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Very cheap land in dark sky areas

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#1 HellsKitchen

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 10:24 AM

I've just been browsing real estate websites and have come across extremely cheap vacant blocks of land being offered in places where no one wants to live. One I am looking at is a half-acre property being advertised for $8000 out in the desert about 150km north of Mildura, Victoria in a tiny village, which has a population of 330. It's an 8-9 hour drive, but my own dark sky property for less than the cost of a premium 16" dob? Why sweat over finding ideal public sites when I can have my own private land for peanuts, in a dry arid location to boot :shocked:

Looking at the sales history on this particular real estate website, it appears land has been sold in such "undesirable" locations for as little as $2000. :shocked: :shocked:

#2 CJK

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 10:55 AM

I've thought about doing exactly the same thing, though where I live, it's tougher to find truly dark areas worth considering. :/

One requirement I'd have would be electricity and some sort of data network availability (even if it's cellular). That limits my choices, I suppose, but there you have it. :)

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#3 Tony Flanders

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 11:20 AM

$8000 sounds to me like a very large amount of money for a half acre of remote, arid land. In places like that a half-acre is considered a postage stamp.

The problems of ownership are myriad; I won't go into that now.

There's a lot to be said for buying a bigger plot; if the half-acre next to you is sold, your investment could become useless for astronomy. On the other hand, you've only lost $8,000.

There's a lot to be said for stargazing on public land. Only governments and very rich organizations can afford plots big enough to protect against light tresspass -- several tens of thousands of acres at the least.

#4 vsteblina

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 11:29 AM

There are private in holdings xwithin every National FOrest and public domain lands.


That's probably the best bet.

#5 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 11:36 AM

I've just been browsing real estate websites and have come across extremely cheap vacant blocks of land being offered in places where no one wants to live. One I am looking at is a half-acre property being advertised for $8000 out in the desert about 150km north of Mildura, Victoria in a tiny village, which has a population of 330. It's an 8-9 hour drive, but my own dark sky property for less than the cost of a premium 16" dob? Why sweat over finding ideal public sites when I can have my own private land for peanuts, in a dry arid location to boot :shocked:

Looking at the sales history on this particular real estate website, it appears land has been sold in such "undesirable" locations for as little as $2000. :shocked: :shocked:


I don't know what taxes and such are in Australia, it might be a reasonable thing or it may end up costing you real money. Water, electricity, if you want these amenities, you will pay. You might find road repair is needed... I don't know.

I also don't know how difficult it is to find public access to land under dark skies. Around here, it's easy, lots of National Forest lands, Bureau of Land Management Land, finding a place to set up is not a problem...

Jon

#6 mich_al

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 12:56 PM

FYI ... 1/2 acre is roughly a square 160' on a side.

#7 csa/montana

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 01:17 PM

I'm very blessed to have 20 acres in a rural area, with only one neighbor. Very dark skies. At the time of purchase, it was apprx. $2,000 an acre, including the house; that was in 1989. The price now has skyrocketed!

#8 wky46

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 03:18 PM

I'd say the average price of rural property around me is probably around $2000-$3000 an acre with timber/mineral/agriculture potential, so $8000 for a 1/2 acre seems crazy money for what kind of land you describe. But then again, it must be the norm for other countries

#9 jrbarnett

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 04:56 PM

I like the idea as well. Most of the best observing locations on public land anyway lack potable water, electricity proximity to fuel, food, and medical care. The advantage of "owning it" rather than just visiting it is the ability to exclude others and guarantee availability for your own use without prior arrangement. My idea is to get such a patch of land, have a new, unrusted, watertight shipping container delivered there, and store mid-range equipment, including camping supplies, in the container so there's no pre-trip packing needed. But I want at least 100 acres as I want a substantial buffer against potential future development.

I've been looking at a 163 acre old Mexican Land Grant property in San Benito County off and on for a few years. I have had the owner tentatively down to $89k (from a $180k asking price). The nice thing about this property is that one of the ridges in the middle of the property has been cleared of trees and leveled and a dirt driveway cut and compressed leading up to it.

