Best Places to Buy Land for Retirement

Whether retirement is on your radar now, a few years down the road, or a decade or more in the future, many people plan to (or dream of) finding a perfect plot of land for sale in the U.S. and hunkering down to enjoy some well-earned rest and relaxation.

But when it comes to a topic like “the best places for retirement” or “top spots to buy land for retirement,” the answer is extremely subjective and personal. The options are enormous and the variables like the price of land, cost of living, tax issues, amenities, and lifestyle desires will vary from person to person.

Obviously, there are plenty of spots to find cheap land for sale and locations where taxes are also well below normal. But, do you really want to live there?

Instead, we’ve scoured the web for data and suggestions from a variety of sources who have crunched the numbers and compiled recommendations for great spots to buy land for retirement.

The cost of living for retirees in Alabama is estimated to be 11% below the U.S. average, while the median purchase price for a house hovers around $122,500 or more than $50,000 below the U.S. average of $176,000.

The state, of course, is in the heart of Dixie and the Sunbelt, with the allure of the Gulf Coast to the south and plenty of lakes, rivers and forests throughout Alabama for nature-lovers. Taxes are appealing, with none levied on Social Security earnings or that of most pensions. Homeowners 65+ pay NO state property taxes and are exempt from local property taxes in most cities and counties.

Great Spot: Decatur


This state is a no-brainer for more than its warm weather and exotic locale. Retiree cost of living is 3.7% below the national average, and it boasts a low income tax rate and no tax at all on Social Security.

Great Spot: Prescott


Central Ohio
Buying land for retirement in the heart of the Buckeye state is one of those little-known secrets that, well, now you know. The biggest city in the state – Columbus – is the 16th largest in the nation but is considered to easily be one of the most affordable cities in the country. If you want to live within the city, the median price for a house and land is only $130,000. Should you wish to live in a more rural setting, plenty of affordable, country land surrounds the city.

In central Ohio, it’s easy to live in the country, while the nearest suburb is only two or three minutes away and Columbus itself no more than 5 or 10. The cost of living for retirees is 9.4% below the national average, although the tax rating for retirees is a bit of a mixed bag.

Hot Spot: Columbus


In addition to mountain living, Colorado retirees enjoy a cost of living 4.4 below the national average and a retirement-income exclusion from state income taxes for those 55 and older. Yes, NOT 65, but 55+. That’s a great benefit for boomers. There’s also no inheritance or estate tax. Nice.

Hot Spot: Grand Junction


Your real estate agent isn’t the only resource you have at your disposal when considering a property investment. Home Inspectors can offer multiple benefits to ensure you make a sound decision. Here are a few things to consider when working with a home inspector.

Choosing the Right Resources

When you are choosing your resources you are in different situations. For example, you have a lot more time and freedom when choosing your realtor, compared to the time you may have for choosing a home inspector. Most often when you are ready to use this expert you are getting very close to closing the deal, and time is of the essence. Yet, choosing this inspector plays a very important role in making one of the most important decisions of your life.

The Home Inspection as a Bargaining Tool

Sometimes what can happen is the home inspection becomes a bargaining tool for the potential buyer. Their independent home inspector makes recommendations on repairs which gives buyers a chance to bargain for a lower price.

But an experienced property inspector can offer you the same bargaining chips, when it comes time to negotiate.

The Purpose of the Home Inspection

The real purpose of the home inspection is to ensure that there is no structural damage or mechanical problems with the home.  When the inspector is doing his job he will look for these but will also report other findings in his report. This is where buyers sometimes get confused because they think all of the items listed in the report should be repaired by the seller.

The Credibility of the Home Inspectors

A great way to ensure your home inspector is reputable and experienced is through the American Society of Home Inspectors. You can search members of the organization knowing that members have gone through thorough training and continue to stay up to date on industry news and trends.

The Good Stories of Having a Home Inspection

Some may think that the home inspector’s tasks are easy ones but these professionals run into some very strange circumstances. In these cases one could only imagine what it would have been like if the buyers had purchased the homes without being aware of this. It’s unlikely that the buyer would have wanted to go ahead with the sale without having the sellers tend to the matter.

