I recently started the process for building my first house. I’m going to name it something majestic, I’m not sure what, though.
Anyway, the first step was buying land to put the house on (obviously). This, thought I, will be no problem. We will look through available lots, tour the ones we like, and settle on our patch of dirt before the week’s out.
After all, it’s just land. How complicated can it be?
1. Land is a lot more complicated than it seems
I didn’t have a very high opinion of land in the beginning. It’s just dirt after all. Why would it be utterly expensive to purchase it when the land itself is useless without something on it like a house or a farm? Why, indeed.
As my dad pointed out, they’re not exactly making more land these days. Particularly in the areas I want to buy in. So yes. Whereas I usually overthink everything, I was completely unprepared for how tedious and annoying purchasing land would be.
2. Real estate agents are less helpful than you would have hoped
Granted, a real estate agent makes less from the sale of land than the sale of a house, due to the price tag attached. So they have less incentive to help you out with your search because they’re human beings and they respond to incentives. But I was not quite as prepared for how hands-off the realtor I was put into contact with was.
I would send emails with questions and receive no answer. I toured lots on my own. I had to ask for them to search the database they were using because the website didn’t allow me to do it on my own and often I would send an email with questions and a search request and get an automated reply with the search request.
I still don’t understand zoning. Which brings me to…
3. Zoning is a bitch
Several of the lots that showed up in the search were zoned for things other than residential. I toured one and found out that not only was it right next to railroad tracks, it was right next to the airport. Which probably had something to do with the zoning.
I’ve asked the realtor twice now about zoning and still no response. I called a city zoning office and they said to look up the property they needed a number I didn’t have access to.
4. What is .03 of an acre anyway?
Maybe it’s just because I’m new to this game, but it’s hard for me to wrap my head around just how small some of these lots were for the price. I mean, this isn’t New York City. I’m looking mostly in Chesapeake. Why is a few hundred square feet worth so much money when there’s derelict buildings on it and it’s in the middle of nowhere?
I can understand that location is always important, but some of the lots we looked at were minuscule and had nothing around them worthy of such a high price tag. $80,000 to buy dirt covered in trees I will have to remove at my own expense on a lot too small for my house that’s not even in a good location? What?
5. It’s a lot more fun to look at houses
At least with houses you get to debate whether a pantry in the kitchen makes up for minimal counter space in the bathroom. When you look at land it’s often a clear yes or no.
Also, there’s super boring stuff like whether or not it has city water or sewage available. Which, isn’t on all of the listings, and I’m not holding my breath for the realtor to get back to me. And yes, I know that’s super important, but for me it’s not nearly exciting as touring an open house.
I knew this process was not going to be painless. As how could it be? But I didn’t think that I would feel so frustrated with the options available. The good news is that I have plenty of time to wait for the right lot. So as soon as the dirt, my dirt, becomes available, I will be ready to move forward.