You've been running yourself ragged trying to buy a new home. You've lost count of the homes you've seen. By now, you scoff at home-buying reality shows in which a buyer sees three houses and picks their favorite.
If there's always something missing when you tour homes for sale, why not start from scratch? The only way to get everything you want in a house may be to buy land and build a new home.
This may sound like an easier route, but that doesn't mean you should take it for granted. If you're buying land, follow these tips to help you find that perfect parcel.
Tips for Buying Land
Mason City is in the middle of an upswing, and many residents are getting in on the ground floor by buying land. If you're taking that route, don't forget these essential tips.
1. Don't Skimp on Your Real Estate Agent
Some people make the mistake of thinking that when your buying land alone instead of land plus a house, there is less to negotiate. They believe this makes for an easy sale, so why spend money on a real estate agent?
This can be a serious mistake. Buying land is still an important purchase that can come back to bite you financially.
A real estate agent can make sure you're getting a good deal on the land. They can also ensure that your contracts protect you well and follow standard practices rather than containing fine print "gotchas."
Your best bet is to hire a real estate agent who specializes in land sales. They'll know how to guide you through the process and advocate on your behalf.
2. Don't Buy a Liening Tower
One of the most important ways to research property is to find out if it has any property liens.
A lien essentially turns the land into involuntary collateral for an unpaid debt. One of the most common reasons a property could have a lien is because the current owner has unpaid tax debts.
In this case, the creditor must petition the court who can agree to place a lien on the property.
If you find the perfect piece of land but it has a lien, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to walk away. It can complicate the process though, so your real estate agent can review the details and give you guidance.
3. Get In the Zone
If you aren't familiar with real estate, you may not give zoning a thought. If land is your property, you should be able to build whatever you want on it, right?
Not quite. Each property is zoned for a specific purpose, like residential or commercial.
There is a common trend in cities for real estate developers to turn old industrial areas into trendy residential neighborhoods. In areas like this, you may find that your land is zoned for commercial use.
It is possible to rezone your property for the purpose you want. However, it adds a long and tricky process to your build. There are no guarantees that your local zoning board will grant your request, either.
This is another question for your real estate agent. They'll be able to see how the property is zoned and counsel you about whether they think you could rezone it successfully.
4. Get Your Own Survey
A land survey is a crucial part of doing your due diligence before buying land. What if the current owner had a survey done last year, though? You can trust that survey, right?
Hold your horses.
There are two problems with this. First, you don't know anything about the previous surveyor. You have no way of knowing whether their work is trustworthy.
Second, you don't have the legal right to rely on that survey.
When an owner gets a land survey, the certificate only guarantees accuracy to them because their name is on the certificate. If you find out that this survey is inaccurate, you have no legal recourse against the surveyor because they only guaranteed accuracy to the previous owner.
Instead, always get your own survey and make sure it lists your name on the certificate.
5. Bring In a Builder
The whole purpose of buying land and building a new home is to get the exact features you want. It would be heartbreaking to buy a plot and then discover that it won't accommodate your dream home.
If you've already selected a builder and house plan, have the builder look at the property you're considering. There may be restrictions you aren't aware of, such as the distance you need between your home and the edge of the property.
Your builder will be able to tell you if a parcel of land is suitable for the home you've chosen.
Even if you haven't chosen a plan yet, bring out a builder anyway. They can tell you the types of limitations you'll face with any particular property. This could be a dealbreaker or it can guide you as you select your house plans in the future.
6. Insure That Title
Everyone knows about homeowner's insurance. If you're a first-time buyer, though, you may not know about title insurance.
In a nutshell, title insurance protects you from problems dealing with the property purchase. This could include liens on the property, undisclosed defects in the land, and even survey disputes.
As with any type of insurance, there are varying levels of coverage based on how much you pay. Your real estate agent can advise you about the level of coverage you'll want with any particular piece of land.
7. Evaluate the Pros and Cons of Tear-Downs
Buying bare land isn't the only way to get bare land. If you're having trouble finding the parcel you want, you could expand your search by looking at properties with tear-down homes.
Before you do this, though, make sure you weigh the pros and cons. Being open to a tear-down could give you far more options. It could also save you money if there are parts of the home you can re-use, like the foundation or sewer system.
On the other hand, it could cost you more money in the long run.
It costs money to demolish a house. If that old sewer system and foundation aren't usable, it will also cost money to remove them before you can replace them with new ones.
It's all a matter of how much hassle and expense you're willing to go through for the perfect location.
8. Find Out About the Road Maintenance
Some people assume all roads are public property and that their city or state maintains them. It's a rude awakening, then, if you buy land and discover that you're responsible for the road that accesses it.
In some subdivisions, you may need to use a private road to access your home. This means you and your neighbors are responsible for maintaining the road, including snow removal and repairs.
As you're researching a property, find out whether it comes with that added requirement. This may not be a deal-breaker, but you need to know what you're signing up for.
9. Channel Your Inner Fortune Teller
We know you can't predict the future. You can get some solid clues by knowing how to inspect a property, though.
Certain features can point to future problems on your land, especially when it comes to the weather.
For instance, let's say your property is at the bottom of a hill. That hill has little vegetation to anchor the dirt. If you get a heavy storm, this could cause a dangerous and damaging mudslide.
Another common problem to watch for is a flood risk. If your land is lower in the area where you plan to build your home, you're putting yourself at risk for flooding.
This doesn't mean you should pass up any parcel that isn't perfectly level. However, it could mean that you should consider taking protective measures.
A retaining wall may keep you safe from mudslides. It may be worth your expense to level your land to avoid flooding. You might always choose to buy specialized insurance like flood insurance.
10. Learn About the Neighbors
No matter where you are, neighbors make the neighborhood. Sometimes they can make a neighborhood miserable.
Take a look around to see if there are any neighbors that may make life harder at your new property.
For instance, if you're surrounded by farms, you could be dealing with some smells and pesticides. If you're next to a wooded area, find out if local hunters tend to frequent that woods.
If your parcel is surrounded by other empty plots, it's a good idea to find out if any of them have been purchased. If a pig farm just bought the next plot over but hasn't built yet, you might choose to move along.
Making Your Dream Home
There's a saying in real estate that the three most important factors are location, location, and location.
It's true that location is crucial and that Mason City has plenty of great plots of land to offer. However, there are many other factors you need to consider in your search too. Use the tips above to find the perfect place for your dream home.
To start looking for properties, check out our Mason City real estate listings.