Thursday, December 08, 2022

Assessment, And Best And Highest Use

 The assessment of The Ranch is in.

(This - and all pictures today - are taken from around the house. I will try to get out on the property tomorrow for a walk around.)

I have to start the assessment with a story:

The assessor that we were finally able to secure was the third assessor I had talked to.  The first - a recommendation via our Realtor in New Home - did not do rural land.  He recommended someone else in turn, who was full up at the moment (from the fires in the area, as it turned out).  He in turn recommended a third assessor, who was able to take the job.

At the assessment, she drove up and we started both talking about the property as well as its history.  She asked me where I was from.  "New Home" I said, "although originally from around here".  What school did I graduate from?  "The local high school in my hometown" I replied.  What year, she asked, looking me over more.  I gave the year.  "That is the year I graduated" she shouted.

Yup.  Turns out we were classmates in high school and had not seen each other in 30 years.  Small towns and all.

"How is Uisdean Ruadh doing?  I went to to elementary and high school with him."

"Ask him yourself.  We are about to see him in 5 minutes when we go through The Cabin"

I start out with that story because - as unexpected as the encounter was (although not unexpected to God, I imagine) - this made a difference in the assessment.  No, not in the actual valuation - she is bound by law and all - but in the purpose of the assessment, why we were asking for it, and what we hoped to accomplish from it.  I was able to talk openly in a way that I might not have been able to with someone to whom I had no other connection.

A couple of things we learned during the course of the assessment:

- The land is a little over 88 acres (so my "90 acres" is not really all that off).
- The land consists of two parcels (this, we knew).  What we not know is currently they are "conjoined" by the county.  In order to sell the second, we would need deeded access across the first property as the second property is "landlocked" (as silly a term as that seems).
- There is literally nothing in the area that could be used as a truly comparable property

Her reaction was the reaction of everyone that comes up here:  "This is amazing.  This is unique.  Dear God, do not develop this".

As those that may be in the real estate business may know, land is assessed at its "best and highest use", which is "the reasonably probable and legal use of vacant land, or an improved property that is physically possible, appropriately supported, and that results in the highest use". (The Appraisal Institute).  To most vacant land, that (lamentably) means that its best and highest use is development.  In this case - somewhat surprisingly - it was not the "front 40", where the pastures and Cabin and House are, but rather the "back 40", which is the most forested part.  This, the assessment suggested, could be subdivided into a number of smaller lots for development (with the deeded access).

I confess I did not see that part coming.  It had the most significant impact on the assessment.

At the conclusion of the process and again in issuing the report, she thanked us profusely for the opportunity to do the assessment (I suspect that is not a common event).  She said she had to work hard to find the properties, but she enjoyed the challenge - and loved the property.

How did the assessment come out?

It was about 25% more than I had figured it at just by guessing and some looking at home values in the area, but was well below what I had feared: something so far out of reach that there would never be a way to reach parity in the eventual division of the estate.

Why any of this matters, of course, is that this was a key finding to discussing actually relocating here.  There was no sense in moving if, as it turned out, some time in the future there would be a need to move out because the estate could not be reasonably divided - and that is just the economics of it; the potential irritation and issues it could create with my sister is not something that I would ever want to do.

There is more discussion to be had of course, and a visit to the lawyer and additional planning to do.  But in at least one sense, a huge obstacle just rolled to the side as if it had never been there.


  1. As curious as I was to learn the results, I have to say that the back story to the assessment is quite amazing. I would classify it as providential! I can't tell you how relieved I am that it turned out as well as it did.

    1. Leigh, I would as well. I cannot see any other way that this is possible - because I 1) Had to get the reference from my realtor to someone who knew the first person, who 2) did not do the work, who 3) referred me to someone who was too busy, who 4) referred me to my former classmates. No way that is anything but God working.

      I expected a value which was more than it had been originally purchased for, so it fell well within that window.

  2. Anonymous3:10 AM

    It sounds like it went well. Happy accidents finding out the two of you knew each other in past are great experiences. I've read in the past that properties that have a great view of unspoiled (i.e. civilization) Nature is often prized by people who make the money to afford it. Serenity now. Hillsides that afford privacy and don't have too many obstacles reaching them in bad weather is frosting on the cake. And no annoying HOA rules to adhere to - bonus for that as well.

