As a registered real estate agent and forester, I have some qualifications to write about buying and selling rural real estate, primarily land. I have sold millions of acres as a real estate agent and managed millions of acres as a ranger since 1973.
If you are considering buying rural land, this article can help you with some good advice and information. The points below will give you basic information and an idea of what to look for and consider when purchasing land.
Land type. Do you want a farm, lumber land, development potential, home site, hunting, agricultural use? A tract of land can rarely be all of this. Think about what you plan and search from there. Of course, most tracts will have multiple uses, but sometimes you have to consider local usage restrictions.
Access. Hopefully you have road frontage for access. Some extensions may have only one easement. If so, look at the layout of the deeded easement and the width of the easement. A 20′ wide access easement to a property that you later want to develop is a significant negative factor if the county requires, for example, a 50′ wide access easement for a street.
utilities. Water, of course, is essential, but for drinking and for livestock. Is there an accessible waterline? If not, what are the costs of a well drilled in the area and are there water quality issues in the groundwater? Will there be water in a drought? Is there a stream for cattle and does it flow year round? Does anyone have the water rights? Is there electrical power available? Internet, cable, cell phone or landline? Easy to check now, difficult or impossible to achieve later.
Property income. As a ranger I know the value of wood. When looking for rural land, take a good look at the timber and, if there is a sizable amount, have it evaluated for you by a local consulting forester. I have seen lumber worth as much as 3/4 of the value of a property’s sales price, even in recent years. Make sure your purchase contract states that the existing lumber goes with the sale. It may have already been sold! Look for other potential income, such as hunting leases, which can easily pay for property taxes and lower administration costs. There are also agricultural leases. Always make sure the deed to the land includes all mineral rights.
Make an offer. Find out what the local sales have been on similar and nearby land. If you are not using a buyer’s representation real estate agent, you may want to consider one. Your fee is usually paid from the seller’s funds, but not always, so check this out. Check to see if land values are going up or down in the area. Allow yourself inspection time and the right to go to the property yourself or others you hire to do the inspections. Give yourself a way out of the contract if the inspections fail. Make sure wood and minerals are included. Don’t go low ball trying to steal the deal, you’ll only make the seller angry. Make a viable and fair offer and go from there.
Closure. Use a real estate attorney to verify the title and close. They will know what to look for in deeds, easements, and liens on the property. Ask the vendor any questions that have occurred to him and if he has any reports, old plates, and maps that he may have. Ask about the history of the land before it is lost, as you may never see the seller again if he moves.