When you hear the term “unrestricted land,” you may not know what to think initially.
While unrestricted land means that the land doesn’t have the same restrictions that a homeowner’s association (HOA) may impose, that doesn’t mean that it’s free of restrictions altogether.
Before you purchase unrestricted land, read below!
You must know these 11 things before you jump in.
1. What is unrestricted land?
At first glance, “unrestricted land” may sound like you can do whatever you so please with it.
Unfortunately, a plot of land may not have any direct restrictions from an HOA.
However, there are still a variety of restrictions that may apply.
The most popular types of restrictions that you should note include deed restrictions, easements, and county zoning regulations.
We’ll further discuss how this can impact your
2. How do deed restrictions come into play?
Deed restrictions are written agreements that limit the use or activities that take place on property in a subdivision.
The purpose of deed restrictions is to preserve the character of the property by keeping out commercial and industrial facilities.
We’ll walk you through some of the common deed restrictions you may run into.
This could have to do with architectural aesthetics, roof colors, fences, mailbox styles, space between homes, etc.
Deed restrictions for unrestricted land may also mean that the property can only be used for single-family homes.
Be wary of this if your intentions are rooted in business.
You’ll want to know what could restrict you after you’ve purchased the land.
Some deed restrictions can limit the type and number of animals you can have on your land.
Commonly, this would apply to livestock, such as goats, chickens, and pigs.
Even outside of HOA-controlled neighborhoods, this type of deed restriction is common.
So, don’t purchase land flippantly and expect to open up some sort of farm.
A deed restriction can easily prohibit certain breeds of pets, a certain number of pets on the property, or where pets are kept (inside versus outside).
Deed restrictions can often prevent you from conducting any business in your home or on your property.
This type of restriction is often made to limit the amount of traffic in residential areas.
In addition to the structural limits that deed restrictions place on a home, there may also be limits on external structures.
If you plan to add extra garages, detached workshops, pools, or pool houses, then it’s worth checking on the deed restrictions of the property.
These always have the potential to limit your property.
There are often deed restrictions on certain types of vehicles.
For example, motor homes, motorcycles, and boats are some of the most common deed restrictions to unrestricted land.
Additionally, if you have a non-working car, you may be prohibited from storing it in front of the property.
3. What are easement restrictions?
An easement allows someone to use a piece of your property for a specific use.
For example, an access easement allows the easement holder to use a portion of your land to access their property.
This kind of easements often shows up if a neighbor has landlocked property.
Other common easements are as follows:
Building setback lines
Ariel easements for power lines
If there is an easement on your property, you cannot prevent the easement holder from using your property as allowed under the agreement.
You may also be restricted from building or developing on the easement if this will to prevent the easement holder from using the easement as intended.
Keep in mind that easements can be difficult to find if they are not listed in your deed; however, your title company should be able to research them for you.
They will then generally list all easements as exceptions in your policy if you purchase title insurance.
Bottom line, when you’re doing due diligence on unrestricted land, be sure to discuss all of the following potential easements and how they may impact the property with your real estate agent or attorney.
4. Can zoning restrictions impact the land you purchase?
Local zoning restrictions dictate how properties are used and developed.
Your land may be advertised as unrestricted but that doesn’t mean that local zoning regulations won’t impact how it can be used.
If it’s zoned as “residential,” you won’t be able to use it for commercial purposes.
To find the zoning regulations for a property, you can call your local zoning office, city hall, or other local planning board to obtain a copy of your local ordinance or discuss your property’s zoning designation.
While most local jurisdictions do have zoning ordinances in place, there are some counties, such as Hampshire County, WV, that do not.
So, if you want truly unrestricted land, you should research counties in your area that do not have any zoning regulations.
For other key land buying due diligence items, you may also want to take a look at our video below.
5. How can the neighborhood impact the value of your property?
Unrestricted land sounds great when you first read about it online.
However, it’s crucial to remember that, if your land is unrestricted, then your neighbor’s land is likely unrestricted too.
Think about how their land can impact the value of your property if they don’t treat it as well as you do.
Here’s what we mean.
Without an HOA, there’s nothing stopping homeowners from turning their lots into a pseudo-junkyard.
They may have multiple cars rusting away in plain sight.
They may have numerous trailers or RVs, or they may just have a property that lacks general curb appeal.
While it’s everyone’s right to do what they wish with their property, it’s also difficult when someone else’s property appearance can affect the value of yours.
It’s not a bad idea to drive by neighboring properties while you’re looking at land and note the general upkeep.
You’ll likely have to deal with neighbors, and they can either enhance your property, or they can be a property value drainer.
All this to say, if you’re planning to buy several acres, it may not be an issue.
In that case, you’d be unlikely to see your neighbor at all.
6. What should you know before building on unrestricted land?
Even if a parcel of land has no HOA or zoning restrictions, the local municipality or county may still require you to build according to their local building code.
This will also mean that you will need a building permit in order to build.
