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Buying land, questions

Posted by battyjac (My Page) on
Sun, Nov 11, 12 at 10:41

We found some land we like and are probably going to put an offer on it. There are a couple issues with it we are trying to get resolved before we do that. One, the county has a rule about putting a well and septic on less than 2 acres. It can be grandfathered if it was platted out before 1999. I think it was but I want to know for sure. My realtor is trying to track it down with me. The other realtor "is sure there will be no problem" and got me the number to call to find out. I just get voicemail with no call back. The land is exactly one acre. My realtor is also asking about connecting to the city water. The lot is one pasture away from the city limits, it's in an ETJ.

The other is that it is off a county road with a gravel drive. The drive goes to 5 lots, the one we want is in the middle. There is an easement through those 5 lots. I want to know who is responsible for the drive before the 5 lots and then the drive through each lot. The other realtor said the county is but I'm wondering if that is just the county road part. My husband is concerned about the drive in the rain.

If anyone knows anything about the above, it would be great.

My actual questions are:
We need to build 20% equity in the land. Well, you know I'm sure. 20% of the home plus land. They said sweat equity counts. What types of things can we do to improve the equity without spending a lot of money and without messing up the home site?

The land supposedly has phone and electricity. The surrounding lots have homes on them. I'm not too concerned about the phone. We don't use a landline now for anything but dsl. But I would like to use electricity on the land for things like power equipment for that sweat equity. I've been trying to google but can't figure out how I would go about getting just an electric box on the property. Is that even done?

This is all new to us. We are living in the first house we ever bought but we are rapidly outgrowing it (4 kids and often end up taking in family members). I'm tired of HOAs. We want a 5 bedroom one-story house on land with no HOA so we think building is our best bet. Our realtor agrees. Our friends think we are nuts.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Buying land, questions

I would make any offer contingent on the seller providing you with something in writing from the powers-that-be saying that you can put in well and septic or hook up to city water and sewer.

For power between now and when you've got a house there, have you considered a generator? You'll probably want one for back-up during storms, etc... anyhow.


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RE: Buying land, questions

Buying a lot with no road access and being beholden to others to cooperate with maintenance for you own private road is a BIG BIG hassle. I would NEVER EVER go there. You think dealing with a HOA was a PIA, just wait until you need a new load of gravel or the road graded. No one wants the responsibility of a shared drive.


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RE: Buying land, questions

"The other is that it is off a county road with a gravel drive. The drive goes to 5 lots, the one we want is in the middle. There is an easement through those 5 lots. I want to know who is responsible for the drive before the 5 lots and then the drive through each lot. The other realtor said the county is but I'm wondering if that is just the county road part. My husband is concerned about the drive in the rain. "

You can clarify with your county. Also, try googling your county for their tax assessors site (like "TaxSifter Parcel Search.") They often have maps of the county (aerial view) that show you each property, lot lines, who owns what, what the streets are, etc. This might give you an idea of who owns the gravel drive.

"The land supposedly has phone and electricity. The surrounding lots have homes on them. I'm not too concerned about the phone. We don't use a landline now for anything but dsl. But I would like to use electricity on the land for things like power equipment for that sweat equity. I've been trying to google but can't figure out how I would go about getting just an electric box on the property. Is that even done? "

You can clarify this with the company that supplies the electricity.


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RE: Buying land, questions

You might want to consider consulting with a civil engineer/
land surveyor who could give you all the correrct information re
land development, etc., and the pros and cons of purchase
of this specific piece of property.


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RE: Buying land, questions

If there is not a recorded road easement and maintenance agreement you might not be able to get your loan through underwriting....even if you could I would NEVER purchase a property that didn't have recorded agreements.


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RE: Buying land, questions

I have a copy of the survey with the easements written on it and the parcel number for the county. I just don't know the details. I think it would help if their realtor knew anything about the property other than what is written on the survey.

I will google the tax assessors now. Thank you!!


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RE: Buying land, questions

That really helped, it is county road through the property! So I have to deal with the easement but not the maintenance. I have so much more info now than I did before. You guys rock!


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RE: Buying land, questions

Back to one of your original questions about building up equity in the land--there really isn't a whole lot you can do to increase the land value.

I'm not sure if this is what you were asking about with sweat equity, but even clearing or putting in utilities is not going to increase the land value much from your description.


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RE: Buying land, questions

A 5-bedroom one-story house is going to take up a lot of room on a 1-acre lot that also needs space for a septic system.


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RE: Buying land, questions

I had the same thought as chispa.
1 acre might sound like a lot coming from urban/suburban city life. But, a 1 story with 5 bedrooms (and 3 car garage, and set backs that are larger than in city) and you are looking at a very small lot.


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RE: Buying land, questions

A "power pole" can be installed on the land. Mine is rather short because I have underground electricity. My builders love having it there and I have used it to power a camper and a well for several years before building. I built a cute little brick well house a few years ago. I suppose that and the underground electricity brought a little "equity" into the land.


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RE: Buying land, questions

We recently tore down our old house so we could rebuilt on the same parcel. During the construction loan process, the appraiser added $6,000 of value to the raw land itself due to improvements including 2 driveways, 2 existing water taps, a complete septic system, phone and electrical service. You'd likely spend way more than $6000 getting utilities to the lot in question. Water taps here are $3800 each.

I wouldn't buy any property that shared a gravel driveway with other homeowners. That's just asking for future hostility over upkeep, IMO.


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RE: Buying land, questions

Make sure that soil percs...if it doesn't, no matter what the "grandfather" issue may be, if it doesn't perc you can't build a septic, or the system may have to be so large that it won't fit on your lot...that would be a make or break deal for me. In our area, wetlands are a huge deal, so if there's anything wet already on the property, that will be another big consideration. Also, do you know what the property was prior to this? Was it farm land or something else. These days you have to know what's in the ground as well as what's on it. (I remember when we were looking an agent said what about this fabulous place...fortunately I lived in the area a long time and remembered when they added the skim coat of fill to the lot before they built the house. No way!)

