4 Tips for Buying Land in Utah
by Laura Mueller
The Beehive State is growing. People are flocking to Utah to take advantage of its picturesque views and copious amounts of land for sale. And with land averaging out at around just $5,000 an acre (Utah’s neighbor to the west, California, averages out at $39,000 an acre), buying land in Utah is an affordable option, especially for new land investors.
As with buying land in any state, there are a few things you want to consider when it comes to land for sale in Utah. Here are four tips for making your best purchase.
- Location, location, location
Utah is brimming with red mountain peaks and one-of-a-kind national parks. It also has two burgeoning cities—Salt Lake City and Provo—with concentrated populations and healthy job markets. Where you buy your land is ultimately going to depend on what you intend to do with it, but consider the state’s various landscapes and population densities when choosing where you want your property to be located. You should have no trouble finding plenty of land for sale both near the cities and near open landscapes, though prices will likely vary depending on where you choose.
- Do the math on your taxes
You should always be aware of any tax nuances in a state before you purchase land there. In Utah, fortunately, taxes are pretty straightforward: a flat state income tax of 5%, no estate taxes, average sales tax compared to the rest of the U.S., and property taxes on the low end. Still, you need to factor in these tax amounts when you consider your spending power and your yearly budget. Work with a financial adviser to figure out what you can afford to spend to buy your land and to maintain it year after year.
- Research zoning restrictions
In Utah, zoning restrictions are set by each individual county or municipal government. And because the state is rich in natural resources and protected land, zoning may be more strict than it is in other states. You want to be extra sure that any plot you plan to purchase is usable for what you intend, so make sure you research any and all zoning restrictions on any land you’re interested in. Zoning laws may restrict what you can build on a property, how you can use it, and even how many animals (pets included) you can have living there.
- Make sure you’ll have water rights
Being a land owner in Utah doesn’t mean you’ll have water rights. The state considers water to be “real property,” meaning the right to dig a well on your land can be bought and sold just like other types of property (rainwater harvesting is legal there, though only since 2010). Once you have a plot of land you’re interested in, check with the State Engineer Office to see what your water rights are. You can also see a list of open, restricted, and closed water areas here. Property owners in “closed” water areas can purchase existing water rights, but no new water rights will be granted. Either way, they’ll have to apply to dig a well, and the process for approval could take months. Work with an attorney to make sure you understand the water rights in the area you want to buy and the steps you’ll need to take to obtain them, if necessary.
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