According to the Land Market Survey released by the National Association of Realtors, land sales are steadily increasing, and for good reason. Undeveloped land is one of the most affordable forms of real estate, making it more financially accessible to first-time buyers.
Unfortunately, buying land can be an intimidating and overwhelming process. Let’s walk through the steps so when you decide to buy land, you can do so with clarity and confidence.
How to Find Land for Sale
Some of the best ways to find land for sale include:
Real Estate Websites
According to Atmos Builders head of operations Trent Hedge, most people start land search by perusing online real estate databases. Sites like Zillow.com, Trulia.com, RedFin.com and Realtor.com have listings for land for sale throughout the country, and some databases specialize in vacant land listings. Some of the largest and most popular specialty databases include:
These sites mostly include selective listings from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that licensed real estate agents can access, but may also include for sale by owner (FSBO) listings.
For MLS listings, the contact will usually be a real estate agent representing the seller (also known as a seller’s agent). Seller’s agents are financially incentivized and ethically obligated to represent the seller’s interest. Consequently, it’s often recommended to hire your own agent (a buyer’s agent) to represent your interest.
Real Estate Agents
Real estate agents can be an invaluable resource for finding land. They have access to every listing on the MLS (“on market” properties), along with properties not listed on the MLS (“off market” properties) through their network of industry professionals like land developers and contractors.
While most real-estate agents can facilitate land purchases, the best agents are those who specialize in raw land. Christopher McGuire, a real estate broker, investor and founder of Real Estate Exam Ninja, recommends working with “…agents with a lengthy history of land sales or experience in soil science, geology or forestry.”
McGuire also suggests using agents with the Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) designation through the Realtors Land Institute (RLI), if you can find one in your area. These agents are trained to guide you through the necessary due diligence steps and legal procedures pertaining to land purchases.
Some FSBO properties can be found in classified ads in local newspapers or online directories like Craiglist and Facebook Marketplace. EasySellFL.com founder and CEO Greg Bond also recommends contacting land owners directly. “We have mailed neighborhoods with cheap, buildable lots and found many times the owners are happy to part with their land for a huge discount,” Bond says.
Bond suggests finding land owners’ contact information on the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) map from the County Assessor’s Office website. Bond also advises checking county tax deed auctions, where land is auctioned off at a substantial discount when the owner fails to pay property taxes.
Factors to Consider When Looking for Land
Certain factors can determine whether a piece of land will satisfy your specific needs and influence the difficulty and expense of developing on it. As you search for land, keep the following considerations in mind.
Water. If a municipal water supply isn’t available on the property, you may have to install a well or other off-grid water system. Trucking in water is another option that can be costly and inconvenient.
Sewer. If a municipal sewer connection isn’t available, a septic tank will need to be installed before any construction is done.
Internet service. Investigate whether cellular coverage and an internet connection are available on the property. You may need to switch cellular service providers, or run a fiber-optic internet cable to the building site.
Some remote house builds lack road access. If there is no public or private road going to the property, you may need to create one. This is often costly. It will likely involve hiring an excavation contractor, and possibly an arborist or logging company to remove trees. McGuire says you may need to apply for a right-of-way easement to gain use rights to neighboring properties if the lot is landlocked by adjoining parcels.
Financing Options for Land
Obtaining financing for vacant land is often trickier than developed properties.
Premier Property Buyers owner Eric Nerhood says that most lenders view undeveloped land as a riskier investment, and are more likely to offer financing when you have immediate plans to build a home. When that’s the case, you should expect to pay 15 to 25 percent for a down payment, or up to 50 percent down without building plans.
Here are some options for financing a land purchase:
Construction-to-permanent (CP) loan. Also called a “combined construction loan,” a CP loan allows the buyer to finance the land purchase and home construction simultaneously. It is the most common financing option because it often requires a smaller down payment, has a lower interest rate and is offered by most lenders. Before applying for a CP loan, you will usually have to hire a licensed contractor and have building plans drafted. The lender often stipulates the maximum amount of time you can wait to begin construction.
Lot loan. Lot loans allow you to finance a land purchase without immediate plans to build on the property. According to Hedge, lot loans aren’t offered by most lenders, who see them as riskier than construction loans. Lot loans also require larger down payments and come with higher interest rates.
Owner financing. On some FSBO properties, the seller may offer to finance the purchase directly. The required down payment will depend on the seller, but they’re typically (though not always) lower than conventional financing. The interest rates are usually higher, however.
And, of course, there is the no-financing option — pay cash. This also makes it easier to obtain construction financing when you do build, Hedge says, because the equity you have in the land can act as your down payment.
Submit an Offer
After you find a desirable property, you need to submit a written offer to the seller. If you’re working with a real-estate agent, they will handle drafting and submitting the necessary paperwork, including a Bid Offer form. If you’re not using a real-estate agent, McGuire recommends consulting with a real estate attorney to advise you on establishing contractual terms and drafting the necessary documents.
An agent or attorney can also advise you about the conditions that need to be met (contingencies) before the sale is finalized. A contingency that specifies the time-frame allowed to complete due diligence is often included. A period between 30 and 90 days is common.
Performing a comprehensive inspection of a property is necessary for ensuring the land is suitable for your specific needs. Hedge and Bond suggest the following:
Request documents from the seller. You should request documents pertaining to any covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) on the property. CC&Rs dictate what you’re allowed to do on the property, and are typically imposed by Homeowners Associations (HOAs). Specific CC&Rs can vary. They may restrict certain paint colors, house types and sizes, or your ability to raise chickens or livestock in your yard.
