Think before you leap. When thinking about purchasing land in California (or any place for that matter) and there are no improvements, consider these essential items: zoning, access, power, water and sewage disposal before making a commitment. Each of these ….or lack of….will greatly influence the desirability and any added value for the land. Investigate each of the items carefully or you will end up with a big headache.
“What do you intend to do with the land”? What is the intent of the local/regional planning departments. Simple but very important questions! Whether it is for building your dream home, multiple homes, a ranch, commercial building, retreat center, subdividing or whatever……you should make sure the local zoning laws will permit or allow you to do what you want to do. You must take a personal visit to the local governmental planning department to get the information. Become aware of purchases greater than 100 acres or more. There may be restrictions or something that you need to explore before committing to a purchase.
“Do you have a legal right to drive to the property?” Some properties, unfortunately, are land-locked and the only way to access them is by helicopter. Unless you have your own helicopter, this can be very inconvenient. You want to be assured that there is legal ingress and egress to the property. Although often a road may not physically exist….you do want to make sure you have a legal easement on which to place a road. Other times, a road may exist….but you will not have a legal right to use it. A visit to your local governmental planning department may provide this information. Also, road easements may be addressed in the deed to the property. You might obtain a copy of the deed from the owner or a local title company.
“Is there electrical power to the property?” Do not assume that if there is a power line adjacent to or crossing the property….that you can legally use or tie into it. Check with the local electric provider as to the requirements and costs. If the power is some distance away….they can provide you information as to the options and costs of bringing power to your property. If public power is not feasible or desired….be sure to research the use of alternative sources…..such as solar, wind, generators, hydro and such.
Naturally, having a source of drinking water on your property is nice! Determine whether there is a nearby public or community water system that you can connect to OR whether you will have to find drinking water from another source such as a well, spring, creek, etc. If it is a public water system…..research the costs of connecting to it. If you believe a well is a choice, you will want to know how feasible it is. Drilling a well can be expensive and sometimes you may not hit water……so you want to minimize the risk. Consult with a local well driller who has experience in the area. They can generally tell you how good the wells are in a particular area; if there might be any problems and the cost of drilling and installation. Also, check with the neighbors……ask them how good their wells are (depth, production rate and quality). If the source of water may be a spring or creek or any other surface type water….take a sample of the water and have it tested at a water lab. In addition…..make sure you have a legal right to use the surface water!
Your research should determine whether you have a public sewer system available, or if you will need to put in your own system….such as a septic tank and leach field. Again…if it is a public system….check with the local governmental agency to find out the costs of connecting to it. If a septic system is in order, you want to make sure the soil is suitable for a system. Suitability can be determined through a “perc” test. You will want to check costs of a perc test and the installation of a septic and leach field. Again, a visit with neighbors may give you some information. Check with a local septic contractor who has experience in the area. Also, in some cases you may want to spend the money to have a soils engineer visit and research the site.
NOTE: Regarding septic…..Many States are becoming stricter in the use of septic tanks. You have the basis with which to investigate land purchases. Start with these and recognize that other unique local conditions can exist which will require investigation.
Source: The original source for this article is unknown and has been modified extensively.