If you have always dreamed of building your own home, choosing your own layout, selecting dream finishes, and want all your desires in a home met then you will be looking for vacant land. This is a completely different world than buying a preexisting home where there is complete certainty when it comes to electricity, water, sewage, and condition. Uncertainty is not comfortable for everyone so let’s make sure you feel prepared and empowered.
First and foremost, if you ask anyone who has built their own home, they will tell you that even if you build a home from scratch you will not end up with a 100% perfect house. There are always compromises and unforeseen issues with layout, etc. Remember, vacant land is scarce and becoming scarcer, so if you find the perfect property with an imperfect house, perhaps you can consider a major remodel.
When buying vacant land, it is all about the level of certainty a parcel can provide you. A parcel that already has a water source, septic system, access/driveway, building site laid out, and electrical nearby is going to be extremely rare. Such a parcel will cost more because of the time and expenses already invested by the seller. There is also inherent value in the confidence you as a buyer can have that you will not run into complications that may make the land unsuitable for development.
Below are my TOP 5 recommendations when considering buying vacant land:
Find a vacant land purchasing specialist.
Complex is the word that comes to mind when thinking about vacant land purchases. Having a trusted guide who loves the complexity that comes with purchasing land is something you really want. Many brokers groan when they think about helping buyers with vacant land, but there are a special few who just dig it; (I am one of them!) If you want insight in your search for a property, please call me. I’m here to navigate this process with you.
Know your corners.
In the best-case scenario, there has been a survey done and the corners are clearly marked with modern official survey markers however, this is rare. You may need to negotiate to have this done by the Seller. There are other signs that can give an idea of where property lines fall though. One of the coolest technologies that most agents have nowadays is an app that uses geo-spatial technology to locate your position on a map in relation to property lines. An old-fashioned surveyor’s tape measure can help as well if you have a marker of some sort to start from. Fence lines, survey tape marking trees or branches, driveways, and other identifiers can give clues. Nothing beats a proper survey though, and you are going to want that when it comes time to build.
Get as certain as possible on the big 5.
Water, sewage, electricity, access, and building envelope. These are the big 5 mysteries when you first look at a raw and overgrown piece of land. The more that these 5 things have been figured out and addressed by the Seller, the more valuable the property is. You are buying risk when these 5 are unknown. You cannot avoid risk completely, but figuring out as much as you can about these 5 will help you move forward more confidently.
Work with a local builder.
Get the local builder to the lot sooner than later. Reputable builders on Whidbey will be able to help you through the feasibility process, have a great instinct for what is possible, provide contacts to get specialists out to the property, and use their experience working with Island County’s Building department for you. My husband is my personal favorite local builder 😉 But, if his schedule is full when you want to get started, we are happy to recommend other builders to you too.
Know your critical areas.
Shorelines, native American artifacts, endangered animals and plants, steep slopes and bluffs, wetlands, and streams will affect the property in big ways. There are large set-back requirements for structures, wells, and septic systems around critical areas. You may get into a situation where you do not have much of a choice about where you can position your building site. These unknowns must be understood before you decide to close on the lot. As your Realtor, I can help you navigate this maze.
Each property is unique, and I could share a lot more with you on the topic of buying vacant land on Whidbey, but the truth is that the best thing you can do is find yourself an excellent guide who will help you assess what it is you are really looking for and how to narrow down the search. Good luck and do not forget your muck boots!
PHOTOS BY: Kelsey Kurtis