Interview with 1st time Land Owner

An Interview about the Land Ownership Process

Please enjoy this interview with Maria, a 1st-time land owner!

The reason I invited Maria to share is that she has a few traits that have led to her success in land development.  She was kind enough to share her time and experience about her land journey and how to navigate the process.

We discuss a lot of common questions and challenges before she decided to own land. Click the play button above to listen to the recording. The full transcript is below–Enjoy!

Interview Transcript:

Matt:  Welcome dear fellow readers and listeners. Please meet Maria. She’s a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Security Management with a background in Criminal Justice and is a Voice-over artist. Maria is also a first-time landowner.

It’s a pleasure to connect with you. We’ve known each other for about six months now, and I just wanted to talk about your vision for your land that you recently purchased and the process of that. I know you had a survey on the land and you’ve started building out your dream vision. Can you share a little bit about how you discovered that land was even an option?

Maria: Well, I actually started thinking about purchasing land for the first time when I got familiar with people who were more Minimalists. I became interested in the idea of living in a tiny home or prefab home or, alternatives to living in a big house and spending way too much money on rent. I currently still live in my studio in Glendale and I’m paying way too much money, but I thought there’s got to be another way than just funneling way too much of my paycheck into just paying rent from month to month. So I gave myself the opportunity to start thinking outside of the box.

I became familiar with some folks that have a co-op community with a Latch Collective. There are other people who have built tiny homes or, are exploring the idea, and they kind of help each other, encourage each other and bring up resources. They have workshops sometimes and even build homes together if someone is converting a van or a school bus into a tiny home. And so, I got to know some people in that community and it just really opened my mind to the possibilities. And that there is no one way to live, it’s how you choose to live and your future.

Matt: Yeah, and I think that’s fascinating. I’m from Pennsylvania and there’s a lot of Amish folks in Pennsylvania, and they do a lot of Community builds like you described where they help everybody kind of helps each other with housing and it’s a norm there. And so I think it’s interesting that the co-op has borrowed that idea and said, “Why don’t we help each other?”

Maria: Right, right now, now that I’ve purchased my land and I’m starting to develop it, I’ve let the community know, they’re very excited. I’m posting pictures on Discord and the ultimate vision for me personally is to develop,  have a well, solar energy, and put in a prefab home or tiny home either for myself or rent to others. Because I am planning on retiring early in a few years. I might go out there and live there myself or rent, but in the meantime, I’m investing in certain things, doing the land survey, and we’ve done brush cleaning out there. Right now, we’re working on getting the ground leveled, putting up fencing, and starting an off-grid campsite. So that’s what I’m investing in right now, and hopefully, the campsite will be successful and that will generate funds for a future build.

Yep, of course, it’s certain things or a little scary but I have a lot of questions about how to do things, but meeting a lot of great people and I’m pleasantly surprised at how helpful people have been. Like, just literally people strangers that I talk to on the phone, and I’ll just put myself out there and be like, “well, hey, do you know somebody who does this?” Oh yeah. I know this guy out there. You’d be very surprised.

Matt: Yeah, that’s something noticed about you Maria, when we first spoke on the phone– you asked a lot of really good questions. I think that it was a great indicator that you were going to make your vision possible. Because you followed through with what you were trying to do. You asked a lot of questions and you were politely persistent. I thought that was great and I just knew that you were going to get there from that first conversation by the questions you were asking.

What advice would you give someone who’s kind of just getting started? Maybe they checked out the Latch Collective website (I’ll include that website here in the post). What’s step 1 after they find out?  and think “Oh, maybe land IS for me…” What would you suggest?

Maria: Well, I would say, don’t talk yourself out of it so quickly– because it is kind of scary. And the initial investment, especially if you’re interested in developing something on it. Because literally after I saw the property in Rosamond, I remember driving home and just feeling like I think this is my property– I think this is it! Yeah, and then, as soon as I got home, I started talking myself out of it. Oh, well, what about the financing and what am I going to do? It’s in the middle of the desert and that is and then I had a little conversation with myself and I said, what, this is totally up to you, you could say yes, or you can say no. This is your decision so, say yes, and make it happen. It’s really just the decision and so don’t think of all the obstacles right away… There will always be obstacles.

Matt: I noticed a characteristic in you, that you had the persistence and the grit to continuously ask questions until you came to some conclusion. You had persistence.

Maria: Yeah, and that’s the other thing too always ask questions. My mother taught me that she always taught me. Don’t be afraid to ask questions whenever I go on a job interview or meet a new person, or go on a date always have a couple of questions ready. Because they’re in your mind but you just might be afraid, to ask them or you feel like you’re bothering someone just ask, just ask the question and you will learn something.

