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Old 09-15-2014, 01:48 PM
Location: USA, Nebraska
102 posts, read 193,670 times
Reputation: 70


When looking for 3 acres to buy, I have found two options. One is flat land for 10,000 an acre and the other has a slight slope for a good 100' and then drops off to a hill side. It is priced at 7,750 an acre.

The sloped land is not a mountain or any sort, it's just the top of a valley and is currently just pasture land.

I'm having a hard time deciding between the two, I know more dirt work will need done on the sloped land. A considerable amount, especially if I want to have a decent area to work on for an orchard and back yard. The benefit is that it is cheaper, so I could put the savings towards a skid loader. The other advantages are making it easier to have a septic system that drains down hill, prettier landscape, and more natural looking.

The flat land is the corner of a crop circle. So the shape is not a rectangle like the hilly land.

I'm wondering what I should consider or be reminded of. I don't want to look back and regret one or the other. I don't see much regret with the traditional flat land besides issues with having a bathroom in the basement when using a septic tank.
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Old 09-15-2014, 01:50 PM
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What will you be using the land for?
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Old 09-15-2014, 02:23 PM
Location: USA, Nebraska
102 posts, read 193,670 times
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Originally Posted by spencgr View Post
What will you be using the land for?
Building a shop/garage and home on as I can afford it. The excess land will serve as privacy, and space for fruit trees and grape vines along with various shade trees.
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Old 09-15-2014, 05:45 PM
Location: El Dorado Hills, CA
3,693 posts, read 8,333,627 times
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Sloped land provides views if you build at the top. Flat land is cheaper to build and grow. The difference in price is not great enough to really be a factor. Which land do you like better? Which is better suited for your planned use? Will the orchard be a business or hobby? Which location is better?
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Old 09-15-2014, 08:54 PM
Location: USA, Nebraska
102 posts, read 193,670 times
Reputation: 70
I'm leaning towards flat. I looked up used skid steers / loaders in my area and within 500 miles (ebay, craigslist, etc) and they are priced no less than 6,000 for a decent working one and 12,000 for one that would make life easier (all used of course). My father owns an old case, but it's a small one and would be a lot of extra work using the smaller tool for the job.

The orchard would stay a hobby assuming 1 acre is orchard/vineyard or some sort of fruit growing on the land so it's not all being wasted from shade trees. Planting an orchard on hilly/sloped land would prove difficult but also interesting. But interesting after I am 50 years old? Maybe not as much?

I'd like to purchase the land assuming it sticks with me until the day I go - I'd like to build as an investment in the land and stay there as long as I can, God willing.

As a mostly DIY person for this task of building and working on the land, the flatness offers a big pro. But is it something that people regret later... for some unforeseen reason?
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Old 09-16-2014, 08:55 AM
249 posts, read 525,743 times
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I see in your comment about septic tank drainage that you're factoring drainage into your choice of land. For me, one of the most important considerations when purchasing land is water and drainage.

Last year I was researching info on foundation drains for houses and found a thread started by a man who purchased a house on flat land somewhere in the western part of the US. He frequently had rainwater a few feet deep in his crawlspace and he was looking for advice. I wished he had taken more steps to avoid that situation (and lesser, but still serious, drainage problems) before buying the property.

If I were considering buying a specific piece of land, flat or hilly, I’d attempt to think of, and identify through research, every issue having to do with water on the property. Water table, flood zone, water sources, surface water drainage, percolation rate (can help you know whether your orchard trees can thrive), rainfall per year, etc. I would visit the land during some heavy rainfalls, if those occur in the land’s location. If they happen, but not frequently, I’d research what happens on the property when they do occur. I'd visit the land a few hours and 1-2 days after a heavy rainfall to see whether there's standing water, and if so, where. On hilly land, I'd look for signs of water paths to determine where water flows and how it may be affecting the landscape.

