Are you considering buying vacant land in Washington State? Whether you’re looking to build your dream home or invest in property, purchasing vacant land can be an exciting venture. However, it’s important to navigate the process with careful planning and due diligence to minimize risks and ensure that the land meets your needs. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to buying vacant land in Washington State, providing valuable insights and expert advice.
Step 1: Conduct a Feasibility Study
Before making an offer on vacant land, it’s crucial to conduct a feasibility study. A feasibility study allows you to verify that the property will meet your needs and reduce the risks associated with buying land. This study typically includes tests and studies of the property within a negotiated timeframe, during which you can cancel the agreement and have your earnest money deposit refunded if you’re not satisfied with the property.
During the feasibility study, one of the most common tests is a soil analysis. This analysis helps determine the type of septic system required, which can vary in cost from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. Additionally, it’s important to inspect any existing structures and wells on the property and verify the availability of utilities. Checking with the appropriate governmental authority regarding buildability and zoning issues is also essential. This study also serves as an opportunity to obtain bids for site preparation and construction, ensuring that the property will fit within your budget.
Step 2: Assess Critical Areas
Many areas in Washington State are impacted by environmental factors that can affect the use of the property. One of the common examples is flood zones. It’s important to determine whether the property is located in a flood plain, as low-lying areas adjacent to rivers and streams are prone to periodic flooding. To assess this, you can obtain a FEMA flood zone map with the assistance of your agent.
Another crucial consideration is the presence of wetlands or other soils issues. Wetlands are protected areas, and building within a certain distance of them is restricted. The distance varies depending on the type of wetland. To gather critical areas information, some counties provide web-based parcel mapping systems that allow you to view this information for any property. Consult your custom home builder for guidance on using these tools effectively. If critical areas are discovered on the property, it’s strongly advised to consult experts in the field and the appropriate government authorities to understand the implications for property use.
Step 3: Understand Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs)
Covenants and restrictions are legal obligations that run with the land. Some lots are located within developments that have specific covenants and restrictions in place. These rules may cover various aspects, including prohibitions against certain types of homes or livestock, minimum construction specifications, provisions for road maintenance, and the establishment of a Home Owner’s Association (HOA). It’s crucial to obtain copies of these covenants from the seller, agents, or the title company and verify whether they align with your intended use of the property. Each property may have different covenants, so a thorough investigation is necessary.
Step 4: Consider Planning and Zoning
Zoning and planning ordinances play a significant role in determining the use of a property. Consulting with the appropriate authorities is strongly advised to ensure that your intended use aligns with local zoning laws. For instance, certain jurisdictions may prohibit specific types of businesses or commercial activities in particular areas. If you plan to subdivide the property, operate a home-based business, or install a secondary dwelling, verify that these activities are permitted under the zoning regulations. It’s also essential to consider the types of properties neighboring your land, as this can impact your quality of life and property value. Researching these factors can help you make an informed decision and avoid potential issues in the future.
Additionally, it’s important to speak to the local building and planning department to determine the permits required and their associated costs. If you’re building within city limits, inquire about additional requirements such as the installation of sidewalks or streetlights. During these conversations, you can also gather information about critical areas, environmental restrictions, impact fees, and pending special assessments. Seeking multiple opinions from professionals in the field can ensure accurate and reliable information.
Step 5: Review the Title Report
During the escrow process, both the buyer and seller will order a preliminary title commitment from a local title company. This commitment contains a report that lists all recorded liens affecting the property. It’s crucial to thoroughly review this report to understand any potential encumbrances on the title, such as liens, judgments, easements, covenants, or reservations. These elements can restrict your use of the property and impact the marketability of the title when you decide to sell. The seller is responsible for providing marketable title to the buyer, so carefully reviewing the report is essential.
While the aforementioned steps cover the fundamentals of buying vacant land in Washington State, there are a few additional aspects to keep in mind. Conducting a neighborhood review by driving around the area can provide valuable insights into the safety and desirability of the neighborhood. Consider proximity to essential amenities such as schools, medical care, shopping centers, and recreational facilities. Parents of school-age children should investigate the quality of the local school district. Researching crime rates and other important information can help you make an informed decision and ensure that the property aligns with your lifestyle and preferences.
The Bottom Line
By diligently following these five steps, you can navigate the process of buying vacant land in Washington State with confidence. Conducting a feasibility study, assessing critical areas, understanding covenants and restrictions, considering planning and zoning regulations, and reviewing the title report are crucial aspects of due diligence. Additionally, you might want to hire the services of a Washington custom home builder. With thorough research and careful planning, you can find the perfect piece of land to build your dream home or make a sound investment in Washington State.