Important things to look for and notice when looking at land

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by daileyjoy, Aug 9, 2004.

  1. daileyjoy

    daileyjoy Well-Known Member

    May 2, 2003
    We are leaving Friday to go and see the land, is there anything we should look for both good and bad. Should we have the soil tested either do it ourselves or have someone do it. I found out about the septic stuff and then the realter said it didnt matter anyway we can pretty much do as we please up there, About to go and check out pricing on wells, I would like one of those ;) but I am worried that seeing how this is our first time buying land, I wish I knew more.

  2. savingup

    savingup Active Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    Jennifer, good luck. I have been trying to piece it all together now for a year.

    All I can suggest is re-read all the threads to glean what information you are looking for.

    Maybe I should suggest a whole new are for straightforward information on buying land. ?

  3. kabri

    kabri Almst livin the good life

    May 14, 2002
    W. Washington State
    Hi Jennifer, how exciting for you! DH and I just bought land last Spring. We found out that you can't totally trust what the realator is telling you.... sometimes they plain don't know, sometimes they have other agendas. Ours started offering services he could provide like doing perk tests, or referals to his "buddies" who offered other things like dozing and forestry work.

    Bottom line for us.... We hiked through as much of the 92 acres as we could, got a feel for the land, the type of trees and the topography. The realator did not tell us of the wet lands... we found them by hiking. They were not visible from the existing roads. However, they are far enough away from our most likely building site that they are a blessing, not a problem. We read the county codes for building and developing, asked a lot of questions of the county and researched zoning and land use regs on our own. We consulted with DNR and a wetland biologist who told us one area was strictly a natural pond, not a wetland. There's a difference.

    We love the land and it's potential to become a homestead for us. For the unknowns, we also rely a lot on God and prayer to make it work out the best for us once we are able to start clearing and building.
    Good luck!
  4. Thumper/inOkla.

    Thumper/inOkla. Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    centeral Okla. S of I-40, E of I-35
    This is a good time of year to see what grows there, if it is dry and sparce, you know growing things will be harder, if it is wet you know it will be likely to flood, if there are trees and good grass and it looks healthy thats a good sign.

    I called our nearest town and asked about codes, I was told there are none where we are. If you are able, try a sawdust toilet, you can always put in a septic later if you don't like it.
  5. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    The big thing when dealing with land is RIGHTS!!!! What do you have.
    DO you have RIGHTS to water on the property, do you have RIGHTS to put a septic system, Do you have RIGHTS to put the type of home you plan to put on it. DO you have RIGHTS to put the animals and equipment you want.

    Know your RIGHTS. The land is never yours, only leased by the governemnt.

    Water rights are a big issue out west, not as much east. Septic is a big issue east and south. Will the land perk. I know of a nice $200k home setting on a property that cant get septic approved or the right to drill a well and there is not city water or sewage available. $200K spent and its not usable.

    Whence checking the land check all the land around you for many miles. Might even want to pull topo maps to find other not so noticable items. Heck if you can get an airplane and fly over your property and surrounding area. Usually under $100 to find a pilot to fly you, often just gas money.
  6. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jun 6, 2004
    Michigan's thumb
    I agree with everybody. I'd like to add, check out your neighbors. Go knock on doors, friendly like, and say that you are considering buying the property down the road. Choose a question: Are they aware of any problems with the property? Can you have livestock? Is there a problem getting water? Do people have to remove the snow or does the county do it? You want to check out their attitude toward you. You may make some new friends.
  7. Hoop

    Hoop Well-Known Member

    Jan 1, 2003
    Northern Wisconsin
    Things to look for on "RAW" land

    Location, location, location Self explanatory

    Access. The best access is directly off of a publicly maintained blacktop road. The worst access is SHARING a private gravel road. Not always, but quite often, these are nightmares, with maintenance, upkeep costs, etc a huge question mark.
    Just because the property is located on a blacktopped highway....doesn't mean there is access. I know of a 10 acre parcel (currently for sale) that is located right on a US highway. The property is essentially nonusable for anything. Why? 40 years ago, the owner sold the rights to "highway access" to the state for $50.

    Location of utilities. The best is having all utilities (electricity, water, septic, cable, telephone) at the property line. Realistically, most rural locations won't have water or septic'll have to provide your own.
    Finding potable water is always a huge question mark. Regarding septic systems, if the land is high ground & sandy, it will perc for a conventional septic system. If in doubt, do a perc test prior to purchase.

    Zoning. Always a double edged sword. If you want to live in a grubby old trailer, have a bunch of junk cars, own a dozen or so barking'll be looking for a place without zoning. If you want to build a nice house, and want your investment protected, you'll probably want to find a place that has some zoning in effect so that the above type person .....won't be your neighbor.

    Lay of the land. Is it high land or swamp? Is the land subject to flooding. Can the land be used to suit your purposes?

