What To Know Before You Buy Land – Having owned vacant farmland for approximately two months now, I am certainly no expert when it comes to owning property. But David and I went through the buying process and (we thought) we completely looked at all of our options and exhausted all of our resources during that time in terms of doing our due diligence and making sure we were buying the right thing. Additionally, I am a real estate attorney, so my professional experience has also given me a lot of insight into the process. Some of you recently emailed me asking for tips on buying land or vacant properties, so I thought I’d compile my notes and thoughts for you!

FYI, we found our land for sale on Zillow – it was for sale by owner. A local farmer was retiring and dividing his 150 acre tract into 10 to 20 acre tracts for single family owners. We were lucky with this piece, we think it’s the best in the area! After negotiating the price and the contract, we begin the due diligence period, which is basically a “free period” that you have to research the property. If you find something you don’t like within the due diligence period, you can walk away, have your money refunded, and the contract will be terminated. We gave ourselves three weeks, which is the minimum. Try to negotiate somewhere around 30 to 60 days after the start of the contract period to conduct this due diligence, if the seller is willing. But definitely make sure you have a period of due diligence – you need some time to research what I describe below!

What To Know Before You Buy Land

What To Know Before You Buy Land

Keep in mind that although I am a real estate attorney, I am not giving this advice as a professional real estate expert. Another caveat is that a lot of the information I have may be limited to how things work in Georgia, since that’s where we bought real estate. The third thing I want to rule out is that this list doesn’t cover the actual construction process – it only covers purchases and acquiring vacant land. But that said, in no particular order, here are ten things you should research in your due diligence before purchasing vacant land or properties.

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1. Choose a reliable team, including a builder, architect and/or contractor. The first step for us was getting some people to help us navigate this process. A huge blessing we have is that my uncle is a talented and renowned architect in Atlanta and is helping us design our home. We are also working with a builder who he works with and who I know through my real estate profession. Now that we’ve got this team together, we have people we can email questions to or walk things through as we move through the build process. It makes a huge difference to have smart, trustworthy people to turn to!

2. Make sure the land you are looking for has a suitable building site. One of the most important things we did after we found our property was to make sure there was a good place to build a house. Would we have to do a lot of work on site to get the house where we wanted it? Was there enough slope to build a daylight basement? Would we have to spend a lot of money grading land and removing trees? Was there a good place to put a driveway? We asked our builder and architect to take a look at the place to answer these general questions. Fortunately, they stated to us that this was a good piece that would need minimal disturbance to the site to build the house. We also clarified with the county that we could open an entrance to the main road from the location we wanted on the property. All signs pointed to us!

3. Get a soil test. It is very important to hire a professional to examine the soil and determine if it is capable of housing a septic tank. Most counties will require proof of this test and proof that the soil passes all the correct tests before issuing a building or development permit.

4. Make sure the zoning classification allows for what you are planning to build/develop. Most local jurisdictions have a zoning map that establishes what each piece of land can be in terms of use – rural, single-family, commercial, etc. do your research and receive a letter from your jurisdiction confirming what your zoning designation is. For us it was important to know what our use is (agricultural residential), setback lines and permitted accessory uses (agriculture, live animals).

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5. Plan ahead and research your financing options. To be fully disclosed, we will have three loans throughout this process: a land loan (to purchase the land) which will turn into a construction loan (to build the house), which will then turn into our permanent loan (which is like a normal home mortgage). So we contacted several local lenders to find out their terms for each of the three loans and ensure that as we process each phase of financing, we know what to expect.

6. Make sure all utilities are available at the property. Our property is located off a main road, but is otherwise relatively off-grid. It was a pasture for farm animals and empty forests for the last few hundred years! Of course, we don’t intend to go off the grid, so it was important for us to make sure we could have power, well water, gas, and internet at home. We called all the local businesses who helped us confirm this information.

7. Obtain a recent survey of property boundaries. A survey essentially establishes the exact property lines that border the land. This helps you determine exactly what you are purchasing and whether or not it is invasive. If your seller doesn’t have a recent survey to share with you, it’s worth spending a few hundred dollars to get one from a surveyor.

What To Know Before You Buy Land

8. Ask an attorney to perform a title exam. If you have a final attorney, he or she will handle the title exam for you. An examiner will go to the county record room and review the chain of title and any “liens” against the property that are current, such as liens, other mortgages, encumbrances, easements, etc. to be released or if you are purchasing the property subject to any permitted liens, such as a road easement or electrical easement.

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9. Confirm with the local school system which school district the property is located in. With two little ones ready for school in the near future (H will be starting kindergarten in the fall of 2017, haha!), schools are so important to us. We called our local school system and asked them to confirm their current districts with us. Once we confirmed we were in a great school district, that pretty much sealed the deal for us!

10. Ask an appraiser to carry out an appraisal of the property. Unless you have a real estate agent working for you who can verify the property’s value for sure, put an appraisal contingency in your purchase contract and pay a few hundred dollars to have an appraisal done. So, if the appraiser finds that the property is worth less than what was contracted, you can renegotiate with the seller or walk away. Rest assured that your money is going towards a great investment!

I’ve talked a lot about the due diligence process and how we deal with it… what view do you have on purchasing vacant land or properties? Share your tips! What to ask when buying land? What do I need to know when buying land? When buying land, what questions should I ask?

Buying land is easier than other property purchases. However, there are some things you need to know and pay attention to when preparing to buy land. Be sure to ask these 15 questions before proceeding with any land transaction. They will cover what you need to know about buying land and what to look for before you buy!

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In other words, do you know who the buyer is? It may seem obvious, but scams happen when people advertise and try to sell land they don’t actually own. It’s rare, but it’s something land buyers need to be aware of.

A more common case may be that the previous owner has passed away and did not clearly leave the property to a new owner in their will. This can make the chain of title confusing and cloudy.

To determine whether the property has a clear and concise chain of title, you should always start by asking the seller to send you a copy of the deed. If you don’t have the deed on hand, you can check the history of the deed on the municipality’s website.

What To Know Before You Buy Land

You will need the APN (Assessor’s Parcel Number) to search for this information. You can use a title company instead of coordinating with the county, but this can be quite

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