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How big is an acre, really?

Posted by Michigan Lifestyle Properties on November 17, 2016

An acre is the typical measurement of a piece of land, used by buyers and sellers to have an understanding of the size of a piece of property. Much like square footage is used by home buyers to determine the size of a house, acreage gives buyers a better sense of the size of the property, which is easier than using the lot measurements, which can vary greatly and are often not symmetrical.

The origin of the word “acre” comes from Old English – æcer, which denotes the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plow in a day, but is of Germanic origin; Acker for ‘field’.

Nowadays, most of us don’t have any idea how much land a yoke of oxen can plow, and indeed, today the measurement is a little bit more accurate! The official measurement of an acre is 43,560 square feet.

Exactly how big is an acre?

  • 4,045 square meters
  • 4,840 square yards
  • 43,560 square feet
  • 0.404686 hectares
  • 0.0015625 square miles

For the average person, a pretty easy way to understand an acre is that it is about the equivalent of three-quarters of a full-length football field or 16 tennis courts laid out in a four-by-four square.

When looking at large tracts of land, though, it can still be difficult to determine a single acre within tens or hundreds of square miles of land. To give you an idea of what that means in real property, here are a few examples of acreages:

Wrigley Field in Chicago
The baseball diamond plus outfield of the home of the World Series Champs (how ’bout them Cubbies!) measures 2 acres.

The White House in Washington, DC
The home & grounds of the (arguably) most powerful man in the world measure 8 acres. If you’ve ever seen the White House in context among the rest of Washington, DC, it looks surprisingly tiny.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan
The UP is an awfully large area to be measured in acres (it has an area of 16,377 square miles), but in case you’ve ever wondered, it covers an area of just under 10.5 million acres.
From here, the question many people ask next is “How much is an acre worth?”

The answer, of course, is much more varied than the measurement of an acre. In rural areas of Michigan, unimproved land (raw land, with no buildings, no well or septic system, etc.) can sometimes be found for $2,000/acre or less, depending on the type of land (recreational, tillable, timberland, etc.), as well as the size of the tract, and will go up from there. Specialty land – waterfront property or commercially zoned land in town as an example – will often be more expensive.

Here are a few examples of the extreme variations in price that you can see. These were all currently on the market at the writing of this article:

5 Acres

Unimproved 5 Acres in Twin Lake, close to Muskegon, that is wooded and offers hunting or development opportunities: $7,900 – a cost of $1,580 per acre.

Unimproved 5 Acres in Manistee, with rolling, wooded hills that offers beach frontage on Lake Michigan: $250,000 – a cost of $50,000 per acre

Unimproved 5 Acres in Stevensville, in the far Southwest corner of the state, that is zoned commercial and offers great visibility from a major highway: $2,500,000 – a cost of $500,000 per acre!

160 Acres

Unimproved 160 Acres in Newberry, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula that was part of the Duck Lake wildfire in 2012: $77,000 – a ‘steal’ at only $481.25 per acre!

Unimproved 160 Acres in Sherwood, Michigan in the Southwest part of the state, that offers fantastic hunting and St. Joseph River frontage: $500,000 – a cost of $3,125 per acre.

Unimproved 160 Acres in Custer, Michigan on the west coast of the state that offers great hunting and a private lake with a history of trophy fish: $999,499.00 – a cost of $6,246.87 per acre.

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