Buying

WOODS AND BOUNDS

by Terri & Roger Coolong, PLS, RPF

 

Many times after a survey is completed, the client will look at a plat and say "Why is the magnetic bearing on this line N 42° W?  My deed says that it is supposed to be N 39° W!"  Although the use of true north would be a more accurate orientation for boundaries, magnetic north has been used in most of our local maps and deeds.  Magnetic attraction varies over time.  This is due to the fact that the magnetic poles of the earth are not located at the poles around which the earth spins, and the magnetic poles also move back and forth over a period of years.  The variation is usually called the declination, defined as the amount and direction by which the magnetic needle is off the true meridian.  Declination across the United States varies, but in Maine is approximately 17 to 22 degrees to the west of North.

Chances are, the description in your deed was written many years ago, when the magnetic declination was different than it is now.  Charts are available from the United States Geological Survey which tell you approximately what the declination was in your geographic area during any given year over the last 200 years.  By adding or subtracting the difference in declination between the year the property was last surveyed and now, you can find roughly what your compass would have read at that past time.  Any map recently prepared by a surveyor should indicate the basis of bearing, for instance "magnetic north in August 1995", true north, or grid north. This will assist future surveyors in knowing what differences to expect when resurveying the property.   The directions we seek may vary from compass to compass because of the amount of magnetism in the needle.  Newer techniques in machining, combined with purer materials for the housings, have reduced many of the variations that were found in older compasses.

Many of the staff compasses used for surveying in the early years of statehood were only marked in full degrees. A surveyor may have only read the bearing to the nearest degree, or might possibly have "eyeballed" it to the nearest 1/4 degree.  Older compasses did not have the dampening properties of a newer one, so it took much longer for the needle to "settle", or stop moving back and forth.  If the surveyor was in a hurry (often the case when miles and miles of line were surveyed in a day as is indicated in field notes filed at the State Archives), he may not have waited for the needle to stop moving completely, but just guessed at where it would stop based on the reading that it was moving back and forth around.  Keep in mind that should one run a compass line and have an error of 1°, in a mile distance the error is 92.1487 feet.  At that rate, one would have a 1.74 foot error every 100 feet!

Generally, the greatest magnetic force at a point is created by the earth's magnetic field, but other natural and man-made elements can have local influences too.  The presence of iron deposits, reinforcing bars in roads and buildings, wire fences, underground utility pipes and electric lines all modify how a compass will behave in any given place.

With the use today of high precision GPS, we can orient a parcel to true north or grid north.  True north is absolute north while grid north is slightly east of north according to the State of Maine grid.  The advantages of high precision GPS are that the orientation is not influenced by outside forces as with compass use and only one original monument is needed to orient a retracement survey.

So the next time you are trying to follow an ancient compass bearing, be it on an old survey plan, in a deed, or on the secret treasure map left to you by great-uncle Blackbeard, remember to convert the declination to the current year, watch for local compass influences, and in the case of the treasure map, leave no stone unturned!

 

Comments

  1. No comments. Be the first to comment.

Maine land suffers early season storm damage

Maine balsam fir storm damage

Snow storms in early November 2014  have caused timber losses on land in Maine.  Whether you are considering selling acreage in Maine or are interested in land for sale in Maine, you or your forester should walk the land to inspect the property for storm damage.

Timberland in Maine is a relatively safe passive investment.  If your land does have tree damage from winter storms, working with your forester, you may be able to schedule a salvage harvest to recoup some of the losses.

Not all damage is a bad thing, as some of the damaged trees are weaker diseased trees that once down will allow your dominant trees to grow faster.

A recent trip to our land in Surry Maine allowed us to inspect our forest to see the extent of the downed trees.  Our white pines and maple trees were basically in good condition with some limbs broken off but no serious damage.  The biggest damage was to 3-6 inch dbh fur and white birch.  See the photos in this post of our fir trees.  Land in Hancock County and land in Waldo county seemed to have the largest amount of downed trees.  Some trees snapped at the top, others in the middle and some near the butt.

Top 5 Things to Consider When Buying Maine Land For Sale

You have been searching on the internet on numerous websites and perused dozens of catalogs, newspaper and trade journals with land for sale in Maine. You have your plans for building your new home, getaway cabin or developing your Maine recreational site. You narrowed the search of parcels, made a trip to your favorite part of the pine tree state and found your perfect spot. Now what?

Assuming you have done your homework, understand the local property values, have arranged appropriate financing or better yet, saved the necessary cash, it is time to write an offer. Most good real estate contracts or purchase and sale agreements have a due diligence clause that you can fill in items of concern.

