There's nothing more peaceful than rolling green pastures next to wooded forests. Virginia land is amazing for many things, but the ugly side often rears its head too. Today i'm sharing how I evaluate land I buy at MySimpleLand.com I only want the best land for my buyers so I'm pretty picky about what I spend my money on. I have cultivated a list of due diligence items to check for based on mistakes I have made (or have heard of other people making) and I want to share that with you!
Here, in no particular order are the critical due diligence items I look at when evaluating a pice of land:
1. Wetlands and Water Features:
Virginia's diverse landscapes often include wetlands, rivers, ponds, and streams. These natural features can significantly impact land use and development. Before buying, identify the presence of wetlands or water bodies on the property and understand any associated restrictions or regulations ESPECIALLY with setbacks for septic and well.
2. Flood Plain:
Properties located in floodplains will probably require flood insurance, and development could be restricted or costly due to flood-related regulations. Check floodplain maps to determine if the land is in a flood-prone area.
The terrain and slope of the land affect its suitability for building, farming, or other uses. Steep slopes may necessitate additional engineering and construction costs, while flat land may be more desirable. Obviously, being anywhere near the Shenandoah valley, or mountains in general, the terrain is going to be steep. Sometimes it's an issue, sometimes it's not. The best way to determine this is to look at the houses around it. Are they built on the same grade as yours?
Understanding property taxes is crucial. Different counties in Virginia have varying tax rates, and some offer tax incentives for certain land uses, such as agricultural or conservation land. If you plan to take that land from ag and turn it into residential, you'll likely be liable for paying some back taxes. I would HIGHLY caution you from purchasing conservation easement land - it's hard to sell and harder (sometimes impossible) to build on.
5. Access to the Property:
Access to the land is obviously important - you want to be able to enjoy your land, right? Ensure there is deeded legal and physical access to your future land. Landlocked parcels are a headache and make for uncomfortable situations with neighbors. Sure, an easement to get to the land is possible, but in my experience, it isn't worth the headache.
Easements are legal rights that grant others access to or use of your property. Ensure you understand any existing easements on the land and whether they benefit or restrict your intended use. Typical easements are for utilities, access to the parcel or neighboring parcels, etc... Atypical, but still common, easements are for oil and gas production, gas lines, transmission lines, and other random things! Make sure to check your deed and see who has the right to be on your property after purchasing.
Your neighbors can make or break your experience on your land. Hopefully you don't have to see them often, but sometimes it is just part of the land. Research (if comfortable) neighboring properties, their owners, and their land uses. Specifically, what their property is zoned for and currently in use for. Friendly, cooperative neighbors can enhance your enjoyment of the land, while disputes with neighbors can lead to headaches. Unfortunately, sexual offenders are everywhere. I always perform a check on land i'm buying because I think it would significantly decrease the value living next to someone like that.
Due Diligence: Your Key to Success
Engaging in thorough due diligence is the cornerstone of a successful land purchase. Here are some steps to take:
Site Visits: Visit the property to understand its characteristics and see the beauty in person. Pictures can only reveal so much.
Zoning and Land Use Regulations: Research local zoning laws and land use regulations to ensure your intended use is allowed and feasible. When in doubt, ask the county. They are normally very helpful.
Environmental Assessments: Consider conducting soil tests, environmental assessments, and perc tests (for septic systems) to assess land suitability for your goals.
Utilities: Confirm access to utilities you might want such as water, electricity, and sewage disposal.
I have done this thousands of times on land in Virginia so I have it down to a science. If you have questions about a certain tip, let me know and I would be happy to help!