- Run a title search. A title search will analyze the history of public records — deeds, tax records and other financial transactions. Essentially, a title search verifies that the seller can legally transfer the property to you without any problems. Potential problems a title search can uncover include liens and easements (the right for a third-party to use the land).
Check zoning. A parcel’s zoning designation will dictate what the land can be used for, and the type of structures that can be built. It’s important to check with the local Zoning and Planning Office to verify the property is zoned for residential; you may not be able to construct a primary residence if the land has a commercial zoning designation. “I see many people buying land and figuring out they cannot build what they want to, due to zoning restrictions,” Bond says.
Perform a soil test. If a municipal sewer hookup isn’t available, you will need to perform a percolation test to determine the rate of water drainage through the soil before installing a septic system. Other soil tests determine if the soil can support a foundation, and if it contains lead and arsenic.
After due diligence is completed, if no issues are discovered, you can finalize the sale. Congratulations!
Purslane is the ultimate survivor, which also makes it the ultimate nuisance for many homeowners. Not only does this glossy green, fleshy weed often come back stronger than ever when you think you’ve cleared it from your lawn, it also tends to team up with other common invaders.
“Quite frequently, it is associated with other weeds that it will grow in and amongst, including crabgrass and spotted spurge,” says agronomist and lawn care expert Bob Mann, director of state and local government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
Here’s a complete guide to this pesky weed, including how to identify it, eradicate it and — most importantly — make sure it never comes back.
What Is a Purslane Weed?
Purslane, also known as portulaca, is a summer annual broadleaf weed. “That means that it completes its life cycle within a single year, germinating in the spring or early summer, going to seed and dying once cold weather returns,” Mann says.
According to Drew Wagner of Sod Solutions, purslane closely resembles spurge, with teardrop-shaped leaves and a low spreading growth habit. It sprouts yellow flowers with five petals and has purple or red stems that grow laterally across the surface of the soil. It usually starts germinating in the spring and grows throughout the summer and the fall.
Purslane can re-root itself from even a fragment of stem or leaves left in the soil, and mature plants shed up to 50,000 seeds for new growth. That’s why this aggressive weed can quickly take over large sections of your yard and divert water and nutrients from your grass. Purslane is a succulent, so it stores moisture in its fleshy leaves like a cactus. It will invade thin or bald patches of lawn and quickly dominate weakened grass.
Is Purslane Weed Safe?
Purslane is actually an edible plant, so it poses no danger to humans or pets. “Folklore suggests that purslane was one of our first vegetables and all parts of the plant can be consumed, either cooked or raw,” Mann says. Its taste is described as lemony or similar to spinach. The flavor reaches its peak if the fleshy leaves are picked while young and tender.
Before adding purslane to your garden salad, however, be sure that it hasn’t been treated with fertilizers or herbicides. And make certain you’ve correctly identified it. “Purslane can be used in kitchen recipes,” says Wagner. “However, it closely resembles spurge in appearance, which is poisonous.”
How to Get Rid of Purslane Weed
The good news is, a single purslane plant generally spreads out over a large area, making it less labor-intensive to clear your yard. The bad news is that you need to be meticulous in how you eradicate the weed to keep it from popping back up.
“Purslane can be removed by hand-pulling or with the use of chemical controls,” says Wagner. “Hand-pulling is often not recommended because if a small amount of plant stem or root is left behind, it will keep growing.”
To remove by hand:
Do it when the plant is still young to avoid spreading seeds.
Find the center of the clump (or “rosette”) and pull up firmly, making sure to take the entire root.
Bag the pulled plant in paper or plastic so it can’t scatter any seeds.
Check the area for stem or leaf fragments that could regenerate.
To clear purslane with herbicide:
Pull mature plants as detailed above.
Spray seedlings with 2,4 D herbicide.
Apply pre-emergent herbicide in the spring to prevent reoccurrence.
How to Prevent Purslane Weed From Coming Back
Purslane is famous for its staying power. Overlooked fragments of leaves and stems can germinate into a full-grown invasion in a single season. Mature plants are aggressive seeders, casting seeds over large areas of your lawn that can lie dormant for decades. You’ll likely battle purslane for years if you don’t eradicate it properly to nip the problem in the bud.
Here are some helpful tips to avoid a frustrating resurgence:
“Purslane is a weed that is well-controlled by following best management practices for your lawn and landscape,” Mann says. “Keeping your mowing height on the tall side and lawn properly fertilized to encourage a vigorous healthy stand of turf will keep purslane and many other weeds at bay.”
Try to tackle your purslane problem while the plants are young to avoid scattering seeds. If you are hand-pulling mature plants, cover the cleared area with a black plastic gardening tarp or heavy-duty trash bags for four to six weeks. The sunlight on the black plastic heats the topsoil to kill any residual seeds and blocks sunlight from any purslane fragments that attempt to sprout again.
Remember to bag any pulled purslane in plastic or paper. Don’t add the plants to your compost or you will reseed them in your yard when you spread the compost.
Create a three-inch barrier of mulch (bark, ornamental rocks or another ground covering) to prevent low-growing purslane from taking up residence.
Earlier this week President Joe Biden named Doug Parker the new head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Parker is currently in his third year as chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) after previously working for the Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) praised the appointment. Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH, said in a statement: “With his broad experience as an advocate for union mine workers, head of National COSH affiliate Worksafe, and leader of one of the nation’s largest state workplace safety agencies at CAL/OSHA, we are optimistic that Doug will restore faith in an agency tasked with implementing and enforcing safety standards during this critical time for U.S. workers and families.”
