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5 Things You Need To Do Before Buying That Land Parcel For Your New Home

by Marie Caldwell

Are you considering building your own home on a piece of land but don't want a cookie-cutter neighborhood of identical homes in a new subdivision? Instead, you might want the freedom to choose your own unique parcel of land and build a custom home on it. This way, you get a small feel for the early pioneering days of finding land at the frontier and staking a claim by starting construction.

Because land today is subject to so many regulations, only 24% of new homes now are not pre-built speculation homes. Buying raw land requires a certain amount of due diligence on your part, and you have to assume the sellers don't have all the correct answers. Here are 5 things you need to do before making your purchase.

Get A Topographical Survey

Professional surveyors can create a complete topographical survey of the land parcel you are considering. You want this document in your hand before buying for several reasons:

  • It proves the exact acreage amount of the parcel you are acquiring
  • It confirms where the true property lines are
  • It illustrates the grade or slope of the land so you can better plan for the building location and site access.
  • It may show existing utility lines, if any, and other features like trees and fences.

Find Out If The Title Is Clear

To make sure the seller of the land even has the legal right to sell this parcel to you and there are no issues preventing you, the buyer, from taking full possession of the land after closing, you need to get a preliminary title report. This report documents all ownership, vesting, and details about anything recorded against the land, such as liens and mortgages. The title report will show if another property owner has access to your land via an easement. Finally, a title report will show if any property taxes are still owed on the land. Securing a clear title for the land you want to buy means you don't have to worry about any of these encumbrances.

Research The Utilities

The land you are looking at may or may not have access to utilities. If it turns out you must provide utility infrastructure, your construction costs will increase. It's worth it to find out now during this initial purchasing stage for budgeting purposes exactly how much you must provide. Here are some utilities to research how cost may differ according to whether your land is near municipal utilities or very remote.

  • Electric power lines may run overhead or underground
  • Natural gas might be available in propane tanks
  • Water can be from a local water company or a well
  • Sewer may be from a municipal sewer line or a new septic tank
  • Cable, internet and phone may be difficult if your land is remote

Obtain A Soils Report

Some areas may require a soils report before issuing any building permits, so it's a good idea to get one early. This report provides an understanding of the conditions of the earth on the parcel. Steep slopes, ground water levels, and floodplains all determine what type of foundation will be necessary when you build on the land.

Verify the Zoning

All property is given one of 4 zoning types: commercial, industrial, agriculture and residential. Despite how earnest the seller may seem when he or she tells you the land is definitely zoned for residential, it's worth your time to verify this. Zoning can be done on a county, city, or municipal level and varies wildly from city to city. Talk to the local planning department to find out. You may find out that you cannot keep a llama farm on your property after all.

With a little due diligence along with these 5 tips, you are on your way to building a home on your own piece of land. For more information, contact a residential real estate agent, such as those at Hornthal Riley Ellis & Maland LLP.