| Published: August 17, 2020

What Should I Think About When Buying Land?

Gwen Waddell, loan officer with Horizon Farm Credit, specializes in home and land loans and helps individuals who want to live in the country achieve their dreams.

As the first podcast in the series The Country Life: Buying Land, Gwen shared her perspectives on what should be considered before buying land.

Buying land in the country can be intimidating for those without experience. What advice do you have for individuals considering a land purchase?

I work with first-time land buyers all of the time, and it’s easy for them to overlook important aspects to consider in their purchase.

I’m going to share my top 10 things to anyone should consider before buying land: 

  • Location: Location is the most important factor whenever you buy real estate. Consider what your needs are now and what they will be 10 years from now. If you’re choosing a rural location, how much infrastructure might you require to meet your needs (access to major interstates, shopping, health care, etc.).
  • Use: Consider what are you buying the land for. Do you want to build on it? Maybe live there one day? Does the topography meet your needs? Do you plan to harvest the timber? Make sure you take time to look down the road and decide exactly what you want the land to be-and do-for you. 
  • Types of Land: Sometimes, it comes down to understanding how much money you want to spend, in the long run. What kind of land are you buying? Are there utilities that can be brought to your property? Will you need to maintain roads or property access? 
  • Zoning: It’s important to understand if future development can happen on your property. If you build a cabin or home, does it have to be in a certain location or distance from the property line? Is land around you government-owned or managed? Is there restrictive zoning? For agricultural land, some properties are subject to conservation easements.
  • Permitting: Will you be able to put a septic/well on your property? That kind of question should be asked in advance, as some jurisdictions have limited restrictions in terms of permitting and some are more comprehensive. Understand what kind of permits you’ll need to have the finished property you want. 
  • Restrictive Covenants: These are legal obligations imposed on the buyer. Typically, there are few, if any, restrictive covenants when purchasing rural property; however, depending on the community you are purchasing in, it’s important to ask the question, especially if you are unsure what you will be doing with your property several years down the road. 
  • Utilities and Roads: If there aren’t any utilities or roads, you’re responsible for putting them in. Power, water, gas, septic and cable will all have to be brought to the property, even if you’re planning a recreational cabin in the woods. The other thing you need to consider is property access, especially if you are looking at a property that is surrounded by other parcels owned by the same owner. You will want to make sure that the parcel you are buying has road access, so you have access to the piece of property you are buying
  • Liens and Easements: A lien is a monetary claim against your property. An easement is someone’s legal right to use your property for a stated purpose. Easements typically transfer with an ownership change. Even if an easement isn’t currently being used, don’t assume that will be the case into the future. Easements are part of the deed, and can be enforced at any time. 
  • Surveys: If you’re not sure about the properties boundaries, spend the money for a survey. It’s the only way to be sure of exactly what you own, and it will be helpful down the road, should you choose to build on the property or sell it. 
  • Have ALL the Facts: Once you’ve asked those questions, it’s time to start searching for your dream property. Shop real estate options with confidence by pre-qualifying with a lender that specializes in land and country properties.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
When purchasing land, the most important thing is that you are comfortable with your purchase and are working with a lender who understands your needs. You should look for a lender who takes the time to guide you through the financing process, step-by-step, and answers any questions you have.  

I am one of several Horizon loan officers who specializes in home and land loans. I encourage you, if you live or are looking for property in central, western or northern Pennsylvania, to contact Horizon about how we can help.

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