Use this general checklist when buying vacant land. A quick run through the checklist may remind you of questions to ask the seller, real estate agent, lawyer, title company, town officials, or outside experts, if necessary. It will also help you remember budget items that are often left out.
LEGAL CONCERNS WHEN BUYING VACANT LAND:
Is the vacant land buildable for your home design?
Are the boundaries clearly and accurately marked?
Can the seller provide clear title for the property?
Is it zoned for the type and size of house you are planning?
Where can you build on the site? Does the proposed house plan violate any rules: setbacks, zoning, septic limitations, rights-of-way, covenants, wetlands, or other regulations?
Is there legal access by road or right-of-way? Who maintains the road?
Is there adequate road frontage to build?
Are there any liens, rights-of-way, easements, covenants, or other deed restrictions or encroachments on the property?
Are there building restrictions due to wetlands, water frontage, steep slopes, historical or cultural sites, or other local, state, or federal regulations?
Was the land formerly used to store old vehicles, farm chemical, industrial chemicals, or other toxins that you will need to clean up?
Does all or part of the lot lie in a floodplain?
Will you own the water and mineral rights?
CONSTRUCTION ISSUES WHEN BUYING VACANT LAND:
Is there adequate access for construction equipment?
Are there problem soils, including expansive clay, un-compacted fill, or ledge that may require blasting?
Is the area prone to high radon readings?
Is there a high seasonal water table, seasonal streams, or low-lying areas subject to flooding?
Are there steep slopes or unstable land that requires special engineered foundations.
Will large areas of cut and fill be required to level the land?
Are there areas subject to erosion that will need stabilization?
DESIGN ISSUES WHEN BUYING VACANT LAND:
Is the land flat or sloping?
Wooded or open
Shaded or sunny
MAIN COST FACTORS WHEN BUYING VACANT LAND:
Legal fees: title search, title insurance, and other closing costs. Also may include variance applications, challenges from abutters, right of way issues, etc
Water and sewer connection fees (for municipal systems) – may cost hundreds to several thousand dollars
Connection fees for other utilities: phone, electric, cable, gas,
Excavation, cut and fill, and final grading
Permits and fees: well, septic, building, driveway, variances, other
Impact fees: often cost thousands of dollars. varies by state and municipality. Also called development fees, mitigation fees, service availability charges, facility fees, and other creative names.
ALSO THINK ABOUT THESE TOPICS WHEN BUYING VACANT LAND:
Are there nearby nuisances such as unwanted noises, smells, or hazards: farmers’ silage, hunters, snowmobile trails, a firing range, or blasting at quarry just beyond the trees?
Find out who your neighbors are and whether their lifestyle (collecting dead pickup trucks, e.g.) are compatible with yours
Have any neighbors been granted a special exception or zoning variance and what for use –a pig farm perhaps?
What school district?
Distance to work, shopping, restaurants, etc.?
Fire protection – what is available in rural areas
Future development nearby: houses, commercial development, roads, highways
Insurance rates – may be higher near water, in flood plain, in high-wind zones, or far away from a water source or pressurized hydrant for fire protection.
Providing Solutions Because…Your Move Matters!
Michael L. Brownstead
First Sergeant, U.S. Army (Retired)
ABR, GRI, MRP, SRS, REALTOR
Keller Williams Realty
1002 Raintree Cir., Ste. 100, Allen, TX 75013