Collecting the tools of a sustainable, self-directed life


16- Finding Your Place, Part Four

After a month with no new prospects, I started researching affordable cash properties for sale at the April 20th Ulster County Tax Auction.

Purchasing property from a tax auction can be very risky. I learned that years ago when my NYC neighbor considered taking a year to learn tax auction real estate investment from a professional. I had one month to learn and no one to teach me. But after years of searching, what did I have to lose?

I googled about 10 different versions of “how to buy property at tax auction” to get the lowdown on the process, pitfalls and risk management tactics. I cut and pasted the best tips and advice with relevant links into a word document. Then I hit the auction book.

Ulster County is a big place: over 1,100 square miles. Luckily, the auction book is organized by its 20 towns. To narrow the list, I looked up average incomes, demographics, political leanings, grocery stores, libraries, movie theaters, as well as pictures of main drags and scenic treasures. I found six towns that seemed to have the culture, feel and amenities that I was looking for.

For each town, I researched small vacant plots and homes that I could easily pay cash for. I ranked the properties on a spreadsheet that included the starting bid, future taxes, market value, property features, distance to places of interest, acreage, frontage, descriptions based on google maps and Zillow listings and the maximum I’d be willing to pay for each.

The following week I made three ten-hour trips, focusing on two towns per day. For each trip, I drove by properties, downtowns and local amenities in as smooth a circle as possible from my Airbnb in Copake and back. The week before the auction, I went to County Clerk’s Office to research top-ranked property titles, deeds, liens and court cases. The day before the auction, I did a final viewing of my top three properties.

On those initial visits to this property I have now, I had the same electric feeling I’ve had in other significant places in my life. The trees, the breeze and the view and sound of the natural waterfalls gave it a captivating, living quality. I knew I could be happy here.

I went to the auction, cash in hand, prepared to buy and won the property for the asking price plus the deed recording fee.

With that purchase, I got everything I needed and a whole host of extras that I hadn’t really considered before moving here. Located on a small round lane where neighbors share their goods, walk their dogs and visit each other, I moved right into a supportive community.

By searching online, I’ve met dozens of people experimenting with tiny, simple and/or communal living, sharing networks, transition towns, off-grid living, homesteading, permaculture and who formally and informally get together to share their knowledge, time and resources. Most of them live within a couple miles of me. That electric feeling definitely bore its fruit.

I kept looking until I found a place that would advance my vision. If you’re honest with yourself, don’t give up your vision and keep searching, I know that you can, too.

If you’ve found your place, what was the final path you tried that got you there? If you have not yet found your place, what path have you been too afraid to try? Put your answers in the comments below. Let’s learn from each other’s experiences.