Sunday, December 22, 2013

The worthless LOT has sold!

In May of 1968, my parents traded a small apartment building they owned in Redwood City, CA for three pieces of property in Boulder Creek, CA.   One had a small A-frame cabin on it, and the other two were bare land.  The trade was uneven, so on the deed of the third, smaller piece of property, my parents took ownership of  60 percent of the parcel and the two Realtors split the remaining percentage.  At the time it was worth something, not much, but something.

Then, to slow building in the area, the local County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that lots had to be a certain size for a septic tank, and this third parcel was smaller than the required square footage.  It immediately became worthless - "unbuildable."   Since there is no sewer in that area, and a septic system can't be installed on the lot, it wasn't worth anything to anyone, except possibly to owners of adjoining parcels.

My parents and others with similar "now unbuildable lots" tried to fight City Hall, but were unable to overturn the ordinance.  After a while they got tired of paying taxes on it, and just stopped paying.  They were "letting it go for taxes."

My lot is on the left side of the street in the photo below, a pretty, forested piece of land.

When I heard they were letting it go, I told them I wanted it, and would pay the back taxes to own it.  So, I paid up the taxes, we did a "gift deed" and title transferred from my parents to me.  I paid around $1,000 total to get the taxes up to date and the parcel in my name.  That was 22 years ago.

I hoped in the future the local sewer system would come out to that area, but in the 45 years the lot has been in the family, it hasn't happened.  From time to time I've worried about personal liability if something happened on the lot.  It's forest land, and right on a main highway.  There are houses on three sides.  A tree could fall on a nearby house, or into the main highway and hit a car going by, something like that.

It's a long story, but briefly, when I took over my parent's percentage I only owned part of the lot.  Many years ago I found one owner and he Quit Claimed his portion to me, so then I owned 85 percent.  No one has ever heard from the other man on the deed, and he is presumed dead.  I've wanted to sell the parcel over the years, but it's hard to sell property with so little value if you don't own it all.  Getting an attorney and filing a Quiet Title to get the other owner off the deed would cost more than the lot was worth.  And there are still Realtor fees and Escrow and Title fees. 

I've had three offers on the lot over the years, one from each of the homeowners on three adjoining properties.  All for nominal amounts but I was still hoping the city sewer would be built out to that area and I turned them down.

Last month I decided to get a Realtor in the area and have her contact the last potential buyer. He agreed to purchase my percentage of the lot and pay ALL fees, leaving me a little profit.  The area my lot has, added to his small lot, gives him a decent sized parcel with frontage on the main road. 

On Saturday, December 7, I signed the documents in front of a Notary Public in Blythe and escrow closed on December 10th.   It's a small amount of money, but will fluff up my emergency fund and the liability of owning the land is gone. 

I am now truly a turtle.  Everything I own comes with me, wherever I go.

And that's how I feel as a full-timer.  :)

In case you were wondering, when I started full-timing, I called the county office in Santa Cruz to see if I could park The Palms on the lot.  Unfortunately, that's not allowed unless I have a "structure" there, and according to my Realtor, I'd have to get permits to build or put down a small structure, and without a septic system, they wouldn't give me the permits needed.  It's cold there in the winter, gets some snow, but it would have been a nice place to spend the summers.

This is what I was thinking of - below - for a "structure" on the lot.  I might still get something similar if I ever buy a piece of land I can use as a part time home base.

I saw it and a bunch of other styles for sale right near the Grants, NM Wal-Mart.  Katie and I walked all around them all, looking in the windows.  The office was never open when I was there.  I think they come in a kit and have to be assembled, but you can pay to have the manufacturer of the kits do it for you when they deliver it.  It wouldn't take much to make the shed above look "homey."

This one is a Tuff Shed - all done up like a little house:

Isn't it darling?  A little, tiny house with water, electricity, heat and sewer (or not - maybe a composting toilet), maybe a stacking washer and dryer on a back porch.  It could also be used for storage and have a little bed and tiny efficiency kitchen - and a pad behind it for The Palms.  Flower garden, some vegetables, a few fruit trees, and a chicken coop. 

Maybe some day, if it still sounds good.  Right now it sounds like heaven!  I guess I'm going to have to start seriously saving my pennies, but I have a few more years on the road, at least.  :)

Sometimes I think about what my life will be like next year, or the year after that.  Five years?  It's constantly changing, but right now, a little house like one of the above sheds sounds really nice.  And of course with The Palms parked in the rear always ready to go at a moment's notice.

From me and Katie, have a great day, everyone!  :)


  1. Interesting post! If I were to put up a house, I'd want one like the last photo. Precious and it has a porch!


  2. Those little houses are adorable!! Glad you were able to sell your property and get some money from it. More cushion is always good!! :-)

    Take care and you and Katie have a very Merry Christmas!!

  3. I think it's wonderful you don't have to worry about any issues anymore. The money to me (no matter how small) is a bonus. I plan on staying in my fifth wheel until they have to carry me out BUT if I ever had a "house" it would be a little bitty one. I love small.

