You've found the perfect plot to start investing in rural land. There's just one problem: there are no utilities. No water, no electricity, no sewer or septic system. Now what? Don't despair. It is possible to bring utilities to vacant land, but it will take some work, due diligence, and money. Keep reading to learn how to equip your vacant plot with all the essentials.
Things to Know About Utilities Before You Buy
There are a few things you need to consider before you buy a parcel of land that's not currently equipped with utilities. The cost of bringing water, electricity, and septic solutions can add significant overhead to the overall price of your investment. Some people avoid buying vacant land with an unclear utility history. However, in the long-run, by practicing due diligence around utilities before you buy you can greatly increase the value of low cost land by adding these improvements.
What Are Your Investment Goals?
Bringing utilities to vacant land is an additional expense. Sometimes, landowners spend more money connecting utilities than they did on the initial purpose. Before you jump into the process of connecting your land to public works, you need to have a clear idea of your investment goals and the ROI on the improvements.
Are you planning to build a home or business on the property? If so, connecting utilities is non-negotiable. However, if you're buying the land to hold and sell later, weigh the costs and benefits of adding utilities to the land.
On one hand, connecting utilities can make your land more valuable and easier to sell. Commercial investors and residential developers often look for land that already has these hookups in place, and they don't want to wait 6-12 months for the infrastructure to be added. On the other hand, you may find that the cost of connecting permanent utilities is greater than the appreciation of the property.
Has the Land Been Previously Connected to Utilities?
Just because your property is currently vacant doesn't mean it's always been uninhabited. In fact, many agricultural plots and industrial lots were connected to the grid long while they were still in service. Discovering a history of utility connections can be a green flag when buying an investment property.
There are a few ways to find out if the land you're considering has ever had utilities. No matter what, you'll need the address or GPS coordinates to search the property in public records. If this information isn't readily available, you can go to inquire about the assessor parcel number with your local assessor.
Using the address or coordinates, you can research the land's history using old building permits, by calling the county zoning department, or by connecting directly with electricity and gas companies.
Adding Utilities to Your Vacant Land
If you've decided that your investment goals warrant adding utilities to your vacant land, you can begin the process of adding utilities to your vacant land. The cost of adding electricity, water, and sewage resources will vary. Several factors come into play when considering the price of adding utilities to your land, including proximity to the nearest utility source, zoning regulations in your area, easements placed on the property, and the amount of acreage.
Establishing a Permanent Power Source
The first step in adding utilities to your land is establishing a permanent power source. Ideally, your land is located near an existing power line, which will make it easier and cheaper to connect.
If there are no power lines near your land, you have the option of connecting to a power company. You will, however, be financially responsible for the cost of running a new power line from the company to your land. Every area has different pricing plans for extending power lines. To avoid unwanted expenses, do you best to verify your distance from power lines before buying the property.
Several alternatives exist for people who are not willing or able to connect to shared power lines. You may opt to use a portable generator, solar panels, or wind turbines. These will each come with unique maintenance requirements that you should factor into your decision.
Whether its power lines or windmills, you need to check for easements and property overlaps before you construct any energy-generating structures on your property.
Water on Vacant Land: How to Get It & Test It
The next step after establishing a power source is to connect to water. Without water, your land is practically uninhabitable, so it's important to get this set up as soon as possible.
Ideally, your land is located within the service zone of your city or county's municipal water works. Connecting to the public water source is usually the most efficient option, although you will be required to provide permits and install a hookup before you can be officially connected.
If your land is not located near a public water source, you have a few other options. One way to get water is to drill a well. This process can be expensive (prices can often exceed $20,000) but it may be the only way to get water on your property.
After your well is drilled, you need to test the water to ensure it is safe for human use. The Center for Disease Control recommends testing your well water at least once a year for coliform bacteria, nitrates, and any other contaminants that may have been introduced during the drilling process. However, public health agencies at the state levels may have additional requirements.
Sewage & Septic Solutions For Vacant Land
The last step in adding utilities to your land is to figure out a sewage solution. If you are lucky enough to live near a public sewer line, you can pay for the necessary permits and labor to connect to the municipal systems.
The least expensive septic systems cost between $600 and $2000. They're generally stored above ground and typically require professional care. Meanwhile, the most costly systems can run upwards of $25,000 and are buried underground.
Take the Stress Out of Bringing Utilities to Vacant Land
Even if it’s your goal to start living off the grid, it’s important to do your research and know what kind of utilities are available. Take the time upfront to learn about the necessary infrastructure and save yourself time and money in the long run. Now that you understand the basics of bringing utilities to vacant land, it’s time for you to take the next step towards achieving your vacant land goals.