Looking at land tomorrow..advice?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Raindancer, Feb 4, 2005.

  1. Raindancer

    Raindancer Well-Known Member

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    DH wants to look at a few properties tomorrow <big smile!> that have been listed locally throughout the past few winter months. The diff. properties range from 7-40 acres. Appears all are unimproved. Don't know of restrictions yet, tho a few do allow mobile homes (OK by us, but will prob. build later).
    Tho I've be SO into reading, and reading, and trying to learn from y'all since finding this site (love it!!), my middle age brain has taken a hike right now on what to ask about properties. Can someone give me a list of basic things to ask about (that I can maybe print out and take with us to review), so that we don't forget to ask to ask realtor? I do know some concerns are:
    easements
    right-of ways
    mineral rights
    surveys
    zoning
    And later on, contingencies on title, perc tests, water, septic issues, etc.
    But what am I forgetting?

    Appears this realtor deals mostly with land, in the area we're interested in (next country north)..some improved, some not. We want to see what he has to offer. Next question is, is this OK to let him show us, or should we be using a buyers agent to start out with? Or is it OK for this realtor to just show just, then if we're seriously interested in one of his properties, to then get a buyers agent to do the negotiating/close deal? I'm just not sure of the protocol of it all. This realtor mainly lists land with owner financing. I'm a bit leary, but Dh feels we can do this, pay as we go while making some home improvements in next year of two to sell this house, while working to improve land..then sell house and move on to our next life's stage.

    Aside from the list of things to ask about, do we need a buyers agent just to go look at land at this point, or wait until we find something we're seriously concidering?
    Thanks in advance, should I not have chance to touch base!

    Dee
    P.S. While raking leaves from some flower beds today, spotted the first new green tips of daffodil leaves popping up from the soil...Yahoo! Did that make my day!:) I do miss the snow (the fun stuff!) and definitive seasons of "home" up north in NY state, but I sure do love our short Winter to Spring seasons here!! I'm ready to plant!
     
  2. Nik

    Nik Well-Known Member

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    NM
    Check and see about electricty, if it's close by or not and what it costs to get it extended to your property if it's not. I know you said middle age brain, so I'm not sure if you have small kids around or not, but you definitely want to find out what school district the land is in and how they rate.
    I've never heard of anyone using a buyer's agent on a seller financed property, but I guess it's done.
    Good Luck,
    Nik
     

  3. AngieM2

    AngieM2 Big Front Porch advocate Supporter

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    I think I'd want to see if you could find out what is being built out that way....
    like are new subdivision on the way out there, or major roads or industry.

    Also, what county are you looking in - just wondering since I'm in N. alabama- wondering if we are going to end up neighbors.

    AngieM2

    PS: I'm in N. Madison Co. AL
     
  4. Cosmic

    Cosmic Well-Known Member

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    Ohio
    I would say up front you are putting way to much faith in brokers. Brokers have one objective and one objective only. Namely their own self interest without getting into any sort of legal problems. Really don't give a squat about you no matter what anyone pretends, you are just the current paycheck. :D

    First off I would know what I wanted in a piece of land. Do you want if flat, hills, grass or woods or whatever in some type of combination. I would know what goodies I wanted in terms of utilities, access and civil World comforts. Those basically should set the parameters does the land meet your needs.

    First look does not mean rush to buy. You start a process, about like buying anything else. Choosing from a number of choices, none of which may meet your criterion. Basic hands in the pockets and talk alot.

    Most of what you mentioned is the details to be sorted out and probably only will be known for sure after an offer to buy. You basically need a good real estate agency / lawyer type who specializes in doing the leg work to ensure you are not buying defective property and those stipulations are written into the Buy / Sell agreement. They should be disclosing most of it up front if it is decent offer.

    I would not be wanting to buy land without all the mineral and timber rights and nobody else has rights of any sorts. Too many ways to get burnt, better to just take the walk. One biggy is to specify there has been no dumping of any sort, especially hazardous materials.

