Perhaps you’ve been shopping for your first home and just can’t find what you want. Because of that, maybe you’re considering buying a lot and building a home to your specifications, including all the beautiful things you’ve been hoping for in a new home of your own.
That's an excellent idea, and many buyers find that it’s the way to go. However, there are a lot of pitfalls and plenty of rules, regulations and red tape that you’ll need to be aware of before you buy. So, we’ve compiled a list of considerations for you before you head out in search of that perfect piece of land.
- Zoning and restrictions – The last thing you’d want to do are buy what appears to be a good residential lot and then find out that the zoning in the area allows commercial buildings or something else unsightly to be built near your home. Furthermore, even if it’s zoned strictly residential, you’ll want to get all the particulars about other zoning laws, such as whether or not you can build an in-law apartment or other detached building on your property. Don’t just assume that, because you own it, you can do anything you want with it. That’s not usually the case. Similarly, if you’re buying a property in a community that already includes homes, you’ll undoubtedly encounter restrictions as to the architectural style of your house and other specifics. There will probably be rules about pools and landscaping too, so make sure you’re aware of those before writing a purchase contract.
- Location – Just as with any other real estate purchase, buying land is all about location, location, location. The area you choose should be, of course, in a neighborhood that you’ve deemed a desirable place to live. It should also fit your needs. For example, if you have a family, it should be in a neighborhood near other children or near schools. If you’re an older adult, look for communities where you will have the services you need, including not only a clubhouse and other amenities within the neighborhood but also nearby medical facilities.
- Utilities - If the lot you choose is in a populated area with homes all around it, there probably won’t be any issues with services such as water, sewer, electric, or gas. But if your lot is somewhat remote or removed from large enclaves of civilization, it may not be so easy. Lines may have to be run to your property, which would cost you a significant amount of money. So, even if the lot seems like a great deal at a low price, utilities are a huge consideration as they can add to the price if you are required to make special arrangements. (Be careful how you read the ads; the words “access to municipal utilities” doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re right there on your property.) You should also check for access to essential services such as internet and phone.
- Riparian rights – If you’re purchasing property that is on the water, check out the particulars in regards to your rights to that water. All sorts of factors could impact your access to that water, so make sure those rights are clear before you buy. Riparian rights apply to all kinds of bodies of water, from the ocean to a small lake.
- Access rights – Simply put, access rights govern the way in which you’ll access your land. Sounds logical that, for any lot you buy, there’ll be a way to access your property, but this can be tricky. If land owned by others surround you, or perhaps there’s a conservation easement bordering your property, then you should be certain that you have the right to ingress and egress before you buy.
An experienced Realtor should be able to guide you towards the land that not only fits your needs but also has no hidden restrictions. As you shop for property, be sure to ask your agent about all the issues listed above to ensure that your building process will go smoothly and that you’ll wind up with the land and home of your dreams.