Buying Land

Top 20 Questions for Land Buyers

Top 20 Questions for Land Buyers

With over 25 years of experience helping people buy land, Christmas & Associates has developed a list of twenty of the important questions you should always have on hand when you are considering buying land. The next time you go out to look at land for sale, we suggest you bring these questions:

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. How long has the property been on the market and why is it for sale?
  3. Can I view information about this property on a web site or listing sheet?
  4. Can you provide references, including names and phone numbers of people you have sold land to before?
  5. For this property, can you provide me with:
    •  A warranty deed
    • Title insurance
    • New survey with painted lines (not flagged)
    • A topographical and/or survey map
    • A quality description of the property
    • Septic indemnification letter
    • Building permits
    • Notification of all mineral and gas rights
  6. Are you registered with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and do you supply the proper HUD disclosure forms?
  7. Do you offer deed covenants that protect the environment, prohibit future development and protect my space and privacy from my neighbors?
  8. Has the Department of State filed any complaints against you?
  9. Will you guarantee to buy back this property if it is determined that I cannot obtain a permit for a septic system or if there is another major issue that might prevent me from wanting to buy the land?
  10. Can you help me with future work on my lot such as:
    • Cabin or camp construction
    • Barn construction
    • Road and driveway layout and construction
    • Forestry consulting
  11. If the land is in a subdivision, how many lots surround the parcel I am considering?
  12. Can you provide a list of other buyers in this sub-division or adjoining property owners?
  13. How is this property likely to change over time?
  14. Are there any political, environmental, or social issues concerning this area that I should know about?
  15. Have you shown me all the lots for sale in this area?
  16. What is the proximity of this land to state forest?
  17. What is the closest public access to rivers and lakes?
  18. Do you offer direct or owner financing? What are your rates and what special options do you offer for people with past credit issues?
  19. Are utilities available?
  20. Can you help me if I want to resell this land someday?

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25 Comments

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  • Sorry, while I do like having a checklist, this one needs a. little tweeking using standards in our neck of the woods. #1 is that #9 is quite illegal in Texas. We do not and cannot guarantee value or buy back of land. Items #6 & 8 need to be moved down in the list and item #19 needs to be moved Way up in the list. Sorry, but much of the questions do not apply around here. We deal with HUD and the State Department as little as possible (except that HUD-1 of course). Thanks for the list though. It gives us a good start.

  • I like many of the items on the list but some do not make sense to me. I have sold land in Georgia for 17 years and I am not sure how the Department of State has jurisdiction in what we do as brokers. Also, I am not aware of any requirement that land brokers are registered with HUD. If there is, I would like for the writer to elaborate and inform us of such. Maybe this list is great for New York state, but it is not for Georgia. In Georgia, it could be counter-productive and lead the inexperienced buyer down a rabbit trail.

    I will say that the writer has an awesome website. I really like the audio feature.

  • With all due respect to the authors 25 years of land experience, your check list doesn’t just need “tweaking”, it needs “whacking”.

    Most of that crap has little to do with land brokerage and only serves to raise unrealistic expectations from inexperienced buyers. I fail to see how a licensed broker can legally and truthfully answer all those questions. By the way, I have over 40 years experience in land brokerage and had no problem at all recognizing the intent of that article.

  • I agree with the last comment. I feel like a “List of 20 Questions” is a good idea, and Landthink should try again. I reccomend a new list written by Steve Metcalf. He was selling land while I was still in diapers, and one of the most knowlegable land brokers in my state. I would also reccomend a question: # Do you have a pick-up and wear boots?

  • I challenge you critics to write your own list of 20 questions and submit it to LandThink if you think you can do better.

    It’s easy to sit back and shoot holes in something you didn’t create. It’s not so easy to actually think about and complete a list. It’s really hard if you are on the receiving end of critics like those of you who think you invented land brokerage.

    So, who wants to step up to the plate?

  • If everything worked the same way, everywhere, then all land, all political situations, and all people would be the same. Assuming that’s not going to happen, and I think that’s a good assumption, glean what you can from someone’s knowledge they are sharing, apply what you can to your situation, and share how things work where you are. I certainly don’t do business in New York, and probably would not like it at all, but if you are buying in New York, I am sure there are issues that are peculiar to that area, just as I have issues that are peculiar to Alabama.

