Tips for Buying Land

While we have a beautiful piece of vacant land on the market on Vashon Island, we thought we would shed some light on the process of purchasing property without a home already there.

2.5 acres close to town. Tall fir trees and maples surround your retreat property.

In some ways, it might seem easier to buy land than a home with land under it. After all, there isn’t a property inspection that needs to be done and no bedrooms and bathrooms to analyze. But did you know that buying land can actually be very complex due to the lack of a pre-existing structure? A pre-existing structure means that the use of that land has already been determined and is therefore less-likely to change. When we have a client who wants to buy a piece of land to build on or as an investment, there are a number of parameters we suggest we check.

Here are just a few of those items:

  • Are there any easements over this property or any easements to get to this property? In either case, these may limit what you can do on the property.
  • How is this property zoned? 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.
  • What kind of wildlife inhabits this property? In some cases having a rare, protected, or endangered animal use the property can limit when and how you use the property.
  • Are there any 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.
  • Are there any wells or cisterns that are not in use? These could pose a safety risk or, if water rights were assigned that are not being used, this could affect what access to water the property has in the future. Furthermore, old and non-functioning wells may need to be capped off.
  • 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.
  • Are there any mineral or water rights that are included? If so, do these transfer to the landowner or does someone else retain them?
  • Has there been a survey done of the property? If so, are the boundaries where you expect?
  • Is this land in a Homeowners Association? If so, check the rules of what can be built and if there are restrictions regarding footprint, size, or style.
  • Is there a water association? If so, is there a limit to the amount of water that can be used?
  • Are there additional ordinances and covenants? Some land is sold in subdivisions which may have restrictions. There may be deed restrictions which are private agreements created between the owner and the buyer of the property. You may also have ordinances which you must adhere from the local city.
  • What utilities are available? There will be costs to bring utilities to the property including electricity, phone lines, water and sewer (if available). If public water and sewer is not available, you will need permits for drilling a well and for installing a septic system.
  • Has this land ever flooded? You will need to know this to determine whether or not flood insurance is needed.

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, we will work with you to ask questions and find out as much as you can.

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