Buying land in the mountains

Buying land in the mountains isn’t complicated, however, I feel that it’s important for clients to be educated about details that can be involved in purchasing land.  Maybe you’ve purchased a lot on flat land in a subdivision/community in a suburb.  It might have been quite simple to identify property boundaries…to see what you’re getting.  You may likely have had sewer and city water provided.  Maybe you just needed a short driveway for access…
Welcome to the mountains in North Carolina!
Where land is frequently not level, heavily wooded, measured in acres not lot size by the foot. Survey– Sometimes it’s hard to visualize where property boundaries are, therefore, I always recommend buyers obtain a survey, get an existing survey updated, or at a minimum have the property boundaries marked.  Often times lenders do not require a survey, and sometimes buyers don’t want to incur the cost of one.  Being informed helps you to make the decision to get one or not, or to negotiate the costs (if appropriate) with a seller.
Septic– Rural mountain land is not serviced by city/town sewer or water.
It’s necessary to install a well and septic system (if they are not already in place).  Often vacant land does not have these improvements, so there is an additional cost if you intend to build a home.  There are also requirements that the septic and well systems be a certain distance from each other.  In Madison County (and other counties) new construction requires two drain fields for the septic system (one is a repair field in the event it’s needed).  I strongly encourage a buyer to have a property “perked” for the septic system during the due diligence period of their contract (this may be addressed in a future blog) . There are some circumstances where land perking satisfactorily can be an issue, so you want to be sure before you close on a purchase that the land perks.  The process is not complicated but does involve an application to the county, and the services of a certified septic installer to dig pits for the inspector. Did you know that the requirements for perking are based on the proposed number of bedrooms not bathrooms?
Wells… “well” they are often needed to provide water for your new home.  Costs vary depending on the depth, size of pump, etc. 
Access to your building site.  Again, this is mountain land and can be rugged and heavily wooded. Sometimes land for sale will have a driveway (even if it’s rough cut) in place, but sometimes not. This is another cost to consider.
Electricity.  Sometimes there is a power source nearby the property, sometimes not.  This is another item that you need to be aware of when evaluating a property for sale.  
I hope that this information gives you some insight to buying land in the mountains.  There’s more to consider than just the amount you want to pay for the lot/acreage. With the information I’ve provided it should be helpful to you in determining what additional costs can be involved.

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