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There are certain things to do to buy the right block of land for both you and your purpose.

Overall, it is a mix of heart and head. Both must be part of the picture if the land is to be loved forever.

In order to select a winner, you are advised to determine what the ultimate block is, and what you want to use it for. Write this down and use numbers, not just pretty words. Compare all candidates against your definition in order to make the best choice.

Do not pay for potential – you are buying what you see in front of you. Many people try to charge you for your future work to raise a property to its potential.

Table of Contents

Describing your Perfect Property

Act in haste and repent at leisure” is definitely appropriate here. A purchase made without sufficient consideration can be a problem later. To avoid this, spend some time defining what you want of this land.

Describe Your Proposed Landuse

What do you want to achieve on this land? Once this is defined, you have a clearer lens to view any purchase candidates.

Be broad in your choice as just one use is insufficient for sustainability. Markets change, seasons change and demand for products will change – diversity is the only answer.

Flexibility is key to long term sustainability.

Define a Clear Wishlist

This list is the standard to measure your proposed land against. Can it do this and that?

Personal Wishes

If you are to be living and working on this block, it is critical that you like it, that you feel happy being here.

Create a list of personal wishes to measure your personal compatibility. Without this, it is difficult to see a future for the property. It is this future that drives you onward when you experience bad times.

Family Wishes

Do not forget the wife / significant other and the kids – they also live on the block. What is the state of the residence? Remember – happy wife, happy life.

Business Requirements

Having defined your landuse expectations, what are the conditions needed to produce those products?

Climate and micro climate have a strong role to play here. Create a list of factors that must be met to achieve your proposed landuse. Water, sun, wind, soil, relief etc.

What is the distance to your main market? How long does it take to deliver goods and their condition when they arrive etc.

What is the distance to facilities – shopping, supplies, medical care etc. Transport adds a cost.

Describe the ideal property

Make sure that you are clear on what you want – in detail. All blocks are different.

You cannot say “I will know when I see it” if you do not know what you want, and what you want it for. You do not know until you have written it down and quantified it.

  • How big is the property – give a range.
  • Rainfall amount
  • Rainfall distribution
  • Temperature range
  • Number of frosts per year
  • What is the ideal layout?
  • What is the best relief for your plans – flat or undulating?
  • Do you need a river close by?
  • Do you need to place tanks on a high place to ensure gravity flow and pressure?
  • Do you need certain plants or animals already on the block or definitely NOT on the block?
  • Pests aside, plants and animals are great indicators of land quality
  • Does your main crop like full sun or dappled shade?
  • What soil is best for your products?
  • How much water will you need and how is it delivered?

Suitability for purpose

What are the base conditions to make a property suitable for your needs and wants? Write these down.

You buy your land using the head, not the heart. The heart is impulsive and land is forever. If the head says YES! and the heart is aligned – you have a winner! Otherwise look elsewhere.

Caveats, Easements and other Restrictions

Ensure that you you are aware of ALL Caveats, Easements and other legal restrictions over your land and access. These can occur at Federal, State and Council levels. Further, be aware of restrictions that are counter to each other.

Get a copy of any Development Plans prepared by the local council. They give these documents many names. Oft times this is their way of introducing zoning changes – “we did tell you!” on a notice board inside the stores cupboard at the back of the staff loo.

Do not pay for potential – you are buying what you see in front of you.

Many people try to charge you for your future work to raise a property to its potential.

Define Clear Goals

Create a timeline to bring your proposed land to the optimum. This will assist you to determine if the candidate block is suitable.

Your minimum timeline is 10 years – better if you extend that to 20 years.

Bring finance into the picture – how long will it take to achieve each target income. What do you need to achieve to meet these targets? Include these goals.

Break your goals into projects and your projects into tasks and you have a plan.

There is a funny thing about timelines – you achieve less in the short term but much more in the long term than you expect.