The following is a list of our top 5 due diligence items. There could be other issues depending on your intended use such as building permits, soil testing, environmental assessments and more.

1. Survey - This is an item that is often overlooked but is one of the most important issues when purchasing Maine land. Questions answered will be where the boundaries are located, what is the true acreage, are there any encroachments and easements to name a few.

2. Title - I thorough title exam is just as important as the survey. Does the owner of the Maine land have merchantable or at least insurable title? Have a good Maine real estate title attorney do the research and provide you with an opinion and title insurance policy.

3. Access - Does the property front on a maintained state, county or town road? If yes access may not be an issue, or is it? Check the status of the road. Is it still maintained by the municipality? If it has been abandoned by the town there could be issues. If a private right of way, how well is it described? Be sure to add this item to the title search to be sure the access can be insured.

4. Entrance Permits - If the property fronts on a State of Maine maintained road or a road that receives state assistance, a driveway entrance permit is required. This permit requires ample line of site distance for entry onto the road. The distance is dependent on the speed limit. Be sure to add this to your list of due diligence when investing in Maine land. Maine's Department of Transportation handles this and there is no charge for the permit.

5. Taxes - Check with the Maine town that the land for sale is located in (or the State Bureau of Taxation if located in Maine Unorganized Territory) to see if the taxes are paid and if the property is enrolled in the tree growth tax program. If you hired a title attorney they will usually take care of this. Knowing the status of the taxes will help you better understand all potential future expenses such as change of use penalties and forest management plans.

If you have not yet found that special property in Maine, check out the many fine properties on this web site.

Investing in Maine Timberland

A friend asked me today if Maine timberland is a good investment. I think it is and invest in it myself.  For me, there are many reasons for doing so.

I became interested in timberland because it has been a proven investment for many of my clients and other family members. I have witnessed well managed land provide periodic returns of stumpage while the land remained well stocked with trees for future harvest. As an investment, one of the key features of timber is the ability for the owner to leave trees on the stump to grow and move up to a more valuable product class. Unlike other crops, if markets are not good, trees can be left for a later harvest when markets improve.  Additionally, with a number of other potential uses, land values over time usually continue to rise.

 

Managed Clear Cut

Managed Clear Cut

 

I would also credit forestland for helping to improve my mental health. Spending time in the forest I own has a relaxing effect on my mind.  Doing the physical work of timber stand improvement not only helps increase the value of my woodlot, I find it the perfect stress reliever as it lets me forget about the complications of our modern world.  Improving land of any kind gives me and most others I know a great feeling of accomplishment.

As a hunter, owning timberland gives me the ability to help our local game animals by managing areas for them. New growth from a harvest provides a desirable food source and cover for many of our favorite species like ruffed grouse, woodcock, rabbit, whitetail deer and moose. Areas left heavily wooded will provide good winter cover for those same animals.

The State of Maine gives a landowner a better chance at the any deer permit lottery. Any private landowner is eligible for the landowner permit drawing if the person owns a particular piece of land that is: 25 or more contiguous acres in size; is agricultural, forested or undeveloped land; and open to hunting, including hunting by permission. Any dependent living in the household of a qualifying landowner is eligible.

Maine has another benefit for timberland owners. The tree growth tax program is a special tax status available for owners who agree to manage their lands the commercial harvest of the forest. This reduction in property tax is the reward for the landowner to properly care for the forest and provide the raw materials that support our forest products industry. The requirement to have a Maine licensed forester provide a management plan also ads value to the ownership.

Timberland is a great asset that can provide you with cash returns, pride of ownership and recreational pastimes; it is also a potential legacy for your children and grandchildren. Properly managed forests have historically supplied generations of owners with all of the above.

If you are interested in learning more about timberland investing, United Country Real Estate's timberland specialty property group has an informative free E Book written by Eric J. Holzmueller PhD.  Eric is a forester and one of United Country's many licensed foresters who are also land brokers. You can download the free book at http://investintimberland.com/

The Pros and Cons of Buying Land with Owner Financing

The most common question we get from people interested in buying Maine land is; "Will the owner finance the purchase"? In some cases the answer is yes, but often the best land we have to offer for sale does not have owner terms of either a mortgage or contract for deed.

Pros

From a buying point of view what are the advantages of financing your land purchase with the owner? .