There are some individuals who are in the business of house flipping, so you could say they are far more experienced at being able to trouble shoot what may be wrong with a property. Yet, many of these experts will still rely on home inspectors. On occasion where they have not, it has cost them a lot of money to do major repairs that would have been spotted by a house inspector.

The Not So Good Home Inspections

It can happen that a home inspector may miss something that would be considered serious. One of the ways to avoid this is by making sure that you have chosen an accredited home inspector, and checking their credentials. Also, knowing what other steps you can take to help ensure that your home inspection is going to be done properly is to tag along during the inspection. This also gives you a chance to see things about the home that you most likely would not have noticed at the time you were doing your walk through when you were inspecting the home for purchase.

So Should You Buy or Not?

Sometimes you might disagree with your home inspector or even consider taking a risk on investing in the property when your home inspector made other recommendations.

This is where you must pass your own judgement to make the decision. If you have chosen an accredited and trustworthy inspector, and the issues he is pointing out could potentially be dangerous to your health, or cost you a lot of money in repairs, then you should not buy. At least not if the seller is not willing to rectify the issue. However, if the problems are minor then you may want to negotiate slightly with the buyer, or just decide to make the purchase and tend to the repairs yourself. Part of this decision will depend on just how much you want that particular house.

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by Lou Jewell, ALC

Anyone involved in a typical Land transaction, leasing, buying or selling may be exposed to 93 plus potential Land issues. For years now I have advocated for need of a “Land Disclosure” form throughout our country. So far only fourteen states have such a document available for the real estate industry.

Most states have “Residential Property Disclosure” forms which are executed at time of the listing by the sellers and reviewed and signed off by the buyers during the offering process. We recommend these forms to also be used even in cases where you are selling without the assistance of a real estate firm.

North Carolina’s “Residential Property Disclosure” form has only twenty-one issues, far less than the Land form who should have and fewer than other comparable forms found around the country.

January 2011 NCAR approved Form 502 “Land Information Worksheet” in our Commercial Forms. This is not a required form but our NCRCA Board of Governors are looking to move it to our Legislative Committee in the future.

Last year Virginia association of Realtors® adopted this form and other NCRCA Commercial forms.

Here are a few examples of the seventy-three plus potential Land Disclosure issues currently in place by the several states previously mentioned.

“Are you aware of any?”

Endangered species:  Plant   Animal
Flooding whether currently or previously
Forfeiture of rights (mineral, timber, development, etc.)
Government sponsored clean-up of the property
Goundwater contamination
Illegal uses (manufacture of liquor, methamphetamine, marijuana cultivation, etc.)
Landfill operations:  legal or illegal or previous planned
Mineshafts or tunnels
Noxious fumes or odors
Pipelines (natural gas, petroleum, etc.)
Well water contamination:  current or previous
Conservation Easements
Stream Restorations

“Are there any Gravesites on the Property?

“Are there any animal cemeteries or animal burial sites?

“Are you aware of the presence of:”

Asbestos, Benzene, Fuel/chemical storage, Paint  (Lead based paint) (Other paint/solvents), Methane gas, Pesticides, Radioactive material, Radon gas, Underground storage tank(s), EPA Phase I, II or III studies.

“Are you aware of any past or present issues or problems with any of the following on the property?”

Soil settlement/expansion
Earth Movement
Dampness/moisture other than around rivers, streams, lakes, etc.
Wetlands or previous wetland areas

Do you have a survey? When was it done? Who did the survey? Do you have a copy? Has it been recorded?

Is or will it be subject to protective covenants, conditions or restrictions?

Is the legal owner(s) of the Property a foreign person or a non-resident alien pursuant to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA)?

Is the Property located in an unincorporated area of the county?

Is the Property subject to extra territorial jurisdiction?

What is the current zoning of the Property?

Has the property been timbered in the past 25 years?
Harvest monitored by a Registered Forester?
Timber replanted after the harvest with (species)

Is the property in an Agricultural or Forest tax deferment program?

