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Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Buying Land for a Home

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Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Buying Land for a Home
4 min. read

Image: Byjeng / Shutterstock.com

Building your own home from scratch would be a dream come true for most of us. You get to dictate exactly how your house looks and where it is and you can choose everything from configuration to door handles. But, before you get too carried away, you’ll first need to purchase the land that it’ll be built on. 

In theory, this doesn’t sound too difficult. However, if you’re not careful, you might find that the land you bought is plagued with issues. From problem neighbors to unstable soil preventing the building process from starting, there are many pitfalls. Fortunately, you can avoid all of these by asking the right questions before buying land for a home.

Are there any long-term plans for the surrounding area?

It’s well worth knowing what the long-term plans for that area look like. It’s a good idea to pay the planning office a visit and taking a look over the long-range general use plan for the surrounding area. This will detail any projects that are in the pipeline that may interrupt your slice of paradise, from new highways and roads to facilities such as public waste sites, power plants, shopping malls, etc. Knowing what the future holds for the area allows you to make a more informed decision.

What are the zoning regulations?

While at the planning office, it’s essential to take a look at the zoning regulations for your plot of land. These regulations will let you know what you can or can’t do, and what the intended use for the land is. Zoning regulations detail whether that land is designated for industrial, commercial, or residential use; if you plan to build a house, you need to be sure your plot of land is meant for residential use. Take a look at your neighbors as well, and check that they’re also designated residential, rather than industrial, or you never know what might be built there in the future.

Is there easy access?

There are two ways to access most land, via a frontage road, or by using deeded access. A frontage road is simply a local road that provides access to a property, either directly or via a private road. Deeded access, on the other hand, requires a partnership between neighbors, with the neighbor who has access to a frontage road, enabling a right of way easement across their plot. If your plot is effectively landlocked, you’ll need to discuss access options with your neighbor, and ensure you can come to a reasonable agreement.

Will it be easy to hook up utilities?

Depending on the location, hooking up utilities can be as simple as running new pipes and cables to attach to mains supplies, or may require generators and independent utilities. Most of the time, the former is possible, but it’s always worth checking what is available in advance. If you need to drill a well for water or install a septic tank, these hefty costs will need to be taken into consideration. In the event of installing a septic system, be sure to have a soil percolation rate test to determine whether your land can safely absorb the water from the system. Think about electricity and Wi-Fi availability as well, and be sure you can get online if you will require it.

Have you checked for title rights and deed restrictions?

As a landowner, you may be entitled to certain rights, such as access rights, mineral rights, and development rights. Title rights can soon become confusing, so it’s worth having an experienced attorney check whether everything is up to date and clearly specified. Similarly, you may have restrictions on how you’re able to use your land. Besides zoning regulations, it’s worth checking the ‘Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs)’ to see exactly what you can and can’t do on your land and whether any conservation easements apply.

Can you afford the deposit?

When purchasing a plot of land, most lenders will require at least a 20% down payment, though many ask for as much as 50%. This is a sizable chunk of cash, and it’s good to know what your lender will expect from you. In addition to a high deposit, you can expect higher than normal interest rates as well. Be sure you can afford both the land and the development costs before discussing with a lender.

Are the boundaries clear?

You’ll need to check a recent land survey to ensure the boundaries are clear. Building, or even planting crops on a piece of land that isn’t yours can land you in deep trouble, so it’s well worth doing your homework in advance, and working out exactly where your land starts and ends.

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