    Your first look is just a first impression. A bit of a bad time to be looking at land in the winter. Can hide a number of flaws, maybe more so in the South. Land can be very wet and you won't pick up on it. Drainage problems tend to be masked in the winter. Can be bug ridden, again may be masked in winter. Usually want to see land at its worse which is probably spring after a good thaw.

    Most of the stuff you are concerned about should be written into the Buy / Sell agreement as a deal breaker. Will vary a lot State to State about what is a sort of standard terms and what can be specified. They may make a standard agreement but in most places you can attach a rider to that outlining all the terms / conditions which in the period from sign to closing can cause the deal to be null. Basically gives you an out if any thing is misrepresented or flawed. If you are going to pay big bucks, if is best to an agent who can do the type research to find flaws. They are only as good as your instructions to them.

    In many places, banks are wary about lending on raw land, so owner financing may be a normal mode for most sales.

    I would just be looking and in no big hurry, certainly not be letting some broker pressure me into signing anything. Depending on the details and what is involved should determine the next move. The Buyer is always on the hook and the one to really be making the calls. All those other folks have an interest that may not be the same as yours. Remember, you are just a paycheck to most of them.
     
  5. Hoop

    Hoop Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Northern Wisconsin
    easements
    right-of ways
    mineral rights
    surveys
    zoning
    And later on, contingencies on title, perc tests, water, septic issues, etc.


    A piece of property without an easement is nearly worthless. Verbal easements mean nothing. written easements on the deed are what count.

    Right of ways Not a big issue in most instances.

    Mineral rights Again, not a big issue.

    Surveys If you're financing the property, the bank usually insists on a certified survey before they loan you the money. You'll probably have to pay for it.
    The Register of Deeds at your local courthouse likely has a "land plat" map of the property, which realistically, makes getting a survey a needless expense.

    Zoning You'll want to protect the value of your property and all your hard work you'll be investing into it. For this reason, you should always purchase land in an area that is zoned.
    If you choose to purchase land in an unzoned area, you have nobody to blame but yourself when somebody decides to open a hog rendering works upwind of your property.

    Other.

    MOST IMPORTANT:
    1 Access Avoid all property that does not have direct access from a public road. Shared private roads are nightmares. They are OK for recreational (hunting) property, but no way do you want to get into the hassle of sharing a road with others, that may or may not have the same idea of what "proper road maintenance" consists of.
    2 Electricity Don't think about buying any property without electricity at the property line.......unless the property is cheap or free.
    3 Water The depth of a well is always going to be a mystery, but ask the neighbors how far down their wells are. Better yet, make inquiries to the local well-driller on how much it will cost.
    4 Perc test/soil evaluation If you plan on building in the future, you'll want to conduct this before you purchase the property. If everything else satisfies you on this property, make an offer to purchase contingent upon receiving a perc test suitable for a conventional septic system.
    Around here conventional septic systems approx $4500 Mound systems $9000 & up.

    OTHER
    Existing road on property. A big plus. An even bigger plus if the road takes you to a future building site. Road construction takes big equipment. Big equipment means big expenses.

    Proper drainage. Avoid property which doesn't drain properly or collects water after rains.
     
  6. Raindancer

    Raindancer Well-Known Member

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    Alabama
    Still here, and thank you all for your replies!

    Nik.. "middle aged brain" also relates to empty nesters, here. We're early 50's, children grown (20's-30's). So no worries about school districts. Tho (I) do worry about emergency hosp. access if need be..possibly 30-45 min. (?) away. One concern.

    AngieM2..no, unfortunately not potential neighbors, I don't think:( Looking outside Montg., in Elmore County.

