Alright, so you’re currently pursuing your dream of owning land and are looking to buy land online.
If your first question is, “Is it safe to buy land online?” then you’re not alone!
But buying land online can be easier than you think.
You have all the tools in front of you; you just have to know how to use them.
In this blog, we’ll talk you through the process of buying land online.
Let’s get started.
1. Make a plan
Like any major purchase, having a plan makes buying land online that much easier.
You should answer some basic questions for yourself before you start your search, so you understand exactly what you’re looking for.
Am I looking for urban land or rural land?
Buying urban land is an entirely different experience than purchasing rural land.
Rural land is attractive because it’s often far less expensive.
However, you must make sure you understand certain local and regional factors (terrain, climate, access, utility availability etc.).
What is my intended use for the land?
Do I want to build on the land?
Do I want to use it for farming or ranching?
Do I want to use it for timberland?
The answer to this question can help to narrow your search to find the right parcel of land.
What is my budget?
While vacant or undeveloped land might be cheaper, it will also cost a lot more to build on.
Do you have the time and resources to add features like road access, water, sewage, electricity hookups, etc.?
Who will I ask for help and assistance in this search?
If you’re not an experienced land buyer, no worries!
Everyone has to start somewhere.
However, if you want to buy land online, you want it to be an informed decision.
Who else can be part of your team?
Is anyone in your inner circle knowledgeable about this topic?
Will you hire a local real estate attorney or land agent?
Even if you won’t do that until you’re well past doing due diligence on the land, it’s helpful to know how they’ll be incorporated into the process.
2. Start your search
Ready to get started?
It can feel strange to just jump in and start looking to buy land online.
But, at the same time, the Internet boasts so many online marketplaces specifically for this purpose.
Some examples include:
These websites (just a taste of what’s out there on the Internet!) allow you to use search filters to narrow by price, acreage, property type, and location.
Once you find a property for sale that you love, you’ll be able to contact the land sellers via individual land listing pages to get more information or to schedule a viewing.
3. Find the right piece of land
Buying land online (especially raw land) can be tricky.
You don’t want to buy land just because it’s cheap, and believe us, there’s plenty of cheap land for sale out there.
You want to make sure that it will work for your purposes.
As you narrow down your search, we suggest you remember these factors.
Is there anything more important in real estate than location?
Living off the grid sounds great until you can’t find a grocery store or gas station within 50 miles.
And even if you’re okay with that, you still have future buyers to think about.
However, even the most remote parcels of land have value.
Just make sure you are buying at a reasonable price!
Before you buy land online, it’s important to check with city, county, and state zoning ordinances.
People sometimes get big dreams of buying land and building a home or a business when it’s not possible because of the zoning regulations.
Make sure that current zoning and building regulations will allow you to do what you would like to do on the lot.
You should also carefully examine any future plans that the government has that could impact the land.
Will there be any new highways built?
What about power plants?
If these developments are coming in the next couple of years and will drastically affect your ability to use the land, then it may be best to pass.
Conversely, new developments could also increase the value of the lot.
It just depends on what is being built.
Unless you have a background in topography (as a farmer or geologist), you may not look at these land features immediately.
Yet, this can be a “make or break” when it comes to your decision.
What type of soil does your land have?
How many trees does the land have?
What is the elevation or flatness of the terrain?
These features can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful project.
For example, if you buy land online with hard, rocky soil then you may have difficulty building a basement or growing crops.
If you buy a property in wetlands, it may be protected by regulations preventing you from building on it.
Topography is worth taking a look at!
Any land you buy online should be easy to access.
That means you want to avoid having to go through someone else’s private property in order to get to your own.
If you are required to pass through a neighbor’s property, this ultimately means you’ll have to obtain an easement (official legal permission).
This can be a hassle and something people sometimes struggle to obtain.
If you won’t be able to get an easement to your property, then it may not be worth buying the land to begin with.
If your land doesn’t come with access to electricity, water, sewage, or other utility services, then it can be quite the investment to bring utility services to your property.
Make sure you investigate whether these exist.
If they don’t, what might it cost you to bring them to the property?
Sometimes it’s enough of a hassle that it’s worth walking away altogether.
4. Have the financial piece handled
The financial component of buying land online can be complex.
Hopefully, you’ve set a budget, but you should also know that most land purchases are done in cash.
This is because lenders are less inclined to provide funds for undeveloped land.
Yes, don’t expect to get a loan!
You should take a look at the amount of cash you currently have or can secure before a purchase.
This is your actual budget.
You should also consider proof of funds when making a cash offer so that the seller feels confident in your ability to pay.
This serves the same purpose as a mortgage preapproval when purchasing a house.
