Tips on Buying Land (Build a Home on a Budget Series)

Best Tips on Buying Land! This is the first post in a series of Building a Home on a Budget Series. Great tips for anyone looking for land!

This post Tips on Buying Land is the first post in a series on building a home on a budget. Stay tuned for more in this series as I share all I have learned about staying within my budget while building the house of my dreams.

I’m gonna start this out by letting you know that I looked for 2 years almost every single day for the perfect piece of land to build my new house on. Now I know that not everyone out there has the patience to wait like I did and honestly I didn’t think it would take that long to find the right land to build on in my budget.  But it did.  And this was out of necessity really as land in my area can be rather expensive. Plus I am picky and on a tight budget.

Best Tips on Buying Land! This is the first post in a series of Building a Home on a Budget Series. Great tips for anyone looking for land!

Here is how my land is looking right now. Yep, it’s basically 5 acres of weeds that are slowly drying out. We have moved into our home, however we really haven’t done anything to develop the land as of yet. We need to start with irrigation, and then we can do some landscaping, gardening, fencing, grass, pastures, chicken coops, outbuildings, barn …oh my!  It’s a little overwhelming.  We we are in the process of getting an irrigation design figured out and then we can get to work digging trenches. Thank goodness my husband can do a lot of the irrigation himself as that is gonna save us a ton of money. But for now, the land is just full of weeds. Weeds and dreams.

Tips on Buying Land

Okay, so let’s talk about how to find the right land to build on when you’re on a budget.

First things first, time to make a list…

The first thing you need to do is decide how much you can afford. Your budget is a big decision! Be realistic about how much you can afford.  Many people purchase land and then slowly pay it off before building a house on it. Or live in a small trailer on their land while they pay it off. Others save up and pay cash outright for their land.  Did you know that land loans and construction loans can be rolled into one if you’re prepared to begin building right away? Yes they can!  That was what my husband and I chose to do and we are really happy with how it all worked out in our budget.  So whichever route you are planning figure out how much you can afford and try hard to stick with it.

After you get your budget figured out decide on all the other factors. How much land? 1/4 acre, 1 acre or more? Decide on what you want the land for. Do you want to have animals? Do you want some pasture land? Do you just want a small backyard? A garden? A pool? Write down on paper your “dream” lot of land. Once you have your budget and your dream lot you can start researching to find your land.

Here was my “dream” land list and why:

1-2 Acres: I wanted a mini farm and this seemed the perfect amount for me to take care of. If you were looking to have a big farm you may want more acres than this. But for me, I knew how much work goes into a big lot and this is how much I wanted to handle personally.

Have no covenants (or limited covenants) so that I can have farm animals: Always check what kind of covenants the land has to make sure you are happy with it. I have never really been a huge fan of covenants that are super strict because I love my freedom to do whatever I want. However with having not many covenants you run the risk of having a neighbor with a metal collecting junk yard next door which can devalue your property in the future so keep that in mind. Even though I keep a clean house and most of the time well maintained yard I am not too judgy of others and how they run their lives. So no covenants works great for me, especially if the lot is far enough away from others. 

Water – must have full water rights so I can irrigate all my acres: Make sure you look to see if you have full watering rights to your property and what type of water you can have. This can be devastating to buy a lot of land and find out you cannot even drill a well to get water. If you have irrigation rights find out if your lot has full water rights. Over here where I live in the Tri-Cities, WA you will find many people that purchase a 2 acre lot find out they only have water rights to water ½ an acre of it. So you will see many homes with green right around their house and then it cuts off into brown un-watered desert for the remainder of their property. What good is the land when you cannot even water it? Always, always, always look into what kind of water rights.

Must be under $70,000 in price: my budget.  Do some research to see what prices are in your area for land and decide what the right price point is for you.

Would love old trees on the property: trees take so long to grow so it would be nice to have some old trees already there.

Flat land, not on a hill: Mowing on a hill is not too much fun and I like being able to see my land. Some people may like hills but having them can come with hidden challenges and sometimes can be more costly to develop if you have to make retaining walls.

In a good location with great schools for my kids: I want my kids to get a great education so I researched all the schools stats in my town. Then printed out a city map and highlighted the areas to choose from with better schools so I made sure when I saw a lot it was in an area I wanted before I went any further in the process.

Quality soil for growing: I plan on growing a garden and even some orchards so I wanted to make sure the soil was great. When I went to view the lots for sale I took a little soil sample and mixed it with water in a jar, then let it settle to check what kind of layers it had. See a tutorial here on mason jar soil sampling.

Have a lovely view of something:  I hoped for a nice view. Hey, a girl can dream, right? 🙂

That was pretty much my list. I didn’t end up actually getting everything on my list when I found my lot. My land lot didn’t have old trees and I ended up with 5 acres instead of 1-2 but overall I was really happy as everything else was on my list and the price was within my budget.

You want to keep your list handy or in the back of your mind when you are searching for your land. It’s okay to be picky because this will be the land you will stay in for a very long time, well at least you hope right?

Best Tips on Buying Land! This is the first post in a series of Building a Home on a Budget Series. Great tips for anyone looking for land!

How to Find Land

Like I mentioned before I looked almost daily for 2 years to find my perfect lot. Searching online, and going on Sunday afternoon drives. A lot of praying was happening too. So yeah, 2 years is a long time! But your perfect lot may be already waiting for you when you start looking. I hope that for you, I really do.

Some places to look for land:

Craigslist: This is where I ended up finding my land. Search for words like “land” or “lot” or “acres” and scroll through it all.  When people list land for sale they don’t always categorize them into the land for sale area so I found it better to search using keywords instead of always in the land for sale category. When my lot became available there were actually (4) 5-acre lots for sale in my budget.  It sounded too good to be true but I called anyways. Long story short … all (4) of those 5-acre lots were sold within a few days. When a great deal comes along you have to be ready to jump on it quickly!

