9 Things to Consider Before Buying Land

9 Things to Consider Before Buying Land

There are a great and many things to consider before buying land. Everyone will have different requirements for the land they purchase, but there are some general things that everyone should think about. In this post, we will cover the basic 9 things to consider before buying land.

Perc Test/Septic

A perc test (aka “perk” test and percolation test) is an assessment that tests the soil’s ability to drain liquid through it. In other words, a perc test analyzes how quickly water (or other liquids) can be absorbed into the ground. This test is generally performed by digging holes, adding water and seeing how long it takes for it to absorb into the soil. Perc tests evaluate what type of septic system (if any) you can install on a given piece of property. Not all properties can accommodate a septic system; so this test is important to do before you attempt purchasing a piece of land.

Water

Not all parcels of land can have public water installed; furthermore, if your goal is to be off grid, then why would you pay to install a utility that you would have to continue paying monthly for? Therefore, it is a good idea to look for land that already has a well or natural spring. If you’re looking for bare land, without a well, then it is important to talk to the neighbors, well diggers, and the county to see what average well depths are in that area. This doesn’t mean the well on your property will definitely be that depth, but it will give you an approximation. When digging a well, you pay per foot, so if wells are generally shallower in your area, they won’t cost as much to install.

Power

How will you power your homestead? Are you planning on having public power brought in to accommodate your needs? If so, remember, you will be the one who pays to have it installed and who pays the monthly utility bill. Generally speaking, power companies charge by linear foot; so the further away you are from another power source/transformer, the more it will cost to bring power in. Depending on how far away the power is, it may be cheaper in the long term (perhaps even the short term) to go with an alternative form of energy. There are various forms of alternative energy (solar, wind, water turbines, etc.) at increasingly affordable rates.

Wetlands

When we were looking for property, there were a lot of cheaper properties in flood-zones, which we had no interest in dealing with. Furthermore, a lot of properties, even the ones outside of flood zones, had wetlands on them. Generally, you need to have a wetland buffer (an area that separates wetlands from usable land) and cannot develop the land in these areas. You can usually go to your county’s website to find information about wetlands and flood-zones. We always shied away from properties with wetlands because we wanted the ability to develop the land as we saw fit.

Easements

Easements are another thing to look out for when buying land. An easement is a right that has been granted by a land owner for another person to use or enter onto his/her property. Utility companies usually have easements on properties so that they can maintain their equipment (i.e. meters, phone polls, etc.). Another form of easement, is in the case of flag lots; this is where one person’s driveway goes through another’s property, which is usually the only point of access. Easements stay with properties even when they are sold, so they are something to inquire about.

Zoning

Zoning is yet another thing to look into and consider when purchasing land. Every piece of land has some form of zoning code; some land is zoned for farm use, some for residential or commercial, and yet others are zoned for only recreational purposes. Land can be in an unzoned area, but that still isn’t necessarily accurate; usually in unzoned areas, the zoning falls back to what the closest zoning is. In other words, if your land is unzoned, but your neighbors down the street is zoned residential, then it is likely that the county will view your parcel as residential as well. However, this is something you need to discuss with your respective county because rules vary from county to county.

Can you Build?

To further stress the importance of zoning, you will need to answer the question of “can you build?” If your land is zoned residential, building is, generally, allowed. However, if it is zoned for farm use, there will be limitations to what can be built. Likewise, if the land is zoned recreational, you are more than likely not allowed to build or develop the land. So, again, it is extremely important to discuss this with your local government before purchasing a piece of land.

Phone/Internet

If you’re anything like us, you need phone and internet services, if, for nothing else, for work. If you can live without phones and internet, then you can skip right over this section. When we were considering various pieces of land to purchase, we’d find out what service providers were in the area and contact them to find out if they would service that piece of property. Usually, internet providers have a section on their website that will allow you to put in your address and see if they service that area. Although, phone/internet services are in a lot of areas, there are still quite a few areas outside of their service zones, so this is something to consider before making an offer. Some people use satellite internet to accommodate their needs, but it is notoriously slow and relies on a clear view of the sky to work properly.

CC&Rs/HOAs

CC&R’s stands for covenants, conditions, and restrictions. A lot of the time, CC&R’s are accompanied by an HOA (home owner’s association). In essence, these are both rules for your neighborhood. These rules can be moderate (making sure your lawn is mowed) to extreme (dictating what can be built, how big your house has to be, where you can park, etc.). This was something we did not want to deal with; we opted not to look at properties that had such restrictions. Maybe CC&Rs and HOAs are okay with you; however, we would still recommend that you thoroughly understand them before purchasing property.

Purchasing land is quite a bit of work and takes a lot of time and consideration. These 9 tips are only scratching the surface of the work that you will need to do in order to feel secure in your purchase. If you have more tips that you would like to see added to our list, or if you have a story about your land search, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below or contact us!

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