Buying land online is becoming increasingly popular. It’s easy to see why. You can browse properties all around the world from the comfort of your own home.
There are a few things to be wary about when buying land online. If you’re like me, you may want to make an impulsive decision after finding a property you love. This is especially the case if the property is listed with a low selling point.
In 2020, I bought my off grid cabin and land online. Originally, I found the listing on Facebook marketplace and was able to connect with the seller directly. I toured the land and bought the property a couple weeks later. Here are a couple of things I learned from that process!
Want to learn about buying off grid land? Check out our full guide!
My Tips For Buying Land Online
Set a Clear Goal
Before browsing Zillow or another listing agency, set your specifics on land. I recommend narrowing these things down:
- Where do you want to buy land?
- What’s your budget?
- Are there any dealbreakers (I wanted a creek on my property)!
I know a lot of people LOVE looking at cheap land. Simply because something is inexpensive doesn’t guarantee that it will benefit you. Consider your options for the land: farming, homesteading, building a house, etc. It will be much simpler to search for it online if you know what you need to perform on the piece of land.
Avoid becoming sidetracked by advertisements for properties in other states if you want to purchase a piece of property in a certain location. This is something that happened to me quite often!
Prices Change Based on Specifics
The price of property listings online change drastically based on a few things. Here are a few things it depends on:
- What agency you’re using (Zillow v.s. Trulia)
- What device you’re using (YES, this is true!)
- Where you’re looking from
I recommend checking multiple websites for the same property before buying the land! Typically, the titles of the listings will be the same, making it simple to locate every website with the plot of property listed. For instance, if the title reads “Florida land 7 acres sold by owner,” you should search for that phrase on Google. You can locate the lowest price for the land by doing this!
Loans Are Not Best
I don’t recommend using loans when buying land online. When purchasing land with a loan, you don’t have any room for negotiation. This is the complete opposite when using cash!
I understand that buying land with cash isn’t doable for everyone, but maybe that means you should keep saving! Going into debt simply because you like the land is the last thing you want to do, especially if you also plan to build a house.
There Are a Ton Of Scams
Online land purchases can be risky; there are many scammers, and you risk losing both the land and your money if you do not recognize them. When buying land online, the first thing you should do is check to see who owns the land (and if it is the person selling it).
Looking at the property tax records, you can easily find out how much the actual plot of land is worth. Based on this information, you can determine whether the seller has the authority to sell it from the owner or whether the seller is the genuine owner. If this isn’t the case, you might be getting scammed!
Double Check The Zoning
When you find a good piece of land and become intrigued, you should look into the zoning that is in effect for the area. This might seem like a hassle, but trust me… it’s worth it!
The land parcel should be residential or mixed-use if you intend to build a house. Finding these residential and mixed-use zones is crucial because they often consist of smaller portions that might be anywhere on the property parcel.
Buying a homestead? Check out our resources on buying your first homestead!
Double Check Road Access
When I bought my cabin, I didn’t know that the road to access my property was an easement. That means I have to drive through someone else’s property to access mine. While I got lucky, and my neighbor is incredibly friendly, it might not be the same for you!
You must determine who owns the road and whether you are legally permitted to use it. I wouldn’t advise you to purchase the plot of land if there is no road access to it—not even a dirt one—and you have to traverse private property to get there. This is a legal battle waiting to happen! If you’re going to do this… at least budget for it!
Double Check Utilities
By just viewing satellite pictures, you can see how far the utilities are from the plot of land. A simple trick is to look for other houses or residences. If you spot one nearby, chances are they have electricity!
This is important because if there’s no electricity, you’re going to have to figure out how to set it up! You can either refuse to purchase the piece of land without utilities or use this information as a negotiating tool.
Double Check HOA and Regulations
Most residential neighborhoods will have some housing limitations, which may originate from the neighborhood HOA or the local county. Typically, there will be a maximum size for a house, which will affect how you may really use the parcel of land. In my case, there was a minimum size for a house as well (which might be tough for you tiny home dwellers)!
Make sure you are authorized to build the type of house you desire on the plot of land.
Watch Out For Rezoned Land
Several listings for land and properties lack the necessary zoning to erect a dwelling. Typically, the sellers would assert that you may easily rezone the property after purchasing it. The seller knows he would collect considerably more money from the land if it had the proper zoning. Therefore it is almost a given that he would rezone it. In reality, however, this rarely occurs. He usually cannot rezone it simply because he is seeking to sell a property without first rezoning it.
In my opinion, this is also a big scam. By checking local tax fillings or connecting with the courthouse, you should be able to see how the land is zoned.
Check About Building Permits
It is not a given that you will receive a building permit, even if the parcel of property is zoned for residential or mixed-use. If a piece of land lacks access to utilities, be sure to inquire about whether the county will give you a building permit for that location.
Counties will not issue building licenses to places where they cannot offer services and utilities. Because they can’t use it, the same piece of land will be sold repeatedly over several years.
I hope that some of my advice helps you when buying land online. Like I said, beware of scammers, and don’t get your heart set on one property! The perfect property for you is out there… it just takes some time to find it!