Real Estate listings: Keep an eye out for new land listings in your budget. You may even call a real estate agent so they can know you are looking and contact you right away if something is in your budget and meets your dream land list. I found that with the real estate fees and the competition this way was really difficult for me to even have a chance to look at land because of people always beating me to making offers.

Driving around: Sometimes I would just drive around the areas on my list and look for land for sale by owner signs. I would snap a pic with my phone and contact them when I got home to ask about the prices. This can be a great way to find land lots too.

Other publications like Giant Nickel – sometimes you can find land listings here too.

Word of mouth: Tell all your contact and friends you are looking for land so that if they hear of anything before it goes out on the market to tell you.

Other Final Tips on Buying Land

Be pre-approved for a land loan: Have a land loan pre-approval letter ready (unless you are paying cash) so if the perfect lot in your budget comes up you can be ready. Great deals go super quick on land sometimes. In my area there was only one bank that does land loans – First Community Bank. So look into getting a pre-approval before searching for land if you can. If you have saved up cash, even better!

Drinking water: look into what kind of drinking water the lot has. Whether it’s city water or if you have to drill a well. You can search your county listing for well listings of properties near yours, how deep their wells were and the pressure they get. Then take that average and contact a well driller for an estimate. Water development can cost a pretty penny so add that into your budget.

Septic system or connecting to city sewer:  Something to look into before you buy. If you need a septic system get a quote on how much it will cost to put that in. Mine costed around $5000 for the whole system, which was an average price comparatively in my area for the system needed. If you need a specialized septic system costs can be a lot more.

Electricity: Check to see if you have a connection to electricity or not. If you are really far away from any power poles or boxes it could be an expensive addition.

Stick to your Budget: It’s really important to be smart and realize how much you can afford and not be swayed by higher priced lots. Be wise and stick to your budget.

I hope these tips on buying land to build on help you out!

Have you purchased land before? How did you find your lot? How big of a property did you buy and what are you doing with it? And most importantly, any tips for me on what I am supposed to do with acres of weeds? 😉

Awesome tips on buying land. Things you might never think of and expenses that you must consider before buying. Also many tips on how to find the perfect land for you in your budget. 8 Comments

Tips on Buying Land (Build a Home on a Budget Series) was last modified: May 5th, 2016 by Karrie

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  1. I’m so glad you found your perfect property. Here in Michigan another consideration is mineral rights. I know when we purchased our property, my husband wanted to make sure it came with all the mineral rights. If we are to ever luck out like the Beverly Hillbillies, it would nice to own all the rights 🙂

  2. Sometimes it takes a little longer to find the perfect property. It’s better to wait than to settle. Very useful tips, thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Carrie Miller says:

    My parents bought 40 acres in Northern California when I was growing up in the 1970s/80s, and I remember many of the things they had to consider when buying their land. My husband and I are in the process of looking for the perfect piece of land for us, and this knowledge has been very helpful. Some other things we are taking in to consideration in addition to the items you mentioned (and mineral rights):
    1. Zoning. Even if the land you are considering does not have any covenants, the zoning ordinances will dictate what you can and can not do on the land.
    2. Liens. Make sure there are no liens on the property as these can make it hard to buy. If someone else has a financial stake in that property, it can lead to headaches.
    3. Access. This is probably more of an issue in rural and remote areas, but make sure that you have legal access to drive to your property. We’ve passed up some really low priced land because it was ‘land-locked’, meaning that you had to get permission to traverse someone else’s property to get to it.

  4. My husband and I are getting ready to put a bid on some property in Washington. I wrote down some of your questions to ask the realtor! Thanks for the tips!

  5. Thank all of you for reminding us of “pitfalls ” to avoid when purchasing land. I’m a 3rd time home buyer, but it’s my husband’s first. Together we have avoided horrible deals by adhering to sound advice such as yours. Yet, we still have experienced landlocked property with liens on it (we assumed and wrongfully trusted our buyer’s real estate agent when he said the property was free and clear. He never had the title and any liens searched. We were enlightened 12 years later when 1.) the actual owner came from upstate to build on “his” property and decided to sue us for squatting on his property and using his water. We had receipts to prove we paid surveyors and well diggers to have the work done, we had a notarized real estate agreement where we put up “earnest money” to secure the property, we had both a notarized deed and a plat- which obviously were no good either. 2.) The water quality and it’s taste had been poor so we used bottled water. The owner discovered it was because the water in the aquifer and the pond came from a gaining stream from a chemical plant further upstream). Subsequently, I’ve developed an upper respiratory condition due to the water being contaminated. We are no longer new to this game, and we plan to stay the course. But we wish happy land hunting to all of you.

  6. We just bought 3 acres and it also took us a couple of years of looking to find what would work for us. We discovered early one a couple of things to look into:
    1. check that the city/county doesn’t have “plans” for the property in their future. We had found the most beautiful acreage and fell in love with it. Thankfully we did our research and discovered that 15 years down the road the city had plans to put a major thoroughfare either right through the property or just a few feet down from the property. It was not set in stone, but it was obvious from reading through city development plans that the area was going to become a hot spot and not the pretty countryside it was at the time. We were so close to buying it but so thankful we took just a little time to check that out.
    2. Check that there are no neighbors on the sex offender registry nearby. We again found another beautiful lot that we fell in love with only to discover the seller had a relative on the sex offender registry who lived right nearby-with this lot accessible to him and wooded. It was old family land that we knew the family member would be familiar with and having young children especially we were not willing to take any risks. Maybe that was extreme to worry about, but these days you can’t be too careful.
    That’s my two cents worth! 🙂

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