If your cash is currently tied up in other investments, you should take it out prior to making your land purchase to avoid any sudden loss of funds.
5. Consider the value of other homes in the neighborhood
If you are looking to buy land online in order to build a house, you will want to compare the cost to construct with the average value of homes in the area.
If the cost of construction is less than the property’s projected post-construction value, it may not make sense to purchase.
You will also want to make sure that, whatever your vision is for your property, it fits with the surrounding area.
Some things you may want to consider when looking at the neighborhood and surrounding properties include:
How well do the neighbors maintain their properties?
Is the property on an HOA? If so, what are the covenants and restrictions?
If you are buying hunting land, what are the local hunting rules and regulations? Do neighbors practice proper game management techniques?
If you are looking for a secluded getaway, does there seem to be a lot of activity on the neighboring properties?
Are you near or adjacent to public lands? Do you see this as an asset or a liability?
What is the condition of the surrounding roads? Do you need well-maintained roads or are you ok with 4×4 access?
How far away are the nearest grocery stores, hospitals, etc? How close do you need to be to these amenities?
What is the local school district rating? Does this matter to you?
Are there any plans for major development projects in the upcoming years? Is this good or bad for you?
Don’t jump the gun just because everything looks good.
The neighborhood should fit the bill as well.
6. Consider incentives
Consider the incentives that a local government may offer in the form of tax breaks or easy planning approval for building.
This often comes into play in areas impacted by wildfires or coastal towns affected by hurricanes.
The incentives make it attractive to replace badly damaged houses.
However, these incentives can also work for new buyers (like you) as well.
In addition, some cities and towns will provide free land to people willing to relocate and build a house.
All that said, you should take advantage of those incentives as quickly as possible.
Buy land to build on not to hold onto.
7. Go through all the research, inspections, tests, and surveys
In many ways, this process is just like buying a home.
You need to do background research on the house, get an inspection, and make sure that everything is in top shape before you buy.
Depending on the value of the parcel and where you are buying, a plot of land may also need to be subjected to tests and checks.
This way, you know exactly what you’re buying.
Don’t skip out on any research, inspections, tests, or surveys that may need to be done.
That information is valuable as the new property owner!
If you are buying a parcel of land in a highly developed area or for the purpose of building a commercial building, you will likely want to run a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment.
This assessment checks for potential contamination from previous uses.
For example, if a former auto body shop was on the premise, then the land is more likely to have contaminated soil and it may not be suitable for a residential home.
Furthermore, an environmental assessment can check to see if the land is prone to flooding or if it has poor soil conditions.
This can help indicate whether the land is a good investment for building.
Keep in mind that this test should be performed and interpreted by a professional.
While a real estate agent will have knowledge or insight, they do not have the technical knowledge about the results to make an interpretation about what may or may not be a good investment.
A survey is a professional drawing that outlines the exact boundaries of a property (along with the dimensions, locations of any home, structures, easements, or additions located on the property).
Before you buy land online, you may want to have a land surveyor come out to your potential property and identify the boundaries.
If the land is in a neighborhood that has been vacant for years, there’s a decent chance that neighbors may have (intentionally or unintentionally) encroached on your property lines).
If you are buying land specifically for the purpose of farming, you will want a full soil report drawn up to ensure that the land will be productive.
This can also be a good idea if you are buying land to build on since the engineer will ultimately need a soil analysis in order to design the foundation.
If you are buying rural property and are not looking to farm, many of these reports may not be necessary.
Still, take a minute to think about what you need to know in order to make an informed decision.
8. Avoid sharing too much with the neighbors
While you may want to talk to the neighbors to get a feel for the area, you probably don’t want to share all of your plans for your future property.
Why? Because any change you make to your property (i.e. building a home) will be a change to your neighbor’s status quo, which can be upsetting.
You may not mean any harm, but letting them know your plans can allow them to build up opposition against you.
Move in, build your home or do any work on the land you’re planning to do, and then become friends with the neighbors.
They don’t need to know every move you’re going to make.
9. Steer clear of “rezoning” conversations
Earlier we discussed how drastically zoning can impact your ability to develop the land you buy online.
Some buyers hope to circumvent this through the rezoning process.
We’re here to tell you not to waste your time.
Rarely does this happen, and it’s often best to keep your visions within existing limits.
If you know that land doesn’t have the right zoning for what you want to do with it, then it’s often best to keep looking until you find a parcel that does.
Are you ready to buy land online?
It can feel like a complex process, especially if this is your first time!
Yet, finding your dream parcel is well within your reach.
There are numerous resources on the Internet that can help you narrow down your search and help you make an informed decision.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.