I also would seriously consider buying an existing home over building if my concern was that we were overspilling our current home, as building a custom home can take a long time and it can bring lots of headaches (as well as benefits). If you think you are having a hard time now with trying to get your questions answered, this isn't even the beginning yet. Building will necessarily bring cost overruns. I usually figure it will cost 1/3 more than you think.

I also agree with the others about the shared drive. Yuck.

I think building a home is a labor of love and only worth it if you love building homes, or if you will end up with something that you love due to a unique piece of property or a home design that is unique to your family's needs and can't be gotten elsewhere. If it's available on the market, even if it will need some reno work to become perfect, go for it....


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RE: Buying land, questions

We aren't looking at a huge house, just better designed with more rooms. Most of what we are looking at have been around 2300 sf, actually smaller than our current home. Kind of downsizing but adding more privacy. I'm actually going to look at a modular model home this week so I'm not shooting for huge and fancy.

The shared drive is a county road but it's only 1 lane so still odd. The best part of the property is how close it is to the city (can walk to school, a hospital, community college, and a university and a bike ride from a mall and shopping center. So it's like an island of country. That's why I like it. The septic/well stuff is very intimidating though.

I've been watching the real estate market for a couple years now and only one has been what we wanted. It was snatched up quick.


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RE: Buying land, questions

So did you find out when the land was platted?

In my state (or county), the plat date mattered for setbacks and lots of septic requirements. Like if it was platted before 1980, there was no need for a repair septic field. So the plat date may matter a lot for a number of things. It also speaks to setbacks regarding septic systems.

As far as the land, 1 acre is likely plenty for your house but it really depends on the rules. I would just like to point out that I have built in both city and rural and the city had bigger setback requirements which is different than another poster.

A friend of mine is looking at gravel road land locked property like you describe. It is a county road and our county will pave the road on their dime but all owners have to give a right of way easement. One owner closer to the main road has refused. There is talk that he can be bought but that does open up a whole can of worms - like will the other owners want to be bought also.

Some people are HOA people and some people are gravel road people. Have you thought of a middle ground if that exists in your area? Of course I know nothing of your area and I am probably an HOA person. But there is no way no how I would consider an "island of country" with only an acre. Especially with 4 kids. Can you say barking dogs all night long? Can you say party with outdoor music until 2 am? RVs and boats parked on the property? Harley driver next door that goes to work at 4:30am?

Of course building and doing some DIY with 4 kids speaks to a kind of insanity that no gravel road can fix. Just go in with eyes wide wide open and a spouse that totally agrees 100%.


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RE: Buying land, questions

"The shared drive is a county road but it's only 1 lane so still odd."

If it makes you feel better, there are countless county roads that fit that description around me. It isn't uncommon.

If possible, I would try to talk to at least one of the neighbors on that gravel road. Ask them the positives and negatives to living there. Is it noisy? Are there issues with the easement? etc. Also, check your county codes.... read them..... know what the different nuisance ordinances are, what set backs are, etc. While I live in the county on 1.5 ac. with nearby neighbors, it is dead quiet at night. Part of that is a county ordinance that noise can't travel more than 75 feet and part of that is it's just a lot of family homes with polite neighbors.


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RE: Buying land, questions

I haven't heard when it was platted yet. Dang county people took Veteran's Day off!

I did find out the well would be 18-40K and the septic 18-26k! Ouch! So we have a lot of thinking to do and I'm still looking.

I've done the HOA thing for 10 years and looked into the "estates" near here. My biggest issue with that is I do wildlife rehab and want to be able to do outdoor caging. HOA's don't like that. And I want chickens.

My kids are pretty spaced out agewise (2-13) so it's not like I have a bunch of tiny ones.


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RE: Buying land, questions

We just bought 8 acres in the country. A few things that we had to figure out was if the well was functioning (it wasn't, so we had to drill a new one), we had to determine who was responsible for closing the old well, get a new septic system, dig the electric out, do an easement for the road and determine who's responsible for maintaining it. I'd also contact whomever you need for a building permit to determine if there are restrictions for that. We were able to get by without any, but only because of the size and location of the lot.


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RE: Buying land, questions

How much you can fit on the land depends on other factors too like its shape and slope. Some municipalities impose floor and development area limits that are based on the size and shape of your lot. Be sure to check local rules on setbacks too.

I have a gently sloped, square-ish acre. It has a very large 4-bedroom side-split ranch house on it, about 4300 sqft upstairs including 3-car garage, and about 1700sqft of unfinished space (3 bedrooms, a bathroom and storage area) downstairs. The house has a septic tank/field and at one point had a swimming pool.

We are going to be razing most of it for a new build (5-bedroom + study + playroom) commencing soon. We have not found the lot to have inhibited us very much, but we are fortunate in that its size and gentle slope has afforded us a generous floor/development area. Working within the setbacks has proven the most challenging - since our location requires 4 parking spaces provided for inside all setbacks, and forbids backup space for any of these extending into the setbacks.


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RE: Buying land, questions

My town doesn't allow chickens.....

My first thought is that if you want outdoor animals, 1 acre is a little limiting but I understand the location is great.

Wow - that is very high on the well/septic side. Here we can do a well for $8k and a conventional septic can be as low as $6k.


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RE: Buying land, questions

We just made an offer today on 27 acres and I did my homework before making the offer....$7,500.00 for the well, pressure tank, and control box and $5,000.00 for the septic with good old lateral lines. We have been in a subdivision for 13 years and our water and sewer bills are sometimes $150.00 a month.


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