  • The whole idea of having a list of questions is a good one. Like anything though, you can’t apply it everywhere. Personally I think you could boil it down to 10 questions max and get all you need. Dan’s 20 questions are nothing new – he’s had this out there for years. His motivation for doing so is what flawed an otherwise pretty good idea.

  • Ryan – I accept your challenge, and suggest you issue the challenge formally to your readers – then publish the results. You will receive my list of 20 shortly.

    #7 on the list – “Do you offer deed covenants that protect the environment, prohibit future development and protect my space and privacy from my neighbors?”

    This assumes that the buyer asking the question is an environmentalist – and reflects the same for the author. If the buyer has such concerns – let the buyer do “due diligence” before signing a contract.

    #9 – Again, let the buyer complete due diligence before buying the property AKA “caveat emptor”

    #14 – Ditto

    This list is way off base. Is it any wonder buyers are suspicious of agents if they have unrealistic expectations like this.

  • I don’t think this is THE land buyer 20 question list constitution. I would suggest this list works better when you are a buyer with a buyer’s agent. It would be their job to get the answers to your questions beyond what you already know to be facts and assist with due diligence. Since the buyer is assuming much of the risk, I think it’s fair and realistic to ask any and as many questions you can before buying a high dollar investment.

    If no buyer’s agent is involved, then we have an entirely different situation on our hands that gets sticky quick. Many land deals do not involve a buyer’s agent and that in itself is part of the problem.

    We welcome you to submit your 20 buyer questions and we will publish, analyze, debate and discuss. There will surely be overlap on some and great new ones. In the end, maybe we can agree on a list that’s worthy of being the “LandThink Top 20 Land Buyer Questions” widely agreed upon by our community and shared with your buyers and sellers.

    Finally, this is what LandThink is all about people! This is how we bring the land industry together (buyers and sellers) to discuss, debate, agree and disagree on the issues we face and the ideas we share.

  • Following up on my comments above, here are my “20 Important Questions” to which I would want the answers when buying land.

    By the way, there may also be “20 Important Questions to Ask a Broker” before choosing a broker. We can do that later if you wish!

    When considering buying land, twenty of the most important questions to be asked should relate to the property being considered – NOT to the broker involved.

    1. Does the land have legal access to a public road?
    2. Are utilities available to serve the property?
    3. Is there a recent survey of the property?
    4. Any known boundary line disputes with adjoining owners?
    5. Have the boundary lines been painted or otherwise marked?
    6. Do all mineral rights convey with the property?
    7. Any known environmental problems with the property?
    8. Are there any leases in favor of others on the property?
    9. Are there any easements or right-of-way in favor of others?
    10. Are any wells or septic systems installed on the property?
    11. Will I receive a fee simple General Warranty deed?
    12. Any restrictions or conservation easements on the property?
    13. How is the property zoned?
    14. Is Seller financing available?
    15. What is the tax value on the property?
    16. What is the elevation of the property?
    17. What is the best source of local financing?
    18. Is development planned on any adjoining properties?
    19. Is the property governed by a Homeowners Association?
    20. How soon can the property owner close the transaction?

    Comments are welcome!

    • Excellent list Paul! You have met the challenge! I like how simple and straight forward it is. I also like that you state this list refers to the property and not the broker. Send your 20 questions to a broker to us direct and we will post from you as an article. Great job!

  • I agree that 20 people probably have a 100 different questions that are relevant in some states while inappropriate in others. I agree with Ryan that this is why this forum is great! Its a place where ideas can be brought up, discussed, debated and ultimately I hope we all learn something we didn’t know or think of before. Great jobs everyone! I will certainly be submitting my list of “Top 20 Questions”.

  • Ryan, I’m sure your realize that this site isn’t limited to land brokers only. Your comments, such as “and that in itself is part of the problem,” as well as the list, only creates more complications with buyers in an already difficult market. Perhaps these articles should be scrutinized a little closer, and not everything sent in should be published. I’ve been selling land for over 13 years and have never anyone ask me to help them build a barn or buy back a tract of land. I completely agree with Paul’s last statement.

  • @Rod

    Buyers, investors, sellers, brokers, agents, lawyers, surveyors, appraisers, etc… all are welcome here. In fact, there are more buyers/investors visiting LandThink than any other segment.

