Tips for Buying Unimproved Land
When the inventory gets tight, many home purchasers turn their attention to new construction opportunities. Buying a lot and building can be an easier proposition than you may think. Here are several tips for buying LAND and avoiding some headaches!
- GET A TOPO MAP
Before you even get in the car to drive by the lot or parcel, get a copy of a local topo map which will give you the elevations of land in your area. The contour lines indicate the elevation of a property – the closer they are together, the steeper the slope whereas the further they are apart, the flatter the land will be. There are some great websites online where you can find the topography of a parcel and many times, the geographic information system (GIS) for your county or city should have this data. Some parcels of land aren’t buildable thanks to areas of critical slope, marshy low areas, or stream buffers that exist next to waterways.
- RESEARCH THE LAND
Many parcels of land have been carved up over time and have some interesting shapes and sizes. It is always a good idea to look at a parcel on the local GIS to get an idea of the overall shape. Maybe the parcel is landlocked within another parcel, maybe it doesn’t have an access point on a public or private road and has an easement running across another parcel. The parcel could have a body of water on part of the acreage or have critical slope that makes the parcel unbuildable. When you go under contract, you certainly want to have a title search done by a closing company or closing attorney. This will yield any liens on the land. You will also want to get a recent plat or survey. If the survey is old, then it is a good idea to get a new one as part of your escrow process. Does the parcel already have any existing infrastructure on it like a well or a septic system? If so, this may save you several thousand dollars of preparation costs that you can put back into your new home. In addition, is the parcel mainly wooded or is it cleared pasture land – a clear lot could potentially save you on excavation costs as your project is getting underway. Have your REALTOR guide you through what other questions to ask.
- THINK ABOUT YOUR SITING
Even before you pull the trigger on putting an offer together on a parcel, you should give serious thought and research to your home site. Is it feasible to put the house where you want it to be on the land? How are you going to take full advantage of the views, privacy, how the sun moves across the sky, and most important where your driveway is located. A long driveway can add thousands of dollars to your project very quickly. If you have to cross any waterways with your entrance or driveway, you will more than likely have to get county approval. It is a good idea to get your builder involved in this process before you make an offer on the land.
- INCLUDE CONTINGENCIES TO PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENT
Make sure you protect yourself with some contingencies in your land offer. You don’t want to get stuck owning a piece of land that doesn’t sustain the house that you want to build. You should always include a study period which allows a soil engineer to test the land and ensure that it will perc for a drainfield. You should include a stipulation which gives you the option to drill a well and have a minimum gallons per minute that is appropriate for the neighborhood or topography. If you are in a neighborhood that has a Homeowner’s Association with an Architectural Review Board (ARB), you should ensure that your house plan will be accepted by them as a part of your land contract. There should be a contingency which asks for the transportation department and county approval of your driveway. These are just a few of many different contingencies that you could include to ensure that you have a great piece of land.
If you’re thinking about buying land this market cycle, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team! We’d love to give you even more great guidance on this process!
-Josh White, Realtor® and Sales Partner | Story House Real Estate