Coming soon “Carbon Credits” that will also need to be disclosed.

Land can have a lot of issues and knowing all the aspects involved is critical for all involved in any of these transactions.

The Real Estate Industry “Realtor®” program has an established “The Realtor® Code of Ethics” as a guideline for practicing real estate. This code has seventeen articles. Article 11 states:

“The services which Realtors® provide to their clients and customers shall conform to the standards of practice and competence which is reasonably expected in a specific real estate disciplines in which the engage; specifically, residential real estate brokerage, real estate syndication, real estate auction, and international real estate.” (Our Professional Standards Committee voted unanimously in Washington in May 2009 at the NAR Mid-Year Convention meeting to include the four letter word “Land” in Article 11 of the code. It was approved by the NAR Board of Directors in San Diego in November and adopted January, 2010).

“Realtors® shall not undertake to provide specialized professional services concerning a type of property or service that is outside their field of competence unless they engage the assistance of one who is competent on such types of property or service, or unless the facts are fully disclosed to the client.  Any persons engaged to provide such assistance shall be so identified to the client and their contribution to the assignment should be set forth.” (Amended 1/95)


Unfortunately when one goes to real estate school around the country and takes the 160 +/- hours of classroom instruction and testing, they are not taught about Land, Commercial real estate, Property Management, etc., only about residential property and real estate law. Do not assume that all real estate agents have the knowledge in the specific areas of brokerage.

If you are buying or selling Land or Farms or Ranches, make sure to find a member of the Realtors Land Institute to help you in this process. Specifically look for an Accredited Land Consultant, their Designation for those experts in Land who have worked hard to achieve it.

See:  for the nearest RLI agent and the RLI programs and educational opportunities.

Consult with a Land attorney if you plan to create your own “Land Disclosure” form.  If you are a real estate agent, please check with your Broker-in Charge before creating or using Form 502 “Land Information Worksheet” form already approved. The potential risks and liabilities created because of non-disclosures can be very costly.

Lou Jewell ALC
Accredited Land Consultant
RLI Land 101 Instructor
Land Pro Real Estate, Inc.

by Mark Bingaman

On August 13, 2016 we published an article titled “What You Should Know About Seller-Financing (Contract-for-Deed Sales)”. You can read that blog post here:

That piece brought a reply from Texas real estate agent Barry McCollom who felt that a few of the facts presented in the article were off base, at least as far as they pertained to contract-for-deed sales in the state of Texas. We wanted to give Mr. McCollom a chance to present his thoughts and also encourage you to weigh in on how the law and process of these deals may differ in YOUR state.

Land Hub: Barry, what’s your background and experience with contract-for-deeds?

McCollom: I have been full-time Texas Realtor since 1981. Although I do mainstream Real Estate, consisting of residential, a few ranches here and there, and many acreage tracts (plus a commercial deal on occasion), one of my preferred clients is a land developer, operating since the 1950’s, now in its third generation of ownership.

(They operate) primarily (in) Texas but (also have) some developments in New Mexico and Colorado. They currently hold numerous notes receivables which were all originally contract-for-deeds. I am guessing well over 90% of our sales with them are contract-for-deeds. 99+% are land only – the only time we do a home deal will be the old ranch house that might be on the ranch we developed.

Land Hub: There were three primary points in our original article that you objected to, the first being the statement “buyers don’t own the land or receive the deed until the loan is completely paid off.”

McCollom: That might be the norm in other states, but the way we do it, (not being associated with the legal aspects, I am assuming it to be Texas law) we convert the contract-for-sale after six, monthly, on-time payments. We, at our expense, provide a General Warranty Deed with the buyer signing over a Deed of Trust and Real Estate Lien note. The two deeds then get filed with the county (in Texas, notes are not recordable.) We generally do 30-year notes, with the buyer obtaining the deed 29½ years before they pay off the loan. Again, I am not sure if this is due to Texas law or simply legal advice from company counsel.

Land Hub: You also disagreed with our blanket statement that “buyers accrue no equity.”

