Tired of the hustle and bustle of City life, dreaming of building that home in the Country? Who hasn’t thought of fields of flowers, wide open spaces and quiet living. Remember buying rural property is a lot different than purchasing a city lot. We are hoping to help you with some of the items that you may wish to consider during your buying feasibility study.
What is a Feasibility Study
A feasibility study is a timeframe the land owner or developer will give to the potential Buyer to determine if the property is “right” for them. It is the Buyer’s opportunity to explore all facets of the property before moving forward with the purchase of the land.
What Are you Looking For?
- Livestock in your future? Horses, cattle, 4-H projects?
- Hobby Farm – thinking of trying your hand at growing wine grapes?
- Just a acre or two for a pool and shop?
Make sure to consider the neighborhood carefully and how the adjoining properties are currently zoned, what is common for the area and how development could impact the future of your property.
Take a Walk!
You found the property! We suggest taking your homebuilder to walk the site. You will need to carefully evaluate the following:
Property Boundary Lines – Find the boundary lines for the property to ensure they are clearly marked and there are no encroachments on the property. If you are buying a parcel of land that is not in a new development you should always consider hiring a professional surveyor to locate boundary lines.
Floodplain – Wetlands – Are there wetlands on the property, make sure to verify. Building in a floodplain may require flood insurance, your due diligence should include calling your insurance agent before the end of your feasibility study to inquire if you need flood insurance and to understand the costs of extra flood insurance. In Washington State the Department of Ecology provides this Flood Map Search – make sure to check out your potential property.
Home Site – Is the property suitable for all of the things you want to accomplish? Home, shop, pasture….make sure to understand any easements on the property. Make sure to check with the county on any building requirements.
Items on the Property – Inspect the property for hazards such as garbage dumps, buried or leaking fuel tanks, chemicals or other issues that may have significant costs associated with clean up. Make sure your offer includes the developer or owner to take care of any debris or hazards on the lot you would like cleaned up.
Understand Your New Neighborhood!
Location, location, location. Your neighborhood is uber important when considering any property and this is especially REALLY true for rural properties. . Much of the land in the country is used for agricultural purposes. Commercial farming may be present, including fertilizer, crop dusting, and livestock to name a few. Take a drive around and understand what is around you!
Most rural developments have Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. Make sure during your feasibility period that both you and your builder review and understand the CC&Rs fully. A few of things you might find in the CC&Rs can include the style and size of home and shop you can build, view protection clauses, type of fencing you can use, and if animals are allowed, etc. Grab a highlighter and spend some time reviewing these carefully.
Is there Irrigation Water?
Make sure to understand if there is irrigation water provided to your property. This is a very important feature of rural property. Without irrigation water you are limited on the amount of water your can draw from a private well to water your lawn or pasture, in Washington State you are limited to 1/2 acre. Check out other water rights restrictions here.
Carefully review the face of the recorded final plat and any associated documents for other items you may not be aware of that are listed on the plat.
Where is EVERYTHING?
Moving to the country may mean a longer commute especially to schools, gas stations, grocery stores, etc…are you prepared for that? Make sure to check out:
- School Bus Service
- Garbage Service
- Private vs. County Roads
- Cable and Internet Service. Is high speed available, what are the other options?
- Emergency Services….where is the closest fire station…hospital?
So how much does it cost to drill a well? Well…it can be substantial, the deeper you drill the more expensive it can get…and it is the Buyer’s responsibility to check with local well drillers and the Department of Ecology to determine if you can…start your research here Washington State Wells. Make sure to check well logs Washington State Well Logs close by to see how deep the other wells in the area are to get a sense of how far you may have to drill. Check in with your County Health Department to find recommended local well drillers. Also, there is a recent Washington State court decision on wells…make sure you understand your County’s standing on the court decision of Whatcom County vs. Hirst, Futurewise, et al and follow along with Senate Bill 5239 that is proposed to ensure that water is available to support future development.
Public Sewer…Probably Not!
Most rural properties don’t have access to public sewer and require an on-site septic system. The systems are typically approved by the County, in our case the Benton-Franklin Health Department is a great place to start…check them out here. The type of septic system you can install depends on the soil of the property. It is super important that you evaluate and understand this expense.
You can evaluate by performing a PERC test which requires digging holes on the property near your home site. Once the holes are dug the Health Department Official takes samples and analyzes the soil to see how quickly water drains in the ground to support the septic drainfield.
Review Zoning, Taxes, and Land Use
Check with your county assessor’s office to answer these questions when considering building on a rural property:
- How is the property currently zoned?
- What is the tax basis for the property?
- Does the current zoning allow residential development?
- Will the tax basis change if a residence is constructed?
- If zoned agricultural, does the zoning and agricultural tax status transfer with the sale of the property?
- What are the requirements to maintain an ag exempt status on (minimum acreage size, annual income requirement, etc.)?
An ag exemption preserves the legal use and tax status of the property, however, some counties may have requirements which must be adhered to in order to maintain these benefits.
- What paperwork must be completed to maintain the ag exemption prior to the transfer of the property?
If the propery does not have power this can be a SIGNIFICANT cost when developing rural property. Make sure that power is available at the road or close to the homesite.
If the power is not to the property make sure to contact the public utility service during your feasibility study to estimate the cost to bring and install power to the lot.
Old McDonald Had a Farm
Not all properties are farmed, however, if they are you need to consider these items during you feasibility period:
- Are there any leases? If the property owner is leasing out the ground to a local farmer to maintain and harvest the crops make sure you understand the terms of the lease agreement including but not limited to length of lease, terms, obligations and conditions.
- Water Rights – Some farm properties are irrigated from a lake, stream, river, deep well or irrigation district. Water rights are highly regulated and an integral part of the property’s value. Verify the water rights transfer with the land and consider some of these questions during your feasibility period.
Thanks for reading along! We know there are many more items you will need to consider in your feasibility study, we are hoping that this article helps get your started!
April Connors is part of the Connors Group at Windermere Real Estate and is a licensed Real Estate Broker in Washington State.
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