6 Things You Should Know Before Buying Your Land

For most people, owning a parcel of land affords stability, permanence and a home. Whether you dream of living in the country away from traffic and congestion, a family-oriented place in the suburbs, or house right downtown, you will need some land.

Buying land with the idea of constructing a dwelling on it requires some research and more than a little smart thinking. It is easy to get carried away with the benefits of buying a piece of land and overlook the drawbacks. But, let’s take a quick look at the benefits before we dive into the other factors that might not be so grand.

The Benefits of Buying Your Land

A piece of land is like a blank canvas, sitting there waiting for the right person to build something magnificent. But there are also very tangible benefits to consider:

  • Land can be a profitable long term investment if purchased at the right price.
  • If you are interested in moving to the country, land prices can be much cheaper than in the city.
  • Some people aren’t ready to build a house, but they know where they want to live; these people may buy a piece of land and hold it until they are ready to build.
  • Having a large amount of land provides the flexibility to build special purpose out-buildings such as a large garage, a wood shop, or a rental unit.

Whatever your dream might be, selecting the right piece of land in the right location is crucial.

Factors to Think About - Before you Buy

It is impossible to overstate the importance of doing your research on a piece of property before you fall in love with it…and certainly before you buy it. Consider these factors:

  1. What is the surrounding environment? If you are moving to the country, is there a cow pasture next door? If you will be in the city, what is the traffic pattern like on Monday mornings?
  2. How about soil testing? Is it a buildable lot? One of the issues that everyone must consider when building a house is to ensure that the structure sits on solid ground. If the soil is too rocky or too soft you may not be able to get a building permit. The cost to remedy an unrecognized soil problem could put your project in jeopardy. Check with your local building department and make sure there is a soil test contingency in your sales agreement.
  3. Zoning requirements must be checked. Local authorities (city, county and state) should be consulted before undertaking a construction project, so it is important to understand their requirements before buying the land.
  4. What easement restrictions are needed or currently in place? If your land is accessed by driving across an adjoining parcel, it is very important that a legal easement is obtained and recorded.
  5. Public utilities should be checked out. What services are available for water/sewer, electricity, gas, and cable? It is possible you may need to drill a well, or heat with propane, if public utilities are not available. 
  6. Get an appraisal. In any land purchase, it makes sense to get an outside appraisal by a professional appraiser. This will not only help to confirm the purchase price, but it might be required if you plan to borrow money to purchase the land.

A very good way to get a feel for a particular location and learn about its benefits and drawbacks is by renting a house in the area and living there for a few months. The added time will also give you an opportunity to secure the right type of financing as well as get to know the various sub-contractors in the area.