McCollom: (That statement is) not entirely accurate, at least in our sector of the woods. Our buyers have equity up-front in the form of the required 5% down payment plus monthly payments are amortized just like a bank note on your home or auto – each part of the monthly payment goes to principal. Your statement above appears to be more of a rental or interest-only deal.

Land Hub: We wrote that with a contract-for-deed sale, “missing even one payment means the deal can be voided and, if the land or a structure is inhabited, be grounds for eviction within as little as 30 or 60 days.” Granted, in most scenarios, it’s unlikely that the legal process would indeed play out so quickly.

McCollom: On a deed sale, at least in Texas, we can foreclose on the first Tuesday of the month, at the courthouse, within two to three months, depending on how that first Tuesday works out. If the property is inhabited, then the 30-day eviction process begins.

On a contract-for-deed delinquency, by the time we do the one or two required legal certified / registered letters, we are in the 45-60 day time-frame – much the same as a court house foreclosure albeit slightly quicker.

As to law, there is a certain time-frame for the buyer to bring the note current before either foreclosure or rescission of the contract-for-deed. We can’t go in (when they are) one day late and take back the property.

As a matter of our personal policy, we will work within reason with our buyer – all they have to do is work with us as well. I do realize this is where the ‘bad rap’ comes in to some degree. I’m guessing some note holders will be at your door step on Day One with a demand.

Land Hub: And you want to make it clear that contract-for-deeds are typically a very good thing.

McCollom: I fully understand the distrust some buyers have with contract-for-deeds as they have received bad press over the years due to a few unscrupulous sellers/land developers. (But) we counter that we are offering thousands of buyers the opportunity to own land (on Day One) that 99% of them would never be able to own otherwise – they will never have the 25% + down payment for a bank loan, nor will they ever be credit-worthy to obtain a loan. We do NO credit checks (we don’t care about their current credit or history.) If they make their payments they’ll never hear from us. Closing costs are zero and there is no pre-payment penalty.

At, we encourage our users and readers to offer their comments on any of the topics we cover, and we absolutely appreciate Mr. McCollom taking the time to contribute his experiences. Please feel free to share your thoughts here:

For Reference:
Barry McCollom





For More Information:
Texas Attorney General: Highlights of Some Recent Texas Laws Related to Executory Contracts for Deeds



by Mark Bingaman
Photo credit:

That land you’re about to sell or buy could soon – or perhaps, already be – on its way to a pretty substantial increase in value if a hiking or biking trail or other transit-oriented develop is nearby or in the planning stages.

Officially known as Trail-Oriented Development (TrOD), this latest amenity is a sort of sibling to “Transit-Oriented Development,” a trend that has already firmly established itself as a combination of housing, office, and retail development stirred into a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with proximity to public housing.

The difference is that Trail-Oriented Development is more concerned with “walkability” and bike-friendly proximity to hiking, biking, and nature trails.

As far as residential real estate is concerned, a National Association of Homebuilders study reports that trails are a massive lure to potential homeowners.

“Among the top four most-wanted amenities, three were the same for every age group: They all desire to live in a community that’s typically suburban, with close proximity to a park area, and that has access to walking/jogging trails,” indicates the NAH study.

Trails accessible to housing developments increase the general value of housing in the area, and individual property values. While some trails are simply walking, biking, and nature trails snaking through parks and housing developments, others are part of more extensive roadways that connect with dedicated bike and walk paths designed to carry commuters from suburban areas to downtown work locations.

Rural and Interstate Trails

While property owners are already well-familiar with interstate paths focused on hiking (like the Appalachian Trail) multipurpose trails, especially ones focused on biking, are becoming more prolific, with many designed to follow the routes of abandoned railways or canals.

In most cases, both states and the individuals cities and small towns that these new trails travel through, are deeply committed to improving and developing trails for travelers, with all political entities cognizant of the economic value they bring.