    Cosmic...Lots of good info..thanks for insights. Yes, we know what we're looking for..lots of wooded area, some clearing (pasture not necessary) for a homestead, garden, chickens, a few goats..a stream/creek a plus..and enuff buffer from neighbors or "busy life" too close by (and more dreams, but won't get into now). Yet close enuff to married children/grandkids and "town", and for DH to commute 45 min. or less to work, if needed.
    We've looked at a few properties on our own but not thru a realtor. So just wasn't sure what to expect. Definitely will take all factors into consideration and not be pressured. We have the time, know what we want, just wasn't sure of some of the intricisies involved. You made some good points:)

    Hoop..Thanks for your input, also. And hadn't thought that it might be redundant that if a property is owner financed that a survey would no doublt already be on file:) Tho zoning/restictions confuse me (me here in our tidy little suburbia).
    What I do know is there's commercial, residential and agricultural. You say not zoned is to be wary of, as they can change it to who knows what? Thanks for that forewarning, can see how that would be very important!

    Then there's "restrictions". We do know we *don't* want to be somewhere residential with all kinda's of restrictions, as we deal with now. Can you be zoned residential without restrictions to what you can do on your land (my main concern is having small livestock for pets/own use..eggs/goat milk). Or does it have to be zoned Agri. to have small livestock, more freedoms? Color me clueless. What does the term "no restrictions" actually apply to?? Mobile homes? Livestock? Building codes? Many of these properties say "no restrictions" but not sure what it actually all means.

    Please excuse my ignorance! Having lived in military housing most of my adult life with my ex, then moving into a house my 2nd DH already owned, I've never experienced the buy/sell of property. I'm trying so hard to learn on my own what it's all about, as I want to know it all this time around!!;)

    Thanks again, all!
    Dee
     
  7. Jenn

    Jenn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Don't think anyone commented yet on when to get an agent. I think get an agent when you know you are seriously going to buy, which you are already at. Not necessarily this month, but they can develop years long relationships. Thing is if you see a property shown by the sellor's agent, want it, and then engage an agent it is sort of unfair that the two agents will split the fee when your agent ahsn't done much work in helping you locate a property. I suppose each single agent that shows to you hasn't, either, but when they go to work on a weekend for someone who doesn't have an agent they're hoping they'll be the only agent and not split a fee. If you had an agent they would probably let your agent take you over to the place and not have to work (for you anyway) that weekend.

    Of course I only know about places with homes and 6% realtors fee last time we bought, don't know about land only now or your area, but might as well have your agent working for and helping you NOW, perhaps first thing by answering all the questions you gave us here, more expertly, and if s/he doesn't satisfy your needs switch (but be sure to keep contract terms short- 3 months if possible) to someone else.
     
  8. JAM

    JAM Well-Known Member

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    When I found something I may be interested in I would go to the Town Hall and look at their master plan for the next 10 yrs. Wouldn't want to buy something and then find out that eventually there would be a major road going thru my property. Happened to us.
     
  9. CarlaWVgal

    CarlaWVgal Well-Known Member

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    Our property is zoned "no restrictions". Here that means we can put in a trailer, or several dozen, have animals, keep junk cars, even subdivide our lot if we want to. This is a big deal around here as so many counties are putting stipulations on what property owners can do. We are zoned residential, but most of our neighbors are agriculture. These farm owners would flip out if someone tried to put restrictions on their land :D

    HTH
    Carla
     
  10. Ozarkquilter46

    Ozarkquilter46 Well-Known Member

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  11. bethlaf

    bethlaf Homegrown Family

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    First and foremmost is that any easments are recorded. secondly I look for utilities, in AR they have to bring the juice to me, but its not that way in every state. also, I would in consideration of buying a property find out information about what the water is like, and how much a well might cost, is the ground rocky or just dirt etc. I also look at the surrounding areas, are the neighbors growing 40 stray pit bulls, and how are those neighbors going to react when you shoot the first several that come to visit etc .... ;) LOL It may seem funny but these are the things you have to contend with in real life.

    Also, as far as a buyers agent I always use one when buying froma realtor.
    But the best way to buy is to find owner financed property, you eliminate the Realtors cut up to 7% and the terms are a little more negotiable.

