5 Things to Do or Consider When Buying Land

     Regardless of what you want to do with your land, there are a few musts, if you want to have peace in your life. * The prices I have listed, were what I paid, and may be different in your area.
     Oh, I need to mention that you can put a bid in on the property with written conditions so someone can’t buy it out from under you (unless they outbid you) while taking care of all this. If the conditions are not met, then the deal is voided. Below were the conditions I included in my bid for the land I now own.
     1) Have a title search done. This makes sure that the deed is free and clear without liens, mortgages or back taxes attached to the land. It also makes sure that the person selling you the land, actually owns it or has the legal authority to do so.  (The bank, attorney or title company handling the purchase can order this report.) – $230 title-search-4
     In my case, there were two liens and two years worth of back taxes attached to the property I wanted to buy. The owner had to pay the liens off, presumably, with the proceeds from the sale and had to pay the back and current taxes up till the point in time that I purchased the property. All of which was spelled out in the purchasing agreement. If this hadn’t of been done, all of that debt would have fallen onto me as the new property owner.
     2) Have a survey completed. One of the biggest and most aggravating problems for land owners, are property disputes. This is a headache to be avoided at all costs. There are different types of surveys, but for your purposes, you will probably need a boundary survey. – $200/hour
What exactly is a boundary survey, you may ask?
This is where the surveyor will set or recover the property corners. They will research historical documents of the land to be purchased as well as all bordering properties. The field work that you will see is only about 1/3 of the actual process.
At the conclusion, after all the measurements and descriptions are done, they will draw up a scaled plat map. It will show in detail, the boundaries, measurements, any easements or encroachments, roads, and any structures or items of note, such as wells. Depending on the size of the property, at $200/hour, this can run up into the thousands of dollars. If a loan is being taken out for the property, all of these costs can be added to the final loan amount.
     If this has been done in the past, then all you may need is for a surveyor to come out and recover the property corners with stakes and visible flags. This is far less expensive, as they are following a recorded plat map and are usually just unearthing iron pins and remarking them. No investigative work or recording needs to be done. This is usually a few hundred dollars.
      3) Look up what the property taxes have been in the past (This can usually be found at the County Clerk Office). You’ll see the value that has been assessed to the land. This is a starting point for the price you should be willing to pay for the land. Look to see what comparable land has sold for in your proximity. – $ Free
     In my case, I was purchasing raw land, so I looked up, price per wooded acre without utilities.
     4) Understand the type of soil your potential property has. Will it pass a perc test (time it takes for water to seep into the ground) for a septic system? – $140
     I live in a tiny town, so the health department is where I had to go.
     5) What are the ordinances, building codes, or restrictions for your county/town? Are mobile homes allowed? Are you allowed to occupy an outbuilding? Do you need permits to build, improve or change your property? Are living off-grid, water catchment or outhouses legal, if you chose that route? Are there any livestock or fencing restrictions? – $ Free
     In my town, there are no codes or restriction IF you own over 10 acres, are outside of city limits AND do not hook up to public utilities.
     It’s a very different story when building within city limits or connecting to public utilities. A septic system is required to be installed before anything else can take place. In these parts, that starts off at $3,800.
     [NOTE: All of this holds true if purchasing on a private land contract as well. In that case, it’s even more important to complete the above steps and not take someone at their word. The only thing I would add in that instance, is to make sure you file/record the contract at the County Clerks Office.]
     They, whoever “they” are, say hindsight is 20/20. Boy, they sure know what they’re talking about. I wish I’d known about this stuff when I was buying land before. Then again, it’s usually the hard learned lessons that we remember. So, take it from me, having been burned a time or three. These items or steps really do need your attention.
Put a little peace in your life,
Mary Lotus