Location, location, location. Actually, this phrase should include the word “land” when it comes to the home buying process. After all, you’re not just buying a home; you’re buying the land that the home sits on as well. Evaluating the lot in correlation with your home ownership goals is a vital part of your decision making process.
I’m currently working with some first-time home buyers who want a yard for their dog. We found a home that they loved, but the driveway dominated the long, narrow front yard. The backyard lacked depth, was full of trees, and sloped off to the muddy/wooded side yard. Some folks prefer the privacy of trees and the lack of grass maintenance, but for these homeowners, it didn’t fulfill their needs and it’s something they would be unable to change down the road.
Another client that I’m working with would like to run his own equestrian center during his years of retirement. The land must be zoned specifically for him to run a business from his home and the county has to permit farm animals. In our county, you must have two acres of land for the first horse and then you’re allowed one horse for every acre beyond that. In this example, land is absolutely critical in the home buying process.
You may feel indifferent about land during your home search process, but here are a few things to consider before dismissing:
Do you want a yard?
Are you opposed to doing (or paying for) all of the yard maintenance required?
Do you currently (or down the road) have a need for a fenced-in yard?
Do you have any future construction plans?
Are you interested in building a detached garage, extending the master bedroom, building an in-law suite, digging a pool, etc.?
Are there any building restrictions for the land/neighborhood?
Which parts of the yard receive sun exposure?
Which parts get shade?
When it rains heavily, will water run down into your house, run through your yard, or flow away from your home?
Will it seem impossible to get grass to grow in certain bare spots?
Some other considerations have to do with the land that is around the lot. Your local courthouse will have public records of land plats, or sometimes the sellers can provide a survey of the land. A land plat will show you several things that will help you during the home buying process.
Most importantly, you will want to know whether anyone else has any rights to your land. These can be in the form of a right-of-way or an easement. It’s possible that part of your land can be taken away as a result of these easements.
For example, at any point, 20 feet of my own backyard could turn into roadway as a result of the city’s easement for lane widening purposes. That’s valuable information to know if you’re planning to buy a home.
A land plat can also show who owns the land adjacent to yours. What may appear to be a large side yard between your home and your neighbors, may just be another lot. Which means, you may find yourself with a new neighbor like this house below.
Whether you realize it or not, the “land” typically accounts for 25-35% of your home’s value. It may be more or it may be less depending on your market, but it’s factored into the price one way or another. It deserves your attention – and when comparing properties, it may make all the difference in the world.