Heads Up So You Don’t Buy Screwed Up Land!

  • 7 months ago
  • 0

Listen up hustlers! Found a sweet chunk of land for sale perfect to build your dream cabin and finally escape the rat race? Hell yeah! Visions of peaceful, off-grid living dance in your head already. But before fantasizing too hard about what könnte sein, you better damn well investigate what you actually CAN and CANNOT legally do on that property after driving away with the deed.

I’ve seen too many starry-eyed land buyers score what looks like the perfect plot on paper, only to get GUT PUNCHED later with nasty surprises that prevent any development or use they planned once purchased. Total buzzkill and money pit!

But have no fear! This short ‘n sweet guide breaks down key questions you gotta ask AND verify before ever dropping cash on vacant land to avoid screwed up situations down the road…

  • What’s It Zoned and Can I Build What I Want?
  • Any Nasty HOA Rules to Follow?
  • What Permits Are Needed to Develop Utilities?
  • Does the Title Show Funky Legal Baggage?
  • How Do Taxes Differ if Agricultural vs Residential Lands?
  • Are There Weird Deed Restrictions Already Recorded?
  • Should I Hire a Real Estate Attorney for Review?
  • Does Inspecting On-Foot Reveal Warning Signs?

We’ll tackle each critical item you need the DL on before signing paperwork, so you buy with clarity and are not just awestruck by the property itself. Research BEFORE the purchase separates a painful buyer’s remorse later from peaceful rural living now. Forewarned is forearmed, baby! Let’s rifle through key considerations…

Zoning Lowdown – Know Your Build Codes!

First up, HOW is the land officially zoned for usage? Check county records for categorizations like residential, agricultural, recreational, etc. to understand what you may or may not be allowed to build under each permit. Local municipalities apply zoning to manage compatible uses, balancing development and preservation. Don’t assume!

Residential – typically limits construction to certain home styles under the maximum square feet. Must also meet setback minimums from property boundary lines when siting permanent structures. Know the details.

Agricultural – More flexible usually for barns, sheds, outbuildings supporting livestock or crop cultivation. But permit guidelines still exist and vary by county even on ag lands – especially near residential areas to mitigate conflicts like smells or noises. There are often minimum acreages too claiming outright agricultural tax status and exemptions.

Recreational – Often prohibits full-time occupancy buildings meant just for seasonal recreation use only. Temporary structures may have tighter restrictions. Major buzzkill if you wanted an off-grid cabin!

See the pattern? Zoning codes ultimately dictate WTF you can legally build, modify or use land for once purchased. Non-compliant owners face nasty cease and desist orders, fines and even forced demolition costs of unauthorized construction if caught violating. So verify BEFORE inking deals that any intended housing, structures or uses align with county property development allowances per zoning classification there.

Pesky HOAs – Know Their Rules!

Speaking of potential party poopers, if nearby properties fall under a homeowners association then newly created parcels may also be roped under HOA oversight. Before committing to landlocked longevity, inspect what asinine rules and limitations the HOA overlords might impose around approved outbuilding designs, RV permanent parking, number of livestock permitted, Airbnb rentals, home-based business bans, etc.

Request and peruse the full Covenants and bylaws for crystal clarity. Brace yourself for recurring HOA fees owed each year and insufferable meetings with bossy retirees who sweat every minor rule violation. Consider long and hard if encumbered land still fits your intended uses before tying the knot. Divorce is ugly!

Are spending permits required?

Ah yes, nothing like big government red tape to complicate ambitions of freedom and liberty on open lands! Aside from standard building permits themselves, expect potential piles of additional bureaucracy imposed around grading permits, septic systems, well drilling authorization, wetland ecology approvals, right-of-way usage permits, blah barf. Especially in ecologically sensitive areas.

Verify upfront what level of infrastructure might already be available on-site vs what critical utilities or access routes would need to be installed if plans for rural development. Poorly accessible properties or landlocked parcels without road frontage may require pricey easements or legal ingress/egress agreements drafted up.

And off-grid projects lacking existing electric, water, sewer, and gas hookups can also necessitate extensive (and hella expensive) engineering plans with permits to upgrade utilities over time. Solar, wells, drainage fields, propane tanks, and backup generators all add up faster than rookie homesteaders anticipate. Crunch the numbers REALISTICLY beforehand!

