Looking for land? Don't buy a lemon

Looking for land? Don't buy a lemon

Posted by Nancy Dorman-Hickson on December 8, 2015

When it comes to purchasing property with problems, the adage about making lemonade out of lemons loses its cheeriness. You want to buy land that suits your needs the first time around.

The best advice is to seek local service providers such as surveyors, lawyers, environmental consultants and title firms to assist you in ensuring there aren’t red flags on the property.

adam godfreyAdam Godfrey, who worked for Rethink:Rural's parent company, Raydient Places + Properties, at the time of this interview, shared his thoughts on what to consider when buying rural property.

1. Make sure the seller actually owns the land. 

Time and multiple owners can make a property’s history murky. A deed can be incorrectly issued. Request time to conduct a title search before the sales agreement is finalized to make sure the seller actually has the right to sell you the land.

2. Find out whether you will have sufficient access to the property. 

There are two types of access: legal and prescriptive.  Legal access can take the form of having frontage on a county or state road or it can take the form of a recorded easement.  Alternatively, prescriptive access occurs when the owner of the property enters their property via an adjacent landowner over a certain period of time.  The best way to confirm access to a property is via a survey and title search.  

3. Make sure the property will suit what you plan to use it for.

Ask about the topography. How much is wetlands? How much is upland? Check on zoning. “If you’re buying 30 acres and you want to build a house on it, you better make sure that it is zoned for that,” says Godfrey.

4. Find out if utilities are available, and what it will cost to connect them to the property.

Consider the costs of getting power, water and sewage services to the property. Who pays varies from state to state. “In Texas, the property owner has to pay a significant amount of money to get power,” says Godfrey. In some areas, there may be an electrical cooperative service area, where some of the expense may be paid by the co-op. If municipal water and sewage isn’t available, you’ll incur costs to dig a well and add a septic tank.

5. Find out whether the property comes with mineral rights.

What mineral rights, if any, do you obtain with the property? Oil and gas? Sand and gravel? If others own these, how does that affect your property? Will they disturb the surface? Must they compensate you for damage?  A title search and a subsequent mineral title search is the way to find out.

6. Find out the property's "history."

Consider an environmental site assessment. An environmental site assessment is one way to understand the past use of the property and if it would have any impacts to your future use of the property.  It can be efficiently conducted by an environmental consultant.  The common term for this due diligence is referred to as a “Phase 1 Site Assessment.” 

Looking for land? View country properties for sale from Texas to Florida at RaydientPlaces.com.

At the time of this writing, Adam Godfrey worked in Lufkin, Texas, for Raydient LLC, the same company that manages Rethink:Rural. Mr. Godfrey contributed to this article in his personal capacity, and the opinions and advice expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raydient LLC, its parent or subsidiary companies.

Nancy Dorman-Hickson

Nancy Dorman-Hickson grew up in Sturgis and Starkville, Mississippi where she roamed woods, rode horses, and fished muddy ponds. Now she is a writer based in Birmingham, Alabama who was with Time Inc.’s Progressive Farmer and Southern Living magazines for 19 years. She’s been a newspaper desk editor and co-authored Diplomacy and Diamonds, the best-selling memoir of Joanne King Herring. Dorman-Hickson and her husband are the parents of college-age fraternal twins. For more, see www.NancyDormanHickson.com.

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