DON'T MAKE THE MISTAKE OF BUYING BAD PROPERTY
I love to look at property and explore the possibilities of what can be done with a home or lot or even acreage. Its exciting, and I have the habit of quickly falling in love with something. Its important to take a step back and look at it objectively.
People fall into the trap of bad property all the time. Searching for that perfect piece is a daunting task and takes some time. You might visit and search for 100’s of listings to find one that works for your needs.
Once you think you have found that ground that you want to set your roots in there are several elements that you need to investigate.
The first is you need to explore whether there are any deed restrictions on the property. During closing you will often perform a title search. This just makes sure that the property can be sold to you, it might not pick up any red flags regarding restrictions on the deed.
These restrictions determine how the property can be used. They can be anything from restricting the number of rooms you can add to the house to the size and materials that can be used. The style and even paint color. Whether you can have pets, can you rent your home if you had to.
Once you look into the possible restrictions on the property now we can explore the site itself. How is the topography? If you are building a house will you have adequate ways of keeping water away from your home. Are you in a low spot in the neighborhood. The last house I owned was in a neighborhood with 50’s style houses. They were small single level ranch style homes, but the neighborhood was transitioning. Homes were being torn down to build larger 2 story homes with basements. The lots were relatively flat so working in basments were hard. What the builders were doing was they would build up the site dramatically so they could fit a basement in and still stay under the 35’ height restriction of the neighborhood. What this did was, it altered the water flow and eventually lead to a river running through our yard. There were several occasions when our yard flooded. Our house never got wet but it came pretty close and it did some damage to the landscaping. But my point to the story is don’t just look at your lot in isolation. Think about it in the context of the overall neighborhood. How will your neighbors impact you.
In addition to look at topography, research to see if the house is in a flood zone. What is the property zoning? Are there any zoning restrictions. What are the building setbacks? If you are planning on adding a second story to the home after you buy it, is the house currently within the setback? Is the house restricted to a certain height?
In a lot of neighborhoods houses were built many years ago. To control the building and maintain some consistency the government started creating zoning districts. They created blanketed rules on setbacks, lot coverage etc. Your house could have been built before all those rules so you could be in violation when you go to change something. So if you go to add on to a house that is over the setback line your project will be halted in the zoning department and you will have to begin the fairly long process of asking for a variance.
Another thing to think about is does your lot have any easements. Are there any power, gas or sewer lines that run through the property. I have worked on many projects that have easements on the property. You would be surprised at how often utilities are running directly through someone else's property.
If you are buying in a rural area or an abandoned neighborhood development. Something you saw a lot during the recession. Are utilities available? How much will it cost to get utilities to where you want them? Will you need to build or dig a well? Is there rock below the surface that will make that difficult?
Will you have city sewer available or will you have to build septic? Interesting story about doing some extra exploring. Agent listing are not always correct so you will need to verify the things that you feel are important to you. I know a couple that purchased a home. The listing said the home was on county or city sewer. The house was located on a major road and everything would indicate that the house was on city services. Well, the back yard started to sink in one area and a hole eventually caved in revealing their septic system. Obviously the system was so old and damaged that it had to be replace entirely. That was not an expense they were planning for and they would have worked in that to the purchase of the home if they would have known.
Do you want a gas range or fireplace? Is gas available, because if not you might be looking at a propane tank.
My point is that just because it looks like services are available does not mean they are. Call the local suppliers and verify the cost and availability to your property.
Another important thing I look for when searching for property is cell service. Stand on the property and look at your cell phone. Do you have good service? My last house was near a small airport, so I think the towers were limited. It was very difficult to get cell service and most everything is going in the mobile direction now. We don't even have a home phone.
The last thing I wanted to say is
“Building a house and buying property is exciting. When you find that perfect lot after searching and searching, you will feel like it could slip away at any moment. You have to act now. Take a step back and really look at the property critically. Understand its limitations and its advantages. Make an informed decision.”