The Candidate Property

Each property has its own merits which must be balanced against your selection criteria, Emotion is not a good guide here. Use the head and if the heart agrees you are on the right track. If the heart is not happy then give it a miss. Both must agree to find the right future.

Location

The first criteria is the location. A cheap block out in the boonies may be pleasant, but will cost a bomb in transport costs over the extended future.

The state governments usually make available a Graphic Information System of land in their area.

These are of varying quality and usability. They vary from a total farce (WA) to amateurish (NT) to very useful (TAS).

Access them to view:

  • cadastral parcels
  • contour maps
  • satellite or aerial imagery
  • soil types
  • roads

Distance to Market

How far is the proposed block from your main market? This has ramifications regarding cost and condition of your delivered product. Consider also, the quick delivery to a client in need. Much goodwill there.

Distance to Amenities

Amenities are not just shops and doctors, there are also supplies and services to be considered. I know of no business that does not need some sort of supplies – even if it is only printer toner and paper. There are also ramifications regarding distance to amenities – cost and time to mention a couple.

Access to the Property

Closely allied to distance is access. What is the quality of the road to the block? Is it suitable for large vehicles? Does it have ruts, steep grades and tight corners that will hinder semi-trailers? Not everybody knows how to drive in the bush, many are tar road jockeys! This could mean that your load must be reloaded onto a tabletop truck for the last leg of the journey.

Condition of the Land

What is the condition of the land, has it been nurtured? If not, the purchase price is less but the maintenance costs are higher.

The Feel of the Land

The “feel” of the land is an intangible factor but possibly one of the most important. If the land feels good, you will care for it more and enjoy being there more. This means that you will achieve more and success follows quicker.

Climate

Climate is the top of the Scale of Permanence. It will be very slow to change. There are a number of factors to consider here.

Distance to a Large Body of Water

Large bodies of water have a moderating effect upon the climate. If you are away from big water, the continental effect becomes more prominent. This means colder winters, hotter summers and lower rainfall. Compare the climate of a tropical Pacific island with that of Kyrgyzstan, or Broome, Brisbane and Alice Springs.

Altitude

Altitude is the second most prominent climate modifier. Higher is colder and usually dryer – even for the same latitude. Look at the difference between the Chilean coast and the Atacama Desert. Not too far apart but very different climate.

Land Form

After climate, the shape of the land is possibly the most important selection criteria.

Is the property flat, is it on the top of a mountain, is there more vertical than horizontal?

Land form impacts:

  • access
  • weather
  • micro climate
  • vegetation cover & wildlife
  • infrastructure
  • all aspects of landuse

Slope

How can you use the slope to best advantage? Gravity is a great friend but can create a mass of work if not utilised properly. Good design can tame gravity.

More than 20 degrees is steep which makes for extra work. Does the block provide a good site for a water tank to gain free water distribution and pressure?

This does not seem to be much until you are pushing a heavy wheelbarrow up a slope for the tenth time today.

Roads and Access

Access is one of the most important aspects of a property. If internal access is insufficient, it must be rectified quickly. If the external access is poor, do not buy the property.

I was raised on a block with poor external access and it was a constant struggle to get goods delivered and was a royal pain to export stock. It simply is not worth the angst.

External Access

What is the state of the road from town to your proposed block? Can it be driven easily by a loaded semi trailer or a low slung sports car? You would hope so. These examples are not silly – they define a good road.

I was raised inland from Taree in NSW on a remote bush block.

At one place, the road entered a normally shallow river and continued down the river for around 700 metres, climbed the other bank and went around a ridge to cross the river again. This was OK as we were using a short wheel base Land Rover. I have slept in the vehicle a number of times for a couple of days when the river rose while we were on the ridge and lost the race to the up-river section before the river became uncrossable.

This is an extreme example, but it was burned into my young experience – dad got grouchy and sitting in a small vehicle with 4 other people and a month’s load of groceries for a couple of days in the rain was not fun.

Internal Access

Internal access is also important. If you wish to access the property easily, good internal roads are important.

What is the state of the internal road network? Does it require constant maintenance?

