Tips to Help You Buy Land

By Joey Marino, President Stark County Association of REALTORS®


There’s something thrilling about the idea of buying your own piece of vacant land—raw, untouched real estate on which you can build your dream home from the ground up. Picking the perfect parcel for a land purchase can prove a bit more complex for buyers than may be expected. Following are some tips to help you navigate through the process.

How to buy land in various zoning districts

If you think you’ve spied the perfect vacant land for your future dream home, before you start drawing up an offer for your land purchase, you’ll want to check local zoning ordinances and possible building restrictions. The vacant lot may be your desired acreage and seem like a good investment. But, if it doesn’t meet the specifications for your intended real estate use, you’ll find yourself with a costly but worthless hunk of earth.

Investing in a parcel of land without doing your due diligence could leave you with a possible mortgage and several acres that could be tough to sell later.

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Zoning and other land regulations and restrictions can be accessed through public records at your local zoning office or city hall (many also offer zoning maps online). Here are some other important things to check before you buy land:

  • Access from a street:Unless you plan on parking your car on the side of the road and walking to your home, your real estate property must be accessible from a street or road. If the parcel is landlocked, you will need to get an easement across a neighboring property, which means you get permission to pass through the neighbor’s land to get to yours.
  • Setbacks:This refers to how far from a property line a structure must be situated on the vacant land. If you have 20-foot structure setbacks from either side, but your lot is only 50 feet wide, that means your home can be no greater than 10 feet wide! Odds are that won’t work.
  • View ordinances:Some local view ordinances may place restrictions on your ability to add a second story to your house. A restriction on the type of home you can build could affect your chance to sell it later and cost you money.

Figure out how much it will really cost

According to data from the National Association of Home Builders, the median cost of building a home is $289,415. You will also be responsible for property taxes, utility expenses, and more. To prepare the land for construction, you will need a survey and multiple permits, plus the land will need cleared, graded and excavated.

Determine which utilities you want to install

Chances are quite good that you’d like your home to have water, electricity, and other modern-day conveniences. You will be responsible for getting those set-up.

Hire a land planner

Before purchasing any real estate, it’s a good idea to talk to an expert, like a real estate agent, other landowner, or land planner, to help you evaluate whether your investment is a good idea. If you want some help figuring out whether a certain lot is good for building a home and how much it will cost, the professional you’ll want to turn to is a land planner.

Much like home inspectors size up a house for potential flaws that you’ll have to fix, land planners scrutinize land.  They will make sure the land is ready to be built upon.  Ask your local REALTOR® to help you find a land planner.  You may also find one on the website

Prepare for financing

Financing a parcel of land can be tricky. Getting a “raw land loan” is different from financing a home. Since there’s no building on the property yet, it’s easier for a buyer to simply walk away from the real estate deal, leaving the seller and lender holding the bag. Due to this risk, some lenders may require a buyer to pay a higher down payment on land—anywhere from 20% to 50%. The loan may also have more stringent credit score requirements and a higher interest rate.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers loans called Section 502 direct loans, which help low-income people buy land in rural areas and prepare them to build a new house from scratch.

Find more tips on buying or selling a home on the website.


The Stark County Association of REALTORS® welcomes you to visit our website at for a complete listing of REALTORS® and Affiliate members who are sure to meet your professional real estate needs.


If you have any questions or comments on this article, please contact me by email at


The voice of real estate in Stark and Carroll counties


Source: “How to Buy Land:  Tips to Pick the Perfect Plot”, by Liz Alterman,



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