As head of Cal/OSHA, Parker oversaw the implementation of statewide emergency workplace standards. Now he will likely be tasked with implementing similar standards nationally per executive order of the president.
“At CAL/OSHA, Doug played a key role in developing a statewide COVID-19 safety standard,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH. “Workers will be looking to him to take immediate action to enact a nationwide COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).”
Construction industry officials reacted less enthusiastically to the appointment, but seemed generally optimistic about the direction that OSHA is headed.
“ABC looks to OSHA to continue to be a collaborative partner for the entire industry, helping us create the conditions for everyone to complete their work without incident and to go home safe and healthy every day,” Greg Sizemore, Associated Builders and Contractors’ vice president of health, safety, environment, and workforce development told Construction Dive.
Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiative of the Associated General Contractors of America, also told Construction Dive that the organization “looks forward to continuing the strong, productive and successful relationship we have had with the agency under its new head once he is confirmed.”
Most of us learn hands-on skills in informal settings, and that makes it really easy to pick up bad habits. How many of these workshop bad habits have you been doing all along?
Neglecting Dust Collection
Tools such as a table saw, miter saw, jointer, thickness planer, power sander and others have different jobs, but work on the same principle — removing wood from your workpiece. This creates a varying blend of medium-sized flakes of sawdust and fine particles of airborne dust. Neither are good for your shop’s cleanliness or air quality.
That’s where dust collectors can help. They are essentially motors that pull sawdust into a centralized chamber through a network of rigid ducts and plastic hoses from each power tool in your shop.
Failure to Put Tools Away
The more tools you own, the more keeping them organized matters. Though it’s tempting to leave tools lying on your workbench as you move from one stage of an exciting project to the next, this impulse should be resisted.
If you don’t take the time to put tools away, your shop will quickly become congested. This not only reduces your available workspace, but makes it harder to find the tools you need. It’s also a whole lot safer and easier to stay mentally focused on the job at hand when your shop is neat.
Not Disconnecting Power Tools Before Adjusting Them
Adjusting tools for particular jobs is a common part of every serious DIYer’s time in the shop, and that’s why doing it safely matters. Operations like changing table saw blades, removing jointer or planer knives for sharpening and others require reaching into their inner mechanisms with care.
Always unplug your tools from the electrical outlet before working on them. No exceptions. Spinning blades in power tools will change your life forever if your fingers are in the wrong place at the wrong time. It only takes a fraction of a second to do permanent damage.
Alternatively, you could switch OFF power to the tool if it’s hard-wired into your electrical panel. Either way, check and double check that the tool isn’t powered by hitting the ON switch. If nothing happens, you’re free to start work. Be careful with cordless tools, too. Unplug the battery before touching anything on a tool that could cut you if it accidentally switches ON.
Marking Fine Cuts With a Pencil
Precision matters in fine woodworking. As any experienced furniture builder, finish carpenter or cabinetmaker will tell you, a tiny gap in a woodworking joint looks terrible and sticks out. No matter how good the rest of the project is, people’s gaze will be drawn to that gap before anything else.
That’s why marking your cuts with a pencil is a bad idea. Even a sharp pencil creates a line with some thickness, leaving the exact spot of the cut open to interpretation. A sharp utility knife is much better for precise marking. It makes a razor thin, crisp line that shows exactly where to cut. As long as you’ve marked the right spot and cut accurately, you’ll have a perfectly tight joint every time.
Leaving Sharp Blades Unprotected
Successful woodworkers and DIYers understand the value of extremely sharp hand tools. Chisels, hand planes, carving knives, saws and spokeshaves won’t work properly without a razor sharp edge.
Part of your success as a woodworker/DIYer comes down to knowing how to establish surgically sharp edges on your tools. Another part is protecting these sharp blades and keep them cutting crisply for as long as possible. Although there’s a tendency to hurry when putting away tools, failing to protect your blades isn’t worth it to save a few seconds.
Always fully retract the blade of your hand planes and spokeshaves, cover the ends of your chisels and slide your handsaws into protective sleeves before putting them away. This keeps those sharp edges from rubbing against other tools or the inside of your tool cabinet, which could dull or damage them.
Measuring Instead of Custom Fitting Wood Parts
Tape measures have their limits. They’re fine for measuring down to 1/16-in. or so, but what if you need to go finer? Extremely fine measurements are the stock-in-trade of skilled woodworkers and cabinetmakers. With fine woodworking projects, measurements often are so precise that cutting to fit a particular space is the only method that works.
Take your workpiece and hold it in place where it will go in the project. Use a sharp knife to precisely mark where it needs to be cut, then make the cut with a properly adjusted miter saw. By eliminating measurement numbers, you’re far more likely to achieve the extremely precise cuts needed to make your project look great.
Failure to Use Eye and Hearing Protection
Every productivity-minded woodworker and DIYer appreciates efficiency. Trouble is, this tendency sometimes leads to ignoring important things to save an insignificant amount of time.
Hearing and eye protection are a prime example. Always wear safety glasses and ear plugs or muffs while using loud power tools. It’s well worth the few seconds it takes to grab muffs and goggles from your tool cabinet to safeguard your vision and hearing. Use them every time.
Not Predrilling for Fasteners
If you’re new to woodworking, you might be tempted to fasten wooden parts with screws driven straight into your workpiece, without predrilling holes. Resist this urge!
