It might seem easier to simply buy a piece of land or a lot than a home with land under it. However, buying land can actually be more complex. Land with a pre-existing structure means that the use of that land has already been determined and is therefore less likely to change.
In construction, I worked for a plat developer so I am very well-versed in all there is to know about preparing land to build. Here are just some of the things that should be added to your verification list:
SEWER OR SEPTIC? – If you are buying an infill lot in a city, a sewer line may be available for you to hook into. But how much does it cost to do that and what does that entail? If you cannot hook up to a sewer system, can you get a septic system installed on the property?
WATER – If sewer is available on the property, is water? It may not be available in the outlying areas, so making sure the land has enough groundwater for a well, a rainwater collection system is a viable alternative, or that water can be brought in by the truckload is critical.
EASEMENTS – Easements provide access to properties. When you are buying land, it is important that you understand the easements that will continue to be granted to others on your property (such as neighboring properties, utilities, etc.) as well as the easements that you require to enter and exit your property. You also need to have an understanding of the maintenance rules when it comes to the roads.
BUILDING RESTRICTIONS – If the land is located in an area with CC&Rs (Codes, Covenants, and Restrictions), there may be rules regarding what you can do with your land and what can be built. If you dream of building a 5,000 square foot retreat along with several outbuildings for your classic collectable vehicles, you may or may not be able to build that depending on the local rules and restrictions.
ZONING – Can you build a house or is only recreation allowed? How many homes can be built? Is it sub-dividable? Pay attention to the county’s long-term land use plans and scheduled road additions as these are indicators of future growth and possibly future zoning.
WETLANDS – Wetlands means drainage, water rights, and animals – all of which have rules and parameters to follow and can affect buildability. Ask if there has been a wetland study.
OIL TANKS – Are there any oil tanks on the property? Whether used for heating or for a business, oil tank removal is an environmental expense that needs to be taken into consideration.
FLOODING – You will need to determine whether or not flood insurance is needed.
CLIFFS, HILLS, AND BLUFFS – Our area includes bluffs with amazing views. However, it seems like every winter we have a landslide of some sort. If your future home will be located on a bluff or in front of a hillside, I recommend having a Geo-tech do some testing before you sign on the dotted line.
In order to avoid frustrations as you are determining the land that will house your future foundation, do your due diligence. If you are thinking about buying land, I will work with you to ask questions and find out as much as you can.