I’d determine whether the land has sites that would provide proper drainage away from buildings or what it would take to construct these sites. I'd investigate how far in advance the sites need to be constructed to allow sufficient settlement before building. I'd also determine what sewage options are available (as you're already doing). If I didn’t already know about and understand the issues related to water and property in the geographic area as a whole (and maybe even if I thought I knew the issues), I’d be talking to people about those issues. And I'd look for people who may know about the specific property I'm considering.

Last edited by hmrd; 09-16-2014 at 09:03 AM..
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Old 09-16-2014, 09:09 AM
Location: Western NC
729 posts, read 1,219,659 times
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I live in the mountains. Flat land comes at a premium here. Rule of thumb - the more slope to the land, the higher your site costs will be. It all evens out in the end. The better land lies, the more you can do with it.
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Old 09-16-2014, 01:12 PM
Location: USA, Nebraska
102 posts, read 193,670 times
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hmrd - those are valid points and exactly what I had been thinking of from the start...well most of what I thought about. The sloped land I would be obtaining actually has what appears to be a high flow water path through a portion of it. I would have to fill in what washed out years ago to create the water path. Doing so will mean water needs to go elsewhere...which is why I need to do extra dirt work to divert water from the road ditch of the property to go down the road ditch rather than let it flow over to the property. I'd be buying *into* a 50+acre prairie valley and my portion would be at the top, but also near the start of the valley which is what slopes down gradually.

I visited the location after a 3 day rain off and on, and there was no standing water. Of course it all ran down to the valley. Which also means I lose that precip that could collect on the land I own, leach down, and feed my well supply.

A septic system is required out where I want to build and that limits having drains in the basement because how would it drain to a septic tank which code *now* requires it be no more than about 3' below grade...which is odd because I have seen many old systems like a cesspool and leach field buried 12' below grade permitting a basement drain on flat land. The places never had it back up into the house. The pipe of course was sloped from bottom of the basement to the depth of the area it drained to with I imagine a backflow prevention valve.


Now the flat land - it is cropland currently. Seems to grow corn and milo well, it has the slightest slope to it, so standing water doesn't seem to happen. Prior to building a home or garage, I would likely add dirt to the area so the foundations have dirt sloping away from them gradually. Making the house sit a bit higher on the property.

young92 - I can imagine mountain vs flat is a big difference. In rural areas around here, it doesn't seem as severe. The building cost to build into a mountain or hill does cost more than flat land though. And it also depends on access to property. I believe flatland just after a mountain is beautiful - likely wet, too.
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Old 09-16-2014, 01:31 PM
Location: Over yonder a piece
3,908 posts, read 4,642,846 times
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My parents' house used to flood all the time in heavy rainstorms. They were on a flat parcel. 9 times out of 10 if rain was coming, they'd lay down towels knowing they'd have water coming in.

So when my husband and went to buy, we specifically bought a house that was on a small hill. Even in the heaviest downpour, our basement never flooded, despite being a 75 year old house.

When we moved to SC, we once again specifically bought on a hill, although we are on a slab now versus having a basement. It's nice to NEVER have to worry about flooding since we're at the top of the elevation for our neighborhood that is filled with hills.
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Old 09-16-2014, 06:06 PM
249 posts, read 525,743 times
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CTS Nicholas,

Glad you found some of my comments helpful. I figured you had already thought of a lot of it, but I wanted to post it because I have such strong feelings about preventing drainage problems whenever possible - all based on my personal very bad experience with a rented house.

Don't have time to response more right now, but do want to mention that, as you probably know, you may have regulations about watering flowing from your property onto that of others. Also, on the hilly land you may want to consider Hugelkultur beds to hold moisture on your land, but I think it would be a long-term, big time project. These beds can be made in any size and I'm thinking you may can use long, BIG ones. This may be very important as water seems to be a growing problem in Nebraska as in other places. Hugelkultur beds may be allowed long after other water-capture means are no longer permitted, especially if they can be grandfathered in. They're great for watering trees (think orchard). Checkout Hugelkultur beds and watering trees.

Also, don't know where you would consider siting buildings on the hilly land, but keep in mind that water flowing downhill onto a building has to be managed.

What you're doing sounds like fun.
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