Screws are great for strongly holding parts together. But without predrilling, the chances of your work splitting and breaking as you drive the screws goes way up. Different species of wood vary in their propensity for splitting, with hardwoods on the higher risk end, and more compressible softwoods like pine and cedar a lower risk. Still, if the parts matter, you should always predrill.
Choose a drill bit the same size as the inner shank of the screws you’ll be using. Your holes should be big enough to allow the screw to enter the wood with much less risk of splitting it, but small enough to allow the threads to bite into the wood and firmly engage. In most cases there’s no need to predrill for screws used in large outdoor projects, but finer woodworking and furniture building always benefits from predrilling for fasteners.
In many ways, the design and construction process for a second home can be more enjoyable and carefree than for a primary residence. By building your retreat from the ground up, you get to maximize its R&R potential. Whether kicking back means quiet, leisurely weekends with a good book or action-packed family escapes with barbecue marathons, mountain hikes and lake toys is up to you.
Building your getaway home isn’t all fun and games, however. You’ll need to make practical decisions about its design and finishes, taking into account you won’t be living there full time.
“The differences between a vacation home and a full-time home are very personal, so I’d encourage anyone considering one to spend some time thinking about how they live differently while they are there,” says California-based Ward Young architect Aren Saltiel. “You may spend more of your time at a vacation home socializing with family and friends, or relaxing on your own.”
Here are 11 design and building considerations to ensure your getaway home is a haven, not a hassle.
Prioritize systems and materials that are low in maintenance and high in durability, so you don’t spend your entire vacation troubleshooting and performing repairs.
“Budget is always a consideration,” says architect Ibrahim Greenidge of Brooklyn-based BOLT Architecture. “I suggest investing in the highest quality, most energy-efficient systems [mechanical, electrical and plumbing] you can afford for a vacation home that is comfortable in any season and also won’t cause you headaches down the road.”
Use of Space
How you use interior spaces on vacation is different from your day-to-day life, with more focus on leisure activities and less on pure functionality. Saltiel suggests prioritizing comfort in shared social spaces, for example, and deemphasizing storage and closet space because you won’t keep all your belongings there.
“There’s definitely a trend towards smaller, more utilitarian bedrooms and bigger, more connected and comfortable living spaces,” he says. This different use of space can significantly change how you approach the overall design and layout of your getaway home.
Your primary home needs to be comfortable all year long, but that may not be the case with your second home or cabin.
“Consider the season you’ll be spending a majority of the time at this home,” Greenidge says. “If it’s winter, then efficient heating will be a must-have. If it’s summer, then maybe you forgo heating in the short term to prioritize the installation of an efficient cooling system.”
If you’re planning to use your second home as a winter retreat, Saltiel suggests installing a heating system that can respond quickly when you arrive, like forced air heat.
You may be lucky and enjoy sweeping views from your full-time home. More likely, your “view” begins and ends with your neighbors’ yards. If the land where you plan on building your vacation home features scenic views, maximize them. Orient the home in the most panoramic direction and place the windows to frame the most stunning vistas.
Smart technology that offers remote access to systems like lighting and HVAC is becoming increasingly common in full-time homes, but can be especially useful for a second home. “Give serious consideration to creating a smart home which allows remote functionality to access lighting and mechanical systems during seasonal changes,” Greenidge says.
Remotely adjusting the temperature can prevent damage from frozen pipes, for example, and switching lights on and off after dusk can deter break-ins. Remote access also lets you prepare your getaway home for your arrival.
“If the home is in a colder climate, you should consider a heating system that you are able to access remotely ahead of time,” Saltiel says. One possibility: Hydronic heat with app-based or WiFi controls.
Getaway Goals: Guest Traffic and Interior Finishes
Your full-time home may prioritize function over fun, but your second home is all about your definition of play. Keep that in mind when choosing where to skimp and where to splurge on interior finishes.
If your goal is to regularly host friends and family, opt for durable flooring that can withstand lots of guest traffic, and sturdy furniture that converts into extra sleeping and dining space. If you can’t wait for indulgent self-care weekends, spring for bathroom luxuries such as a deep tub or sauna.
If the perfect getaway means hours of uninterrupted time preparing gourmet meals, consider state-of-the-art appliances and finishes and perhaps an outdoor kitchen.
Emphasize the Outdoors
With extra time to relax at your second home, the outdoor living spaces are just as important as the interiors. Make the most of your natural surroundings by building patios, decks and porches that seamlessly extend your indoor spaces.
Many homeowners mitigate the cost of building and maintaining their getaway home by renting it as a vacation property when they’re not using it themselves. “If you plan on opening the home for rentals, consider details that make the rental more appealing,” Greenidge says. “Just be sure you’re OK with things getting damaged or stolen.”
Opt for multipurpose furniture and an open floor plan that allows plenty of flexibility on how many guests you can sleep. Make sure the finishes, from countertops to plumbing fixtures, are durable enough to stand up to the hard wear of strangers. And if you plan on renting to larger families or groups, be sure the septic system can handle it.
Ease of Shutting Down Systems
All good things must come to an end, including vacation. You’ll likely close up your second home at least once a year for an extended period, and your systems should be designed to make that process quick and easy.
“Think about setting up the plumbing system so that it’s easy to drain,” says The Money Pit podcast host Tom Kraeutler. “And remember that in some colder climates, you’ll have to run the heat every day at your vacation residence, even when you’re not there, to avoid damage, so invest in a low-maintenance but reliable heating system.”