For example, the new Ohio to Erie Trail traverses the entire state of Ohio, with 285 miles of trail from Cincinnati and the Ohio River in the southwest portion of the state, through the state capital of Columbus, and then onward to Cleveland and Lake Erie in the northeast quadrant of Ohio.

“Bicyclists, equestrians, skaters, hikers, families with strollers, bird watchers, walkers and nature lovers are a common sight. In the winter, the trail becomes a snowshoe and cross-country ski path,” according to the trail’s official website.

Benefits for Landowners

In addition to the general increase in the value of land that’s adjacent to both community and larger trails, these pathways can offer unique economic opportunities to those who own land abutting trails, especially those geared to weekend (or longer) traveling. Many entrepreneurs and landowners have opened bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, cafes or coffee shops, small concession stands, and even bike shops (with parts and mechanical repairs) designed to service trail travelers. It’s important to note that these business opportunities are equally strong in potential benefit to property owners in both cities and also those along more rural stretches of trail.

As you search for land to buy right here on, pay attention to whether that acreage for sale abuts a dedicated trail of any sort. Not only does it make the land more valuable, but there could be increasing potential and opportunity for you. And the same goes for current landowners: If a trail runs near your property for sale, or farm for sale, or ranch for sale, be sure and market the opportunity and increased value to any potential buyer.

National Association of Homebuilders Study

Resources: Ohio to Erie Trail

The Columbus Dispatch: Community and Economic Value of Trails

by Mark Bingaman
Photo credit:

There’s been a significant increase recently in the number of U.S. real estate transactions financed by  sellers, a rise that can be viewed as both a good and bad thing.

Known as contract for deed sales, these deals are believed to be on the upswing as a result of the real estate market continuing its recovery from the 2008 Great Depression. Now that property prices have rebounded, investors who snapped up foreclosures in bulk are eager to reduce inventory by offering contract for deed options to interested buyers who are unable to qualify for a traditional mortgage. Of course, many of those folks suffered credit damage due to foreclosures during the recession, so there’s something of an unfortunate cycle at play here.

Sellers Offer Great Opportunity to Those with Damaged Credit

Your mortgage company says “No!”

The seller says “Yes!”

If you’re an individual or family with damaged credit and long to own your own home or buy land, your options are pretty limited. Seller-financing can be a valuable service and opportunity to buyers who would otherwise be unable to purchase land or a home.

Sellers assume some risk as they enter into a deal with credit challenged buyers. And, in many cases, the seller may be abandoning a quick cash payday on the sale and entering into the arrangement out of the “goodness of their heart” and a sincere desire to help a worthy individual or family achieve the dream of owning their own property or home.

Finding a seller willing to finance the purchase of land or a home or building can be an absolute miracle for those who wish to buy land but cannot assume a traditional mortgage.

Sellers also realize a number of benefits by financing the deal themselves including:

  • Say goodbye to closing costs like real estate agent commissions. (This ranges from 5%-8% of the purchase price).
  • Closing costs such as appraisal fees, inspection fees, credit report fees, title insurance, and other lender-related charges also disappear.

Buyer Basics Concerning a Contract for Deed

Buyers typically agree to a monthly installment plan to purchase the land and/or home. The most serious mistake buyers make is not truly understanding the terms of most contract for deed sales and how it can play out.

  • Buyers don’t own the land or receive the deed until the loan is completely paid off
  • Buyers accrue no equity
  • Missing even one payment means the deal can be voided and, if the land or a structure is inhabited, be grounds for eviction within as little as 30 or 60 days

Repairs and Seller Financing for Property

In many cases, land or structures purchased under a contract for deed transaction will require repairs and improvements. Buyers often underestimate the money needed for repairs or issues with the land, so keep this in mind as you budget how much you can afford to pay each month under a contract for deed sale.

At, we believe that everyone should enjoy the American dream of land ownership and home ownership. Contract for deed sales can be a way to achieve that dream, but both sellers and buyers should fully understand the arrangement and carry out the deal with both integrity and fiduciary responsibility.

Additional Resources: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis: Risks and Realities of the Contract for Deed

Minnesota Home Ownership Center: Contract for Deed

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