to get all that information for each state, county, and township in the country. Each one is going to be different. If you can find a reliable way to offer the same information to everyone, I think you would be good. But if you can't offer all of that information to every client, then I don't think the business will be very successful. And relying on gov't information for your entire business would be challenging.

Offline I.L.W.

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2016, 09:56:24 PM »
Crop planting suggestions:

For example, suggest they grow X variety of cabbage, and not Y variety. You know it sweetens after a frost, so add a week to their first frost-date, and count backwards by the varieties maturation term, but then find one who starts it's primary growth (2 weeks after germination) during the period with the longest days at their latitude. That faster growth leads to more tender and flavorful leaves. So a long variety (120 days) works better in the south, and a 90 day variety in the north... but to realize this advantage, they may have to plant 6 weeks after what's stated on the seed packet, or they may need to start them indoors, 2 weeks earlier... Seed packets and internet wisdom give you a generic, one-size-fits-all set of instructions, usually with poor to moderate results. That will take 600+ possible commercially available cultivars down to a couple of dozen. Now look at soil data, regional pests and blights, and cross-reference the remaining cultivars for resistant strains which work in that soil. Perhaps you're left with 2 cultivars, a Russian variety (bigger) and a Polish variety(sharper). At that point, look at the ethnicity of the customer. Eastern European, Russian, Irish or Asian, go with the russian strain. If they're from central europe, they'll probably prefer the taste of the polish variety. Now present them with a list. This is your highest scoring cabbage variety for this region, this is the second place... third... and so on. You can figure this out for hundreds of plants using the same logic. You can pin down one exact cultivar which is perfect for the specific site. Most people only figure out the perfect variety after decades of trial and error, you can hit it out of the park in year one.

Just to review:
• You'll have selected a variety resistant to local pests and diseases
• It will be chosen for it's ability to grow well within the native soils
• It can be selected to suit the cultural tastes of the customer, Grandma McLaughleigh's Corned beef and cabbage recipe tastes just like when she use to make it... or Grandpa Soung's Kimchi, whatever the case may be.
• Even after selecting the cultivar, knowing how to offset the planting date has made it more flavorful, with a nicer texture, and improved storage life.

If you know how to leverage the crop's attributes with the exact local environment, you find many advantages which improve the quality of the food produced substantially. The average backyard gardener really doesn't know this stuff. They just follow the generic planting instructions on whatever seed packet has the prettiest picture from Home Depot, lol. They don't know shit... but you can help them. This selection process is really the difference between a novice and a master gardener. Most of these advantages however can be calculated if you can plug in all the regional variables. Instead of it being an art, handed down in a region throughout the generations, you can crunch the numbers and recreate this wisdom with something as simple as a spreadsheet, and it will be applicable anywhere in the world.

Another example, if the area has a high humidity and dew point in June, and is elevated or in a valley, summer morning fog will create increased problems with fungus. Moving a strawberry bed to the shaded west side of a house (to reduce morning sun) may delay the daylight-sensitive fruiting of the plants until the drier month of July. This way the strawberries don't get moldy or mildew covered in the field. Then you may suggest double-row planting and pruning, as opposed to the matted planting usually recommended.

You already know the regional climate conditions throughout the year, and you know what conditions are needed for pests and diseases. When the two match up, you have an increased risk for that problem. You can anticipate that so treatment of the problem doesn't coincide with flowering or fruit-bearing periods, allowing the proper use of fungicides and pesticides, or as in the strawberry example, suggest a location which passively holds the crop out side of these high-risk periods when it's most vulnerable.

This is the kind of thinking permaculture teaches, though sadly most of the kids coming out of those PDC workshops still don't grasp many of the more nuanced elements of design. You're in a position where this type of thinking is what will make your reports more valuable than just googling the location data. To be blunt, most of your customers could do that themselves. Connecting the dots here to offer specific recommendations is what would create value.


