What you need to know before buying vacant land
Thinking of buying vacant land? Our property conveyancing specialists at KDD Conveyancing share tips to help you create a positive experience. What is important and useful to consider before buying? How do you get the best experience out of buying vacant land?
What to consider before buying vacant land
Here are important things to know before you commit to buying vacant land:
- Characteristics of the land
- Value around the land
- Purchasing the land
- What to do with the land
Characteristics of the vacant land
- Backstory – If possible, find out the historical background of the land and why the owner wants to sell it. At the very least you may be able to find out if there is a problem with the land itself. Is the land titled or untitled? If untitled, the seller needs to get government approval and apply for titles, and this could cause delays in settlement.
- Dimensions – Do the size, shape, and elevation of the land suit your needs? Will it affect its appreciation rate and investment value? In general, flat and square/rectangle plots of land fetch the best value. However, a sloping piece of land may be perfect for you if it has an unobstructed waterfront view. A plot shaped like a triangle may be the most valuable to you because it allows you to build a house within walking distance of a coveted school. Or puts you close to a major retail hub and train station. Some semi-rural blocks come with a ‘building envelope’ which dictates where you can build a house within the lot.
- Geography – Know the nature of the land itself, whether soil, sand, or rock based. What is its soil classification and toxicity status? What are the options available and cost for conversion to future use? You may want to build a home on it, or create a vegetable garden. Is it in an area at risk of strong winds, bushfires, or flooding?
- Legislation – What rules, regulations, or codes apply to that piece of land? What are the potential risks or restrictions? For example, how is the land zoned, or how could it be zoned in future? How many storeys could you potentially build, or how large an area can be built on? If you intend to buy and hold, avoid the new estate that comes with a caveat that you must build a house within a stipulated time frame.
- Utility – Is it suitable for what you want to do with it, now or in the future?
Value around the land
- Zoning – Find out the zoning statuses of land around the vacant land you are interested in. This may be obtained either from the real estate agent selling the property or through the local council for a fee. Evaluate the location and land use status for pros and cons.
- For example, there may be rezoning changes that allow you to build higher-density housing, or switch to commercial use.
- If you aspire to live by permaculture principles, check for related restrictions. For example, if you can collect rainwater or build a composting toilet. Or rear chickens or goats, and keep beehives.
- Infrastructure – Check if current roads or future planned roads make the vacant land easy to get to. This is especially important for undeveloped or remote land areas. Also check for water, power, and gas supplies; and connection with a sewage system. Find out where the sewer main is on the block. It will affect the layout of any future buildings you may build on the land.
- Geographical Proximity – Check what is physically around it. Is there any structure or activity that helps or hinders your plans for the land? For example, there may be risks of landslides or soil erosion. Is the piece of land near other built-up residential or commercial properties? If you are paying a premium for land with a serene ocean view or next to a golf course, are there potential disruptions from future developments? For example, a new residential tower obstructing your view, a new shopping centre being built next to you causing too much noise, or for the golf course to be rezoned into residential apartments.
- Income potential – If you don’t intend to build on the property immediately, are there opportunities for getting an income for your vacant land based on usage needs around it? For example, as a carpark in a commercial area, a storage area for land-scarce neighbours, a site for renting land clearing equipment, a site for various farming and permaculture activities paid or free, or for holding ad hoc community events.
- Long term appreciation – Are there future plans for areas around it that could increase its potential appreciation? Raw land appreciates slower than built-up property. Yet in some scenarios, its value may appreciate faster than a house that needs to be renovated or upgraded to increase in value.
How you could obtain the land
- Purchase – What are the options for paying for it?
- Pay cash outright
- Get a loan (can you meet the loan conditions or criteria? Have you saved a sufficient deposit?)
- Contractual details – Check that the boundaries of the lot on the ground matches what is written in the land’s official documents. To ensure that the boundaries are correctly aligned and as described to you in the sales documentation:
- Get a survey report done by a licensed surveyor (before signing the Offer & Acceptance Contract, or as a condition of the contract).
Factors to consider depending on your plans for the land
- Leaving it vacant – If you plan to leave it vacant, how long can you leave it, what land taxes are applicable, and should you buy insurance for it?
- Building on it – If you plan to build on it, what are the associated costs and what types of funding could help you complete the build? Beyond the obvious land price and construction costs, check on other costs like council requirements, inspections and assessments, taxes, and bank fees. Also factor in any building variations, localised building compliance requirements, and any extra building and site work costs.
- Investment value – If you are planning to get investment value out of it, should you hold it, change its zoning, rent out the vacant land, or build on it yourself? Or are there more options you may not have considered that will be more lucrative?
How to get the best experience out of buying vacant land for sale
As with most complex things, what you ‘don’t know you don’t know’ may increase the risk of nasty surprises, financial or otherwise. You probably enjoy researching the topic yourself. As part of that research:
- Do speak with property specialists like real estate agents, property settlement/conveyancing specialists, and property lawyers.
- It is also a good idea to get your builder or building consultant’s perspective, whether you currently plan to build on it or not. So many people buy land and then find they can’t fit the house they want on it because they didn’t ask their builder first.
How KDD can help with residential conveyancing
Take advantage of our 30+ years’ experience in the Perth property settlement market to avoid potential costly pitfalls. Before you sign any contracts for buying vacant land, we can provide expert advice by reviewing your contract (which are often more than 100 pages long) and explaining the impact that each section has on you as the buyer. This helps you make an educated and informed decision on whether to sign the contract.
Let our experienced property conveyancing practitioners at KDD Conveyancing Perth assist you. Our friendly and knowledgeable conveyancers know the settlement process well in Western Australia. Contact KDD on (08) 9296 8717 or by email today.