Buyers purchasing vacant land may take more risk than buyers of residential properties, as there may be some significant surprises that will affect their future use or cost of building. Often, what we see is not what we get, and there may be some hidden issues, but the savvy buyer can be prepared by at least checking out these most important details.
Savvy buyers should check out all of the utility connections! The main connections may be water mains, sewer connections, electrical availability, natural gas lines, and telecommunication lines. Some of these may be missing, or they may be at a distance from the parcel that might cause additional cost to bring to the building site. On rural properties, the ability to drill a well, obtaining quality water, and an adequate quantity of water can be a huge issue. Also, the cost of the septic system will depend on the type of system, and the soil conditions. Buyers should check out each of these issues, and the potential cost for future building.
Savvy buyers closely check their title work! Section A of the title work will show any possible liens and other requirements for closing. Section B will show all of the recorded documents impacting the use and entitlements to the property. These include easements, leases, encroachments, recorded plats, and information about the formation of homeowners’ association that will probably include Bylaws & CC&R’s. The CC&R’s are Covenants Conditions & Restrictions, which are the statements of restrictions of use for the property; i.e., pets allowed, parking restrictions, building restrictions, noise restrictions, etc. These issues in the exceptions of title will restrict how you use the property in the future, and may be a detriment to purchase.
Savvy buyers closely check the survey! First, the buyer should make sure they have a recorded plat or a survey of the property. The actual survey may show the property to be different than what it appears to be on the County GIS or from a visual appearance. We recently saw a survey of a property that was purported by the public record to be 1 ¾ acres, and it was actually 2 ½ acres. The survey will typically show the legal access, easements, encroachments, roads, fences, etc. on the property. There may be plat or survey notes about restrictions on the use of the property or key items to research.
Savvy buyers should check with City, County planning & building departments, and the fire department! One of the most important confirmations is the property can be utilized as it has been marketed. They can also be a great resource for past building issues, geologic hazard, oil & gas impacts, and soils conditions. The fire departments have new regulations following the severe fires that have impacted Colorado in the past years. They have restrictions on access, fire mitigation, and turnaround radius. Buyers should also check with their insurance broker for costs to insure and restrictions for fire mitigation.
Savvy buyers should have their builder and architect do a site assessment! Your builder and the architect will be able to provide insight on the best building sites, and the potential cost impacts of the lot. The design team can also evaluate the site for ideas on positioning the home for solar gain and views.
In conclusion, the savvy buyer will have a much higher knowledge of the property before purchasing it, and potentially saving thousands of dollars, and able to use the property as desired.
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