Things to watch for when purchasing land
I’m learning. There are things to look out for when purchasing land for a small house. So far I’ve learned:
Call the city and county. Ensure that what you want to do is within code.
Talk to the locals. Find out whether they are agreeable with small space living. They can make things very good for you or very bad, depending on their perspective. Especially in a smaller community.
Call the county appraiser. Find out what the taxes on a small house on a permanent foundation will be. Insist on getting a direct answer. Who wants to pay $1800/year on a 300 square foot house? That’s about what I got into today.
Appraisals are strange things. For a property to be appraised correctly, there have to be other properties to compare it to. If there are none, some counties seem to consider what you paid to build it and what other small properties are valued at, no matter their age. Others consider what other NEW CONSTRUCTION buildings are appraised at, irregardless of size. Mill levy variations will also have a huge impact on the taxes, of course. And those vary city by city and even by location within a city/county.
The city I almost bought in taxes a home built in 1900 at over $700 a year, while in the next county over, the tax on the same property would be around $400 a year. The difference in lot price? $2000. And properties in the area with lower taxes sell better and people are more agreeable to a small house lifestyle, too.
Building codes also vary vastly by area. Some counties are more accepting of alternatives like composting toilets. Some require minimum housing square footage, while others say that the house can be any size, but the bathroom or bedrooms have to be a certain square footage. (It’s simple to avoid the requirement on bedroom square footage: simply don’t have one. Use an alcove or build a “walk in closet” or loft and just wait until after the inspection to place furniture where you want it.) If a county won’t accept a plan, talk to a city in the county. If neither will accept a plan, talk to the next county or city over. Generally codes decisions are local in the midwest, not statewide.
And then there’s the land itself. Is it stable? How far down is bedrock? Do foundations crack often in the area? What type of foundation would be best? Has the land ever flooded? (Flooding indicates two things: unstable ground for foundations and a potential for future flooding.) If you want any on-grid utilities, are they near enough to make access less expensive? Are any public utilities required by the city/county? Are any off-grid options banned? Are there trees that will interfere with foundations later, or is the land already cleared? What was the land last used for, and what sort of preparation will it need for a permanent foundation? Can gray water be used for irrigation?
What other things should be watched for?