Where possible, keep your road as close to contour as possible, or where that fails, directly up the centre of a ridge line. Why? These may not seem obvious, but they do reduce the amount of road maintenance and therefore wear and tear on your vehicles. A road on contour does not become an erosion channel and down the centre of a ridge means you drive on the watershed with water running off to either side. Again, less erosion.

Multi functional

Roads are multi-functional. They are:

  • a natural collector of runoff
  • an easy location for a fence line
  • access for vehicles
  • livestock will walk easier on a broad, flat track on contour

Water Supply

Your water supply is one of the critical selection factors for a good property. It defines ease of use and distribution cost.

Existing Water Storage

Is the existing storage sufficient in quality and quantity for your proposed needs?

Proposed Water Storage

What extra storage do you need to add to attain sufficient water for your needs all year? Many creeks are seasonal and do not run when they are needed most. Aquifers can be run down over years of use without sufficient recharge opportunities.

Water Collection Potential

Does the block lend itself to easy water harvesting? The best place to store excess is in the ground or in an aquifer. Ground water will seep into seasonal creeks and extend their life over the year.

Roads and swales are the best water harvesting mechanisms.

Place your road on contour, drains under the road can feed a swale which will contribute to a dam as well as create an in-ground plume along their length progressing down slope. Automatic irrigation with no maintenance and after 5 years you have achieved a great degree of drought tolerance.

Water Supply

Your water supply is one of the critical selection factors for a good property. It defines ease of use and distribution cost.

Existing Water Storage

Is the existing storage sufficient in quality and quantity for your proposed needs?

Proposed Water Storage

What extra storage do you need to add to attain sufficient water for your needs all year? Many creeks are seasonal and do not run when they are needed most. Aquifers can be run down over years of use without sufficient recharge opportunities.

Water Collection Potential

Does the block lend itself to easy water harvesting? The best place to store excess is in the ground or in an aquifer. Ground water will seep into seasonal creeks and extend their life over the year.

Roads and swales are the best water harvesting mechanisms.

Place your road on contour, drains under the road can feed a swale which will contribute to a dam as well as create an in-ground plume along their length progressing down slope. Automatic irrigation with no maintenance and after 5 years you have achieved a great degree of drought tolerance.

There is a funny thing about timelines.

You achieve less in the short term but much more in the long term than you expect.

Flora and Fauna

The flora and fauna of a landscape are clear indicators of:

  •  climate
  • rainfall
  • temperature
  • soil type
  • soil fertility
  • water holding capacity
  • toxic elements like acid sulphate soil
  • and much more

It is advantageous to be able to read a block from the health and variety of its plants and animals. Look for animal sign (tracks, worn paths, scratches and manure ) to see who comes visiting after dark.

Infrastructure

Every production system needs some infrastructure to properly fulfill its purpose. You are aware of the products you wish to create so you have a fair idea of what you need to produce them and how much it will cost.

Existing Infrastructure

  • what exists?
  • is it conveniently located?
  • what condition is it in?
  • how much refurbishment will it need?
  • how much will the upgrade cost?

Proposed Infrastructure

  • what infrastructure do you need?
  • where will you put it?
  • is it cost effective to do so?

Fences

Do the existing fences meet your needs?

Bear in mind that not all enterprises need internal fencing. External fencing should be in good order to keep your neighbour’s livestock out and yours in. Wandering stock are  the cause of much poor feeling and is to be avoided.

Remember the old saying “good fences make for good neighbours”. A fence serves to keep things in and others out as well as clearly defining the cadastral boundaries.

Fencing is an expensive asset, so constant maintenance is needed to keep it in order.

Soil

Does the soil meet your needs? Soil can be easily modified to suit your main purpose.

A simple test to define the existing soil type is the bottle test. Fill a mason jar 1/3 deep with soil, fill the remainder with water and a tablespoon of detergent. Shake vigorously and allow to stand still for a day. The soil components will settle into bands of sand, silt, clay and organic matter. This profile will give you a fair idea what you will be working with. A good loam will be broken into equal bands. Clay holds moisture and sand allows for drainage.

