Land Buying Advice
Finding the Perfect Real
Estate for Your New Home
Buying land can seem intimidating, but it really isn't difficult at
all when you analyze your needs and determine which types of land
are most suitable for the home you plan to build.
Talk with a mortgage broker or bank loan officer to find out how
much you can afford. If you plan to build right away, the loan
officer should explain construction loans, including the closing
procedures you'll encounter while the house is being built.
Talk with area building contractors to determine the average price
you can expect to pay per square foot for the type of home you wish
- Include estimates for building a driveway or road to the
- Don't forget estimates for well and septic systems if your home
will not be connected to community water and sewer.
To find the maximum amount you can
spend for land, deduct the estimated building costs from your total
budget--then deduct a bit more for unexpected expenses.
Your Wants and Needs
Make a list of all features that would exist on the ideal piece of
Review the list, highlighting your must-haves, such as a great view,
privacy, or a waterfront building site.
What's the minimum size lot or tract of land you are willing to
consider? Keep in mind that a heavily wooded, 1-acre lot is
sometimes more private than a 3-acre lot that's all open lawn. Tour
a variety of neighborhoods and pay attention to the settings.
How will you use the land? Consider only tracts of land where the
home you want to build is allowed. Most developments are governed by
restrictive covenants that dictate everything from home size to
building type to paint color. Study covenants for potential sites
carefully to determine if you can live with the restrictions.
Start Your Search
- Look for 'For Sale' signs on your drives through favorite areas.
- Search for properties on the Internet.
- Note the exact location of interesting tracts, then visit your
county tax office to find the owner's name. Contact the owner to ask
if the land is for sale.
- Talk with an agent about your wants and needs so that she can
help you locate the perfect tract.
Does the Land Suit Your Home Plans?
Ask a builder to accompany you to your top choices, to offer advice
about the best building sites and to suggest home plans that will
work with the topography.
Check availability of utility services to the land.
An easement is the right to use another person's land for a stated
purpose. Does someone else have the right to use the property you
want to buy? Find out before you make an offer, or add a contingency
to the offer that you must approve existing easements before
finalizing the sale.
Locate Property Boundaries
- Look for iron pins at the corners of property, or at any point
where the property line makes a turn. You might find iron pins flush
with the center of the road, too.
- In wooded areas, watch for pathways cut by surveyors when they
marked a property line. They are often visible for many years.
- Trees or bushes along property lines are might be marked with
brightly colored paint or plastic.
Surveys are always a good idea and some banks require them. Updates
to existing surveys are often acceptable and are less expensive than
ordering a new survey.
If there's a question about the number of acres in the tract, your
offer can be stated as "X dollars per acre as determined by a new
survey." Now, you'll need to word it a bit better, and state who
will pay for the survey. The method can work to either the buyer or
seller's advantage, depending on how many acres are found.
Road Maintenance Agreements
If the property is accessed from a private road your bank might
require a recorded agreement that shows all owners have promised to
help with road upkeep.
Ask for a signed statement that discloses facts about buried items,
such as oil or gas storage tanks. Their removal and cleanup can be
Before you make an offer, think about the what ifs--things that
would make the property unusable for your purposes. Add these to the
offer as contingencies, things that must or must not happen before
you buy. For example:
- Offers for land without sewer hookups should be contingent on
your ability to obtain permits for a septic system.
- If an architectural review committee must approve your home
plans, the offer should be contingent on obtaining approval.
- The offer should be contingent on obtaining the type of
financing you desire.
Some contingencies are included in standard contracts, but your
agent, contractor, or real estate attorney can help you determine if
other contingencies should be added.
Searching for land can be a fun adventure. If you look hard enough,
you may find a perfect building site just waiting to be cleared from
an overgrown jungle of brambles and weeds.
Tips for First Time Buyers
Buyer Frequently Asked Questions
10 Things Buyers Should Avoid
What To Do First: Buy or Sell?
Making an Offer
Simplify the Home Buying Process
Relieving the Stress of Packing
Land Buying Advice
Real Estate Glossary
Facts About Easements
Facts about Radon & Radon Testing
Lead Based Paint Facts & Disclosures
Mold in the Home
Saying "I Do" to First Homes
a CMA and Why Do You Need One?
How to Negotiate with Sellers