Building codes are often not incredibly restrictive when it comes to allowable uses, but there may be limits on the kinds of building materials you can use.
For example, it’s often hard to get permission to build a unique kind of structure, such as a straw bale or container home.
There may also be requirements around minimum home sizes or permanent foundations, which will limit your ability to place a tiny home, camper, trailer or RV on the lot.
Also, as discussed above, a lot with deed restrictions on it will also likely have certain provisions regulating the type of structure that can be placed on the lot.
7. What should you know about tree removal?
For anyone who has lived in a neighborhood with an HOA, you know that there are often restrictions on tree removals.
However, these restrictions may also exist on vacant lots of unrestricted land.
This limitation is often in the form of an agreement made years ago between neighbors.
The agreement would be binding – even after ownership passes to you – and would prohibit the number of trees that can be removed from the property.
Sometimes the agreement may also forbid only a certain type of tree from being removed from the property.
If your plans for the property are contingent on tree removal, it’s important to know what types of limitations may exist for the property before you buy it.
8. Can deed restrictions be changed?
Deed restrictions are attached to the property in question.
Generally, this means that they cannot be changed or removed by subsequent owners.
However, there are a few ways that deed restrictions can be terminated.
The beneficiary of the deed restriction executes a release in writing.
The expiration date has passed.
Some deed restrictions have a built-in expiration date.
If that date has passed, you’re good to go!
A judge voids the deed restrictions.
If no one is enforcing the deed restrictions (i.e. the original Homeowner’s Association is defunct) or the restrictions seem outdated, you can seek a judge’s ruling to have them removed from the property.
Condemnation, or the taking of private property for public use.
When a property is condemned, deed restrictions are often wiped out to ensure that the public entity can use the property for the intended public use.
9. Do all unrestricted lands have deed restrictions?
After reading about all the ways that unrestricted land may be restricted – especially through deed restrictions – you may be hesitant to pursue unrestricted land at all.
However, it’s important to remember that unrestricted land may not have deed restrictions at all.
It is possible for the land to be entirely free of limitations.
So, if you have the right zoning restrictions and get the proper permits, then you’ll be able to build any style of home you’d like.
Don’t let the concept of deed restrictions stop you!
10. What is the best use of unrestricted land?
Here are a few that you may enjoy looking into.
A homestead is a place where a person and/or family cultivates the land and attempts to be self-sufficient.
Thus, you’d likely grow your own food, raise livestock, and live off of the land.
You could also choose to live entirely off-the-grid with solar power as your primary source of energy.
For anyone looking to live in a mobile home, you’ll find that unrestricted land is your best bet.
In general, HOAs do not allow mobile homes on the property.
Many HOAs won’t even allow you to park or store your RV on your lot, much less live full-time in an RV.
So, you will need a parcel of land free of HOA restrictions if you want to bring your RV to your property.
However, keep in mind that many states and localities do not allow full-time RV living outside of designated RV parks and campsites.
So, do your research!
Unrestricted land is often the best way to live the tiny home life – unless you want to buy a plot in an existing tiny home community.
The most difficult part of owning a tiny house is deciding where to build it because of varying state laws and regulations.
Because tiny homes are still so new, the building codes in most states and localities haven’t been amended to allow for them.
This is especially true of tiny homes on wheels, which are classified as RVs and face the same restrictions on full-time living mentioned above for RVs.
Looking for another use for your unrestricted land?
Consider farming, timber sales, or livestock raising.
Even if you’re not using these for homesteading, they can be a great way to provide for yourself and your family.
Of course, before jumping into any of the above uses, you’ll want to ensure that local laws and zoning regulations allow you to do what you are looking to do with the property.
11. How do I find unrestricted land?
Unrestricted land is often advertised just like other pieces of land.
Unrestricted land is attractive to buyers because it can be used for so many purposes, so agents often advertise it right in the description.
You’ll see these lots sell quickly, so jump on them if unrestricted land is what you’re after.
What’s most important when you’re finding unrestricted land is doing your due diligence before you settle on it.
As we’ve noted in this blog, “unrestricted” land can have restrictions on it, especially through the deed.
These restrictions are often permanent because they’ve been in place for years.
You don’t want to get stuck with a parcel of land you can’t use for your intended purpose!
If you need a few tips to help you get started with the search, check out our video below:
While unrestricted land can be a great find, it’s up to you and your due diligence to make sure there aren’t any hidden restrictions or limitations.
Between zoning regulations, deed restrictions, and other local laws, it’s up to you to determine if a lot is truly “unrestricted.”
It’s worth it to do the research now.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.
For more information on buying, selling, or investing in vacant land, check out our other resources below.
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If you are looking to buy affordable land, you can check out our Listings page.
If you are interested in land investing, you can check out our article on How to Get Started in Land Investing.
And if you are looking to sell land, visit our page on how to Sell Your Land.
If you are looking for Free Land, check out our free land giveaway.
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.