How to Buy Country Acreage: 4 Things to Know Before You Buy

It seems to most people that as long as there’s enough land included in your country property, you can do what you want, right?

Start a commune, race Formula One cars, build houses for all of your children…Sounds great, except: That beautiful piece of land you’re looking at, the one that’s so affordable, is not actually zoned for any of that. Turns out it’s zoned for One house only. Or, no houses at all. No race cars. Just crops. It happens!

So as you begin your land search, number one on your list of required due diligence is to know what zones allow the use you envision for the property. The state of Oregon is hyper vigilant on the issue, and if you end up buying a property not compatible with the vision, you Will lose money when the government denies your permit. You will need to know the difference between an outright use and a conditional use, a Measure 49 property and a Forest Template and an Exclusive Farm Use or Recreation property. Each of these has its own requirements.

Access is your second issue. Both to a road and to electricity. Will you need to get an easement through a neighboring property to get to a road? Does the fire department require certain specs for the driveway? How far away is the nearest electricity and what will the cost be to extend service to your future house?

Item #3: Water. This is where you will find your greatest risk on a land buy. How can you tell if the land has enough water for a well without actually sinking a well on property you don’t own? Your due diligence should include a well search on neighboring lands, conversations with local well drillers and of course, your local Realtor, who may know places in the county where scarcity has been an issue and be able to refer you to local well water businesses. Negotiation with the seller is the best way to mitigate your risk. Your Realtor is your primary resource for writing your offer in a way that limits your exposure.

A septic system is your next major area of concern. How can you tell if the land you’re looking at can accommodate a standard septic system? Before you even make an offer, you can obtain a soils map from your Realtor that can tell you about the character of the soil and the likelihood of issues. The next step is a perc test to ensure the soil drains well enough for a standard system or whether it will need an alternative system. How to get one before you buy? Again, it’s all about negotiating.

It seems complicated, but it is absolutely doable with the right Realtor on your side!

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