Real Estate Blog & Resources

12 Tips for Buying a Residential Lot and Land

Are you thinking of buying a lot or some land to build your dream house on? Even though it looks like it should be a pretty easy transaction, there are things that you should consider before you go out and buy property. You may have found that perfect location, but these tips will help you make sure it's the perfect piece of property. And they could potentially help you avoid headaches later.

1. Before you buy the property and sign on the dotted line, find out if there are the necessary electric, water and sewer connections on the property. Sometimes it costs a lot of money to get these hooked up, potentially costing you thousands of extra dollars.

2. If sewer, water, and electric are not available, make your offer contingent on the ability to install the necessary sewer, water, and electricity that you'll need.

3. Find out if other contingencies are advisable for purchasing the land. For example, there might be a restriction on digging a well for water. That might be an issue if you cannot get water hooked up to the location.

4. Make sure that all the other services that you want are available, like electric, phone, and even a fast internet connection if you'll need that. Certainly you can use your cell phone (check your cell phone signal at the location) and get a small dish (DirecTV or Dish Network) for television, but you may need something else like cable TV, fiber, or other high speed connections. It can be costly in the future if you really need those services and they're not available.

5. If the land you want to buy is not accessible by a public road, verify that a road maintenance agreement is in place. This document states that everyone on the road agrees to help with its upkeep. If it's not a public road, those who live on the road may need to maintain it, which can be an added expense.

6. There should be a deeded right-of-way in place for land that is not accessible by a public road. The deed should give you and future owners the legal right to access the land or property.

7. Check the property's deed restrictions to make sure that you're allowed to build on the land. Some deed restrictions say that you cannot move a mobile home or modular home onto the land.

8. If the lot you're planning on buying is in a development, ask for a list of all of the restrictive covenants on the property. That's where they list all the restrictions for a minimum house size, whether other buildings or permanent structures are allowed, and other limitations. In certain areas, there even might be requirements that homes sit a certain height above the land. I recall a situation where a friend bought two lots for a mobile home and it was in a potential flood zone. The mobile home had to sit at least 6 feet above the ground. That was an added expense that they did not expect, which ended up costing them.

9. Check the zoning in the area. Ask the city or county if zoning changes are anticipated for the area, or if there's a plan to build new roads or widen existing roads. If you buy land where they're going to build a highway, you may end up losing your land, which is not a good thing.

10. Check to see if there are any environmental hazards on the property, such as old buried oil or gas tanks, or even land mines. In Texas, some land owners have discovered unexploded rocket shells in their back yards. The land where a residential development was located used to be the location of a former governmental testing site. Decide if any environmental hazards must be removed and who is responsible for removing and cleaning it all up.

11. Decide if you want a new survey done on the property. Surveys are standard in some areas, and required in others. Sometimes your mortgage or finance company may require that a survey be performed. In most cases, it's very helpful to have a survey done.

12. If you plan to build on the property, talk to lenders about a construction loan.

By following these tips, you can save yourself the potential headaches that could come later on in the form of added expenses.