    Existing road into the property. A huge plus.

    Last, but not least.....always keep in the back of your mind.....that things happen......and some day you may wish to sell the property.
  8. BCR

    BCR Well-Known Member

    Jun 24, 2002
    Daileyjoy--if this is raw land, who owns the mineral rights? Who owns the water rights? What is the zoning there? What was it used for in the last 20 years or so? What currently grows there and what kind of soil does that mean? Why do you want the land? Any conservation easements or such?

    Go to the property during daylight, early AM and late at night. This is a way you can find out if there are unhappy neighbor issues or airplanes/trains that run close by as well as light polllution that might matter to you. Plus it tells you the lay of the land clearly. Watch the sun's movements and note them. They may not suit the orchard you have in mind for instance.
  9. Ozarks_1

    Ozarks_1 Well-Known Member

    Jan 11, 2003
    Ark. Ozark Mtns. (Marion County)
    Daileyjoy, even if the realtor says "you can do pretty much as you please" - which seems to be a standard line they all use - ALWAYS check county rules and regulations! "No restrictions" doesn't exactly mean NO restrictions.
    There aren't too many rules and regulations (and there are ways around a lot of them), but dealing with mindless government drones is NEVER fun.
  10. Barb

    Barb Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2002
    West River SD
    Take a hard look at your road. Is it dirt/gravel? Does the prevailing wind blow toward your house site? Dust from passing cars & farm equipment will drive you crazy if every car that passes envelopes your house in dust.
    How much traffic goes past? Sounds like a minor thing but it can be a biggie in the country. You are much more aware of the dust, noise and nosy neighbors in the country than in the city. Visit the property at various times of the day. We looked at our place twice for hours at a time amd only saw one car. Turns out we just looked at the wrong time of day & year. We are the only road to town for all the neighbors for miles so we get a lot more traffic than we like. Right now the grain trucks are going by all day (semis). Our old neighbors in another state (nasty people) built their house too close to the road and every car that went by until the road was "salted" in the summer enveloped the house in dust. We snickered every time. The house has been up for sale for 2 1/2 years now and they want to build another house way back farther on their property. The dust is probably part of the reason it hasn't sold. We looked at a place and a big truck (farm) went by and it was obvious that house was going to be covered in dust all the time. The owner mumbled to the realtor somethings about " if he knew that a big operation was going in down the road and that they would be going by his place he wouldn't have built where he did." Realtor tried to shut him up but we heard. That place was out.
  11. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

    Nov 18, 2003
    Dysfunction Junction, SW PA
    in pa you look for;

    open mine shafts
    oil at the surface (eirther a dump or a seep)
    cave holes (very dangerous in some places)
    do you smell gas? overgrown leaky wells or a natural seep?
    smell the water.
    smell the open water.
    keep smelling the air all over.
    if you see stainless steel drums in the woods, ask a lot of questions but dont go near them (every now and then some nut decided to abandon some waste of somekind.... it makes the news if its nasty stuff)
    what kind of trees make up the bulk of the tree cover? this can be a clue to the underlaying water scource, the composition of the soil ect.
    flood plains...if theres a run thru creek or nearby river.
    diseases on the trees... a few none or a lot?
    if they alow you take a post hole digger and a digging bar.... you can tell a lot by what you find in random post holes...soil backfills, rock sheets, water, old sewage leaks ect.

    take a compas and take good note of sunrise and sunset directions. note prevailing wind directions. if you plan to orient your house for solar heat or power this will come in handy.
    also where to put your garden. if you like a spot, dig a few post holes see how the topsoil looks. remember to fill them in again.

    if there is a pond/lake, yes get the water tested. it may be full of fertilizer runoff or mine drainage, which makes fish farming in it not an option. some mine ponds are so bad you cant even use em for irrigation.
    note any wildlife...

    if its been abandoned for a while look for POT. tis the mid season for gurellia farmers and the last thig you want is for your new buy to be the favorite grow area for the local pot farmers.... be careful, some of the wacko ones booby trap the grow areas.
    DONT rip the plants call the cops.... you rip em and the growers will go after YOU.
    This ia a problem in PA might not be elsewhere...

    Look for human trails that are well worn.. whos using the land? 4 wheelers? hikers? are they neighbors or ?

    check the ZONE. check the surrounding zoneing too. ask the municipality if there are any future plans to shift the zone class.

    talk to the neighbors about anything you can think of...

    check your land from the air, in color (for a monthy fee or just deal with the watermarked photos they give you free) at

    totally free access balck and white access is here;

    topo maps here
  12. Cygnet

    Cygnet Guest

    What's upstream/uphill?

    Lay of the land? Where are you going to put that house?

    Access in bad weather? Access in REALLY bad weather? My road's passable when it rains. It's not passable for anything less than a lifted jeep when it rains buckets. This is not a serious issue for me as I park half a mile away and walk home once or so a year when the road's too boggy to navigate in my truck but it will be an issue if I sell the place.