The disadvantages of such "boonies" properties are that if you have any significant assets at all, you'll want to insure the property (yes, even trespassers can sue!), you may be required to abate brush where it borders public roadways in fire season, and there's very low resale probability (the one I've nibbled at has been available for more than 2 years) so it's not liquid.

I also have my eye on a 265 acre mining property in the same general area that has been on the market for a few years.

Regards,

Jim

#10 Ed D

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 08:02 PM

HellsKitchen, if having your own little dark sky site makes you happy I say go for it. Just make sure you think about all that goes with it, as has been pointed out.

For me, I can't thank all of you enough for making me feel so good about paying the extremely small fees to access dark skies at our national parks. Really!

Ed D

#11 bherv

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 08:06 PM

That is basically how our nonprofit club Arunah Hill got started. Two brothers bought several acres on a hill in western MA. Others bought some of the abutting land and after Arunah Hill Natural Science Center was established they donated the land. During the 1990's the membership cleared 5 acres of forest and the National Guard cleared all the stumps and terraced the land, with the club picking up the costs for their fuel and food. We now own over 60 acres under dark skies and continue to make improvements to the property. I consider myself fortunate to have access to this site and the equipment.
Barry

#12 HellsKitchen

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 07:19 AM

This particular property is located in the center of town within walking distance to amenities and stuff, (but only 330 population - and the nearest population center is 150km away) which is probably the reason for its price. Still, compared to what blocks a quarter the size go for in the big cities, 8000 bucks is peanuts.

The website advertising it shows a list of recently sold properties in the area, some for under $2000. might have to keep looking. Still, it's not a bad idea, having your own land in a black zone for the price of a premium dob or 4" APO :D It's yours, don't have to worry about strangers, answer to anyone, pay fees and what not. And is available whenever you want.

#13 csa/montana

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 12:30 PM

This particular property is located in the center of town



Even in a very small village of 330 people, there's bound to be light pollution; and who knows what business "might" come next door to this property.

#14 davidpitre

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 12:04 AM

I am a farmer that owns several farms in several areas. Rural land typically is priced to sell at larger acreages. When someone in a rural area talks about the average price per acre they are talking typically at least 20 acres. Of course 1/2 acre is going to sell for for more per acre than a large tract. I would not consider $8K a lot for a small tract in a podunk town.
I agree that owning a tract of land has many benefits. If nothing else it can regularly get one out. As mentioned, it can also be a good place to keep a dark sky set-up. My friend has a cabin in a similar sounding small village in Terlingua, Texas near Big Bend. Though I live in a rural area, I often drive 7 hours to stay out there. It's quiet, picturesque, and extremely dark. It's also just a fun get away.

#15 izar187

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 12:41 AM

My family has owned land under remote dark sky. If you own it, but don't live there, then you can't actually keep others out. Not really. Pretty hard to influence what others are doing to development in the area either. Residing there has distinct advantages. I can't, so I use public land. To my mind, if you can, it is a much more economical way to go. Even though it has no amenities.

#16 BrooksObs

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 12:52 AM

HK, what I see here as THE major drawback in the deal is the distance involved. An 8-9 hour drive is far from a trivial matter and unless you've physically examined the property first hand and enquired with the town's governing body about any future development plans, this does not sound to me like a very good idea. Having visited Australia and the Outback, I cannot image that it is necessary to travel anywhere near this far just to reach really good skies. The old and very true adage is that observing site/telescope use is inversely proportional to the distance traveled to reach it.

BrookObs

#17 mountain monk

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 01:19 AM

I say visit the place, spend a few days, talk to people, consider whatever is upwind (mines, industrial developments, etc.). Water? Does the city provide it? Wells in this country are very, very expensive. Will you build? Camp? Is there a hospital? Clinic. What will your neighbors be like? I'd do one heck of a lot of research before I dumped 8K for a 1/2 acre lot in a small town---anywhere.

Dark skies.

