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Before Buying Land for Your Dream Home

While bare land is hard to come by in Southern Oregon, there are parcels available for those willing to find them and willing to embark on the journey involved in creating a usable piece of land.

Building on bare land is more involved, more costly and more stressful to start. In the long run, however, you're working towards transforming a bare patch of earth into the place you were meant to call home.

"Bare plots of land are pretty hard to find in our area," says Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation broker, Ron Demele. "Developers are kind of in a slow-down so there's not a lot to build on - unless you go way out."

When considering outlying areas, ask yourself if you can live outside a major city. Had you planned on a certain school district for your kids? Can you live without high-speed internet or a municipal water supply?

An alternative to bare land, and a way to find a homesite closer to major areas, is to watch for unfinished homesites or older properties with dwellings that could be torn down and replaced.

When narrowing down a list of properties, have a capable professional on board. Buying an existing home is possible without a real estate agent, but buying bare land has its own host of challenges.

As you embark on your search, create a list of potential properties to compare. For each, check local development restrictions. Issues to consider include how many dwellings are permitted on one site, water availability and future growth.

Information pertaining to water availability (gallons/minute) is required for a mortgage. Is a local sewer district in place or is a septic tank needed?

Stories abound about rural homeowners without fire protection or phone service. Be cautious!

On a personal note, consider the intended use of the property. If you're an avid gardener, scrutinize water availability and drainage and be willing to replace the top layer of soil if necessary.

If you'll have horses, plan to check local zoning to be sure livestock is allowed. An often overlooked detail, find out what plans are in store for adjoining parcels. Imagine building "Home Sweet Home" only to learn a fertilizer plant is planned next door or a large factory will be built at the center of that spectacular view.

Something to be on the lookout for is that some properties come with pre-certification, says broker Denise Morland of Rogue Valley Realty Group.

"A seller can get that ahead of time to show that everything is in order. It's a definite selling point," says Morland.

Another step in selecting a property is to visit city or county planners to determine where access should be created. In most cases, excavation services used to level and prepare the homesite will dig trenches for utilities and carve out driveways. Use the service to the fullest extent while it's on site and paid for.

When hiring an excavator, go with a local contractor to avoid travel fees and to ensure the company is familiar with local soil types, like the Rogue Valley's sticky clay, or property with extensive boulders.

Whether you opt for a ready-to-build site or a patch of heaven on a far-away hillside, Medford John L. Scott broker Clason Whitney says to do your homework and be prepared for the effort involved.

"When you're starting from scratch, there's a lot to do," Clason says.

"Sure you can save enough money to do it all yourself, but also realize there's a learning process, errors, plenty of headaches"¦ there are a huge number of things that go into choosing land and building a house, so you've got to have all your ducks in a row."

He adds, "You can do just about anything. I've worked with folks who carved into the side of a mountain to build a house even though it looked like there was no way a house could go there. Anything is possible, and it's well worth the effort, but there's a lot of work involved."

Costs to Consider

  • Rural or other undeveloped properties come with additional costs in order to create a usable parcel.

  • Costs for buying bare land may include:

  • Cost for the land

  • Cost for hiring a real estate agent; expect additional fees beyond what an existing home would require

  • Contractor fees: a good contractor can subcontract all aspects of building a home in a rural area; if you go it alone, plan to pay for excavation and paving for driveways and a foundation

    Other fees include:

  • Testing for available water and digging a test well

  • Establishing a permanent water supply, whether by drilling a well or hooking into available nearby services

  • Delivering electric and gas to the homesite

  • Wiring for phone and cable service - if available!

  • Fencing property to minimize problems with wild animals

  • Title fees

  • Surveyor fees - to determine property lines and boundaries

    Before Buying Land for Your Dream Home