Less Down Payment

One of the advantages of owner financing is sometimes the down payment requirement is less than required by a conventional bank or lender. If the owner does not have a mortgage on the property they will sometimes finance with less than 20% down payment. This is considerably less than a bank would require.

Easier Qualification

If you have had a few credit blemishes in the past an owner is more likely to extend credit than conventional lenders. Many owners will ask for a credit report and a low score could cause the owner to decide not to finance the property or ask for more money down and/or a higher interest rate. The owner is also less likely to want to see all of your financial history which for many is enough of a reason to stick with the owner. Some banks and other lenders require a lot of documentation to consider a loan.

Cheaper Closing Expenses

Owner financing usually comes with lower closing cost requirements. Owners will rarely ask for appraisals, points, flood certifications, title work among other things. For buyers looking for short term financing the cost savings of low closing cost may be the reason they want the owner to hold paper.

Time

Without any question the purchase of land with the owner financing the transaction is much quicker than the same loan with a bank. Most owner financed land deals will close within 2 weeks of the offer being accepted. The owner may have a licensed loan originator package the deal but no underwriters or other reviewers will need to approve the deal.

Cons

For the buyer who insists at only owner financed purchases the downside could be considerable. You may think that owner financing is the best way to purchase but here are a few things you should consider before ruling out other means of borrowing.

Interest

Most owners ask for and get interest rates from 1 - 4 % higher than some of our conventional banks charge. Over the life of the loan this increase in rate could add up to thousands of dollars in additional land cost.

Less Choices

Many owners have mortgages on the land that they are selling. With a few exceptions most of the owners lenders will require them to pay off the note with the bank if they sell the property. This could cause the seller to ask for a larger down payment or refuse to consider owner financing altogether. If this is the perfect property for you, other forms of financing should be considered in order for you as a buyer to have all land available for you to purchase.

Higher Price

If you are asking the owner to finance the transaction they are less likely to take less than they are asking for the property. Having financing secured ahead of time with an alternative lender will put you in a position to offer the seller an all cash deal. Many, if not most owners will negotiate a better price for an all cash deal.

When looking to buy land in Maine keep all of your options open for purchasing the right property. If you have sufficient down payment, good credit and patience; owner financing is not the best choice. Many more properties at better prices will be available to you with an all cash offer. Call us today for a list of land friendly banks and other lending options.

Comments

  1. OK Cash Home Buyers on

    This is very informative and is probably one of the best presentations of the pros and cons. Thank you for sharing
    • Owner Finance OKC on

      Awesome presentation, thanks for such a comprehensive article
      • Sooner House Buyers on

        Very well presented article, good job writing such a comprehensive article, totally share-worthy

        Maine Waterfront Real Estate Market in Full Recovery

        In 2006 and 2007 Maine experienced the hottest waterfront market in history.  Ocean, lake, pond and river properties for sale were benefiting from the boom of real estate values in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and the rest of New England.  Out of state buyers were flocking to Maine with cash from home equity loans on their primary residences.

        In 2011 the waterfront market bottomed out based on the number of sold transactions.  Since 2011 we have seen a slow but steady increase in the number of single family waterfront transactions per year.  For example, in 2014 Penobscot County had seen an 80% increase in the number of sold transactions compared to 2011.

        Maine Bold Coast

        What are some of the causes for the increase in the number of Maine waterfront properties sold?

        1. Record high levels of available inventory. Buyers have had a great selection of properties to choose from.
        2. Prices are at the most affordable levels since the great recession started. Some locations are seeing properties selling for 25% less than the peak values of 2006-2007.
        3. Record low interest rates. Current 30 year fixed rates are under 4%.
        4. Record Stock Market Levels. Buyers are taking stock market gains and investing in Maine waterfront property.
        5. Pent up demand. Buyers are starting to see the changing tide in the Maine waterfront market and are getting off the fence to take advantage of these conditions.

        Why buy now?

        Buyer activity for the winter months of 2015 has been the strongest we've seen at United Country McPhail Realty since 2007.

        New listings coming on the market for the first two months of 2015 are down 11% compared to 2014 and down 7% compared to 2013.

        If you are a buyer that has been sitting on the fence watching Maine waterfront for sale, timing is everything.  The balance of supply and demand is moving away from oversupply to a more balanced market.  These conditions will help to provide an upward pressure on values, especially on those waterfront properties that are priced aggressively and have the popular features buyers are looking for.