And I knew almost nothing. I mean, I don’t even, I’ve never even owned a home in my life. So I knew almost nothing about land and I would ask you a lot of questions. My brother-in-law is a contractor in New York. I badgered him constantly with questions, but what? It’s brought us closer together. He’s so nice, and we’re communicating more often.

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I remember he appreciates sharing his advice with family.

Some of the questions that I couldn’t answer– I had to refer you to the County Planning Department. Do you have any best practices or tips for communicating with the County?

Maria: Yeah, with the County, there are some great people over there. You just have to be persistent. I would call, normally. Do you could leave voicemails they will get back to you eventually. Maybe not within your timeframe. So I would always follow it up with an email and then if I ask that didn’t work, if I wasn’t getting the response in a timely manner, I actually recall two separate trips actually driving out there. They have walk-in hours and you can just walk right in and ask questions. Just be ready. Don’t waste their time. Write down your questions and just rattle them off. Take notes. Get their business card. And they were very helpful actually life.

Sometimes they are inconsistent. Like, if you speak to more than one person, I mean, I’ve had times where I’ve called with the same question and spoken with three different people and got three different answers. So that’s always interesting because then it becomes like a little multiple choice game and that is when if when you know, how shall I put that? “You are operating in a gray area.” So like like in my case I’m kind of in the wild west out there in Rosamond.
So here are codes that are on paper and they have to say things over the phone that are politically correct.

Matt: I know exactly what you mean when you call.

I mean you say I need a yes or no answer on this and they’ll say well you got to read the code and they’ll kind of defer the question or they want to be helpful, but they can’t, there’s a difference between what the written code says and what actually happens in reality. And there’s a little bit of a game to it, where you have to figure out, well, how do I actually accomplish this goal? I know you’re just reading me the code, but how do I get to point B?

And sometimes I think the County is very helpful and they’ll point you to point B and they’ll say, “Look, you need to go through these steps,”, and they’ll give you the actual answer. And then sometimes they’ll just read from a piece of paper and say this is my canned response. Sometimes it’s helpful sometimes, it’s not. But I think that’s where it comes back to, like you said, being persistent and following up.

Maria: I’m also trying to like you said, find out what the code says on paper. Obviously, you don’t want to do anything that’s going to get code enforcement on your butt. I also make a point of driving out there at least once a week and getting to know the area, saying hello to my neighbors, talking to people in the hardware store, and things like that. And find out how things are actually done. And what will my neighbors complain about? Get a feel for the people and places and things around your property. And feel your way around and you’ll figure out what’s actually feasible and what someone might actually complain about.

Matt: If you’re a neighbor, they might be more receptive if you need any help.

So I guess, since you purchased the land, you also did a survey. What was that process like? 

Maria: Yeah, the survey was probably one of the smartest things I could have done. It can be. you need a little money put aside, but I found a really great surveyor in the area just by searching on the internet and reading people’s different reviews. That was actually recommended to me by the County office. They recommended getting it. That was one of the first things they suggested, getting your title report that you can pretty much get from any Title Company. Get your title report, so the history on your land, make sure there are, there’s nothing pending on your land, and then get a land survey done. Because this way you can register it with the county and everything is set in stone, legally, where your boundaries are.

So, I mean, in the future, if I do foresee that area getting more built up and developed. Right now I don’t have any neighbors. My closest neighbors are like half a mile away, but I have stakes in the ground. I know exactly where my boundaries are so whenever I go out there or workers or anyone goes out there, they know exactly where they’re operating, which is super helpful. And it’s in the process of being filed with the County.

So in the future, if I choose to hold on to this land. I mean, I do. Pass it down to my daughter and have it become generational wealth. If there’s any question at all, it’s filed with the County.  It avoids any disputes with neighbors and so forth. So I made that little investment, just for peace of mind and I think it’s a smart idea.

Matt: Yeah, yeah. So you almost have like a “what if” insurance, and you have a physical object at the corner of each corner of your property to mark, this is where the boundary is, and you had a professional market for it you.

Maria: Right.

And he was wonderful (the Surveyor).  I just gave them the coordinates to the property, and he did it rather quickly. Even a few weeks after he said, said the stakes in the ground. Unfortunately, I don’t know. Someone went out there and pulled them out and I wasn’t too happy about that. I just called him up and he just went and put him in deeper, then charge me a dime. He’s like “I want you to be happy with your survey” and yeah, he was she was wonderful.

Matt: awesome. Yeah, I think that’s a great point that you bring up because not everything always works out exactly the way you want the first time as you mentioned about the survey and the stakes.
Sometimes stuff will happen either nature knocked it over or the neighbor got grumpy. I mean things happen and so I think that resiliency and being able to say, all right, “Water off a duck’s back”. You just keep rolling and you keep, being persistent. And I think that’s really important to note. I think that’s great.

