When shopping for a home to buy, it’s fairly easy to see warning signs as you walk through the house. Typically, good things such as a new roof or HVAC system and bad things such as water damage from leaks or the smell of mildew can be apparent.
But what about when you are in the market for land and there’s no house on it? Do you know what to look for? Is it worth even looking at an entire piece of land, or can you just go by the photos online?
Franklin Realtor Tim Thompson, who is often referred to as “the land man,” has some great tips on how to buy land and who to buy land from.
“Purchasing land is similar to buying a home, but different,” Thompson said. “One thing people need to do when looking at land is walk through it just like you would a house.”
He said the biggest mistake people make is not walking the land. He advises people to ride the with your Realtor, but then ask if you can go back and walk it.
“You need to find all the corners,” Thompson said. “See who your neighbors are. Look over the fence line. The last thing you want to do is buy a piece of land that has a big sinkhole in the middle of it.”
Below are Thompson’s tips on how to get the most out of a land purchase. Everything varies by county and state, but many of these tips cover any piece of land, no matter where it’s located.
1. Look at land in the fall.
Thompson says in the fall and winter when the leaves are down, it’s often much easier to see what’s around you than when the trees are in full bloom.
2. Ask about easements and restrictions.
Too often, Thompson says, people buy land assuming they can do whatever they want to on it. That’s not the case. “Sometimes there are deed restrictions on land that restricts the size of house you could build or ways you can use the land, so you should always check that by going to the county in addition to asking your Realtor.”
Thompson added that there can also be unrecorded easements, so it’s important to ask about that as well. “There have been times where one farmer will give another farmer the right to cross his land,” he said. “Maybe this has been going on for 15 years. Sometimes agreements like that can come back to bite you.”
3. Get a survey.
Anything larger than a 5-acre tract of land needs a new land survey, Thompson said. “You never know if someone crossed over the property line and built a barn or something. Another person’s property can be on your land and nobody knows it until a survey is done. Be sure to make sure the property isn’t in a flood zone as well. A survey will indicate that.
4. Have a larger down payment.
Banks typically won’t do loans on land for the same down payment as a house. “Banks typically want more like 25 percent down, so it’s important to be prepared for that.”
5. Build in due diligence time.
Thompson advises writing a minimum of 14 days of due diligence time into any contract, so that you have time to do your research before you sign. “It could be that it’s a tract already approved by the county, but I recommend up to 30 days due diligence period to check on water, septic and sewer. Fourteen days would be the bare minimum.”
6. Use a Realtor familiar with land sales.
Thompson said because land purchases are different than home purchases, it is important to buy land from a Realtor experienced in selling land. “I get a lot of contracts from agents that don’t know how to sell land, which is fine, but I have seen contracts where the Realtor didn’t ask for a survey or a due diligence period. I see it all the time. Realtors don’t always know how to sell land.”
He advises leaning on referrals from friends who have purchased land or looking online to seek out Realtors with a lot of land listings.
7. Be prepared to wait.
If you buy land in Williamson County with the intent to build a home on it, Thompson advises that it can be a lengthier process than many might expect. “If you buy property that isn’t already approved, there is a very long wait period to get approval to build on it. It can be a good year before you can put one brick in the ground.”
8. Check perk-ability.
If a piece of land doesn’t have sewer service, the soil underneath the ground can dictate what you are able to build. “Just because you have 50 acres doesn’t mean you can build whatever you want,” Thompson said. “If the soil on your land is clay, it won’t soil test out well and you may not be able to build a five-bedroom house, but be limited to a three-bedroom house just because of the soil.”
Thompson advises always doing a preliminary perk test with a licensed soil scientist in the area before buying land.
Original Date: June 11 2018