        Maine Lakes and Ponds

        If you are an owner looking to sell your waterfront property, it is more critical than ever to hire the right Realtor.  What makes for the best waterfront realtor?  The following are some of the criteria to consider:

        1. A real estate company with a strong online marketing program that focuses on lifestyle property types. A generic, cookie cutter, one size fits all marketing program will not work well.
        2. A company with a strong print advertising campaign designed to reach buyers of lifestyle properties. Another part of a strong foundation. Affluent buyers still like to read print.
        3. A brokerage that understands SEO and can help your property stand out from the crowd. It takes more than just a standard web site to be found first among the many.
        4. A real estate company with a large database of buyers that can be marketed to from day one.
        5. A real estate company that is part of an international network of lifestyle brokers.
        6. A real estate company with years of experience that understands the best marketing, pricing and negotiating strategies to best serve their client's needs.
        7. A real estate company that is continually staying on the cutting edge of new marketing ideas and technology.

        For a free, no obligation consultation, give the United Country McPhail Realty team a call at 207-794-4338 to see the power of a custom lifestyle marketing program for your Maine waterfront property.

        ARE YOU PREPARED TO BUY MAINE LAND

        Are you planning on buying a parcel of Maine land this year? If so, you need to know a few things before you start, especially if you are not from here and/or have never purchased land before.

        FINANCING

        Before you fuel the car or buy the plane ticket, have you considered how you will pay for it? Obviously, if you have cash this item can be checked off your list. If you intend to get a loan to complete the purchase, you should know it is not the same process as getting a home mortgage. Most US banks do not do land loans. So if you planned on using the BIG bank you have a credit card or your home loan with, save yourself a lot of time and money by asking if they will finance raw land. Ask them questions like:

        • What down payment would be required?
        • Is there a limit on how many acres they will accept?
        • Do they do business in Maine?
        • Do they have approved appraisers and title companies in Maine?
        • Is your credit score high enough for their land loan program?

        If you find out they will not do the loan, you just saved yourself hundreds of dollars in travel expenses. There are a few solid lenders who finance raw land in Maine. So if you need financing give us a call to get the list. Also, many sellers will consider owner financing their lands.

        GREAT EXPECTATIONS

        Maybe before calling the lenders, you should ask yourself why are you buying land? What is your intended use of the property? Did you get all the information on your target properties to be sure the ground will meet your needs and desires? For example, if you intend to use the land for raising cattle, is the land zoned for that use? If not, you are going to waste time and money coming to see it. Make a list of your concerns and get the answers before you come, a few example as follows:

        • Is the zoning in line with your intended use?
        • Is the property in a tax program that prohibits your intended use?
        • Are the soils OK for your use?
        • Does the property have utilities to it? If not and you require them, how far and how much to extend them?
        • Does the property have year round access?

        CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT

        The next item of preparedness that I nearly always forget to tell my customers before they get here is the appropriate clothing to wear for a visit to Maine. If you are looking at forested land, for example, and are unfamiliar with Maine, the forest here can be very dense and the ground uneven. Here is a checklist of the minimum gear you should have with you when you come.

        • Good pair of boots - waterproof if you have them
        • Sun or safety glasses to protect your eyes from tree branches
        • Layered clothing options for changing weather conditions
        • A waterproof coat

        If you are working with one of us to show you the land, the above list will get you by. If you intend to do some exploring on your own, think about the following items:

        • A good compass
        • GPS
        • Maps of the areas of interest
        • Backpack
        • Water bottles
        • Snow shoes in winter

        CUSTOMER OR CLIENT

        The final question to ask yourself is are you confident enough to represent yourself or should you hire a broker to help you with the process. If you have the time you can do your own research and represent yourself in the process, but if you do not have time a good land broker is worth a look. Maine does require a real estate agent representing a buyer as a client to have a written buyer brokerage agreement, so if you do decide to go this route be sure to carefully review the contract to see what the agent's and your obligations are to each other.

        Comments

        1. Allyson Vignola on

          Thanks for this! Can you send me the list of the Maine lenders that you're aware of that will finance a land-only loan? This is an improved lot, so not just raw land. We've found Maine Savings but that's it so far. Thanks for any help!
          • Phil McPhail on

            Please send me your email and which part of Maine you are in. We will send the information directly to you. phil2@lifestylepropertiesme.com
        2. Bill Hardie on

          Can you send me a list of lenders for the Brooksville, ME area? Thanks!
          • Phil McPhail on

            Please send me an email (so I can get yours) and I will send a list to you directly. phil2@lifestylepropertiesme.com
        3. Michael on

          Please send me list for oxford maine thank you
          • Morgan Espling on

            Are you looking for specific types of listings in Oxford?