Since moving into our rental, our rate of [publicly shareable] progress has changed and therefore we stopped posting on a daily basis. We spent the last week exploring the area, researching land and making offers.
Discoveries Around Silver City
Boston Hill Trails
- Our mobile home is right up against the Boston Hill Open Space. It is a series of 3 hills that were mined from 1870 to 1970. The principle ore mined from the area was manganiferous iron ore. The hills were named Boston Hill after the Massachusetts & New Mexico Mining Company (also known as the “Boston Company”) purchased the Legal Tender claim in 1880. The mine changed hands a few times and was eventually purchased by the Town of Silver City in 1999 as the Town’s first open space.
- The trails are great for hiking and dog walking. There are access points on all sides and despite being right at the base of the city, you can complete your hike and not run into anybody. The highest point is Boston Hill at 6,380 feet – the ascents vary in degree of difficulty based on which side you choose to enter on.
- Because we don’t have a fenced yard, the dogs lives’ have actually improved. Whereas some people might switch to daily dog walks for exercise, we have changed to twice daily, off leash adventures. We take the dogs to Boston Hill and let them run around until they are beat. (Just FYI – The trail-head signs explicitly state to keep dogs on leash, but we have encountered only off leash dogs while there and there seems to be an unspoken agreement that it’s okay.)
Clouds, Rain and the Full Moon
The sky here is amazing. We can’t help but compare it to what we’re used to – I guess the difference here is that the sky seems SO BIG! There aren’t trees blocking access to the view and there are mountains all around. On some days, we can see 3 or 4 lines of mountains; while that may not sound super impressive, it really takes your breath away. It’s beautiful here nearly all the time. During rain storms, the clouds come down and blanket the hills. When the full moon is out, it looks like a giant ball balanced on the top of a mountain. Everything is impressive.
- Everybody is so nice. I know we’ve said that before, but it just continues to surprise us. Our property manager got back into town late Sunday. We had been without hot water, heat, and a functioning toilet. She called us around 9am and arrived with a small army of service people. They got the heat working, we finally semi-fixed the toilet and they made some progress on the hot water. A took a couple more days to get hot water on but they did it.
- Our cable internet was installed on Tuesday – the man who came out to do it GAVE us a modem! Brian has the same model and for whatever reason, it wasn’t exactly compatible with this area; so the guy just gave us his!
- We lost some keys one day while hiking in Boston Hill. When we went back to the trail-head to begin retracing our steps, we found our keys hanging from a fence post. Someone had found them and put them in an obvious place so they could be returned to their owner.
- Lake Roberts is about an hour north of us, situated in the heart of the Gila wilderness. It really isn’t much of a town (population was 53 as of the 2010 census) but appears to be a hot vacation and recreation destination. The Lake Roberts camp ground is gigantic and the hiking possibilities around that area are limitless. I’m not positive on the use of the lake itself – we saw signs for no swimming and nobody was boating. The dam is presently under serious renovation – the state is spending $6.5 million to raise the height of the dam as well as replace the spillway and add a second.
- The drive to Lake Roberts is gorgeous but a little unnerving. The switchbacks are insane. The pictures don’t really do justice to the nail-biting turns and corners.
- We fed the dogs while we were up there and then walked them down to the water’s edge. Sydney went for a dip and managed to acquire several burrs all over her body.
Researching Land – Mastering the Process
There are so many free tools one can use to look for and at land! I’m surprised nobody has written a ‘how to’ guide on the topic…maybe we will. Here are a few notes about what we have learned –
- Google Earth will show you what the sun is doing over the course of the day. To verify whether or not which side of a hill a property is on, you can check it on google earth first. If the property is bathed in shadows for most of the day, you know it’s facing north and is probably a dud.
- Google Maps allows you to tilt the view angle so you can see the contours of the land. This is helpful for understanding driveway access and placement and feasible building pad locations.
- Google Maps overlays the county property map with the roads so you can see property lines. If you open google maps and walk around on a property, at a certain zoom level, you can see where you are in relation to the boundaries. This has helped us discern – on more than one occasion – that the neighbor has possibly built over their property line. Not only is such a fact helpful for negotiation but the tool itself is great for understanding where the property sits without the help of a realtor.
- Some counties (we found this to be the case in Yavapai County for Prescott, AZ) have parcel viewers where you can look up the history of a parcel. This is incredibly helpful for understanding its sale history, how many acres are actually part of the parcel, ownership changes, where the present owner lives and much more.
- Silver City does not have the awesome parcel viewer that Yavapai County does. However, it is the county seat for Grant county. Between the accessor and clerk at the county office, you can find out basically everything you need to know. Both offices have online portals you can use to gather information; but they’re only a portion of what you can obtain in person. The clerk’s office has the covenants on file for the subdivisions, plat maps for properties as well as a property’s history of deeds, mortgages, etc.
- The most challenging part of our land search has been getting straight answers on electric availability and internet availability. The electric company requires your social security number to get a quote on getting power to a property….we inquired last week and still haven’t heard back. So it’s a big slow-down. Also, depending on who you speak to, you may get a different answer. Internet is not intuitive at all! We have found the availability of internet in a few remote places and not found it one properties on the edge of town. It doesn’t make sense.
We made two offers this week; both on properties with a lot of acreage and a high price tag. The first property has been on the market since June 2012. It was purchased in February 2010 for $275,000; the owner added a driveway, made a building pad and installed a well. That isn’t a small amount of work. They listed it initially for $60,000 and later increased it to $65,000 when the owner decided to try and sell it himself.
We knew it was a stretch, but we made a really low offer to see if they were eager to sell. Our budget is definitely not $65,000 so we weren’t upset when they said no. They did offer to bring the price down to $57,000 and to finance whatever we couldn’t pay upfront. While it is a tempting offer, our goal is to do this project for cash and not acquire debt.
After that owner passed on our offer, we put an offer in on a property nearby. It is newer to the market (about a year), has a well and a rough driveway. They are asking $49,000 and we offered less than half. They countered with $44,000 and we said we’d pass.
We have a few backup properties in place if none of the larger acreage owners want to sell for what we are offering. We were surprised this week to see 3 or 4 new land listings near our budget. There doesn’t seem to be an ‘off season’ here. Maybe because the weather is nice enough that people can build and remodel all year long.