About the only other thing you need to know is the pH. This can be tested easily by the taste (yes -the taste, acid soil tastes slightly tart) and smell will give you a good guide as to quality. Just be careful where you choose your taste sample!

Soil quality can be easily gauged by looking at the health of its plants and the feel between finger and thumb. Is it smooth (clay) or coarse (sand), does it roll into a ball (clay and loam), does the ball fall apart easily (loam).

Do not forget the wife / significant other and the kids – they also live on the block.

What is the state of the residence? Remember – happy wife, happy life.

Sector Analysis (Risks and Rewards)

A clear eye to risks on each block will serve you well. A bit of bush-craft will allow you to identify risks and other hidden dangers. Bush-craft is mainly clear observation habits aligned with knowledge of what to look for.

This is where you ask the questions of the owner and the agent – bear in mind that they will not always tell you the full story (or even the true one). In many cases, they will not know and likely not understand what you are asking.

Sector analysis is usually performed by drawing arcs on a simple map.

The main things to look for are:

  • sun arcs
    • summer arc and shadow length
    • winter arc and shadow length
  • prevailing winds
    • summer
    • winter
  • fire direction
  • flood zones
  • frost zones
  • views
    • good – to keep
    • bad – to block
  • extreme weather
  • toxic waste

Most property owners will keep rainfall records, some include frost days in their records. This is important if you are to gain a quick understanding of climate trends in the area.

Sun arcs

We all need warmth in winter and coolth in summer. Knowing where the sun rises and sets in summer and winter and how high it rides in the sky will give you a good idea of what to expect. This will help you define the extent of shadow.

Prevailing winds

What are the prevailing winds in summer and winter? When is the windy time and how strong are the winds?

What windbreaks do you have and where do you need them?

Fire

What is the prevailing wind direction in summer? Does it come up slope over a timbered place? This is likely to be your fire sector. Have a look and check for fire damage to posts and trees.

Flood Zones

Look for flood debris on and above the river bank and in fences. Check for the extent of any flooding. A flood can destroy crops and soil but it can also soak the soil and irrigate for the remainder of the year.

Frost Zones

Where are the frost zones. Look in places at the bottom of the slope where the cold air may pool after running down slope. River flats are a likely candidate.d.

Views

Every block has its views. Many times they are natural and pleasant, sometimes they are of the neighbour’s mess. A quick growing screen of trees can correct this situation and reduce the associated noise and odor as well.

Extreme Weather

Where do the big storms come from? What is their direction? Often this is not aligned with the direction of the prevailing winds. What are the characteristics of bad weather on the block. Heavy rain and hail can damage crops. This will guide you where to put windbreaks in the future.

Toxic Waste

Where is the waste buried? Is the council tip upstream?

Have a look at the river or creek to find if it is showing signs of heavy algal growth likely caused by leached fertiliser and dairy waste upstream.

Check on the state mapping service for ANY sign of acid sulphate soil – active or inactive. If found, run like hell – this is not a block for you!

Other Features

The best approach is to observe and ask lots of questions. Common sense will sort most of it out.

How has the previous management run the property, what is the fertiliser history? How much irrigation water is available, what is the quota?

Does the property have any leased crown land? How much and where? What are the conditions of the lease?

What covenants and easements are on the title? Who do they benefit? What is their purpose? Ask the agent for a copy of the current title maps – they often change.

Check with the local council for their district plan. Is a highway or swathe of mains electricity towers about to be put through the block?

Conclusion

When you have chosen land that you like, that feels good and is ideal for your purpose, you will be happy and the universe will smile upon you.

Your happy attitude will attract much good luck and joy. Do not think that this is silly philosophy.

Your mood does affect your thoughts and your thoughts do strongly affect your actions, and your actions directly affect your future. Good choices lead to success.

You cannot make a good choice from a bad mood.

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