    Who wants an open view to power lines for example. Or wind generator machines, the day time view isn't bad, but a blinking red light spoiling the nighttime sky line - ugh !

    Perhaps when it is time to sell, the back property may require some deeded guaranteed access to reach it. If there is a natural property feature that cuts it off from adjoining land, perhaps that would be a good place for a lot line. A natural fence.

    Good luck - you have time to plan this out. That you have intimate knowledge of it really helps you. Maybe a good time to find out if any family or friends would be interested in owning a parcel for themselves for their future use.

    1. It did go well. And the fact we knew each other (as it turned out) made a potential uncomfortable experience a good one.

      Her one comment was that the fact that it was such a unique property meant that it would like need a unique buyer - not that the intent to sell is there at all.

      There are rules we have to follow of course (county codes and all), but it is a far cry from the HOA even where we live. It also means that we are 100% responsible for how the property looks and what it becomes.

      At least now we have a point of reference and can discuss options.

      (One note: We do have power lines running through the Upper and Middle Meadows. They are not great, of course - except that they are one of the main transmission lines into the small nearby town. Thus, we are always among the first to regain power or the longest to keep it.)

  3. Not being a resident of that state but hearing all these horror stories (at least in my eyes) about how expensive real estate is there, I'm sure I would be more than shocked at the actual value of the property. Here, where wooded pasture land is considered nearly the bottom of the barrel in value, I would probably pay just south of $5000 an acre.

    1. Ed, it is funny (to me, anyway) how very different land values are in different places, and how they are viewed. For example, one of the things the surprises people moving to New Home is the property tax rate. Coming from where we do, we did not really see that much of an overall difference.

      Keep in mind the value of the land includes not only the 80-ish acres, but the house, the cabin, the barn, and the "improvements" (mostly fencing. If I add all those up in my mind and subtract them out, it is not quite as outrageous as I might think. Certainly in New Home, there are houses that would sell for far more than this with far less land (and views).

  4. Nylon125:01 AM

    A lightning strike out of the blue with that old classmate TB, what were the odds? Hmmm, figures the "landlocked back 40" would be the more valuable part, good luck there TB.

    1. Nylon12, I would not even want guess the odds - as I mentioned in my reply to Leigh above, the amount of circumstances that had to happen to get to that point boggle the imagination.

      The landlocked 40 really did surprise me. My father never considered it the more valuable of the two lots (we also have used and managed it as a wood lot). It is only because it is relatively flat and sub-dividable that it increased so much in value.

  5. Down here in Texas, if you buy a landlocked spot, you are guaranteed a twenty foot easement to access it. I can understand some folks hate that, but there it is.

    Very cool you reconnected with a classmate that was decent. I bumped into a few of mine that hadn't moved forward at all. Sad.

    Great news on the property. I hope it all goes smoothly from here for you.

    1. Interesting STxAR. Not so much here. I can understand why that would be irritating.

      This was a surprising one-off, contact wise. Glad it happened though.

      Thank you. Hopefully there is at least a path forward now.

  6. Planning becomes a good bit easier when you have facts.

    Coincidences. We were on vacation some years ago and I stopped by the breakfast table of a couple around our age when I saw his Army ballcap.
    When we answered "Philly" to his question of where are you from? He replied with, "Our son works at the Philly Airport."
    A few questions later I told him the first and last name of his son, because his son and I were coworkers.
    Had I not asked a very casual question, we would not ever have know how small the world can be.

    1. It does, John. This at least gives us a starting point.

      I have had your story happen once or twice before as well. It can be a very small world.

  7. Anonymous10:25 AM

    Nice place, I am envious.

    Bear Claw

    1. Thank you Bear Claw. It is lovely beyond belief.

  8. Replies
    1. It is, John. I cannot tell you the depth of the breath expelled when I heard the number - far less than what I feared.

  9. Well, this is what I get for reading your blog posts backwards, TB. Your mid-transit thoughts (posted on Monday) was you on your way back to New home. That became more evident as I scrolled down to earlier post. Oops.

    Anyway... this was an interesting read. I didn't understand much of it, but it gave me an even greater appreciation for the "Old Home" land. And I'm glad for you that you have good news out of this assessment.


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