Jim Realph says it’s easy to tell city folks from country folks when it comes to buying land to build a home on.

“People who’ve lived in the city most of their lives want to know how far back a house can be from the driveway,” Realph said. “People who grew up in the country want to know how close they can get to the driveway.”

Realph, owner of Blair Real Estate, said there are many differences among those shopping for rural real estate, but background is one of the most critical factors in determining what kind of land people want to buy. Those who grew up on a farm or ranch are far more likely to see larger, more useful lots, while those who simply want to escape the city aren’t as likely to use and/or develop large acreages.

“You can tell when someone hasn’t lived out in the country before,” Realph said. “They say things like, ‘I just want to be able to do what I want, out in the country,’ not realizing there might be laws and regulations, and neighbors.”

WC Real Estate’s Kevin Kermeen said the smaller lots are moving quickly, while the bigger lots have been taking a little longer to sell.

“One- to five-acre lots are selling fast — 64 days on the market, on average,” Kermeen said. “Acreages with five to 10 acres average 67 days, and 10- to 20-acre lots are at 119 days, on average. We are selling more acreages with one to five acres quicker than the 5-to-20s — as long as they are priced correctly for the current market.”

Realph said there were more people seeking rural Washington County land about 10 years ago, before the economy tanked. He said while there aren’t quite as many city residents wanting to move to rural areas, there is a growing trend in repurposing land.

“There are some things that people tinker with, and go back to being what they were before,” Realph said. “One guy built a dirt racing track out by Herman, and eventually, it was torn out and turned into farm land.”

Kermeen said the price per square foot has held at $79. He said that as of June 5, according to the Omaha MLS, there were 13 pending acreages in Washington County, with a range in price from $137,000 to $750,000. There were 33 active acreage listings in the county.

One trend Realph doesn’t see happening is northern Omaha, and its suburbs, creeping out so far that it affects the style or quality of life in Washington County.

“When I started selling real estate, Omaha seemed farther away from Blair than it does now,” Realph said. “But, in some ways, it’s still kind of far away. You have some pretty rugged land to the south of us that can’t really be used for farming, and if development comes up from Elkhorn and Bennington, it would take an awfully long time for it to come all the way up here.”

Realph said he’s seen a trend of land being subdivided (following all applicable zoning and subdividing ordinances) in ways that are more along natural divisions in land-use possibilities.

“In the past, you’d see people buying up a lot of acres, just to say they owned an acreage,” Realph said. “But the land would be partly farmable, partly water, partly forest. Now, you’re seeing unfarmable land sold off separately, because you know there’s, say, some acres full of hills and heavy trees, that you’re never going to farm.”

Realph said capital is almost a necessity; few people get far in shopping for land with only equity, and zero cash to spend.

“Folks are getting a little more realistic,” he said.

Kermeen said buyers want lots that are not a part of a large design.

“Acreages that are not in subdivisions are the most desired, but we have a limited supply of those listings, so they do bring a higher dollar per square foot,” he said. “The $300,000-and-up acreages are selling faster than lower priced acreages — which is a big change from last year.”

Regarding new construction, builders have been hit with rising material and labor costs, so new construction prices continually rise, Kermeen said.

“I advise buyers looking to build new to make sure they choose a builder like Sudbeck Homes that locks in your price upon initial contract signing,” Kermeen said. “Otherwise, a big surprise will await you at closing.”

Kermeen said the June 3 storm will most likely raise the value of existing homes — eventually.

“With the recent epic hailstorm, watch for existing home prices to go up,” he said, “as most of those affected homes will have new roofs, gutters, windows and siding.”

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