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6 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Vacant Lot

Buying land is very different from buying a house. There are many things to consider before you purchase a lot for sale.

1. Zoning: Just because you find the perfect piece of land, does not mean that you will be able to build on it. Quite often cities have zoning restrictions in place for decades and have no desire to change them. 

2. HOA: Many newer developments come with an HOA, or homeowner's association, that dictates the architectural style or square footage of future homes built in the area. If you have dreams of a tiny house or an ultra contemporary masterpiece, make sure the HOA doesn't mandate against your dream home. 

3. Utilities: Before buying raw land or a lot in a development, you need to know what type of utilities you will have access to. While access to electricity is common, natural gas, city water, and city sewer is not. 

4. Access and Easements: As large parcels have been divided and subdivided over the decades, a few sellers are left with 'land-locked' pieces that do not have direct access to a main road. Typically, there is a pre-existing easement over a neighbor's land to get to the lot. You and your real estate agent or real estate attorney need to carefully read the paperwork to ensure that the easement stays in place for the next owner. 

5. Buildable Area: You need to know what the buildable area or footprint is when you are buying a lot for sale. A two-acre parcel becomes much smaller when only a portion can be built on due to low water table in the area or due to proximity to a 100-year flood plain. 

6. Perc Test: Asking for a copy of the perc test is a pretty basic question that you should ask when you get serious about a piece of property. If a property fails a perc test, it means that it cannot have a traditional septic system. While an engineered field (raised or mound) is usually possible, they are expensive and can add thousands of dollars to your bottom line.

7. Experienced Realtor: Buyers should always work with a licensed real estate agent. It doesn't cost them anything. In fact, their commission is paid for by the seller so it costs nothing to have an experienced expert on your team. 

8. Neighbors: While you may think that buying 40 acres will keep you free from pesky neighbors, check to see who or what adjoins the property on all sides. You may be backing to a dairy farm that smells oh-so-fabulous when the wind blows.