Over the years I’ve done a lot of both , in fact I still do. I’ve had some real good experiences and some not so good ones but this is a different world today no matter if you lease or buy. I figured I would write about what I believe you need to consider before you decide where to spend your time and money. The time is as important as the money because it can be quite an exercise and you can waste a lot of it. Let’s dig in …..
Let’s assume if we’re making a decision about leasing vs. buying we’re talking about hunting land. No one is going to lease land to build the family cabin or home. So we’ll agree we’re talking about hunting land. I’ve been leasing 1400 acres with my brother and a few buddies in the Adirondacks for 38 years. That’s a long time and I’ve seen quite a bit in that time. I’ve seen ownership changes , “membership” changes and everything else you could imagine. I’ve also owned hunting land closer to home where I can run over and hunt pretty much everyday I’m not at the “hunting camp” up north. There’s a LOT to consider here so I’m going to dive into both of these and hopefully it will be worth your time.
LEASING : So you’re watching these tv shows with all these blowhards talking about their leases all over hells half acre and are thinking this is for you. Let’s understand one thing before we go farther – the Northeast is NOT like the Midwest when it comes to leasing. There is nowhere in the Northeast you are going to hunt where you will experience what you’re being sold on TV. If what you see or read about is what you want then you’re going to travel a lot to get it and pay the kind of money that is borderline insane. The 1st consideration in leasing is who owns this land and what are their plans for the future? Is this place for sale or is the owner planning to hold it for a long period of time? When you lease it’s best to do business with the bigger owners because they tend to be long term owners who aren’t interested in selling a couple hundred acres here and there. These people/companies own LOTS of land and have leasing departments that do this fulltime. We’re talking timber companies and we’re talking big time landowners who are committed to leasing. When you make a deal with a local farmer you may end up doing something as simple as a handshake agreement which isn’t the worst thing in the world if you know this person well and they know you. Maybe you can make a deal like that just for yourself or 2 people and do ok , but I wouldn’t count on it. This not only depends on what the owners long term plans are but your long term plans also. If you want to find a place you can lease for the long haul you have to find out what exactly you can do. Will the owner allow you to plant food plots if you want ? Do you have FULL hunting rights or just for some of the season or maybe the owner wants to hunt also or worse his family wants to hunt. When you deal with small land owners you are going to run in to this kind of stuff. If this is the case you cannot make the time and financial commitment to improving the hunting when someone else is going to be hunting there besides you and your buddies. There are a million pitfalls to leasing and finding the right deal is not going to be easy so don’t go in to it thinking this is just writing a check because it isn’t. I don’t care if there is a real estate agent involved or not , this doesn’t guarantee you anything no matter who the agent is. When you are considering spending time and money to improve someone else’s land you better make sure you have some confidence you will get what you paid for. All this and we haven’t even discussed the money involved. What we read about and see on TV is what people have seen as an opportunity to make some money – I mean the owners and the agents involved. Ok nothing wrong with making money but what’s in it for you? Leasing prices have skyrocketed in recent years because this market has turned into a serious moneymaker. Wasn’t all that long ago and these guys in the Midwest didn’t even know what a lease was and now they’re experts and they have leases all over. THEY are the ones who took leasing from the big landowners and brought it to the guy who owns 50 acres who can’t afford his taxes anymore. Now everyone is wanting to make money off this and the demand for hunting land is out of sight. With that you will see the cost of leasing is so high today you can literally compare it financially to buying when you talk about long term commitments. Back in the old days (70’s) we were leasing the best hunting land in the Adirondacks for less than $1/acre. Many hunters who didn’t lease thought the price was outrageous , imagine that. I can promise the cost today isn’t a reflection of inflation it’s a reflection of demand in the market and the price goes up every single year. There’s a lot to consider here mostly because of one fact , you don’t own the land. If you don’t own it you will forever be faced with some level of uncertainty so be prepared. The goal is to secure as many “rights and privileges” as possible so get as many as you can and get it in writing.
BUYING / OWNING : Let’s get back to cost because that’s number 1 in this scenario. I just mentioned how the expense of leasing has gone through the roof and it’s guaranteed to get worse. When you consider what is the better / wiser investment it’s obvious buying wins by a mile. Long term is what you need to be thinking and where you want to put your money. If you’re considering buying you can bet in 99% of the situations you will be buying fewer acres than you would lease that’s just the nature of it. So what ? If you buy it’s yours and YOU will decide how YOU want to manage the place. You will decide who hunts there and what the rules will be. You will post the place and you will take care of it. At the end of the day it’s you who reaps the rewards not someone else. Consider leasing a property where you have the opportunity to plant food plots , build some trails and turn the place into a great hunting spot. If you’ve done these kind of things before then you know it’s expensive , real expensive sometimes. Maybe you have a 2 year lease and after year one your clover ,alfalfa , chicory etc. is really starting to take off. Now your lease is up and the owner decides he doesn’t want to renew. This happens ALL the time make no mistake about it. All your work and money is flushed and there’s no way to get it back. I’ve planted food plots for years and can tell you 1st hand it’s expensive as hell and takes a LOT of work. If you’re going to spend your time and money improving a property my advice is to make sure you own it. When you make these improvements to the land it will pay you back I promise. I’ve made my own land a “life’s work” so to speak and have turned it into the best hunting land I’ve ever been on. The work itself is more fun than you can imagine and seeing the work pay off is about the biggest kick in the world , other than having kids ! I’ve never been a believer the grass is greener somewhere else. What we read about and see on TV doesn’t interest me in the least. Traveling across the country to hunt someone else’s land , kill some deer I’ve never seen before and pay a lot to do it has no attraction to me. I’ve always been a believer “I can do that here and do it myself” , even though I can’t. So I don’t have record book bucks on my property , who gives a damn? I don’t and I never will. The satisfaction that comes from managing your own land and improving it is beyond even what I expected it to be. I buy and sell land for a living and I never thought I could have the fun I have just fooling around on my own little hunting spot. The investment pays off not only in the hunting but the VALUE of the place as a whole. If you had to sell the place your trails and food plots would be attractive to anyone who was interested in buying it. You wouldn’t be doing all this for someone else to benefit and THAT is most important.
So now what ? Well you can go either way depending on your goals and where you want to spend your time and money. Just keep in mind this is an investment , treat it as such. Do not get into anything on a whim , DO YOUR RESEARCH ! Take a long hard look at what all this will cost you in the long run and where you’re best suited to be spending your hard earned dollars and precious time. Both are in short supply these days so be wise with money and time. Long term , I believe , is the only way to approach this. To truly improve a place and realize the rewards takes time and patience. Go at it educated and ready for the commitment. If it’s buying you’re interested in you can start your research right here . As always I appreciate you stopping by , I hope this was worth your time. If you’ve read all this you’ve spent more time than you probably should have ! Best of luck in your pursuit , please SIGN UP for the latest and greatest when it comes to land ownership opportunities and for God’s sake share will ya ? see ya soon. mj