Buyer’s Guide to Purchasing Raw Land
The ownership of land means different things to different people. Some want to own property for its immediate use, others for use in later years, while still others prefer land ownership for its historic appreciation. Either way, deciding why you want to own land ahead time will make your land shopping experience more enjoyable and more successful.
If you’re someone who prefers lots of space between you and the nearest neighbor and are willing to invest the time and money to develop your land at your own pace, then you should strongly consider purchasing raw land. Raw land means just what it sounds like; it’s in its raw state without connections to power service, municipal water, telephone or sewer. One of the prime advantages of buying raw acreage is its lower cost per acre. Typically unimproved land is sold at three to four times less than the cost of improved land. Buying raw land allows you to enjoy all of the benefits of large parcel ownership in secluded pristine environments at an affordable price.
Raw land is usually found in more remote or rural settings well away from major shopping, services and importantly, utility connections You don’t have to give up your power, phone and water though in order to live off of the grid out in the country. Be sure to thoroughly investigate the following elements of an informed land purchase before buying and the acquisition should go smoothly for you.
Understanding the historic weather conditions for your region of interest is essential to your future enjoyment of the property. It’s easy to research with today’s wealth of statistical weather data available on the internet. If you plan on being self-sufficient, take the time to find land in a climate zone that is the most suitable for year round outdoor activities, the raising of livestock and for growing orchards and gardens. Although it’s rare to find the perfect year round climate, knowing what a given area’s annual weather conditions are will prepare you for each season’s rewards and challenges.
Check with the local county authority as to the property’s zoning to determine what you can and can’t do with the land. Obtain a written copy the county’s zoning ordinances and confirm that the property’s zoning conforms to your intended use. Although variances can be granted to allow non-compliant zoning uses, it’s far better to buy land with the zoning in place for your intended uses than to depend upon the county officials granting you a variance.
Access to clean potable groundwater should be your primary requirement before buying any land. Make sure that the land you buy has the water rights to pure water and that the water table is at an affordable drilling depth. If so, you can enjoy the benefits of owning your own private water supply which can sustain your family’s domestic and irrigation water needs for generations to come. Many states require the developers of large rural tracts of land to provide prospective buyers with a state issued water quality and depth report. Make sure to ask for one before you buy raw land. Review it thoroughly and seek independent corroboration from local drillers.
Although raw land is typically situated in remote rural settings far away from city utility connections, you don’t have to give up your power, phone, water and sewer in order to live off of the grid out in the country. Power generation from modern solar panels, wind generators and gas/propane powered generators are not only highly efficient, they are also very affordable. Today’s cell tower & dish satellite services take care of all common communication needs including phone, internet and television. Waste water disposal is easily handled by the installation of traditional septic tanks or modern self-composting commodes.
It’s not enough to simply have a road to the land that you buy. It must be built along a title insured county recorded easement that will guarantee you legal access to your property without fear of being landlocked. Most rural properties are accessed by dirt surfaced roads which may not receive tax funded maintenance. Dirt roads that do not receive annual maintenance over time become eroded by rain, snow and usage making them impassable. This could mean serious consequences not only for your personal access but for that of delivery trucks and emergency vehicles. Be prepared to maintain the road to your property if no authority has that responsibility. A joint road maintenance agreement with your surrounding neighbors or owning land where a home owners association maintains your access are two practical solutions.
All corners of the land that you buy should be clearly monumented by licensed surveyors and a record of the survey should be recorded with the local county recorder’s office. Ask for a copy of the recorded map and walk the entire perimeter of the land before buying. Doing so will reveal any fencing or building encroachments from neighboring properties as well as any physical defects such as uncrossable washes or ravines.
Almost all property has had multiple ownerships over time. Confirming that past owners have transferred the title forward legally in a title insurable manner is an essential component to your decision buy or step away. Use the services of a registered title insurance company chartered to perform title searches and thoroughly review the preliminary title report they prepare in order to understand the condition of the title to the property. Doing so will prevent you inheriting liens, back taxes or pending judicial actions that could severely impact your use and enjoyment of the property.
Richard Peagler is the Senior Vice President of First United Realty with over 40 years of experience in the development and marketing of Arizona land.