Offline Pathfinder

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2016, 06:32:28 AM »
I would also add county use/zoning research. I was looking at some land in Wyoming some years back, and it was a gorgeous place. The north and west were protected by high hard-rock hills, the east was wide open and the south rolled down gently to the North Platte River about 2 miles away. Great place for a homestead, grazing, plus potential for fair-weather sports, such as rock climbing, etc. Also, the asking price was cheap. Apparently a couple had bought it - among other properties - and decided to give this one up for cash to improve some of their other holdings.

I did some research at the local county office and discovered that a mining company had been granted a zoning variance about 18 years earlier to put a rock crushing operation about 1000 yards from where I would have put my homestead - directly in a sight-line to the North Platte River! I figured the mine - about 2 miles to the west - would open the rock crusher as an economy move when they got closer to that area of the hills.

I walked away from the deal.

Offline 1greenman

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2016, 08:31:23 PM »
I would also add county use/zoning research. I was looking at some land in Wyoming some years back, and it was a gorgeous place. The north and west were protected by high hard-rock hills, the east was wide open and the south rolled down gently to the North Platte River about 2 miles away. Great place for a homestead, grazing, plus potential for fair-weather sports, such as rock climbing, etc. Also, the asking price was cheap. Apparently a couple had bought it - among other properties - and decided to give this one up for cash to improve some of their other holdings.

I did some research at the local county office and discovered that a mining company had been granted a zoning variance about 18 years earlier to put a rock crushing operation about 1000 yards from where I would have put my homestead - directly in a sight-line to the North Platte River! I figured the mine - about 2 miles to the west - would open the rock crusher as an economy move when they got closer to that area of the hills.

I walked away from the deal.

That's a real bummer!!  Sounds utterly beautiful!!!

As for the Business Inquiry.....  I think its a great idea, but you will need to streamline it our your profit margins will be too thin.   Marketing will be another hurdle. I think its a good idea, but it may or may not work out!

We are looking for a piece of land, but not sure we will require all that info.  I'm going to keep you in mind though!!!

Offline vivificus

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2016, 06:53:54 PM »
I.L.W.
 Thanks for the suggestion for arcGIS, my wife has been in the environmental industry for several years, and i know that she has used similar mapping tools in the past. Depending on the expense of that software that may be something to build up to in the future, depending on how much it is used.

Regarding the crop planting suggestions, I don't know that she has the expertise to make those sort of suggestions in reports. Your methodology sounds spot on to me. It almost sounds like someone could create a database with specific attributes (Maybe a dozen or two) for each  of the plants and cultivars and then you can cross check this against your specific climate, soil, sun exposure, slope, etc. and you could narrow down the most likely to survive options. This sounds like a project that could really be helpful to a lot of folks out there. If you really wanted to be adventurous you could even add a information that may help you plant in patterns or groups that would be beneficial for the neighboring plants, perhaps a graphical software that would "advise" you on what may work well in different arrangements, taking into account growth of trees, and changing sun exposure as they grow.

I am guessing that most of the knowledge above is stored in the minds of great permaculturists and scattered among many books, it would definitely be an interesting thing to try to bring together.

Offline vivificus

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2016, 07:03:10 PM »
Zef_66,

I agree with you, depending on how consistent the information is from region to region, this could be a very difficult task, I see finding out about deed restrictions, HOAs ect to be difficult. It does seem like quite a bit of the data is coming from federal sources like USDA, EPA. As you also said, relying on the government for the data will be another challenge, there are other options for some of the data such as topographical maps from private satellite scans, but these are services that will increase costs. I think the "on site" reporting would be much more informative, but that will also be much more time consuming.

Offline I.L.W.

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2016, 12:25:56 AM »
I think the key to success here is in how the reporting is presented. Giving people datasheets is all well and good, but if you can extrapolate from that some useful advice or direction for your customers, they'll feel like they got more out of it.

I know you're main focus is on ecology, but the same processes for acquiring that data can be used to find out just about anything. Different people will want different information. Since the same data gathering process can be readily adapted to all sorts of information, there's no reason to limit yourself purely to the ecology issues.

Look at the maps of registered sex offenders. http://www.familywatchdog.us/#
Check Washington DC... damn that's a lot of rapists, lol. Just about every street which contains a private residence has at least one convicted offender. But there are pockets where there are none for a couple square miles. If you show people the offender map, you'll scare the shit out of them. They still need to see it of course, but you might also present them with a map you generated yourself from this data, highlighting high and low risk regions, then label them.
                 
