buying a residential lotBuying a plot of land, raw land, is not the way most people go into building their home. The normal process for a majority of home buyers is to buy a home in which the land is apart of. Many home owners do not have an ideal of the work that the builders or developers put into acquiring the property on which their home sits.

For those who are interested in purchasing their own piece of land, you will find the following information valuable to your process. To be sure of your decision, you must know what to look for when buying a plot of land to build a house. Below are a list of items that you should be aware of in order to protect yourself. The list is not exhaustive, but it includes some key advice on purchasing residential land.

Checklist To Purchase Land

  1. The value relative to you – The most important aspect of searching for land is to determine the value of the property to you. Let’s just forget about the appraiser for a moment and think in terms of human value. Do you like the location? Is it ideal for the type of home you plan to build? This is the value that you must must first consider.
  2. Land zoning – Is the property zoned for single family home construction? It is crucial that you know this information. You wouldn’t want to buy a section of land and later find out that you can’t build your home because it isn’t classified as residential. Land is generally zoned as agricultural, commercial, industrial, environmental, as well as residential.
  3. Land Restrictions – Buying land does not give you free will to do whatever you please on the property. The local city and county have restrictions by which you must adhere to. These restrictions are known as zoning ordinances. Get a copy of these ordinances before you purchase the land. You may have to pay a small fee, but it is worth it in order to know what is and isn’t allowed in reference to the property in that particular city or county.
  4. Property Topography – The lay of the land. Is the land conducive to your proposed home design? Consider whether you will need to add (fill) or remove (cut) significant amounts of soil. Is there enough room for a septic tank (if needed)? You must also think about the positioning for your home and water drainage. Is the property located within a 100 year flood zone? You don’t want your home subjected to the possibility of flooding. Trees are another factor. While they can produce a delightful setting, chances are that you will have to remove quite a few for the building site. This can be an expensive proposition and is often overlooked in terms of cost for site preparation.
  5. Condition of the soil – If you have issues dealing with the physical land itself, a soil analysis may be in order. Actually, it’s just a good ideal to have this done anyway. Sometimes the owner of the land may have already had one completed. If not, investing a few hundred dollars is highly suggested. You can always negotiate the cost to be deducted from the cost of the land. You should know the content of the soil. Does it have an abundance of rock? It can prove too expensive to remove. Is it junk soil and lack a degree of sturdiness? You may find yourself digging deep to find hard soil to support your homes foundation. Maybe the land emit radon gas. If so, you should know so you are able to properly ventilate or prevent entry into your home. If installing a septic tank, a perk test is usually required by the county to determine if the soil can filter. In case it doesn’t, you can not build.
  6. Public Sewer – Are you able to tap into the county public sewers? If access is not available for the property, you will have to install a septic tank for your sewage. In addition, the county has to determine if the land is even acceptable for a septic tank as the aforementioned soil condition explains.
  7. Subdivisions – Looking at a lot in a neighborhood can prove tricky. If you buy a vacant lot in a neighborhood and the homes fall within a certain price range, the home your plan to build must be in that range too. If homes in the subdivision average $150,000, you are not going to get a lender to supply you a loan to build a $350,000 home. Make sure your proposed home is priced within the scope of surrounding homes.
  8. Covenants – Check to see if there are rules that govern the use of the land. They are included in the deed or referenced in the land records. Covenants are private restrictions set by the sellers (owners such as developers or builders). Unless it is unconstitutional, it is enforceable. Some property sales do not include these private restrictions, especially when the land is not a part of a community development. You typically find them in neighborhoods where the developers have them in place. These covenants are later transitioned into what we all know as a neighborhood home owners association.
  9. Cost of ownership – How much will it cost you to own the land? Some areas are more expensive than others and this will be noticeable when you receive your property taxes.
  10. Moratoriums – Check with the county to verify if you are able to obtain a building permit to build. At any given moment, restrictions may be put in place to slow the growth of areas that may be outpacing the resources (roads, schools, police, fire dept) and facilities (sewer, water) of the county. It is wise to find out if this would affect the land you are considering for purchase. Moratoriums are not permanent, but it can delay the building of your home for months or years.

Using the services of a land realtor is advisable because selecting land takes a great deal of research, patience, and knowledge about the process. You may feel a little nervous about making the purchase, especially when it involves a big ticket item such as this. However, if you devote a little time, effort, and due diligence, you can work your way through the apprehensions and realize that this can be a very good investment if done right.

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