Michael and I are currently hunting for land on which to build a house. If you live in a city, this may be a foreign concept for you, or one only the rich can afford. Out here, where 'town' or even 'village' is a more appropriate word than 'city' (no matter how hard they try to convince you otherwise), it's a fairly common practice. So, we're land-hunting.
Our requirements are pretty simple: Michael wants at least 10 acres and I want it to be no farther from where I work than we are now. So far, we have found one piece of land that meets these conditions perfectly. It is a 30-acre hay field about 15 minutes from my office (and I use that term loosely as well). It being a hay field is actually an added bonus as well because I would like to have horses, and the type hay that grows there is high-quality food for those of the equine persuasion. The problem? The price is $7,500/acre. The basic rate for land in this area is $3,500-$5,500 per acre. Which means they want at least $60,000 too much for the land. Their reason? A $5,000 per year federal subsidy the owner of the land is entitled to because of the type of hay that grows there and the ability to rent the field to hay reapers who would then sell the hay and split the profits with the owner. That sounds good in theory, but that subsidy and the hay profits would go down if someone, say, mowed down half of the hay to build a house like we want to do. The real estate agent is also advertising the land as a great home site (which it is, because it's gorgeous land). So on one side they're telling you it's worth the extra money (never mind that it would take over 10 years to see any profit on the extra expense) and on the other they're advocating that you pay the extra money for the subsidy and hay, and then throw away the ability to recoup the cost because it's a beautiful home site.
Our other option so far is a nice piece of land, which is about 17 acres, and the same distance from my office, with a very good price. The problem with this? It's literally next door to my parents-in-law. Yep, the land abuts theirs. For me, that is not an option. I would rather pay an extra $60-120,000 for the priviledge of living farther from Michael's parents than we already do. Mostly, it's not myself I'm worried about, because I would gladly use the excuse of being closer to them to also be more rude when his mother decides to put her two cents in where it doesn't belong. What I'm worried about is what will happen when we have kids. Oh, the horrors that being so close to them could open up. I shudder to think about it, and I'm probably going to have nightmares tonight.
The hay field has come down $1000/acre in about 2 months. The real estate agent (who represents both options we have so far) advises that we wait on it if we don't want to be so close to his parents and we don't want to pay that much for the land. I say, damn straight.