"This neighborhood is the best place to let your kids go Trick-or-Treating"

"The School District tells you to use the Bus Stop at HighView Park. That park is directly across the street from a known sex offender. There is another stop on the corner of 19th and Edison, a mile from your house and well away from any known offenders. We advise dropping your kids off there in the morning instead".
 
"Here's a picture of the known offenders within 5 miles of your home."

"If you're new in town, these regions are bad neighborhoods, and here are the good neighborhoods."

Raw data is difficult for a lot of people to process (I don't know why, it ain't hard, but that's been my experience, lol). Give the data a context and present it as an instruction for them to follow. Walk them through how you arrived at those conclusions, and they will be grateful.

Or on a lighter note, perhaps write up a quick app that searches for all the restaurants in the area that deliver to that address and dump it as csv file for importing into their phone contacts. One click and all the pizza places are in their phone :)

Seriously, the people who would likely get the most use out of this type of data are those moving to a new area which they are unfamiliar with. Even if it's just 2 towns over, it means they'll be looking for new restaurants, new doctors, dentists or veterinarians. Whis gas station near the new house has the best prices? It's not all about the specific piece of land, a lot of the hassle in moving is having to deal with learning about local businesses, resources, communities, etc. Stuff you normally take for granted but are forced to think about again.

It sounds like you have good sources for the ecology surveys, so that's a great place to start. But once you have that down, you could offer other "packages" with different data sets which would appeal to different customers.

The CDC influenza maps might be a nice addition. They change too quickly to be in a report, but if you setup a website for the business, it would be a cool thing to link to on the website. It's in XML format, so you can select the year and iterate through the week numbers until you hit the last one, then pull the data for a specific state. Easy to customize. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/usmap.htm

There's a lot of data like this that changes very frequently. I'd strongly suggest some real-time info served up via website, or offer mobile notifications of changes as part of the service. Even simple stuff like weather reports. Reminder of an upcoming first-frost date, etc.

I would emphasise Allergy reports. What species of plants are known allergens and prolific in the area, when are they most active (pollen, molds etc)?

Municipal spraying for mosquitoes is big in some areas. You can usually find maps and schedules for pesticide spraying. Likewise you can often find crop dusting schedules through the individual companies, detailing when and where they're working. Not all companies do this but it's becoming more common, and overspray is becoming a much larger concern to the general public these days.

Municipal compost sites are an area of interest for a lot of people. Where can they get cheap or free compost, wood mulch, manure, etc. Almost every town has something like this nowadays, but in some communities it's not well known or advertised. To identify these locations, you just need to call the town offices, someone will direct you to the appropriate contact. It takes two minutes to look up, but could save a homeowner tens of thousands of dollars on large landscaping projects. 

A long time ago, I posted a tutorial on shadow mapping a property quickly.
http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=24814
The only change I would make to that today is using Vray as the rendering engine. Might be overkill for what you're doing, but Google Earth is beginning to add object elevation data in some locations, so a lot of buildings are pre-modeled to scale, and in the accurate geolocation (within about 10 feet), so you could export that data if it exists for a property and not have to model anything.

One other thought; the first thing to survey is your customer. What's important to them? Assessment of grasses is good if the customer is grazing livestock, but if they don't need that data or know how to use it, there's little sense in researching it.

Offline 1greenman

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Re: Gathering Information Before Purchasing Land
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2016, 09:16:27 AM »
I had a thought, you may end up limiting the business side of this to a certain geographical area near you or that you're able to easily find accurate information for.

But a secondary business may be putting together a packet of "how to."

With all your tips, tricks, and helpful information, that you would then sell for between $250 and $1500.

Maybe also have them sign a will not compete clause. And for the most part only offer it to people that are well outside of your geographical area/competition area.

But you're going to need to prove the business model first. And that time that you do that will also help you work out the kinks of what you wouldn't present and sell to a small business market.

Be sure and take good notes of the learning process, that will be helpful in the packet/material that you would be selling.