Title Search Records

Before touring any promising land listing in person or counting chickens about purchase plans, order a detailed title search report on it! Title searches help uncover past recorded legal activity tied to that specific parcel that could still encumber it in the present—like utility easements granted decades back that beneficiaries continue accessing across the property, limiting build locations; outdated mineral rights still leased for potential extraction impacts; old tax liens that complicate taking clean title and financing until settled…you get the complicated gist!

A clean title = a fresh, unclouded start. But lengthy, complicated history itemization muddies the waters, hinting at possible restrictions still lingering undisclosed that transplant to new owners. Do the due diligence BEFORE future headaches arise post-purchase! Why invite drama demons? Exorcise lands upfront!

Tax impacts matter!

How land gets used also determines its property tax designation, typically either agricultural or residential, through the assessor’s office. Agricultural lands see significant tax savings but require proof of routine annual revenue production through timber harvesting, grazing livestock, actively farming crops, etc. This must be demonstrated year after year to retain lower ag rates. And there are often minimum acreage amounts too for ag status eligibility.

But any full-time occupied residential structures trigger automatic rezoning and reclassification at MUCH higher, improved property tax rates, which stick despite later attempts at reversing. And penalties plus back taxes apply if lands are used contrary to zoning without proper approvals for years! Make sure you accurately budget for intended usage before sobering tax bills arrive!

Deed Limits: Double Checking

When larger raw land tracts get split into multiple smaller plots, unique restrictions carry through into the new partitioned parcel deeds, forever dictating what future activities are limited or prohibited by covenant. This ensures continuity across subdivisions for collective character.

But inherited deed limits could forbid things like:

  • Permanent residences over temporary structures
  • Banning hunting, ATV riding, mineral extraction, commercial logging…
  • Minimum/maximum square footage for any new buildings overriding zones
  • Strict architectural aesthetics dictate approved home designs, materials, and colors
  • Mandating house sites only be developed near existing access roads, not randomly scattered willy-nilly around the acreage

Study the property deed verbiage closely before purchase to confirm that intended uses aren’t prohibited. Because amending plat restrictions after-the-fact requires ALL revised consensus from every other landowner on that shared parcel group…long shot odds!

Hire a Real Estate Attorney?

Still scratching your head how zoning codes, permit guidelines, tax categories and past property history records intertwine for the acreage catching your eye? Stop winging it! Hire professional help! For a few hundred bucks, real estate attorneys can review key records then issue plain English guidance about how restrictions could impact development proposals you describe wanting for the land purchase.

Savvy property lawyers quickly nail down status checks on topics like:

  • Zoning category implications on intended structure uses
  • Available permits required for proposed projects
  • Recorded easements potentially limiting assumptions
  • Active liens complicating financing until settled
  • HOA enforcement authority if one governs the parcel

Well worth the peace of mind protecting your six before buying! Attorneys summarize must-know limitations and workarounds for your plans. And help spot red flag issues early before they morph into bigger headaches as landowner. Why invite drama demons? Exorcise uncertainty upfront!

On-Site Inspection Critical Too!

Before ever placing an offer, you must also WALK the land, checking for potential red flags that could signal nasty surprises if you own the property yourself. Hunt for sketch evidence like:

  • Mapping inconsistencies between actual terrain and boundary surveys provided Get your own just in case something smells fishy to verify corners!
  • Encroaching buildings or questionable improvements from abutting parcels encroaching over the line
  • Physical evidence of unrecorded easements is still being used for access
  • Conditional quirks not obvious from assessor data, title records, or zoning codes at play

While you’re tromping the property, chat up with neighboring residents to get helpful insider perspectives on the land’s past history and any development hassles or disputes they might be aware of regarding the parcel. Folksy anecdotes and memories often provide added context that county documents alone don’t capture.

I still advise treading lightly, presuming full pictures emerge. But obtaining multiple data points helps better triangulate any downsides that could spoil your rural heaven vibes after buying unseen! So inspect in person before money trades with balanced curiosity.

Well, hot damn, look who just got schooled on how to avoid buying doomed land plots with gotchas that only reveal post-purchase, leading to bitterness and frustrated sell-offs! No, thank you! Stick this handy checklist in your tool belt and research extensively BEFORE ownership, not playing cleanup mode afterward.. Learning the hard way through hindsight is overrated and expensive! So get proactively savvy now, friends! Here’s to smooth country living ahead 🥂🏡🚜

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