Buying land in North Carolina doesn't have to be a difficult or daunting task. But you do need to do a little homework and a have good Realtor who knows the area and isn't afraid to lace up their boots to walk the land with you.
About a month ago, we were contacted by someone on the east coast of North Carolina who wanted to find some property in the mountains that he could buy now, hang onto for a few years while the real estate market settles, and then eventually build a little cabin on. In matter of weeks, we found the perfect spot and he'll be closing on his property this month. Turn around time? Less than 30 days.
Buying now was a smart move! Land sales in western North Carolina have taken a big hit the last two years. This is not great news for sellers, of course, but for buyers, it's created excess inventory and incredible buying opportunities.
So what do you need to know if you're going to buy land in western North Carolina?
One of the first considerations is whether you want to be in a development, out in the "boonies", or somewhere in between. What's the difference?
In a development or planned community you can expect to find varying degrees of deed restrictions that can include the size and type of home you can build (i.e. stick built vs modular vs manufactured), the materials you can use, and sometimes, a time frame for building. You'll also find annual property owner fees that you will pay whether you build or not. Often, once you have built, those fees can go up. Community deed restrictions can also include things like leash rules for pets, whether you can rent out your home or not, and amenity regulations. The value in having deed restrictions is that they maintain the integrity of a community and ultimately the property values. Plus, an active property/home owners association is responsible for things like road maintenance, snow clearing, and the landscaping and maintenance of the common areas.
The polar opposite of a planned community or development is "unrestricted land." Here, you can pretty much enjoy the freedom to build what you choose and use the land as you see fit. That means your neighbors can do the same....which may or may not be the most desirable situation depending on who your neighbors are.
In between those two extremes is property that has what we consider "sensible restrictions." Sensible restrictions often include things like no farm animals, no mobile homes, no agriculture, and no temporary housing such as shacks or lean-tos. They often include some kind of minimum house size. If there is a home owner's association, the dues are generally low and cover things like road maintenance which can be very important if you want to have good access to your property.
Once you've tackled the type of area where you want to be, you'll need to consider surveys, wells, and septics.
If you are even thinking about buying land in western North Carolina, you must determine your property lines and the only way to accomplish that is with a professional survey. With the help of your Realtor, you can find out if a piece of property has ever been surveyed. If there is a recorded survey, but it was a long time ago, a surveyor can reestablish the property lines for much less money than a new survey. But if the property has never been surveyed, it's impossible to know what you're really buying. Land is often handed down through families without any real verification of the size and boundaries. A survey is also important to verify you can actually get to your property. We've seen deals fall apart because a seller was selling land that had no deeded access to get to it.
Next you'll need to know if the property "perks". "Perking" is a commonly used term that refers to whether or not a piece of property is suitable for a septic system. Unless you are buying property that can be connected to a municipal sewer system, you'll need a private septic system. This involves making application to the county and you'll need to know what size home you anticipate building, how many bedrooms, whether you'll have a basement or not, and some idea of where on the property the home would be built. Testing the soil and determining if the property will "perk" is done by the county health department.
Like the septic, unless you are tapped into a municipal or community water system, you'll need to determine where a well should be dug. Because a well has to be a certain number of feet from your septic system (for obvious reasons), the county will designate the area for the well when the septic testing is done. However, there is no way to know how deep your well will need to be until a professional well company begins drilling.
One often overlooked consideration is when you start your property search. Our busiest season starts as early as March and ends sometime in late November, depending on the leaf season. But even though western NC is a great place to be if you want to escape summer heat, the best time to look for land is during the shoulder season between fall and spring. The reason is very practical - that's when the trees are bare and you can see the lay of the land you're considering and what surrounds it.
Last but not least, how do you plan to purchase the land? Lending has become a sticking point, not just for existing homes and new construction, but also for land since banks do not consider it collateral. If you don't have the cash to buy now, talk to your lender to determine your best financing options.
If you are interested in learning more about buying and selling real estate in western North Carolina, contact the Clay Team. Or, you can jump start your search anytime you choose by visiting us on the web.
Proudly serving buyers and sellers in Asheville, Hendersonville, Etowah, Brevard, Cashiers, and all the wonderful mountain communities in between.
For more information about buying or selling homes or land in the Brevard, NC area, contact the Clay Team today at BrevardNCProperty.com!
To receive to our monthly e-newsletter, property updates, or other information, subscribe here.