Most people still prefer to buy a home rather than go through what for most people is a long and potential nightmare of buying land, drilling a well, installing a septic system, and then building for 6 to 12 months with change orders and lots of uncertainties.
I know of a gentleman who bought a $55,000 lot which represented that it was on a municipal water system, and it turns out he was told that he would have to pay up to $1 million to extend the trunk line for the water line down his street. Obviously, he’s not going to do that. Drilling his own well is going to be expensive in his area apparently, and if you’re in a municipal serviced water area, you cannot necessarily just drill your own private well. The septic system is going to be expensive for him too, perhaps $25,000 to $30,000.
He told me a long story about the multiple bureaucratic nightmare he was up against on several issues, which also included getting a written road maintenance agreement in writing to satisfy lenders. Long established homeowners don’t want to sign anything like a written road maintenance agreement for a new homeowner. By the time he gets done and ready to build a home on his $55,000 lot, he may have over $100,000 in it, and it’s not a premier location either.
Another buyer of land closed and drilled a well 500 feet and only got enough water to satisfy his cat’s thirst. Another buyer of land built a home and then got into a two year battle with the neighbor who claimed the new guy’s driveway cut over the corner of his land. Even though it should have been an easement by prescription, the judge stupidly ruled against the new homeowner and in favor of the neighbor from hell.
A gentleman called me about land he bought out in Diamond Point, and he planned to build a home. Now he is told he can never build a home, because the septic drainfield for his own septic system extended onto his neighbor’s lot unbeknownst to him, and that was originally an agreement with the previous landowner, but that drainfield was recently declared unusable. His new lot was not large enough for a septic and drainfield under the code, so he bought a lot he can’t build on and cannot sell. He paid about $50,000.
I wouldn’t buy land, and I’m in the business. There are far too many uncertainties and risks involved. Most people don’t want to go there, even though they don’t know about 5% of the traps for the unwary that I’ve seen over the years. I would add this. The best land deals seem to be the ones that often end up with the greatest risk of nightmare scenarios, or totally unbuildable land.
Obviously many people have bought land in the past and built beautiful homes and lived happily forever after. If the lot is in a little subdivision where the builder is the developer where all the infrastructure and utilities are installed, and all that remains is the selection of your floor plan and letting the builder build the home, that’s different. Not much risk there. The risk is in rural areas where you have to hope you can get potable water and a septic system the county will approve, that you won’t have any surprise drainage issues below the surface that could mean a major drainage system design, that it won’t be too expensive to extend utilities from the main source to your home, and ultimately that the county building department will issue a permit to build your home. That’s certainly no guarantee by any means. If any one of these items cannot be done, you do not get a building permit.
I know, this article is probably so discouraging for you who want to build your own home on rural property outside the city, you may be thinking I might just as well have written about the riots in Portland. No, I’m not going to do that. But I am here to tell the truth.
Have a nice day, and if you’re planning to buy land to build a house, I wish you all the best. I did become an expert in buying land in my career, and as an attorney I handled just about every kind of land issue that comes up, but now as a Sequim Buyer’s Agent, I only represent buyers of existing homes. In plain language, land is no fun to deal with, and it is the lowest paying job in real estate. I’m too old to work for minimum wage. LOL
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