If you're planning to build a “dwelling” of any kind on your parcel of land, there is one issue that may seem insignificant at first glance, but it has the potential to make or break a land deal. It's called a “Perc Test” – and if you're dropping some serious coin on land in a rural area, this is an issue you'll want to be sure about before you sink your money into it.
A type of local council zoning covers every home in a suburb. This is a planning instruction that tells developers and planners what can be built on different parcels of land. For most houses, the zoning is low-density residential – this means that only houses can be built on this land. But in some areas, high-density zonings are more common, or even mixed-use zonings. And zoning can change, if the plans for your suburb change. When a piece of land moves from low-density to high-density zoning, it has increased in value for a developer.

Thanks for the article Seth. Very informative. Vacant land is one of those types of property I’m coming across in my search for good deals on houses. I’ve been a little brave offering people a cash offer for their lot. Only to find out later the parcel has a myriad of challenges. (Most of which could be dealt with-time and money, but still not worth it). Thankfully nobody took the deals yet. I have learned a lot and gained more understanding. I am closer to getting raw land at a great price that is build-able! Articles like yours, helps guys like me, stay focused and saved from troubles! As we know the bigger the challenges and unknowns the higher the risk-and the payday. Tread carefully.


Fortunately the lot is over 500 feet deep. The price reflects the known fact that the front erodes due to natural occurrence. I really love this lot but am scared that it might be too many loopholes and fees to deal with DEQ regulation because of the topography. Do you recommend walking away from this lot? It’s only $25000 and is less than 1/4 the cost of almost any other lot half its size anywhere else in the state.

I really appreciate your posting this blog subject. I would ask the neighbors and previous owners what they know. If applicable, go to the Planning and/or Building Department and find out what permits have been issued for that parcel in the past. You might get an indication of what waste products might be on the property. You should also contact your state’s department of the interior or forestry department to see if there are any endangered species, plant or animal, located on the property. Contact the Sheriff’s department to see if there have been any reports of drug manufacturing on the property. If they don’t know, they may be able to direct you to the correct authority. Not all drug manufacturers use stick built houses to do their business (trailers and vans). Also, if there is a stream or creek on the property, you should investigate what is up stream from your property; like a turkey or hog farm or dairy. These may affect the water in the creek upstream, but they may also smell bad coming from the prevailing wind direction. Ask the neighbors.
While often unpopular with locals, people who wish to cash in on their gardens get a lot of help from planning laws. According to Craig Noel of Strutt & Parker, it is becoming very difficult for planning authorities to resist applications to build houses in back gardens, thanks to one of the new planning guidelines, PPG3, which obliges houses to be built at higher densities in future.
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Any ‘extraordinary’ costs relating to the development of your site.  For instance, because of geological conditions the site – or part of it – may need more expensive foundations.  If part of your land contains a site inhabited by rare animals, such as newts, the developer may be required to create a new habitat for them on a different part of the site and even provide ‘newt crossings’ to encourage them move to their new home.  This is expensive and time consuming work and developers will ask for additional deductions, based on their view of the costs of this work.  You need to be able to understand the calculations they are making and be reassured that they are fair and reasonable
One of the most important first steps before subdividing your land or land you wish to buy is to make sure there are no restrictions that will block your plans. Everything from ordinances, neighborhood covenants to deed restrictions may prohibit – or fatally complicate – your plans. Review these items carefully, plus order a professional title review (typically through a real estate attorney) so that you can understand whether there are any deal killing issues that apply to the property and prevent subdividing.
Consider your own needs when pricing, and understand how pricing could impact buyers’ interest. When selling real estate, you sometimes have to choose between getting the highest price and possibly selling quicker. Plus, your pricing may be influenced if you need to sell for financial reasons. In addition to your own situation, pricing your property ultimately requires an understanding of the land market as a whole, why people are buying lots or land in that area and who these people are. A good real estate agent with land expertise can help greatly in this process.
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