Buying Land-in Fauquier County

When choosing to relocate to Fauquier County, a buyer is faced with selecting from the existing inventory of homes for sale in the area or purchasing land to build. Finding and buying land for that dream home is appealing, but can be complicated and sometimes daunting.  

Just as in scouring listings and touring with a local residential agent, a buyer should be aware of some “do’s and don’ts” in the process of reviewing vacant land suitable for your home. Here are some tips that may save time, headaches, and dollars in the search for the right building lot. 

Choose a real estate pro who knows land. Working with an agent who knows land can save time and money. Once the buyer has identified attributes and “must-haves” for the parcel, the agent can screen available listings with those requirements. This screen will also consider deed inclusions (i.e. restrictive covenants, mineral rights) and market value issues. He or she will also provide invaluable experience in negotiating and closing the deal.  

Consider utilities and road access and condition.  A parcel of land with a beautiful view or that contains a fishing pond may also have poor access and or require high costs to bring utilities (electric, cable, etc.) to the site. Also, roads and lanes accessing the property may also be troubled in bad weather and may also present the buyer with obligations under a road maintenance agreement (RMA).  

Consider the value of other homes in the neighborhood. Building a million-dollar home in a neighborhood of lower market values may not initially be a problem for the consumer. But if you find you must sell at a later date, perhaps sooner than expected, your home will likely be impacted by the market value of surrounding homes.  

If you can, identify a lender for the land. Lenders for vacant land are not as numerous as lenders who will finance established residential properties. The reason for this is simple; land lenders usually hold these notes in their own loan portfolios instead of selling them to a secondary market servicer. So, terms and rates can be significantly different from those nationally advertised home lending deals. Local lenders you may want to contact for land financing are Farm Credit (540-347-3344), and Oak View National Bank (540-359-7100). You may also want to consider a local builder who can purchase the land for you in a “home and land package” contract. Contact Janet Rehanek, an agent at Long and Foster for Caliber Home Builder Inc (540-229-8200).   

Do not forget about the survey and other environmental testing.  Buying land not served by central sewer and water systems requires you (your builder) to install a septic system and to drill a well. The availability of adequate, potable water and the functionality of a septic system (determined through “perc test) is not guaranteed for every piece of land. A buyer should require the seller to do such testing or at least share the cost of that testing as part of an offer.  

Do not forget about local zoning ordinances. Do not assume a large-sized lot can be subdivided or rezoned. Current home site densities (zoning) have been established by local planners and public input after painstaking work and are rendered in the County’s Comprehensive Plan. Changing those assigned zonings may be difficult.  

Do not ignore existing easements and rights-of-way affecting the land. Do ask your land agent to review and provide for your deeds and plats (surveys) of your target lot(s). Those documents will show any recorded easements or rights-of-way that can significantly impact the usability and value of your parcel.  

In the final analysis, home and land searches are best done with the help of a knowledgeable agent. Often residential agents will defer vacant land listings to agents who specialize in land. Choose carefully and well when buying land.  

by Noel Schweitzer Long and Foster/Christie’s International

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