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Ferns and Blackberries

* $499,000
* 480 acres (or possibly 360 acres)
* Year round creek
* Assessor’s map (link)
* Website (link 1) (link 2) (Zillow)

When I first saw this property listing, it didn’t seem to have much going for it. No photos on the property listing page. Far from major cities it didn’t appear to have any roads or a history of development. It looked as fresh as the new fallen snow, which is not a good thing when you drop half a mil on some land and can’t drive to it.

The only photo on the listing site

But then I took a closer look, not at the property but at the surroundings. Here is the next door neighbor on Zillow (link). It appears to have been sold for $3,384,500 in December 2012, and is just 8 acres smaller. That’s a pretty big vote of confidence on the quality of the life in the area, and the quality of the land.

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Target property is step shape on left half, expensive property is on right half.

As I looked at it in other tools like Google Earth and the county assessor’s map, I noticed that there were power lines running through the property. Not high-tension, but the good 240 volt kind. Seeing 10 or so surrounding houses indicates there is likely phone/cable/internet possible.

240 volt power lines crossing property
240 volt power lines crossing property

When I finally looked at Google Street View, it appeared that there is a paved road, government maintained, running through the property.  As far as wish list, it’s starting to hit all the right notes.

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Then make it about 2.5 hours from my home, and it’s pretty close to perfect.

It looks like selling this property has not been easy. It’s been on the market almost five years now, and the history of price reductions from Zillow looks fairly dramatic:

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Of course, nothing comes easy. First, the price is close to $1400/acre and $500k is a lot of money for a property with no house. Also, the entire property appears to be mid to steep grade. With no existing infrastructure it might be expensive to build roads and all the necessary amenities.  While it’s nice to have paved road access, it looks very narrow and might preclude the installation of a manufactured home.

The only red flag is the acreage discrepancy, with some listing it at 480 acres, while Zillow states 360. The assessor’s map looks closer to 480, so the Zillow number is probably just a mistake.

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Fresno Oaks

* $349,000
* 160 acres
* Websites: (Link 1) (Link 2) (Link 3)
Assessor’s Map

When looking for nearby properties, Fresno is about a three hour drive. When I spotted this property, it was the oak trees that first got my attention.



However, looking closer at the map (it’s the upside down “L” tract):

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 2.15.10 AMShowed something that explains why the property has been on the market for so long:

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Power lines cross the property

Those are high-tension power lines crossing the top of the property… because nothing says “freedom” and “private property” like an electric utility easement.




Hall’s Gulch in Mariposa

* 640 acres
* $480,000
* Two APN tracts
* 480 acre tract zoned “Mountain Preserve”
* 160 acre tract zoned “General Forest”
* “Views of Yosemite and Half Dome”
*  Websites: (Link 1) (Link 2)


When looking for properties in Northern California, Hall’s Gulch caught my eye because of the proximity to the San Francisco Bay area and the extremely low $750 per acre price. On top of that, the 640 acre size is large enough to start your own city or split off into smaller parcels.

With Mariposa’s average annual rainfall of almost 33 inches, it’s 6 inches more than average in California, putting it in the wetter half of the state. That means over half a billion gallons of rain and snow fall on this property in an average year.

Of course every property has extra amenities, but this one has views of Yosemite and Half Dome. If you’re not from California or have never visited Yosemite, the only houses with views of Half Dome are the National Park dormitories.


Any red flags? First, the two tracts are not attached. They appear close together on the map, with the smaller tract located about one thousand feet above the larger tract. This may cause complications with right of way, easements, and other encumbrances. I came across an interesting article when researching this topic called “Public Lands with No Way In.”

But the “Mountain Preserve” zoning (MPZ) is the biggest red flag. According to the county website, it can only be used for residential and non-commercial recreation, or mining. Speaking to a realtor in that area might have a better idea of what is generally accepted for this zoning, but it sounds like you should be able to build a couple houses. The other red flag is that because of the zoning, the 480 acre tract cannot be split lower than 160 acres. This prevents splitting into 40 acre or smaller parcels, as is a preferred size for selling off a property.

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Lot lines for the 480 acre tract

While slightly less encumbering, the 160 acre tract zoned “General Forest Zone” (GFZ) has similar restrictions with the exception of sustainable timber management and splitting as low as 40 acres.

Lot lines for the 160 acre tract
Lot lines for the 160 acre tract

That means this 640 acre property could be split into 4 different 40 acre tracts, and 3 additional 160 acre tracts. For the land buyer looking to help pay for the purchase, that might be easily split among friends, family, or sold off in pieces for a profit.

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Map showing lot lines of the two parcels

If selling at cost, that’s $30,000 for the 40 acre tracts and $120,000 for each of the 160 acre tracts. There is only one large property within a hundred miles even close to $1000/acre, so if you could split up the larger parcel and sell it off at that rate, you could keep the 160 acre tract for free.

Land and Farms for Sale