Friday, June 20, 2008

Vacant Lot Myths

There’s a utility pole on the corner of the lot I’m buying. I have power for my home … right?

Yes … maybe. Just because there is a power pole on your property doesn’t mean you have access to it, or that there aren’t significant extra costs to use it. Depending on how many homes are drawing from that pole/transformer and where you place your home on your lot, you could be faced with substantial additional costs. Check it out with the Power Company.

Since the pole is there, we have “all utilities” … right?

No. You should be looking for phone and cable television as well as to power when you evaluate a lot. Just because there is a utility pole doesn’t mean you have the other utilities. We’ve seen areas of Douglas County where power and phone lines are on opposite sides of the highway. Additionally, the phone lines are on short poles and you can’t put power lines on those poles. This can result in substantial increased expenses when you go to construct. Remember, too, more local areas aren’t served by natural gas than those that are.

The neighbors next to the ten acre parcel I’m looking at are on well and septic. I can drill a well and put in a septic … right?

Be really careful on this one! There are areas where homes are grandfathered in with well and septic, but in the intervening years water and/or sewer lines have been run nearby. If you are within the minimum distances from those lines you will be mandated to hook up to them. This situation is not always financially detrimental, but it can affect your intended use of your property.

My lot is in a flood plain so I just build up my house and I’m okay … right?

No, no, no! Things have changed over the years, and might change dramatically in the next few months - Douglas County is in the process of revising its Flood plain Construction ordinance. Some of the proposed changes may have a significant financial and time impact on your construction. Be careful on this one – do your homework!

I see lath at the corners on the lot I’m buying so I don’t need a survey … right?

No! Lath, a wooden slat, is used by surveyors to easily see the location of a corner, or traverse point, but it doesn’t physically mark the corner. Corners are marked with rebar very close to the ground. If the survey was done in the past 20 years, or so, it will have a yellow cap with the surveyor’s license number on it. Be very careful when identifying old corners. Is the yellow cap still in good shape? Does the corner look like it is intact and not tampered with? If you are getting a building permit you will need to have the corners marked for the County inspector. Be very careful in this area.

Our Advice – When buying land to build on, write your offer with a “Due Diligence” period that will give you time to study the property and get the answers you need so you have a total and clear understanding of what it is that you are buying. There is much to consider when buying a lot to build on. All is not what it may seem and you should know as much as possible about the actual status of the utilities, easements and deed restrictions that may affect the property, status of the property corners, drainage and flood plain matters, etc. Some lots are just plain unbuildable - economically or physically – know what you are buying

Don’t fret over buying vacant land – get good Engineering, Title, and Real Estate professionals on your team so you protect your investment and maintain your peace of mind during your acquisition and construction process. Don’t gamble with your most important investment.

Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, , 775-781-5472.

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