Buying Homes on Acreage – Avoiding the Pitfalls
Buying homes with acreage involves serious considerations, particularly when the home is on land or lots that are not part of a formal, recorded subdivision. A completed subdivision represents months and sometimes years of planning, engineering, construction and inspections before the finished lots are ready for building or sales. The water lines, sewers, drainage, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and streets are usually completed.
In contrast, “acreage” is just that – acreage that may or may not have county/city-maintained water lines, sewers, drainage, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and streets or even legal access to the property.
Here is how I make sure my buyers are getting a home on a valid building site:
1. I structure the purchase contract to insure that the purchase is subject to a proper due diligence period. In other words, the seller must allow you and me time to confirm that the parcel is or was a valid building site and that the home was constructed according to proper standards. Our purchase agreement allows a due diligence period of 17 days or more. By the end of that time it is likely that you & I will know more about that property than the owner does!
2. Once we have an accepted offer you and I schedule a day to go to the various city/county agencies to determine the status and validity of that acreage. I go with you to make sure that the right questions are asked and answers are obtained. This is serious business. When that day is over we will have most of the information we will need to satisfy ourselves that we have a valid parcel and we will know, within reason, the following important bits of information:
a.) Building Permits – We will get into the county records for the specific property and confirm not only that there were building permits issued, we will confirm that final inspections were signed off.
b.) Water - We will either have piped water or a domestic well. In the case of a well we will need to know the output, potability, etc. (there are minimum requirements)
c.) Sewer - Where is the sewer line, what are the monthly costs, are there bonds, etc.? If a sewer was not available or was too expensive we will have a septic system. We will need to determine the location, condition, correct capacity, etc.
d.) Drainage/Grading - We will determine whether or not we are in a flood zone and if so what are the mitigating measures and costs. We will confirm what the grading requirements were when the home was built and were they satisfied.
e.) Utilities –What are they, where are they, what are the costs.
f.) Property Boundaries - Fences rarely define the actual boundaries of a parcel. We will confirm those boundaries either with a survey or by accepting the Seller’s definition. The choice will be yours after I explain the pluses & minuses.
g.) Fire & Police Protection - Crucial and easily confirmed
h.) Schools & Community Amenities - These too are easily confirmed
3. After our due diligence work is complete we will begin to deal with financing of the purchase. I can recommend several local lenders but the final choice is yours. I do not accept any fees, commissions, points, etc., from lenders. I don’t even let them take me to lunch. I want no hint of a conflict of interest.
4. Once you are comfortable with all the requirements and costs we are ready to proceed with closing.
Bear in mind, if at any time in the due diligence process you do not like the results of our investigation and you make your concerns known before expiration of the due diligence period, you will be able to get your deposit back less any funds expended on your behalf.
In all these 44+ years full-time in the business, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times a due diligence investigation did not pan out. So rest assured if we find the property that suits you and when we complete our investigation you will have a property that you can enjoy without worrying about those bureaucratic stumbling blocks.
If you are not comfortable with our investigation we go get another property.