Newbie buying land in NOLA, overwhelmed with where to start
February 15, 2018 8:55 AM   Subscribe

How do I begin to research buying land in New Orleans? Is there a novice's guide to this? The confusion is epic right now.

I lived in the Lower 9th for years and would like to buy property (likely an empty lot or a wrecked house) and build it up (tiny-house-style) over the years, as we did on the communal farm I lived in the Lower 9th. I'm looking at "lower-income" areas of NOLA, as that's where I feel at home/come from.

Full honesty: I have money saved up, but I live below poverty line in terms of income. I have construction experience. I'm not looking for shaming "advice" or alternatives to buying land.
posted by Kombucha3452 to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Start by going to a local credit union or savings bank, not a big nationwide bank, possibly where your saved cash is deposited, and ask about first time home buying classes. You may be eligible for government programs and these classes are usually a prerequisite for getting a loan through these programs. Even if you are not eligible, it can be a way to get a footing in understanding the process, learning about local programs, and where you stand with your current savings and income. No shame involved!
posted by Gnella at 9:10 AM on February 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

You could also get in touch with a real estate agent - they know the ins and outs and should be able to give you a general idea of what you'll need and what's available. It's not clear whether you have the cash to buy the land outright - if you don't, you'll need a rehab or a construction loan, and those are different from (and harder to get than, usually) a regular mortgage.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:13 AM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

FWIW, Louisiana passed some legislation in 2014: House Bill 1001, which passed the House and Senate unanimously and awaits the governor's signature, requires the city to sell vacant lots owned by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority in the Lower 9th Ward and Holy Cross neighborhood for $100 to buyers who meet certain criteria.

People who live adjacent to these properties and qualify under the Lot Next Door program will have the first opportunity to buy them. Next in line will be people who have rented in the Lower 9th Ward for at least 18 months; veterans, emergency responders, teachers and former teachers; and people who agree to build a home on the property and live in that house for at least five years.

posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:15 AM on February 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think what you want to do is great. I looked into doing something similar after Katrina when damaged properties around the French Quarter could be found fairly cheaply. The advice and thinking points below come from mostly anecdotal sources and are likely horribly outdated.
A lot of the lower income areas around New Orleans are located where they are for a reason, mostly because they are the lower areas and most prone to flooding. With the building of levees and pumping systems to remove the water, a lot of these areas built up in places where homes just should not be built. The flooding after Katrina kind of proved this point. I believe the Lower 9th was one of the last places where they let people back in, and I remember talk that they were not going to allow people to rebuild there. A lot of the homes you will find there that are reasonably priced look like they are in pretty bad shape and pretty much need to be torn down, which is an expense and safety risk you probably do not want. Remember, most of these houses are older and may contain lead paint and asbestos tile and insulation, not to mention toxic mold. You most definitely want to build on an empty lot, perhaps even living in a trailer on site while it is being constructed..
New builds are subject to pretty stringent building codes which may require elevation on piers. This works well for your tiny house concept as you do not have a massive footprint to elevate. The land is essentially worthless in a lot of these places because the engineering and building of the structures give the true value to the land, and the costs of engineering a safe structure here are likely going to be greater than the resultant value of the home in these areas. In addition to the building code, you also have to look at the cost and availability of insurance.
Mortgages for land are typically hard to get, since the land itself has no value to banks, and likely especially so in low income areas of New Orleans. The most logical thing for you with savings and a low income would be to buy the land with cash and try to finance the building of a house. There are a lot of programs designed to help lower income people buy homes. NORA that RobotVoodooPower mentioned may be a good resource to find some of these as they have programs themselves at a local level, but also may be familiar with Federal programs you may qualify for, like Rural Development Financing.
There may also be community groups in the neighborhoods you are targeting with local people to help answer your questions and give advice. Worst case, you can walk or drive around these areas and look for people that have built the kind of home you have in mind and try to contact them, perhaps with a note in the mailbox, to see how they went about it and the hurdles they faced.
An app you may find useful is the app or their website. They pull from most realtor sites and their filters can help you narrow in on what you are looking for, such as land only and a max price. There is one lot in the Lower 9th right now for $4400 and a few around the $10000 range.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 9:13 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

« Older How is conttract formed?   |   Coffee & Anxiolytics- self defeating to have... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.