As with smart technology, home security systems are particularly important to consider for a cabin or vacation home that’s left unattended for long periods.
If your getaway home is in a remote location or you plan to trick it out with, say, a high-end entertainment system or top-tier kitchen appliances, Kraeutler says investing in a trustworthy security system with remote cameras to keep your eye on things may be a priority.
Changing up your primary residence as your household expands and contracts is common, but your getaway home is often a labor of love that may stay in the family for generations. Keep that in mind when coming up with a design. Go with a flexible floor plan that adapts to the changing size of your family and evolving interests and activities over the years.
Turns out you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving for Black Friday savings. Black Friday, springtime edition, is here! Overstock is offering a Spring Black Friday Blowout, and the savings on home décor and furniture are crazy good.
It’s the perfect time to refresh your home inside and out. Some items are 70 percent off! You’ll also get up to 40 percent off patio furniture and 50 percent off spring décor (give us all the colorful rugs!). The best items are going quick so get your “add to cart” finger ready. Happy shopping!
In spring mode? Here are 10 simple projects you can do around the house this spring.
Note: Deals were live at press time but are subject to change.
Don’t Miss Out on the Overstock Spring Black Friday Sale!
The sale is going on through April 28. Not only are thousands of items on sale for 70 percent off, you’ll also receive free shipping on anything you buy.
So what’s on sale? Pretty much anything you’d need for a spring home makeover. Take an extra 25 percent off rugs, an extra 20 percent off bedroom furniture and an extra 15 percent off kitchen and dining. And don’t forget to check out the window treatments and art gallery items, both with an extra 20 percent off.
Why Do We Love Overstock?
Overstock is already one of our favorite online retailers because of their low prices, which is why their sales events are so exciting. It’s discounts on top of discounts! You’re sure to find what you need, and then some, thanks to the huge inventory. The hardest part is narrowing down the choices.
We’re also a fan of their simple return policy. If something doesn’t work out, you can send most items back within 30 days of delivery. Overstock will refund the cost of the merchandise and shipping charges if there was a mistake or damage to your items. And who doesn’t love a coupon? Check out their coupon page which is updated often with new opportunities to save.
Our Favorite Overstock Spring Black Friday Blowout Sale Finds
Safavieh Amalia Cowhide Bench
This cute Amalia Cowhide Bench is on-trend with its woven details and boho style. It’s made with real leather and real wood (no MDF in sight!) and reviewers love the sturdy construction. Use it to brighten your entryway, or place it at the foot of your bed for extra bedroom seating. It’s normally priced at more than $600, but thanks to the Spring Black Friday Blowout you can snatch it for less than $300!
Original price: $633.
Sale price: $291.14 (54 percent savings).
Charvi Square Floor Cushion
Our motto: You can never have too many pillows. These handy floor cushions are great for stacking in a living room or bedroom, then pulling out when you need extra casual seating for a Netflix binge session. Now they’re 42 percent off, so don’t be afraid to grab one in every color! Now, who’s bringing the popcorn?
Original price: $51.99.
Sale price: $29.73 (42 percent savings).
Wellington Fire Pit with Lava Rocks
For warm spring days that turn into cool nights, a new fire pit (on major sale!) is just what you need for your outdoor space. Gather around the Wellington Fire Pit for an evening of star-gazing or barbecue with friends.
The sleek modern design pairs well with most patio furniture, and the durable iron construction is a plus. It runs on propane, and includes a matching table to disguise the propane tank. Your patio will definitely be ready for summertime relaxation. All you need is the wine! (Here’s some backyard fire pit inspiration.)
Original price: $609.38.
Sale price: $367.19 (40 percent savings).
Riccarda Casual Jute Rug
The Riccarda Jute Rug is made from natural fibers including jute, cotton and Hogla sea grass. Other retailers will charge about $300 for the 5- x 5-ft. size, but Overstock is offering it for $94.49. The pretty round medallion design adds an updated spring look to any space, and but it’s durable enough that you won’t have to worry about wear and tear. Reviewers say it looks even better in person.
Original price: $300.
Sale price: $94.49 (68 percent savings).
Clementina Cotton Chenille Comforter Set
Current bedding trends are all about neutrals and layered textures. That’s what you’ll find with the Clementina Cotton Chenille Comforter Set, which includes a comforter and two matching shams. The comforter is soft cotton with a strip of chenille trim for added interest. We love the breezy ivory color, but it also comes in blush and gray. Plus, it’s reversible! Grab it now for more than 20 percent off.
Original price: $128.98.
Sale price: $100.40 (22 percent savings).
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Despite its whimsical name, quackgrass is a formidable enemy that can take over a lawn quickly. Its strong, deep root system can grow into separate plant clumps if split, and no selective herbicide will kill it while leaving your lawn unaffected. That’s why quackgrass — also known as couch grass, twitch, quick grass, quitch grass, dog grass, scutch grass and witchgrass — is considered one of the hardest weeds to eradicate.
If you spot clumps of quick-sprouting grass that is taller than your turf, with broad rough leaves and thick white roots, you may have a quackgrass invasion. Read on to learn how to identify this aggressive invader and eradicate it for good.
What Is Quackgrass?
Quackgrass vs Crabgrass
“The best way to identify quackgrass is to look for clasping auricles [ear-like projections] that are located near the base of the blade right before it reaches the stem,” Wagner says. “Unlike crabgrass, quackgrass uses rhizomes, or underground runners, to spread. These rhizomes also produce chemicals that stunt the growth of other plants so that the quackgrass can outcompete them and take their place.”
