Purchasing a large parcel of land can be intimidating. Not to worry! Below you will find a helpful list of things to be aware of when searching for your perfect piece of paradise. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
No matter your intentions when buying a large parcel of land, location is the most important thing to consider. You don’t want to buy land with absolutely no resale value, and you definitely don’t want to buy land you can’t build on. While all land may seem buildable, soil conditions and topography are two vital issues. Poor soils can affect the concrete footing size and therefore the cost of construction.
- Do you want to be in a more rural location with acreage and privacy?
- Are you looking for a lot that is already developed or are you willing to spend the time and money necessary to develop the property?
- What other construction is planned or possible on the surrounding land?
- What's the topography of the land?
- Will there be a homeowners association?
- What changes are likely over the next several years: new roads, housing developments, strip malls?
- Are your views likely to last?
- Do you like the neighborhood?
- Is it close to schools, work, shops, medical care?
- Are there any trails on the property?
- Are there any water features on the property such as rivers, lakes, creeks, or springs?
- Is the property located in a flood zone?
- Does the land drain well or does it stay wet for most of the year?
- Is this a desirable area?
- Will the land retain or improve its value in the coming years?
- Are there any nuisances to be aware of?
- noise from an industrial site, gun club, nearby snowmobile trail, or airline flight path?
- are there any smells from local farms
- chemicals from a golf course, agriculture, or an industrial site
Zoning laws govern what you can and cannot do with your parcel of land. Certain areas will clearly be zoned for residential areas. It’s also important to pay attention to the county’s long-term land use plans and scheduled road additions because this could affect your views and potential resale value.
Environmental factors can also impact and restrict where you place your home on your land. You will want to check for set backs, which is the minimum distance that your home can be built from the property line. Call the local zoning department and ask them what the designated building setbacks are for the property in question.
- Are you in a special zoning district?
- Are there any setbacks?
- Do the setbacks affect the usefulness of the property?
- Are there restrictions on house size, height, lot coverage, or other restrictions?
- What lot coverage is allowed, and how is it calculated?
- What sort of zoning is nearby?
- Was the lot legally subdivided?
- Can you subdivide the lot?
Just about everything you build is going to require a permit. It’s important to know what kind of permits your county/state require before you start construction so you don’t run into any major problems once you’ve already started. Some municipalities may temporarily impose a moratorium on building — essentially a pause on new development for various reasons. It’s important to check into this before starting to build.
- What permits and fees are required and what are the costs?
- Are there any moratoriums on building?
Restrictive Covenants & Ordinances
A restrictive covenant is a legal obligation on a property deed that is imposed upon the buyer. They “run with the land” meaning they stay with the property and are passed from one owner to another. These are private agreements between the landowner an the buyer which separates them from the zoning restrictions. These restrictive covenants are put into place to give a development a more standard appearance and to protect property values. Some restrictive covenants may also dictate what type of construction the home can be. Within city limits city ordinances govern certain behaviors or land uses, such as the way you handle garbage removal, and you should make sure to check into this as well.
- Are there any restrictions due to wetlands, floodplains, water frontage, steep slopes, endangered species, historical or cultural sites, or other issues?
- Any tree cutting or land clearing restrictions?
- Are there any ordinances to be aware of?
Utilities & Roads
Before you buy, be sure to know what utilities have been brought to the property. For many properties in more rural areas, water is not available to be run into the property so you will ned to drill a well and install a septic system. Before installing a septic system a perc, or percolation test, will need to be run to determine the rate at which water drains through the soil.
If you are buying a rural parcel of land you will also want to look into what kind of roads have access to your home, are they maintained by the county/town or will you have to maintain your own private roads.
- Is the property landlocked?
- Will roads need to be built to access the property?
- Will utility lines run on poles or underground?
- Will any trees or other obstructions need to be removed in order for utility lines to reach the home?
- Is the parcel connected to city sewer and water?
- Does the parcel need a septic system?
- Where on the lot can a septic system be placed?
- What tests are required (deep hole, perc) and what times of year can a perc test be done in this jurisdiction?
- Has a perc test been run on the land?
- What are flow rates and water quality of nearby wells?
- What water problems are common to the area (hardness, acidity, sulfur dioxide, other minerals such as iron, manganese, sodium, magnesium, and copper)?
- Any evidence of nitrates or other potentially hazardous materials?
Liens & Easements
A lien is a monetary claim against the property to secure an obligation or debt of the current property owner. An easement is someones right to use your property for a stated purpose, and like restrictive covenants, they “run with the land” meaning they are passed down from property owner to property owner.
- Are there any easements on the property for adjoining owners, conservation, utilities, etc?
- Will you need an easement to build a driveway?
- Are there any liens on the property?
- How will a lien affect the purchase process?
When looking at a parcel of land, you will want to find out if it has been surveyed recently so you have an accurate representation of what you are buying. You will also want to make sure you have established boundaries in order to place your home in the correct spot on the lot.
- What is the minimum size lot you will need for your dream home?
- What is the shape of the parcel?
- Has the property been surveyed, and are boundaries marked?
There are so many factors that affect the cost of a parcel of land, not just its purchase price. You will want to consider utility installation, building costs, permit costs, and more when looking at properties.
- What are the annual property taxes?
- How much are permits going to cost?
- If title problems are found, how much time and money will it take to resolve them?
There are lots of things to consider when purchasing a parcel of land, and these are just a starting point. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us!
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