Land is an investment unlike any other.

A house can burn to the ground, stocks can tank overnight, and precious metals can be stolen, but land is there forever. As the saying goes, “God ain’t making any more of it.” Land is a finite resource that has tremendous investment potential with a lot of side benefits. Why are the three most important elements of real estate location, location, and location? Because the land upon which your home or business sits is the chief driver of its value.

That said, why buy rural land? After all, there are no strip malls with all of the conveniences of modern life, and you might not have much in the way of cell signal. The answer is twofold, and the lack of hustle and bustle is half of it. The other half is dollar signs. Similar to having renters pay down your mortgage, you can let hunters pay down your land note or loggers dish out a lump sum, all while enjoying the fruits of the outdoors yourself.

There are two things you can do with your land if you don’t plan on building a house and living on it; have fun or make money. Sometimes you can do both at the same time.

Having a Good Time

Rural land generally has fewer “rules” associated with it. Even a small tract can host safe shooting, hunting, and camping. You won’t find an HOA coming around looking to measure the length of your grass or make sure the shade of taupe you want to paint your house passes muster. A rural, neighbor-free property is a great way to escape the hassles of the city and suburbia.

Depending on how you want to use your newfound plot of freedom, you might need to make a few improvements. If you bought a plot in the woods with no adjacent road or a piece carved off of someone else’s property, make sure to ask about an easement. If there’s no easement (a private drive to your property), you won’t have reliable access to your place.

If gaining access requires you to use someone else’s gate or cross their property, they might change the lock on it without telling you or forbid you from coming onto their land. A rule of thumb is that if a place seems like it’s a REALLY GOOD deal per acre, it might not have easement rights.

If you plan to shoot guns, consider renting a backhoe to dig a huge berm to shoot into. You’re liable for the bullets after they leave your gun. If you want to camp, you might want to make a clearing to accommodate a tent or even a camper. Riding ATVs or a side-by-side is also fun, but you may need to cut a few trails.

Hunting is another big reason to buy rural property. Buying a place for hunting is very rewarding, as you sculpt your land into a wildlife oasis with food plots, prescribed burns, and more. Hunting is also a big way to make a few bucks as well.

  1. Location – is there good access to the property, is it close to other well-kept properties, are there opportunities for income streams?
  2. Plan for payment – the size and type of property you are looking for will greatly affect the price tag you will be looking at paying.
  3. Inclusions of the sale – what items such as water/mineral rights, livestock panels, portable sheds or current leases will come with the property once it is transferred?
  4.  Cost of land ownership – insurance, utilities, maintenance costs are all additional expenditures that add up on a rural property.
  5.  Property boundaries and zoning – what are the exact property lines that separate you from the neighbors?  What types of zoning does the property have for building, farming, hunting, etc?

Making Money With Hunting Leases

Hunting is big business. Paper companies buy up more tracts of land and public hunting ground gets more crowded. Lots of hunters are looking to leases for an affordable alternative to land ownership.

Leasing property isn’t without risks, but if you set the proper tone with prospects from the outset and vet potential lessees thoroughly, risks can be mitigated to an acceptable level.

First and foremost, no matter who you lease to, you’ll want a clear-cut contract that spells out your terms. Common things to clear up on the front end regard firearms (if you have a smaller piece), camping, ATV and recreational riding seasons, and guest hunters. There are other aspects to consider, but if you get a good sense of the hunter’s character, you’ll know right away whether or not they would be a good fit and keep you from stressing about every little thing.

Simple contract templates can be found online. To give it legal teeth, however, you’ll want to have your contract signed by a notary so there’s proof that the document was agreed upon by all parties involved.

Once you’ve determined that your lessee(s) poses little risk, take them around the property and show them the boundaries, which you ought to have clearly marked in accordance with state regulations. For Instance, many states recognize purple paint as meaning “NO TRESPASSING/HUNTING.”

Second, once the ink is dry and everything is all set, make sure each person hunting has a copy of a handwritten permission slip with your phone number. This is to avoid problems if a neighbor finds a stranger on your land and doesn’t believe that he has permission to be there.

As far as what price to charge, that’s up to you based on your payment. Most leases are done by the year, and it’s best to require a lump sum to avoid backsliders who pay late. Even the cheapest hunting leases can bring in thousands of dollars a year, and if you have a plot in the midwest with big deer on it, you can charge for that premium.

Other Ways To Make Money on Rural Land

Another way to bring in some money while also improving your land is to cut a few trees. By “a few” we mean maybe a select cut of a few trees, thinning of parts, or even a full-on clearcut.

Call a reputable logging company, and see if they’ll send a timber cruiser to your place. Arm yourself with knowledge of what the main types of trees go for ahead of time so you can be reasonably sure you’re getting quoted a fair price. Also plan out what your goal is, whether it’s making a large area for a food plot, or just getting paid. That way you’ll be able to communicate your goals with the loggers.

Another option that’s a little more hands-on is to have livestock. If you live nearby your land or want to get involved in a rewarding practice that leads to a more self-sufficient lifestyle, then farming is a great option. There are costs involved with livestock, from clearing land (remember, this can make money, not cost), putting up fences, buying the animals, feed, and then all the peripheral things like a trailer. Although you can rent this opportunity out to full time farmers and make money that way too.

The Ultimate Benefit

The best thing about having your own piece of rural land is just that, it’s yours. You can enjoy it, and do what you, as the owner, want to do with it. No matter what you do, land will increase in value, unlike manmade investments that can vanish overnight. Unlike renting, when you own property you have the flexibility to make the property work for you the way you want it to. That is the ultimate benefit.