by Laura Mueller
It’s always important to ask the right questions when you’re buying a piece of real estate, and that’s as true for land as it is for anything else.
More information is always a good thing, especially when it comes to a big investment like a land purchase. And while your agent will be able to guide you through a lot of the ins-and-outs of what you’ll need to know, it never hurts to be as informed as possible regarding the various factors that will help you determine if a property is worth your time (and your money) or not.
With that in mind, here are eleven essential questions to ask when buying land—including some that might not be very obvious.
1. How is the property zoned? You’ll want to be well aware of what you can and can’t do on the property, especially if it’s raw or otherwise undeveloped land.
2. Are there any building restrictions? Similar to above, this tells you whether you’ll be restricted in what you can do on the land, particularly in terms of structural improvements.
3. What are the access rights? Make sure you know whether there’s an existing access road, as well as whether it’s publicly maintained and if anybody else has rights to it.
4. Are there any utilities and/or utility hook-ups? Figure out exactly what’s already available in terms of water, electricity, sewage, and other key utility systems—or if you’ll need to pay to put them in.
5. Are there any planned developments surrounding or near to the property? Find out in advance if there are any nearby updates that will affect your land use, your views, or your privacy.
6. Who are the neighbors? If possible, find out who owns the properties adjoining the piece of land and, most importantly, whether there are any ongoing issues with them over things like boundary lines or access rights.
7. Are there any easements on the land? You’ll want to know sooner rather than later if you’re going to have to share a portion of the land with neighbors, the public, a conservation group, or anyone else.
8. How much are the property taxes? Even vacant land is subject to property taxes. Get an estimate in advance of what the annual taxes are so that you can double check they fit in your budget.
9. Are there any tax exemptions on the land? Speaking of taxes, you should also ask about any possible tax exemptions, such as those for making certain agricultural or energy improvements on the land.
10. Is the seller offering financing? Land mortgages aren’t always as clear-cut as conventional real estate mortgages, and some sellers opt to provide their own financing instead in order to ensure a smoother deal. Ask if that’s the case, or if there are any other sort of seller finance expectations or concessions.
11. Is the title free and clear? A title check will tell you if the seller has the necessary title rights, but you can also ask in advance to save yourself some time later on.
Asking the right questions when you’re buying land isn’t just about convenience. While sellers do have mandatory disclosures that they have to make, knowing what questions to ask gives you more agency to advocate for yourself—and it’s also integral to protecting your rights and your resources as a land buyer.
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