4 Secrets to Your Perfect Land Purchase
Can’t find the home of your dreams? You’re not alone, especially this year. Great houses do keep coming on the market, and I've even addressed some creative solutions to ferret out properties not on the market (see "What If My Dream Home Isn't For Sale?" in my recent article, Real Estate FAQs: Do I Still Need a Down Payment...And Other Questions)-- but there's no denying that building sounds more and more attractive to many frustrated would-be-buyers.
If you’ve decided to give up the search and just create what you’re looking for, what should you consider when purchasing land for your new build? Here are some less-obvious things to keep in mind:
Secret #1: Do some aerial detective work
I’m not going to give up all my secrets here (call me personally if you need more insight into a specific plot of land), but here’s one for free - if you’re looking near a waterway, check online for some aerial images and take a close look at the nearby river, lake, or pond. Do you see a lot of green swirling in the water? Zoom out some more and see if you can find a nearby agriculture business. That green might be pretty from high up, but it’s actually a pretty clear indicator of agricultural run-off.
Still want to buy that land? Your soil and well water may test at “safe” levels of contamination, but the knowledge of local contamination at any level should still give you something to think about.
Secret #2: Watch for seasonal changes in traffic
While you’re zoomed out, look in the area for other businesses (or do this while driving the neighborhood—a “must” in any purchase). Are there seasonal businesses (water parks, orchards, snow recreation areas, for example) that may not be open right now, but when in-season, will create traffic-flow problems for you? Are you okay with that? Will that make your home less desirable for your family’s needs?
Secret #3: Watch for seasonal changes in the land
In fact, since land tends to sell slowly, you may want to take your time and investigate the land itself in a variety of seasons. Driving by can give you a sense for some things. How does the view change with and without leaves on the trees and shrubs? Is it still as private in the winter as in the summer? Do the falling leaves reveal unsightly local landmarks like a gas station or a town compost lot?
In particular, if you’re excited about geological features like a pond or creek, drive by when it’s dry out, and not only after a few rainstorms. Does the water dry up into a muddy hole under different conditions? There won’t be much of a view (much less any fishing) if you buy a water feature that’s only seasonal. A good agent takes photos when the land is looking its best, so make sure you still like it at its worst.
Don’t purchase the land without going over it in detail, regardless. Keep in mind that you will need to set up a showing through an agent (or the owner, if it’s not listed) in order to walk through it without being picked up for trespassing!
Secret #4: Research future planning
If you’re leaning toward land in a development, look at the properties surrounding the lot you’d like to buy. Ask your realtor to look into who owns those properties, and what is their likely future. Will others be building on them? Is the “private” feeling of your lot dependent on someone else not selling or developing the land next-door? If the adjoining lots are purchased, will that affect a view that matters to you? Are there enough mature trees on your land between the properties that privacy will be preserved? Or should you consider purchasing surrounding land as well?
A lot of other more specific factors can affect your future home in unexpected ways—buying land and building your own home should be just as thoughtful a process as searching for a ready-made structure. Make sure you do all your homework before diving in! As always, call me and find out how I can help.
Posted by L. Lathrop for Jim Burns