Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dreaming of Life on Affordable Minnesota Acreage? Acreage Foreclosures in Anoka, Chisago, Washington and Ramsey Counties

In the late 1990's, before home prices went crazy, my family came across a home being renovated on 3 acres in the country. It was a bit of a drive from North St. Paul and Maplewood, the quiet little suburbs where we had spent most of our lives. But there was something intriguing about the beautiful landscape with dozens of towering oaks and pines. We loved the idea that our children would grow up in an area where they could climb trees without the worry of power lines and could play hide and seek and capture the flag in the woods in our own yard. We were fortunate that we made the leap to rural life affordably. Suddenly, the price of Minnesota acreage skyrocketed. Many of our friends wanted to join us in the country but it was cost prohibitive.

Not anymore. Living on acreage is affordable once again. Hobby farms and acreage properties were not immune to the mortgage crisis and subsequent foreclosure fallout. Currently there are some amazing values on Minnesota acreage that might coax a few more city-dwellers to make the leap.


As of today, I found 42 bank-owned acreage properties in southeast Anoka County, southern Chisago County, northern Ramsey County and Washington County with homes and at least 2 acres. There were 22 homes on 2.5 to 4.9 acre parcels, 11 homes on 5-9.9 acres and more homes on 10+ acres. Some were as close in to the city as Maplewood and Lake Elmo. Others were a bit further off the beaten track in communities including St. Francis and Shafer. But if you are looking for a deal on acreage, now is the time to buy.

Here are some of the deals I noted:

· Turn of the Century classic home on 6.4 acres in North Branch for under $50K.
· 2005 Blt home on 75 acres in Shafer for under $290K
· 5BR/3BA built in 99 on 11+ acres located in East Bethel priced at $274,900
· 1983 Columbus Rambler set on just over 10 Acres for $171K
· 5Acres in Hugo with late 60’s multi-level…bank-priced less than $180K.
· Almost 7 Acres in Maplewood with 3BR/1BA 1970’s home for $309,900.
· Stillwater turn of the century classic home on 2.75 acres for under $190K
· 4+Acres in Ham Lake with 70’s rambler for $144,900.
· 6 Bedrooms and 5 Acres in Blaine for $300K.
· 1999 Rambler on 10 Acres in North Branch bank-priced at less than $125K


The astounding prices are enticing but many who consider leaving the city have questions about life in the country. For those who have never lived in on acreage, here are answers to the Top Ten most commonly asked questions regarding rural life.
  1. What is a Septic or Private Sewer system?Most rural homes have a private septic system. Not all systems are created equal. They are designed for the specific property and size of the home. Even a new septic system can fail if not properly maintained. How do you know if the septic system is working? Require the seller to supply a report of compliance from a certified septic inspector in your purchase agreement. If you have never lived on a home with a septic system, it is important to educate yourself on how to best maintain your system. Additional information on Septic Systems.

  2. Does the home have access to city water or a private well? Do I need a water softener or other water treatment system?Families new to the concept of well water have many questions regarding its safety. Traditionally, well water is tested for bacteria and nitrates at the time of sale by the seller. A lead test for well water is required only for FHA loans. If you want the well test for your property to include other contaminants, it must be specified in the purchase agreement. Annual water testing is recommended for all home owners with wells. Additional information on Private Wells.
    One question often asked by home buyers considering a property with a private well is about water treatment options available. Many homes with private wells have water softeners to treat the water in the home. Some will go one step further and have a reverse osmosis water treatment system in the kitchens as a drinking water supply. 

  3. Is there a natural gas supply to the home or will a propane tank be located on the property?
    Often people looking at acreage will have questions about the huge propane fuel tank located near the home. These tanks are usually see only at gas stations where homeowners fill their small propane tanks for the weekend BBQ. In the country, the large tanks are in many backyards as the source of fuel to heat the home and run appliances. As a fuel source the differences are not noticeable. Propane is the least expensive cleanest fuel if a home does not have access to natural gas.

