Buying a piece of property is exciting, but if you do not use your best judgement, you could end up with a piece of land that is useless for the purpose you had in mind. Before you commit to buying, make sure you are aware of these five elements:
Rule number one of buying property is knowing the lay of the land. You will want to know the property’s elevations, cliffs, mountains, valleys, rivers, and any other topographical features. Some features can make it very difficult to build there, so you will want to familiarize yourself with the entire property. Ideally, you should not purchase a piece of land without visiting it in person, but sometimes that can be impossible if the property is in a different state. In that case, you can enter the address of the property into Google Earth and get a bird’s eye view of the entire property.
Zoning of the Property
Equally as important as the topography is the zoning of the land. Land is zoned for different purposes, such as residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial, and mixed-use. This can be a dealbreaker on a piece of property because if the land is not zoned for what you want to use it for, it is essentially useless to you. You can figure this out by simply calling the planning and zoning department in the area and ask what the land is zoned for and some examples of what you can do there.
Land is a great investment, but the downside is that you will never be done paying for it. You will have to pay property taxes on the land every year, so you will want to know what your tax obligation will be. The ideal property tax rate is 1%-4% of the land’s market value, but you will find that many properties have tax obligations that are much higher, even up to 20% of the market value! Factor this into account when you are calculating the cost to own the property.
Public Utility Availability
Particularly if you are looking to build a house or a hunting lodge on the land, you need to find out if there are public utilities available to use on the property. See if you can access public water, sewage, electricity, gas, and internet because if those utilities are not available, you will have a tough decision to make as to whether or not you even want the property. You can choose to dig a well and install a septic tank, but that is costly and time-consuming, so you might be better off choosing a different piece of land altogether.
Lastly, you need to consider a worst-case scenario: flooding. If the property is located near a body of water, it can be prone to flooding during some months of the year. It is incredibly expensive to buy flood insurance for property that is in a flood zone, but the alternative is having to foot the bill for repairs and replacements on your own. So, if you find that the land you are looking at is in a flood zone, you will have to decide for yourself if the benefits of the property outweigh the risks of flooding.