This chemical production, known as allelopathy, is the weed’s “superpower,” according to Bob Mann, a lawn care expert with the National Association of Landscape Professionals. That results in patches of quackgrass that stand out from surrounding grasses. Because the underground rhizome system splits into separate plants, quackgrass is particularly hard to get rid of.
Is Quackgrass Safe?
Quackgrass may quickly choke your turfgrass, but Mann says it doesn’t cause skin irritations or pose other risks to humans or pets. In fact, quackgrass will attract animals like small birds who feast on the seeds.
Unfortunately, animals also tend to spread the seeds in your lawn via their droppings, thus infesting larger areas. Each quackgrass plant produces about 25 seeds, and they can stay viable in the soil for up to five years.
How to Kill Quackgrass
“One of the most effective ways to control this weed is with the application of a non-selective herbicide that contains glyphosate or some other alternative to glyphosate,” Wagner says. “Non-selective herbicides will kill any vegetation it comes in contact with, so be careful not to get it on the grass or other desirable plants.”
Mann agrees. “There’s an old saying in the turfgrass business: The very best herbicide of all is a dense stand of vigorously growing turfgrass,” he says. “This is doubly true as it relates to quackgrass.” If an area of your lawn or garden becomes badly infested, you may need to treat it and then replant the entire area.
If you do decide to tackle your quackgrass with an herbicide, follow these steps:
Remove any plants you want to protect from the immediate area, if possible.
Pull up as much quackgrass as you can, being careful not to spread seeds by bagging the weeds in paper or plastic.
Check the soil carefully for any traces of the quackgrass root system and remove.
Treat the affected area with a non-selective herbicide.
Wait a week, then treat the soil again.
Allow any quackgrass left to die, then clear and reseed the area.
Once you’ve stopped quackgrass in its tracks, you’ll need to be vigilant to keep this persistent weed away. Here are some steps to keep your lawn quackgrass-free for good:
Most weeds can be controlled by following best management practices so your lawn is thick and healthy enough to ward off an invasion. Apply a nitrogen fertilizer to choke out the quackgrass and enable your turfgrasses to outcompete weeds.
Monitor your lawn weekly during the growing season to ensure quackgrass has not returned, especially in soils where the weed thrives: loamy (equal parts sand and silt with not much clay) or sandy (primarily sand with little silt and clay).
Check any plants you bring home from stores or nurseries so you don’t accidentally reintroduce quackgrass. Remove the plant and roots completely if you discover it in the pot or planter.
If you do spot a resurgence in your yard, act quickly to limit the spread by following the steps above.
Buying land to build a house or cabin is a big deal, and comes with many important considerations. Lot size and characteristics, soil composition, lakeshore type, road access and connectivity are just a few factors you should examine carefully when land shopping.
Equally important is utility access. Unless you’re planning to go completely off-grid on a remote parcel of land with no neighbors or towns nearby, you’ll need things like a domestic water supply, sewage disposal and a connection to the electrical grid.
Part of your job as a future land owner is determining the state of utility access on every lot you visit. Along with knowing how you’ll get utilities, you also need to understand your rights and responsibilities as a property owner. That’s where utility easements come in.
What Is a Utility Easement?
An easement is a few lines of legal jargon that gives someone other than you the right to do something on your property. One of the most common property easements is called a utility easement. It’s designed to give public or private utility companies the right to enter your property and install or modify equipment there, for the good of the community as a whole.
Utility easements allow workers from power, water and sewage disposal companies to enter certain parts of your property, dig things up, and remove or install things. These could be electrical or phone cables (although this is becoming increasingly rare, with less than 40 percent of U.S. households using landlines), water pipes, sewage pipes or other utilities.
The exact details of utility easements vary from one county and property to the next. That’s why it’s important to learn those details before buying.
Who Do You Contact With Utility Accessibility Questions?
The best way to learn the details of utility accessibility and easements on a property you’re considering is to examine the property deed at the local town hall or courthouse. Ask the clerk to point you in the right direction. You may need the current owner’s help accessing the documents, or they may already know the details of the easement situation and can simply tell you.
How Can a Utility Easement Impact a Building Project?
In practice, utility easements are a much bigger issue on small, urban-sized lots than larger rural properties. The reason boils down to available space and community needs. Because most rural properties don’t have access to municipally supplied water, sewage removal or privatized natural gas for heating, there’s no reason for utility easements to exist for these utilities.
That’s not to say rural properties have no utility easements. Even in the country, power companies can enter your property, trim trees, install new poles and dig up old power lines. The difference is, large rural lots give you a whole lot more space to build well away from the area set aside for an easement.
The downside of the rural setting is that you’re often on your own figuring out how to get water, heat your home and deal with sewage. If you’d rather pick a smaller property that’s closer to civilization, you’ll need to be more careful concerning utility easements.
Figure out exactly which part of the property the easement has set aside for a possible sidewalk, additional electrical poles or underground lines, water pipes and any other utility work. Don’t build there! Pick a spot well away from the designated easement area to start construction, so you and future owners of your new property won’t be disturbed or risk damage to one or more of your buildings.
Why Do Utility Easements Exist?
Utility easements might seem like a pain, or even an infringement on your rights as a property owner. Trouble is, there are more people in your community than just you. Utility easements exist to keep necessary utilities like water, electricity and waste removal as accessible and economical as possible for as many people as possible.