  4. There was a lady near us when we lived in Truth or Consequences NM who had done just that. Her 5th wheel was parked next to her home, very similar to top one you posted ! After a few years, we noticed the 5th wheel was gone and a beautiful horse had moved in! Nice trade off! Congrats on selling your worthless land!

  5. I don't know if you've ever seen Alex Pino's "Tiny House" blog, but I just love to see all the tiny house designs. When you have ever lived full time in an RV you can immediately appreciate the tiny spaces (usually more sq ft than in an RV), and life unencumbered by "stuff". I'm glad you are free of the land you couldn't use.

  6. I love your ideas... and accompanying photos... that last house is exactly what I wanted when we still lived in Ohio... but at this point, it's just a dream that was. Life sure has it's surprises, doesn't it?

  7. Congrats on the sale of the property.

    At the moment I can`t imagine living in anything that small (or an RV for that matter) but it is fascinating. I know I`ll have to downsize when I retire, but that is a few years away yet.

    They are cute, but I think I`d feel claustrophobic!

    Have a great week.

  8. Barbara, That is EXCELLENT news. I know you are thrilled !!! New batteries now in your future ??

  9. I think those little houses look wonderful. I could see myself doing the same thing. I'm going on eight years on the road, and am beginning to think along similar lines.

  10. Well good for you. Having something like that hanging around that long gets to be a nuisance.
    What I got out of the whole story? City planners are mostly idiots. Period.

  11. Until Kelly & I stumbled across the house in Congress we were thinking along the same lines as you for quite awhile. Just a small piece of property privately located with a small building like in your photos plus our RV alongside. Who knows, we still might up & do that sometime. Nice to have that piece of property off your mind.....


  12. Barbara, I am so happy for you that you were able to sell that lot.
    I like the last little shed too.

  13. I can't get the link to work, Barbara, but google off the grid $2000 cabin & you should find this great little cabin that has solar, wind & a composting toilet. It even has a little garden out front. What a fun thing to think about/consider for the future. Congratulations on the sale of your lot!

  14. Hi Barbara, we are in your former position, paying taxes on property in Ben Lomond, can't build due to the septic law that changed after we bought it. May we please have the name of your realtor, perhaps we could finally do something with our lot. Judy

  15. Interesting that you should post the pics of the little cabins...several years ago, I leased to own a cabin similar to the one in the 1st was 16' wide by 24' had a double overhead loft..I insulated the walls and roof over the loft, had it pre-wired for 220, put a composting toilet in it, carpeted/paneled and moved into it!! Later, installed 600 watts of solar on a tracker, put a 400 watt wind turbine 30' up in the air, a firepit out front, flower boxes under the front windows...I was in heaven...had it setting on a half acre, out by a lake...sold it 3 years later....this article brought back wonderful memories..

  16. Hi Barbara,
    Love your blog, I've read into Feb 2012 and I'm a future full timer whenever I can sell my Somerset, Ca house. You didn't live too far from me. I've had this house since 1980, kids grew up here, I worked for CDF in Camino as a fire/med dispatcher. Well I'll go back to reading the rest. Glad you've healed from your surgery a year ago and you're back on the road. Also love the first cabin.

    Carlene aka Waianaegal

  17. Congrats on selling the land. Too bad it didn't work out for a temp place to park an RV. I'm kind of looking for some land to buy now. Need a home base & I want to put up a small building like the tuff shed for my cats. Would love to give them a special little home like that! They are too messy to live inside with me.

  18. Congrats on the sale. I bet that certainly is a load off your mind.

  19. The peace of mind and a bit of extra money in your pocket is a great thing. Congratulations. I'd take the top cabin in a heart beat.

  20. Barbara, was your e-mail account hijacked? There was an e-mail from Barbara Dewell in my spam this morning. Just giving you a heads up.
    Connie in PA

  21. Ditto on Tiny House Blog. I thoroughly enjoy reading about these small places, and so many ideas can be translated to RV living. The decorating ideas are great, too.

    Virtual hugs,


  22. When I retire, I plan on travelling until I find a place that I truly want to settle in. Then I will look at a little "kit" house like that to plop on it, and be able to keep the Motorhome to travel with when I feel the itch.
    It's nice to travel alot, but having some roots is good too.

  23. Congratulations - your post gives us hope! We have a lot listed with a realtor and have had ZERO interest. The lot was "gifted" to us years ago and all we do is pay taxes on it. Maybe this will be the year for lot sales!!

  24. Have you considered that "with The Palm in the back" you already have a kitchen and bathroom. All you need is a piece of property in a nice place with running water and maybe a septic tank. You can add the lovely shed as an extended living room. Kitchens and baths are the expensive parts of building, no need to add the expense when you don't have to. You can add a few extra solar panels, batteries and inverter, if necessary.

  25. You might be interested in the Tiny House blog...

  26. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to both of you. May the mice stay outside and you cozy inside.

  27. I also saw some very small log cabins up in Montana that were really nice and not too expensive.

  28. I had a similar situation with my parents. Couldn't do anything with the land and back taxes were owed. We finally signed it back to the taxing authority. Glad to hear you were able to work out a (somewhat) profitable solution.


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