Jack

#18 Tony Flanders

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 06:48 AM

This particular property is located in the center of town within walking distance to amenities and stuff, (but only 330 population - and the nearest population center is 150km away) which is probably the reason for its price.


Obviously you need to go and look at the place. But it seems pretty crazy to drive hours out into the wayback and then go to the middle of a town. At very best, the site won't be nearly as good as one half the distance with nobody else around.

The lights from a single house 1/4 mile away are a major nuisance. And I'm talking just about the light that spills out from the windows. A "security light" 1/4 mile away would be a total disaster.

#19 csrlice12

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 08:41 AM

This particular property is located in the center of town



Even in a very small village of 330 people, there's bound to be light pollution; and who knows what business "might" come next door to this property.


Yea, oil company's just love to find nice, out of the way little towns like this and build giant light factories so eighteeen wheelers can refuel.

#20 Bill Weir

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 11:38 PM

I've been playing around on Google Earth with this. Is the town somewhere around Pooncarie? If it is then I say go for it. This is if you think you are up to a drive like that regularly in order to observe/use as a vaction place. If anything it looks like a half decent place to eventually retire to. Street view shows very little street lighting and generally getting to out of the way places looks easy. All the pessimistic talk about potential societal buildup looks to not be realistic. I think many don't realize how big Australia is and how small your population is.

I think that from a small town like that, if you built light shielding fencing around where you want to observe from you would have a limiting magnitude most people in the US could only dream of.

Would you be cosidering building a small house on the property? I'd also seriously look at how people get their water. If you are tapping into public then that's easy. I live on a well and sinking one of those can be expensive.

To give people an idea this is what looks like the buisiest street in that town.

Bill

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#21 BrooksObs

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 12:32 AM

Bill, you can never rely on Google Street View as any sort of indicator of what even a small, remote, town might look like at night these days.

About 30 years ago I visited Alice Springs in the middle of the Australian Outback. A more remote and isolated place anywhere on earth is hard to imagine and I anticipated really dark skies there. Well, by day it was a quaint small town, but by night it had some of the worst local light pollution I've ever seen, to the degree that the surrounding hills a mile or two out of town were brightly illuminated by reflection!

A 1/2 acre (that is really pretty small) plot within any town is a bad choice in my mind and as pointed out upstream already, all you need is one neighbor with even one big outdoor light and you site is ruined.

BrooksObs

#22 HellsKitchen

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 12:40 AM

Obviously I would certainly do my homework before plonking down the cash. I'm not going to jump in, as a cheaper block could come up more away from light sources at any time. But if I were to I would definately check it out myself and spend a couple of weekends in town to suss out the place.

If the area were to ever get developed, that could only be a good thing.... sell the land for a big multiple of what I paid for it :D

I don't mind the drive, once a month for a big weekend session is nothing really. Plus the area gets very favourable weather, the nearest station claims 150 clear days, only about 50 days with observed precipitation with about 260mm annual total and approx 3200 hours of sunshine.

#23 BPO

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 03:57 AM

Hi. I bought a remote 200 acre mountaintop site around 15 years ago, and it's wonderful to have, but the effort and cost involved in actually getting to it and using the site meant I eventually had to relocate nearby. It was the only way I'd ever truly get my money's worth. Just something to consider.

#24 edwincjones

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 06:32 AM

lessons from above
-more land the better
-need to live on or at least be close
-lot of time, effort, money
-one bad neighbor can undermine

I got 23 acres in a semirural area,
built house and observatory,
now in city limits with mag 4.5 skies
but still 200 yards from door to scope

edj

#25 mikewirths

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 01:42 PM

My Wife and I were lucky enough to find a 1200 acre piece of private property here in northern Baja Mexico. The price per acre came out to be about $1000! That was with a year-round running stream for water, 5000' elevation, black zone skies, and 300+ nights a year with clear skies! The only downside was we had off roaders (Mexican, American, and Canadians) constantly crossing our property, after putting up gates and getting quite irrate with them we seem to have finally won!
The trick here in Mexico is to find pieces of land with title, not the so called communal ejido land which is tricky to buy!

cheers

Mike






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