So, I have another question for you. I mean, I know in my opinion, you’ve gone through this process, this process seamlessly where you’ve, purchase land and you surveyed. You’re starting to look into building. What would you do differently next time?

Maria: I mean, I was actually pleasantly surprised at how quickly I found the land.  I had looked that probably a handful of places over the past couple of years. I think the only thing maybe that I would have done differently was to be a little bit more inquisitive and persistent from the beginning and more trusting of people. I was very surprised when I did start asking questions and asking for advice/referrals. Just doing things like looking for different reviews on Yelp, just how helpful especially people who have gone through the process before, how helpful and willing to share their experience with you. Yeah, that’s the only thing, “hey, I could have taken this attitude on a lot sooner”.

Matt: Yes, “Ask for help when you need it.”

Maria: Yeah, for sure. Because it can be kind of daunting in the beginning. If you’ve never purchased land before, especially for females. I’ve literally been out there with tractors and picks and shovels. I’m not intimidated by that so much cuz I grew up with contractors in my house. My father was a contractor his whole life. But I think women especially tend to be a little intimidated by that and think, “oh, that’s a man’s world”. But don’t. Don’t let that stop you.

Matt: Yeah, and I think that’s something to note. I do have a few women who have purchased land. I’m always curious to know about customers’ backgrounds. Like yourself, a lot of women who purchase land have some kind of formal education. I noticed that those buyers either come from a construction background, or they just understand that land is valuable somewhere along the line.

Matt: Are there any other resources that you think we’re really helpful for you that would be good to share?

Maria: Well, I would say the Landmodo website is really great. I believe, how I was directed to you. I know sometimes when you go on the internet, you end up falling into a rabbit hole. And you start sometimes I forget how I got there.

Matt: I just looked it up here on the computer. That’s exactly how we connected!

Maria: Yeah, I think Landmodo is, is awesome.

Also, get involved with Tiny Home communities. Just do a web search on that: “tiny home enthusiasts” or anything like that. They are really just really wonderful down-to-earth people. And they’ll have a wealth of information even as far as finding land. Because a lot of times they are looking for land to put a Tiny Home. That is quite a challenge in that Community, especially in Los Angeles. And they’re very accustomed to always thinking outside of the box. So even if you need help with just shaking up your mindset a little bit.

Matt: So a different perspective or challenge the perspective that you have– maybe you’ll learn something.

Maria: I would say even going into the County office, wherever you thinking about purchasing land. I chose to purchase in this County — I didn’t want to be too far from my property. I was thinking about possibly living there also so my property is only about an hour and 10 minutes away with traffic.

But if you have the opportunity to go to your County office, I think make an appointment and talk to talk to the building department, talk to the environmental health. If you need to drill a well or something like that, go to all of those offices and get to know them and they’ll help you pack, get familiar with the codes and with the area and the whole process of different things that you need to do to make it happen.

Matt: Awesome. Yeah, that’s great advice. Maria, I guess this is the last question that I had here: How has owning land changed your life?

Maria: Oh, wow. Yeah, it’s really, I mean, I personally, I have worked a very, very hard to stay in my lifetime, I’ve been been a single parent. So I’ve always worked two jobs, worked overtime. I wanted kind of something to show for it. I guess and I remember going out to the property, I took a good friend with me that day. And I remember, just looking around. I’m just on a vacant piece of land. And I remember getting off just, I was, I got emotional and I was like, Wow, and I looked at her and I said, I said, I’ve worked really hard and she said, I know and she said, ” this will be great.”

My daughter will tell her kids  and say “look what Grandmama did for you.” Yeah, and that was really special. So that’s something I would really encourage people, to do the same. Find a way to do it. Because I really think that the land is not going anywhere. Rarely does it depreciate in value. So find a way, if you have to finance it, if you have to work a little more often– it’s a great investment.

Matt: Wow, that’s amazing. And I’m just trying not to be emotional on the other side here… I think that really hits home on, why, people want to own land — because you’ve earned it. It’s a part of working hard and treating yourself. But also for future generations, for your family,  for building wealth– all those things you mentioned.

Maria, I really appreciate it. Thank you again for taking the time to chat through these questions. I’m sure it’s going to help a lot of people who read or listen to this later on. They may have questions, but I think it’s great that you’re able to give back. And I really appreciate you taking the time to share. Because I know that someone’s going to hear this or read this and maybe they’ll take some inspiration or advice from this call, learn from it, and gain from it somehow.

Thank you, Maria. I really appreciate your time.

Maria: You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure!


Jan 2023: Update

The property after the survey, brush clearance, and grading. Next step: Fencing!

July 2023: Update

Fencing complete– framing almost complete!

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