Key Highlights

  • Buying land has different considerations than buying residential property
  • Below are 11 questions to ask and answer when buying land

11 Areas to Contemplate About Buying Land

Are you and/or your clients considering buying land?  Here are several things to understand before you and/or your clients actually sign on the bottom line

  1. Financing
    1. Because it’s difficult to get a loan to purchase land, many buyers pay cash.
    2. Needing to finance the purchase? Know up-front that some lenders may require a large down payment, up to 50%, because selling land is more difficult than selling land if you default on your payments. Also know upfront that interest rates on the land loan will be higher than residential mortgage interest rates.
  2. Zoning
    1. This is crucial.
    2. If the land is zoned as residential property, you’re in luck if you intend to build a house.
    3. If the land is zoned as commercial property, it’s time-consuming and difficult to get the land rezoned for residential use.
    4. Also, find out if other entities (local government, public/private utilities, businesses) have plans and/or approvals for new roads/office complexes.  If not, you may “get” to do and pay for all of that.
  3. Desirability
    1. What’s located nearby?A school, power plant, garbage dump, retail center?
    2. Topography – soil type, trees, elevation changes, hills, flooding potential, wetlands, water table, build-ability?
    3. Endangered wildlife or plant species?
  4. Road Access and Maintenance
    1. Check with County Assessor’s of County Clerk’s office to find about easements.
    2. Find out who is responsible to pay for any road creation, paving, mowing, snow removal, maintenance, etc.
  5. Existing Utility Hookups and Water Rights
    1. The closer the land is to an existing neighborhood, the easier access you’ll likely have to standard utility lines and fiber optic cable. If not, you may have to install them.
    2. If there is no existing sewer system, you’ll need a percolation test to determine the possibility of instalingl a septic system.
    3. Who owns the water rights? Contact the state’s Dept. of Resources
  6. Existing Structures or Debris in the Land?
    1. You’ll need to remove whatever is there. Get cost estimates from removal service.
    2. Also, you’ll need to remove any contaminants.
  7. Shape, Size and Dimensions of Property
    1. The county will have a plot map of the land. Work with a land planner to help ensure you can build what you’d like to build.
  8. Surrounding Areas
    1. Any strange sounds or smells? Make sure the land isn’t within 5 miles of a dump so you can open your windows and enjoy your own yard area.
    2. If next to a quarry, expect truck traffic.
    3. Are there adjoining lots? Similar architectural styles?  Your house may have to be a specific style.
  9. Setback Requirements?
    1. Make sure the house you want to build will “fit” on the land to accommodate setback distances.
  10. Any hidden value in the land?
    1. County office can tell you if there are natural resources or minerals under the land surface.


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