Found a prospective piece of property. Check out the soil

So you’ve been shopping around.  You’ve tossed out the parcels that don’t fit your needs.

What can you check now?

There are all sorts of things to do to make sure that the deal is on the up and up.  But let’s research the land a little bit more.

What’s annual precipitation?  You should be able to Google this.

Take a look at this site… .  If you forget the URL, just Google “web soil survey”.

Zoom in on the property you’re considering and find out a little about the soil.  Below, I’ve selected an area of about 5 acres in eastern Washington.


There are four regions of three soil types here.  I can figure out if the soil can handle what I want to do.  Let’s say that I want to build a pond and grow lots of veggies.  Will this land work?

The website can tell you a lot.  Here’s a little of what I look at in a piece of land.


Hmmm, sounds like lot’s of sand and rocks.



Wow, that is a lot of sand!  Building a pond is going to be really difficult.  I’d have to use a liner or bring in clay or bentonite.  The sandy soil isn’t all bad news though.  I should be able to produce really big potatoes and other things that grow under the ground.

What else is important?  Well, the property doesn’t have a lot growing on it.  It could be that the water soaks right through the sand and things get too dry in the summer.  There’s one more thing I should check though…



The rating above is pH.  How acidic or alkaline is the soil?  7 is neutral, acidic would be below 7 and alkaline above 7.  This soil is just a bit acidic.  This isn’t a big deal.

Now I know that I’ll need to irrigate, at least at first, to get stuff to grow on this property.  I also know that a pond would be a challenge.

Now I need to find out about water.  How far down to the water table?  How far down do the local wells go?  How many gallons per minute can they pull?  This information may be online or at the county seat or state.  I found out that the closest wells were 150 feet deep, the water table was 50 feet down at the time the well was drilled.  The lowest rate was 37 gallons per minute.  The annual precipitation is around 16 inches.

This particular property is an owner carry, less than $1k down, around $35k for 5 acres.  There is no well or electric, no buildings.  There is an easement.  The land has a south facing slope, which is a big deal.  There’s also a view of a lake at the top of the property.  Winter access may be a bit of a challenge but access should be no problem with traction devices.  The drive from the property to the edge of Spokane, WA was around 20 minutes.

I was able to go to a county website and found that the taxes were up to date and that the person selling the property owned it.

Can I start without utilities or buildings?  Can I get building permits?  Am I willing to go without a pond or spend enough to make a pond work?  Are there better parcels?