It would cost power companies considerably more to string power lines along the edges of every individual lot in a neighborhood, just to avoid crossing anyone’s land. Utility easements mean they can string power lines right through properties, taking a much more direct route to the homes that need power, and lowering electricity costs immensely in the process.
The same principle applies for other utilities. Easements might seem inconvenient, but on balance they’ll probably make life in your new home or cabin better.
When scoping out a property to build on, learn the details of any utility easements associated with the land. Find out exactly what those easements will allow utility companies to do, then plan your purchase and building project accordingly.
It’s best to assume the allowances made in the easement will eventually come to pass. Even if they never do, build with the assumption they will protect you from nasty surprises in the future.
Creating an outdoor sanctuary near the front porch or back patio ranks among the more rewarding landscape projects to tackle. Gardens and decorative shrubs add visual appeal, and trees significantly reduce future energy bills as they grow and cool the home and yard with shade.
When choosing plants, keep costs and maintenance down by skipping the exotics and buying what thrives locally without expensive and time-consuming watering, fertilizing and maintenance. Here are nine ways you can help the environment by creating a sustainable landscape.
Go Beyond a Grassy Lawn
You can do a lot for nature by creating more than a grass lawn and a few shrubs or driveway edging. Consider habitats such as ground cover instead of mulch, shrubs with seasonal appeal, flowers to attract pollinators, rain gardens to filter water, food to reduce grocery trips and trees that cool and shelter humans and wildlife.
Serve Up an Edible Landscape
Plant perennials, shrubs and trees that feed your family and provide an attractive edible landscape.
If you’re not interested in growing food for yourself, look for easy-care fruits, nuts and seeds that can benefit wildlife, especially in winter when food is scarce. Some examples include highbush cranberry, crabapple trees, elderberries, currants, hazelnuts, coneflowers and coreopsis. Check with your local Extension Service for regional recommendations.
Choose Compost Over Chemicals
Boost the health and immunity of your plants and shrubs with nutrient-rich healthy soil that can help them fight off pests and disease. Vermicompost, created by worms breaking down food scraps, contains growth hormones that make plants stronger and more resilient. Traditional compost helps plants hang on to moisture between rains and lightens soil so roots can spread more easily.
Plan a Pollinator Garden
Help the dwindling populations of bees, butterflies and other pollinators bounce back by planting flowers that offer nectar and rest stops for migrating butterflies. Whether you put out a planter of zinnias or convert a large corner to prairie garden, the addition of favorites such as butterfly weed, bee balm, lupine, blazing star and asters can draw a colorful crowd. You can also register and become part of the Million Pollinator Challenge.
Dig Into a Rain Garden
Decrease erosion and potentially harmful runoff from lawns by creating a rain garden in a low area of your yard. By installing water-tolerant plants such as swamp milkweed, asters and blazing star, your rain garden can contain excess water after heavy storms and filter out chemicals and fertilizer that affect the water supply.
Build Wildlife Homes
A single bat can devour 1,000 mosquitoes an hour. Birds and toads snag their share, too, along with eating slugs and other garden pests. Encourage natural pest control by making your garden more welcoming with a DIY bat house, bird houses or a DIY toad cave by submerging half of a clay pot into a shady spot of soil.
Preserve Some Dead Wood
If part of a tree has died but isn’t in danger of falling and harming anything, let it be. Dead trees, also called snags, offer shelter and habitat for more than 1,000 species, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Logs and small brush piles can also provide essential shelter.
Provide a Water Source
Birds and other animals need water for drinking and bathing. If you don’t have a rain garden, pond or other water source nearby, consider a shallow bird bath. Make sure you empty it daily to prevent it from becoming a mosquito breeding station, and scrub it clean weekly.
Certify Your Yard Wildlife-Friendly
To encourage others to consider sustainable landscaping and gardening, apply for designation as a wildlife-friendly garden through the National Wildlife Federation. It costs $20 to apply and includes a sign that recognizes places providing essential food, water, nesting areas and shelter.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of walking your land, breathing in fresh air and planning for the future. I can tell you from personal experience that building a home or cabin on a parcel of land you own is one of the most challenging yet gratifying experiences a person can have.
When my wife and I started our cabin building adventure in 2014, we had a lot to learn about land and construction. If we were doing it over again, I’d think more carefully about the land itself and the features that are most important to us.
Investing in land is a big step. Careful consideration of the points below will help you make the best possible property purchase, so you can start building your dream home or cottage with confidence.
One of the first questions to ask when scouting out properties is how much land do you need. This is largely a matter of personal preference.
Do you want lots of space to take long walks with your dog without being disturbed by other people? More land opens up many possibilities, such as room for outbuildings, hobby farming and having fun with four-wheelers, dirt bikes or snowmobiles. The downside: higher upfront costs and property taxes.
Proximity to Neighbors
When land shopping for your home or cabin, ask yourself how tolerant you are of annoying people. This may seem unnecessarily negative, but I can tell you from experience that even if your current neighbors are saints, there’s no telling who could one day buy the property next door and start giving you grief.
In my experience, cottage and cabin country seems to attract more interesting characters than suburbia. Be prepared for annoyances like loud, untrained dogs; out-of-control livestock breaking down fences and tromping through your garden; and possibly even unsafe use of firearms within a stone’s throw of your door.
You may not need to deal with any of these issues. And you might decide you prefer close neighbors for social reasons. That’s fine. Just don’t assume they’ll always stay nice.
