This list would need to be tweaked a little depending on the objective for the purchase. For example, a person considering developing a tract into a subdivision on a river would have some significantly different questions to answer than a person merely buying a rural retreat for their family. So the following list would be my jumping off point for most buyers of rural tracts:
- How is the property accessed? (Road frontage, deeded easement, etc..)
- Are there any water features on the property? (rivers, creek, lake, springs)
- Are utilities available to the property?
- What is the timber like? (stand types, age, planted or natural)
- Has the property been surveyed? (Are boundaries marked?)
- Who are the neighbors surrounding the tract?
- Can I get a clear title to the property with title insurance?
- Do the timber, mineral and water rights convey with the sale?
- Are there any easements on the property? (adjoining owners, conservation, utility)
- Are there any known environmental concerns or latent defects with the property?
- How is this property zoned? (agricultural, residential, commercial?)
- What are the annual property taxes?
- Have the owners received notice from any governmental agency about possible assessments or actions in the near future that would affect this property?
- Will the property be conveyed subject to covenant and restrictions? (If so, what are they?)
- How does the land lay? (slopes, bottomland, elevation change, etc…)
- Are there internal roads and trails?
- Do all of the improvements to the property convey with the sale? (gates and fences, shooting houses, out buildings, etc…)
- Does the land drain well or does it stay wet for much of the year?
- If I had to sell this property again in a year, is it desirable to other potential buyers?
- Can I pee off my porch in privacy?
Buyers that are considering purchasing land for growing crops would also be concerned about things such as:
- What is the corn grain yield per acre?
- Is it possible to irrigate with a center pivot?
- Is an irrigation permit available from the Army Corps of Engineers?
- What is the soil profile of the property?
- Where are the nearest grain processors?
An investor purchasing timberland for their portfolio would ask questions like:
- What is the site index of the land?
- Is any of the timber merchantable now?
- Is more than 70% of the property sloped suitably for growing and harvesting timber?
- Where are the nearest wood outlets and mills?
The list could go on indefinitely for developers, hunters, farmers, investors, and survivalists. The point I am trying to make is that you need to know what your objectives for owning a rural property are before you can even know the right set of questions to ask. This is one reason a buyer should engage the help of a competent agent when purchasing a rural property. Having someone working for you that knows the right questions to ask can save you thousands of dollars and make your transaction much safer and pain-free.
Written by: Jonathan Goode– Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed broker in AL and MS