  4. Does the home have access to cable or high speed internet or will a satellite connection be required? Can I get high speed internet through the phone line? Does the property have cable access? What are the alternatives if DSL is not available through the phone or cable lines? Will the new Digital Television come in or will I require an antenna?A few years ago, these were not questions that few people cared about in the rural communities. Today our interconnected world brings these questions to the forefront. There are many homes in Lino Lakes, Ham Lake, Forest Lake and East Bethel that do not have cable lines or high speed internet available through the phone lines. If your family lives on the internet and could not live without a high-speed connection, it is essential to find out whether a home has access. Also, the new digital television can require additional antennas in areas too far from the signal or on a property with dense trees. Ask questions prior to writing an offer if being connected is important to you. The alternatives can be significantly more expensive.

  5. Is the road frontage paved? If the road is not paved, how often is it maintained by the city/county?
    When our family first moved to our home to a rural area in MN, the road was not paved. We were nearly a mile down this soft, sandy dirt road. We moved in the late fall and had no idea of the extremely poor condition of the road in the April rain of spring. It was treacherous at times. The regrading was done by the city on a schedule so we would have a pot-holed road for days. Our road has been paved for years now but the memories still remain.
    If you are considering acreage, remember many rural roads are not paved. Try to visit the property on several occasions and under differing conditions to determine the condition of any unpaved road. Talk to the city and county to understand the maintenance schedule for the road. Also be sure to ask if there are any plans to pave the road in the future and what would be assessed per property owner for the project.

  6. Is hunting allowed?In some rural areas hunting is still allowed depending on the amount of acreage, the development restrictions and city and county rules. It was a rude awakening for us to discover our neighbors were allowed to hunt. Imagine our shock that first deer opener when the hunters came out in blaze orange to hunt in the woods next to our home. The property owner, at our request, posted the land and the hunters left. The land has since been developed but it is something everyone moving should understand before buying any acreage home. Check with the city and county for all ordinances regarding firearms.

  7. Where are the schools?
    The public school districts in rural communities can be vast. In the
    Forest Lake School District 831, students come from communities as far west as Ham Lake, as far south as Lino Lakes, as far east as Scandia and as far north as Stacy! It you drive from the western border to the eastern border of the district, it takes almost 45 minutes, one way! There is only one high school in the district, so your children's best friend from school could literally live almost an hour from your home. But the opportunities to get to know kids from all areas can outweigh any negatives. Bottom line, it pays to research the school district prior to any housing decisions.
    Also school alternatives can be limited. Communities in the city have dozens of private and charter school options. These options are much lower in rural areas due to the smaller population. 

  8. Can we have a bonfire and burn all this debris?There are strict state and local restrictions regarding burning of construction debris and yard waste. There are restrictions on the size of the fire and what can be burned. Many construction materials cannot be burned because they release chemicals into the air that pose an environmental hazard. There are times of the year where burning is only allowed by permit and sometimes not at all. Before burning it is best to check the local restrictions as well as the DNR. 

  9. What about emergencies? How far to the nearest hospital? Where is the nearest fire station? Who provides police protection?
    No one wants to think about these things when moving but accidents and illnesses do happen. It was a long hour drive to Children's Hospital in St. Paul when my then 6 year old son fell and needed stitches in his upper lip. If the nearest fire station is staffed with volunteers and over five miles away, it will seem like a lifetime during those 5-10 minutes while you wait for the fire truck to show up to YOUR home. Many rural communities do not have police officers but are patrolled by the county sheriff's department. Understand your options before an emergency occurs because it will likely take a bit longer if you are in a rural area.

  10. Wow! There are a lot of trees! Do I have to worry about oak wilt?Oak wilt is a big concern in Anoka and Chisago counties. Many of the communities have information and programs to help protect and save the oak trees from this disease. our search for your perfect and affordable country dreamhome.


Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/