    Where are emergency services coming from? Do you have emergency services? I asked, "Where's the nearest police station," and got truthfully told it was two miles away. Catch is, it's seldom staffed. First time I called the cops -- because the neighbors got drunk and were shooting bottle rockets at my horse and goats and house -- it took the cops two hours to show up. Neighbors were out of fireworks before the cops got there. (Still got ticketed, tho, they were too drunk to think to pick the evidence up.)

    Endangered species on the property ...

    Emphasise meet the neighbors. Ask the neighbors what they think about each other. The responses can be most illuminating. I passed on the property where two neighbors -- on opposite sides of a property I was looking at -- bad mouthed each other up one side and down the other. One claimed the other was a making meth (I have no idea if this was true but I didn't smell it and the guy didn't have the look of a junkie) and the purported meth head claimed the other was a "know it all busybody who'd run two people out and turned him into animal control every time he blinked and had reported him for animal abuse for leaving his dog outside in the summer in a kennel (saw the kennel, dog had shade and water), for hitting his horse (he said he was riding with a crop), and for shooting a coyote that was raiding his chickens. I didn't want to be between the two of them, didn't know where the truth lay, and decided I could find property elsewhere ...
  13. Qvrfullmidwife

    Qvrfullmidwife Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2004
    "even if the realtor says "you can do pretty much as you please" - which seems to be a standard line they all use - ALWAYS check county rules and regulations!"

    We were handed at closing a copy of the deed restrictions that we were assured in writing, in the listing, by both agents, by the sellers didn't exist. Sure enough, they did exist! Thankfully for us there wass but one deed restriction and from what we can find out, no longer legally in force...and it is one that we are all too happy to live with. (The acreage cannot be subdivided.) If there had been substantial restirctions we probably woud have walked then and there, at closing. Deed restrictions are a big reason we started looking to move after dh was the civic ass. prez for a year. Just riled his libertarian bent a wee bit too much! :haha:
  14. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    May 22, 2003
    Zone 7
    Once you determine that the lay of the land and its access meet you needs look around and determine if the land will grow weeds. If you do not see any weeds then it will not grow a crop.
  15. Jen H

    Jen H Well-Known Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    If you are told you have water rights, mineral rights, etc... demand to see written documentation of those rights. A written note from the seller is not enough, you need a written statement from the agency issuing those rights (county, city, fed - whichever agency holds sway in the area your looking at).

    Have the water source tested by an independant lab. One place we looked at had a huge amount of selenium and arsenic in the water - turns out it was directly downhill from an old mine.

    Get your hands on a copy of the survey for the property or have a survey done. Make sure you know where the boundary markers are.

    Find out what animals are a potential problem in the area your land shopping. That will influence how you manage your animals and crops. I have deer, black bears, cougars, and coyotes that come through my property. So I have 10 ft high tensile electric fences with the biggest baddest chargers I could find surrounding my garden and apple orchards. All of my animals are secured inside the critter barn at dusk. The garbage cans are in the garage, and I don't have bird feeders at all (the bears around here like bird seed).

    Find out, if you can, what plans developers might have in the area you're looking at. A year after we moved onto this property we found out the 30 acres directly north of us was being subdivided into 5 acre lots. So we're going to have alot more neighbors than we expected to.

    Also, make sure you understand what tax classifications your land falls into and how to maintain those classifications. 10 of our acres is classified timber, 5 is classified light industrial, and 15 is classified agricultural - what this means is that we had to make sure we put our cider tanks in the barn on the light industrial land, NOT in the barn on the agriculture land, in order to keep our property tax at its present level. It may seem silly and nit picky, but the county commisioners can make your life very difficult if you don't keep them happy.
  16. Mudwoman

    Mudwoman Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2002
    My dad told me once that land is worth "zero" if it doesn't have decent water.
  17. Though that depends on the area and what you're doing.

    In my neck of the woods, wells can run over a thousand feet before you hit water, and it's likely to be highly saline and thermal when you do get to it. But since the entire area has this sort of issue, land that doesn't have a well on it DOES have value -- I saw five acres with a water holding tank (plus septic and electric in) go for $50K recently, up the road from me.

    People out here haul water, routinely. You can even get a traditional mortgage on a lot with hauled water in this area. It's just part of the way things are done ... there are public wells if you don't have a private well, you buy a share for the public well (well certificates run around $1400 last I heard), and bring you water home in the back of your pickup. Or you can hire someone to deliver water at a rate of about $50 for 2000 gallon.

    My dad has a property in N. AZ with a 2,000 square foot fixer-upper house and one acre that would probably sell for around $200K ...and the well pumps about a gallon every fifteen minutes into a holding tank. *shrug* It just depends on the area and what else is for sale out there.