Proximity to Water
Another decision to make early in your search for land is whether you want access to a lake or river. Land with water frontage is almost always more expensive, but being able to enjoy swimming, fishing and boating is well worth it for many cabin owners.
If you decide you want to be near water, think about the sort of water you want. Deep lakes offer the most possibilities for enjoyment. Rivers are nice, too, but unless they’re large and calm, you won’t get as much fun out of one as a lake.
If you decide a lakeshore property is for you, think about the sort of shoreline you want. Most lakes look nice from a distance, but some are much more user-friendly than others.
Lakes with soft, muddy, weed-filled bottoms, for example, aren’t nearly as good for swimming as lakes with rocky or sandy bottoms. Lake depth matters, too. Shallow, gradually deepening lakes are tougher to set up docks. If you own a boat and plan to use it at your new property, water that gets deep fast is your best bet. You may also want to inquire about the fishing prospects.
Proximity to Town
Unless you’re planning to rough it and live completely off the land, consider proximity to the nearest town, and whether that town can cover all your needs. Think about how far you’re willing to travel for groceries, hardware and health care. Does the nearest town have a hospital and ambulance service?
These considerations matter if you’re concerned about your health and getting the care you need quickly during an emergency. Don’t wait until you’ve bought land and built a cabin to discover that serious medical issues require an airlift to the nearest major city.
Electrical Grid Access
Once you’ve decided on the size and characteristics of your new home or cabin property, it’s time to consider electricity. Do grid-powered electrical lines come reasonably close? If not, you’ll need to choose between a solar or wind-powered off-grid system, or paying to have the power company install new poles from the nearest point of grid access.
Don’t make the mistake of choosing land based on looks alone. Electricity can be wildly difficult and expensive to achieve for a cabin that’s in the wrong spot.
Drinking Water and Sewage
Do you plan to install a septic system for your home or cabin? If not, you’ll need to use a composting toilet and gray water pit, or hook into the local sewage system. Remote properties don’t have municipal sewage systems, so if you go that route you’ll be restricted to properties closer to towns.
By the same token, a municipal water supply is only an option when you’re close to town. If you prefer a more remote location with an off-grid water system, you’ll need to drill a well and install a submersible pump to get water, or pump it in from a lake or river.
Internet and Cell Service
Unless your goal is to unplug completely, living without internet access likely will be tough. That’s why it’s important to note the internet providers and cell signal strength at all potential properties. Your cell phone could save your life one day, so don’t make the mistake of choosing land with sketchy service unless that’s a selling point for you.
Beautiful land is all well and good, but it will be hard to enjoy if you have to hike through two miles of brush to get there. Evaluate the road access on all lots you scope out.
Is there a year-round, municipally maintained road leading directly to your property? Is there a trail you could use as a road and are willing to keep it clear yourself? If not, now’s the time to decide whether to devote the time and money to have one built, and buy snow removal equipment if you’ll be at the cabin during the winter.
Soil Depth and Composition
Although dirt may not be the first thing on your mind when land shopping, it’s certainly an important consideration. Do you plan to grow a garden? You’ll need dark, carbon-rich soil to make it work.
Soil depth matters, too. Shallow soil will probably drain quickly during heavy rains. But if there’s only a few feet of earth above bedrock, it probably means you can’t include a basement in your home or cabin, unless you’re willing to haul in many loads of fill to build up the ground around your structure. Soil composition also matters for lawns and tree planting.
Forest Presence and Type
Many folks, myself included, buy land and build a cabin with the dream of partnering with the land as much as possible, including heating with on-site wood. If this is your plan, hardwoods like maple, oak, ash and birch make the best firewood. That’s why forests of primarily softwood species like spruce and balsam aren’t ideal for cabin owners who want to harvest their heating fuel.
A hardwood lot of four or five acres can sustainably heat a medium-sized building for many years, as long as it’s properly managed. Forest composition also matters if you plan to hunt, tap trees for syrup or blaze walking trails.
If you’re a hunter, chances are good you’re planning to use your new home or cabin as a place to get some meat the old-fashioned way. If so, you’ll need a large lot with at least a couple sides free of close neighbors, particularly if you’re planning to hunt deer.
Deer rifles can propel bullets a mile or more before they fall to earth, so safety should be a top priority when scoping out cabin properties you plan to hunt. It’s also important to make sure hunting is permitted in your area, and if so, when the seasons happen. The exact dates vary from place to place.
Property taxes certainly aren’t a fun or glamorous topic of consideration when scoping out land, but they’re an important factor nonetheless. If you’re working with a real estate agent, ask them about property tax rates in the area. If not, ask some locals with similar properties to the one you’re looking at.
Keep in mind your rates will go up once you build. If there’s already a building on the land, rates will be higher than a lot without buildings. Bottom line: Don’t let property taxes become a nasty surprise in your cabin or home building journey.
Building codes and bylaws vary greatly from place to place. That’s why it’s vital to learn the basic rules of an area before buying land and building there.
Things like year-round roof and wall insulation requirements, distance from your building to bodies of water, water system requirements, livestock rules, waste removal and other factors are almost certainly stipulated in detail in the local bylaws. Your job is learning those requirements so you don’t get an unexpected and nasty phone call from an enforcement officer or building inspector.
Insects and Other Pests
How much do you dislike mosquitoes and black flies? How about raccoons or skunks? Depending on how far from civilization you’re planning to build, these critters may quickly become a major nuisance. There are certainly ways of dealing with them, but you need to decide how you feel about measures like an electric bug zapper, a live trap for skunks and raccoons or possibly even a firearm.