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How my acre of Arizona land skyrocketed in value

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When Louis Herron spent $2,333 on an acre of land in 2013, he knew he was getting a good deal.

But I never expected a property in Flagstaff, Arizona, a 30-minute drive from the Grand Canyon, to more than six times its value in less than ten years. The acre, which currently hosts two tiny homes, is worth up to $15,000, according to appraiser estimates reviewed by CNBC Make It.

“I was 21 or 22 at the time and had no idea I could buy a property,” Heron, 31, told CNBC Make It. “I knew I had to step into the land and take this opportunity without doing anything.”

He adds: “I spent all my savings on this land.”

Herron says he’s unlikely to sell it anytime soon, even though its value has skyrocketed. He combines two tiny homes to create a sleeping and living space, just 30 minutes from his full-time desert hiking business he started three years ago. Here’s how he acquired the land and why its value soared.

A stroke of real estate luck

In 2011, Herron dropped out of Ball State University and became addicted to wanderlust, he says. He washed dishes at a restaurant near California’s Yosemite National Park before becoming a tour guide for park employees. In June 2012, he played a similar role in Montana’s Glacier National Park, before settling in Flagstaff, just outside of Canyon, in 2013.

A friend of his found a real estate deal, says Herron: $7,000 on three acres. With another friend, I bought a parcel for 3 people and split it, giving each person the same piece for the same price.

Herron moved into his land in 2017 when local rents skyrocketed. He lives in his two small houses. One has a bathroom, laundry room, and bedroom, while his other has a kitchen, living space, and storage.

Louis Herron

Herron says he bought his first prefab tiny house in 2015, but it wasn’t until May 2017 that he actually moved onto the land due to a rent increase. The house was too small to fit most standard household equipment. So he bought his second prefabricated tiny house from his neighbor and split the residence between the two buildings.

One house has a bathroom, laundry room, and master bedroom, says Herron. The other is the kitchen, living room, and storage.

“The cost of living has skyrocketed due to the ongoing gentrification in town, so we figured we could simply live on the land instead of paying ridiculous amounts for rent,” says Herron.

average foot traffic, higher spending

The dramatic increase in land value is based on “location, on-site vegetation… nearby electricity, [and] According to an email to Herron from an appraiser reviewed by CNBC Make It.

Herron says he plans to build yurts on his property and eventually buy more land, as long as management is sustainable.

Louis Herron

Last year, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Flagstaff was $1,300 a month, according to Apartments.com. Data from Rentdata.org In 2013, the median rent for a one-bedroom property in the same area where Herron purchased the land was just $852 per month.

This represents a median rent increase of 65.5% over the past eight years. For reference, between 2011 and his May of this year, the median national one-bedroom rent rose his 54.5%. US Census data When Redfin reports.

The Grand Canyon has also gone up in price. In 2011, 4.3 million tourists spent his $467.26 million in and around national parks. National Park Service Say. Only 4.5 million visited in 2021, but these visitors are spending more money. last year.

August 2020, Herron and then-partner spent $15,000 to build 16 foot yurt on siteIt brought in $27,600 as Airbnb rentals between August 2021 and August 2022, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It. When they split, Heron’s ex took ownership of the yurt. Herron says he hopes to make a replacement, or multiple replacements, soon.

The competition is fierce: Flagstaff has at least 2,000 vacation rentals, according to rental analytics firm AirDNA. Several adjacent properties each have up to six of his Airbnb listings, Herron said.

Financially, Herron is betting that the value of his land will continue to rise. But he says it doesn’t matter. He has curated off-the-grid experiences as a token of his appreciation for living off the land.

“The Grand Canyon is without a doubt the most amazing backdrop in the country,” says Herron. “I love living right next door, traveling on a whim, and sleeping under the stars in the canyon.”

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