When considering buying land, there are many avenues to examine before purchasing an ideal plot in a serene country setting or idyllic city location. While some might consider saving money to purchase land outright as the best way, not everyone is financially capable of saving thousands of dollars to walk away with a free and clear deed.
Obtaining a Loan
For those who can qualify, a loan may be the best way to buy land. Unlike the housing market, sales of land are not as competitive. Consider taking out a loan with a bank or private lender to purchase the land. Also, consider construction costs before applying for and accepting a loan. Banks may be more apt to approve a loan if they know the buyer will return to finance new construction or improvements to the land. For those who do not meet certain credit requirements, consider including a co-signer to help with the financial responsibility.
For some buyers, land contracts are the best way to buy land. Land contracts work for those who are not able to qualify for a loan or mortgage, and operates in the same manner as a mortgage, including payment schedules, interest rates and duration of the contract. In this situation, most land contracts require a down payment, often $3,000 to $5,000 or at least 10% of the purchase price. Maintenance, improvements and construction made on the land during a land contract are the buyer's responsibility and if the buyer defaults on the contract, all rights to the amenities are lost. When considering a land contract, hire a real estate attorney to review the contract; answer questions; register the contract with the courts; and ensure that specific property rights transfer with the sale, such as mineral rights that protect the buyer should the original seller decide to drill or mine on the property.
Sheriff and Tax Sales
Sheriff and tax sales are great ways to buy land. Most of these plots come with homes or buildings on them, but some are empty, unimproved lots that cost a fraction of normal purchase prices. In fact, most only cost the remaining balance of the original defaulted loan. Most of the acreages available are repossessions from default loans, illegal activity or tax delinquencies.
These sales are typically like auctions, where buyers place bids and other potential buyers have the option to place higher bids. If a bid is accepted, usually at least 10% of the purchase price (this varies by state) must be paid at the time of auction. Bid winners will then have a limited number of days to produce the rest of the purchase funds. If the buyer cannot procure the remaining balance, he forfeits the purchase rights and the property passes to the next highest bidder. However, be sure to have the title reviewed to ensure the deed is clear and not simply held for tax liabilities.
While the best ways to buy land vary from person to person and financial situation, it is always wise to consider hiring a real estate lawyer that can answer any questions, clarify any contract details, and ensure the protection of the buyer's rights and money. Also, watch out for easements, right of ways, and city or county rights that limit construction and improvements, as well as future possibilities for nearby lots, like potential development sites, landfill zones or highway routes.