There's no need to emphasize that you're probably reading this one because of specific real estate opportunities that have come up lately. You might be one step away from buying land for the first time. Or: you might be just thinking about it, just outlining the plan that may or may not happen. Whatever the case - there's no denying you're at the correct address. Since you're something they call a first-timer, we should equip you with some helpful info so that you don't end up regretting you've ever thought of buying some land. We've selected some top tips for first-time land buyers you'll absolutely enjoy! Stick around!
#1 Use a Reputable Land Company or Experienced Realtor
It's highly recommended you find yourself a trusty company specialized in selling land or an experienced real estate agent to help you navigate the process of buying land. Using Zillow and a private seller can be risky, you're not sure who you're working with and they may not disclose something, the responsibility is gone after the sale. They aren't trying to build a reputation or customer base so the concern is selling their one piece of land, in some cases they might not even own the land. A website specialized in selling land however has a responsibility to customers and concern for their continued growth. Land is extremely unique when it comes to research, much different than a traditional home where inspections are almost always done.
With real estate agents, they tend to avoid focus on land due to low commissions vs an expensive home. In fact no matter the cost of your land they will probably still tack on a large base commission making the land more costly to buy. For a piece of land in the really high range like a farm using an agent is very important, however find one that really knows land. When it comes to farm land, there are agents that only focus on that. They will understand zoning, local building department requirements and county rules whereas a normal agent won't and as we have found, can even give you the wrong information. And here's the part where this saves you money: a specialized realtor will assist you in getting the best price for the land you're planning to buy, they know the land market. Also, certain sellers specifically want to work only with folks that have a realtor by their side, no exceptions.
Certain sellers won't even think about working with you unless you've got a realtor by your side. That’s why finding a realtor is one of our top tips for first-time land buyers!
#2 The good old topic of finances
Before you step into any I'm-gonna-buy-me-some-land mode of thinking, you should consider your financing options first. That means: before you start searching for the ideal property (whether you see it only as an investment or your new home), you'll need to know how much you will have to borrow from the bank and how much cash you will have to cough up from your wallet. You'll want to know that land loans operate slightly differently than regular mortgage loans. Not to mention they're seen as a riskier option, too.
Knowing just how much you're able to borrow and how much you'll have to invest will help you understand your whole budget situation. That way, you'll be able to optimize your "land hunt" and stick to the properties within your financing range (and your preferences, of course).
A website specialized in selling land almost always offers has financing, aka owner financing. Here they own the land and act as the bank, unless you have a large amount of money to buy it in full, making payments on it for a year or two is quite a perk land selling companies give. Some private owners might offer this but there may be more risk, some are quite eager to foreclose on you and resell it.
#2.1 Wait, are you just investing or relocating?
Speaking of finances, if you're planning to relocate to the land you're going to buy, you must consider how you'll transfer all your stuff. For instance, if we're talking about a long-distance move, there's no point in going DIY (unless you're a fan of damaged home inventory, stress, hair loss, and other phenomenal stuff you'll bargain for by arranging the move yourself). It's best you hire a professional moving company to handle the task. Of course, there's a certain set of questions to ask movers before a long-distance relocation and while preparing for the transfer. The most important questions might be: do you have all the required licenses? If their answer isn't a straightforward YES, there's no need to ask any other questions. That's a red flag if there ever was one!
If you're doing a long-distance relocation, once you've bought the land you've dreamed of buying, it's best to contact professionals to assist you with the relocation.
#3 Essentials and non-essentials
This might be the essential item on this list of top tips for first-time land buyers. Ask yourself this question: what are the so-called must-haves and must-have-nots when it comes to the land you're planning to buy? Are there any dealbreakers that will make a particular piece of land absolutely unattractive to you? Are you looking for the cheapest land you can find or would you be able to splurge? Figuring out these factors from the beginning will stop you from wasting precious time in the long run. Also, you'll greatly help your realtor (if you plan on working with one) narrow down the selection of pieces of land you might find appealing. And don't think this won't include a bit of research on your side since there are many things you probably don't know about buying land, land qualities, etc.
#4 Have you checked zoning regulations?
A piece of land (with nothing on it) offers various opportunities. However, they're not infinite. You'll want to check the limitations on what's possible to do with the land you're potentially willing to buy. In other words: what can you build on it once you buy it or do you see it as an investment? There's a fair chance you'd buy a property that doesn't match your plans for the future. It's recommended you research everything for yourself, building department requirements, everyone has very unique plans for land. Asking for more zoning information from the county and make sure that land has the ability to use you want. Land comes with restrictions, single family home, duplex, boundaries and even allowance for animals are all decided by the county. For every little detail there is to know about the land you'd want to inquire about. They'll tell you if it's possible to do this or that or whatever.
Some land isn't buildable yet, counties change rules as the city grows and they desire to gain more locals. They are able to change zoning and relax requirements over time. Buying land like this can be a unique investment because they are typically cheaper and can pop in value if a change comes. Remember land is resell-able, it's low cost to hold, inflation resistant and can be a good investment strategy. We have seen several parcels of land we sold and disclosed as unbuildable, some customer had the zoning changed within a year and saw a double return in their lands value after.
Before you lay an offer on the table, you must check out the zoning and building regulations of the land you're planning to buy.
#5 Try to relax (take your time)
Needless to say, buying yourself a piece of land ain't a small investment. That's why you shouldn't rush it. Before you even consider buying some land, make sure you use the people you trust to assist you with the ordeal. You should be aware that, after purchasing your ideal piece of land and if you plan to build, the moving process is about to follow. If you are preparing for a long-distance move in and around Washington, you'll need a reliable team by your side. But a dedicated team of long-distance movers in Washington will cost you. You must be entirely sure nothing stands in the way of your dreams: no rules, no regulations, or financial obstacles! You can only be sure of these things after taking your time and doing the necessary research.
#6 Don't forget to visit the property a few times
Last but not least on our list of top tips for first-time land buyers, there's an unwritten rule you must consider. To phrase it differently: there's no other way to be entirely sure about a particular property if you don't check it a couple of times (at different times of day). Investigate the land; learn a thing or two about invasive plant species quite well-known in the surroundings. Especially in the area where you're planning to build over, see if there are places you'll want to consider installing fences. Anyway, all you need is a functioning pair of eyes and some gut feeling! If you can't visit the property, use google earth and other online tools, you can even pay someone to go video and photograph the land for as little as $80.
The last year was a great time to invest in land, but this one's probably topping it! So, what are you waiting for?