    The biggest mistake most buyers make is that they fall in love with a piece of property, atthat point they are thinking with their heart not their head and thats when it is easiest to be taken advantage of.



    _Neal
     
  12. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Get a soil survey map of the property you're interested in and PM me with the soil codes. I can then give you a good idea what you have there for soils (ie, texture, drainage, depth to watertable, etc.) Some county soil surveys are on-line, but maps for most counties still have to be gotten from the county Ag office (eg, FSA, NRCS, SWCD, etc).
     
  13. Cygnet

    Cygnet Well-Known Member Supporter

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    One thing people often overlook is stopping and talking to the neighbors. Strike up a conversation with any neighbors -- they're the best gossips about neighborhood "issues" and you can get a feel for what you'd be living with. Ask them about things like: how quick the cops show up if you REALLY need them, what sorts of predators they've had problems with, anyone in the area have loose dogs?, any crime in the area, and who's trustworthy in the area for building houses, drilling wells, etc.

    Striking up a conversation with the neighbors is a good way to get a feel for them. I don't mind a cluttered yard or unorthodox building techniques, but if you get bad "vibes" it may be a clue you want to look elsewhere. One property I looked at, for example, had a man blasting ugly music (nasty swear words, rather rude concepts about women) next door at about 200 decibels. I couldn't imagine listening to that 24/7 and another neighbor confirmed the guy always had his stereo blasting & the cops wouldn't do anything unless he had it on after 10PM -- he turned it off precisely at 10. Another lot I looked at, the neighbors ripped into each other with mutual venom and I'd have been between them. Errrm. Didn't want to deal with the stress.

    I also walked away from the parcel where the neighbors informed me that wells in the area tended to be non-potable. Fluoride levels above the legal limits and borderline on the radon and arsenic.

    Leva
     
  14. Cosmic

    Cosmic Well-Known Member

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    When you actually go to look at property note a couple of things carefully.

    How much access has the general public had to the land over the years. Are there road, lanes, some ability to drive into it easy???

    Means it probably has been used by lovers for parking late at night, worse yet ideal for midnight dumping. Note any signs of trash, especially barrels, cans, containers that might have held any form of liquid.

    Lots of dumping has occurred of hazardous materials, easy to find a "Secuded Spot" and just let her go. Has been a wide spread problem over most of the USA for years, big hassle and expense to dispose of many sustances legally. Want to be noting any evidence, stains, effects on vegetation, etc. Also any normal trash, shows folks have used the site for the purpose. Again might be difficult to tell in winter. If there are a lot of acres, many agents will attempt to discourage you from walking over all of it. Maybe can come back on your own and really give it all a careful walk over. Really want a handle on any use it has been put to by others and what evidence of it remains. Even things like somebody cutting firewood or digging somewhere. Any mounds that show something has been buried definitely should be investigated. Want to be noting anything man made or caused by human activity.

    If you buy a piece of land that has been dumped on, you probably own the full liability for cleaning it up. Can be very difficult to recover anything from the former owner. They can simply claim no knowledge in most cases. In many cases if the ground water is already contaminated, you are in serious trouble for using it. Can be one of the worse things that can ever happen to you. Once you know a piece of land is contaminated in any manner, you can not claim to be innocent and attempt to resell it, especially if it has been tested and you are informed of the results. Is a bit like the hassles with lead paint in homes. Definitely something to be avoided at all costs in the first place. Any real doubts, best to pay for some testing or walk away before the sale.

    Also as mentioned, don't just look at that piece of land but the wider area as well. You want a good handle on the neighbors. Maybe even try to talk to a few of them. Most realtors will try to steer you away from any contact with locals that may know / say something they don't wish you to know.

    The land may be surveyed but is it marked in any manner? Is it easy to determine the boundaries from given landmarks, i.e. stone walls, fences, creeks, roads, etc. Are there survey flags, paint or marks of any type from prior work?

    All the legal beagle stuff is nice but you can do a lot by using your own eyeballs well on the actual ground itself.