    We do “scrutinize” everything that makes it on LandThink. But who’s to say the “scrutinizer” has all the answers? This very article illustrates that point. LandThink is not about making land brokers or buyers feel good or bad, slanting any particular view or telling buyers what they should or shouldn’t do. We let the audience decide. Buying and selling land IS inherently complicated and always will be. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

    Sure, you might not have had a buyer ask you to buy back the land, for you to buy it for them from the start or build them a palace for free. However, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if one day you did get asked one of those questions!

    My reference to “that in itself is part of the problem” refers to buyer representation and not a list that a listing broker wants to be asked by an unrepresented buyer. It all depends on who is being represented as it relates to the property and location. In many cases the listing broker is practicing dual agency in land transactions whether they realize it or not.

    Keep up the great dialogue!

  • Great discussion. I just have a humorous observation in regards to #16 on the list. #16.What is the proximity of this land to state forest?

    In Kansas… there is only one designated so called forest that is actually part of another in Colorado and the name is “Cimarron National Grassland” that’s grassland not forest! So my answer to #16 would be the next state over I guess?

    Although I attempted to be funny and was likely not! My point is that it’s all relative. The list seems to be a starting point for dialogue (in New York at least).

  • “Yes, “Why are you selling?” is an excellent question when asked directly to the Seller. Because we represent only Sellers, we do not answer the question unless the Seller tells us it’s OK to do so.

    The primary reason for asking the question is to determine the Sellers urgency or motivation to sell – often resulting in a lower Offer. When representing the Seller, it may not be in the Seller’s best interests to discuss/disclose that information – thus our position on that subject.

    In response to Ryan’s request, I’ll send him “20 Questions to ask a Broker” in hopes of stirring up more good conversation.

    • Paul,
      I agree with you about seller giving you permission about why selling.

      In farmland the reasons will likely be known in the community already and it is hard as an agent to be tight lipped when the gossip gang will “tell all” anyway.

      We just ask sellers to give us the response up front before listing they want given and then we try to use it as selling point because buyers ALWAYS ask the question.

  • “Why are you selling” is a relevant question IF the seller is represented by a broker. That is not always the case , in fact with me it’s never the case. Everything i sell i own therefore the question about why am i selling literally never comes up.

  • As a buyer, I would say, there are general questions (but very important) pertaining to any purchase of land and there are specific questions based on the location (say State), intent of use, price and so on. General questions include nature of title, rights over land and minerals, legal requirements, covenants, easments, past and present price trends in that area etc. Specific questions vary based on each buyer’s need of particular type of land. Though I buy land but have not prepared a list for myself so this article and revision thereto can be good beginning for mr too.

  • Although we appreciate all your feedback on our original article about questions to ask before buying land, there are several misconceptions that we would like to address. First, we are a New York state based land company so some of the things that we mention are relevant to our locale. For example, deed covenants are required by many Tug Hill and Adirondack (areas in New York state) planning boards so we always provide them. Secondly, our company owns the land that we sell. So to address Steve Metcalf’s reference to “most of that crap,” (interesting comment after he started his post “with all due respect”!) he is referring to brokering listings and we own the land that we sell. And to the person who said that the list is illegal in some places, perhaps it is but we can only represent what we know to be true about selling land in upstate New York. I thought that LandThink was a place to share ideas and tips. When we sent in the article, we didn’t think that people would perceive that it was meant to apply to the entire country. These are guidelines we share with our New York state land buyers. Of course the questions will be different in Idaho or Florida! We never mean to imply that our list is the ONLY list or that it includes every question a buyer would ask when buying land. It would have been helpful if LandThink included some information about our company at the end of the article, explaining that we represent a New York-based land company in New York and that we sell our own land. And by the way, thank you to Ryan Folk for his professionalism as a moderator in this discussion.

  • In Colorado I get the question, “Why are they selling?” all the time and I am not allowed to answer it without written authority from the seller. The Colorado Real Estate Commissions protects both the seller and the buyer and the reason for selling could impact the offer that the seller recieves.
    It is also my opinion that a good land broker will answer all of the questions that pertain to their area before the need for the question to be asked. A proper interview with the buyer will assess which questions are most important to them and so the order of relevence will change.
    Just my thoughts.

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