Checklist for Purchasing Vacant Land

If you’ve bought a home before, you might think that you are well-equipped to buy a parcel of vacant land. But you might have to think again. Buying land is a world different from buying a home. Although they are similar real estate transactions, there are other considerations and steps to take before deciding to purchase vacant land.

Keep in mind that because there are no structures on it yet, you need to make sure that everything is set up to make it possible for you to build your own house or building on the lot you purchase. 

We’ve created your ultimate checklist to help you on your search for the best vacant land to purchase, as well as the transaction itself. From inspecting the land to zoning regulations, we’ve got it all covered. 

Before Purchase: Things to Consider 

When choosing a vacant land to purchase, it’s important that you consider your needs and priorities. Things like location, accessibility, and community matter even when purchasing vacant land, especially if you’re planning to build your home on it. Some important matters to take into account include the following:

Local Amenities 

What are the establishments or amenities you need within arm’s reach from your future home? Things like drug stores, grocery stores, medical clinics or hospitals, schools, shops, parks, etc. may be some non-negotiables for you. Take a drive around the area and check out the local amenities to determine if the location has everything accessible when you need them. If you don’t own a car, you also need to find out if there are conveniently located modes of public transportation in the area. 

Government Quality 

Of course, you want to live in a place that is well-maintained, safe, and comfortable for you and your family. These things can all be attributed to how the government runs the area. Do your research on the localities, HOAs, and government agencies, study their rules, and find out if they are well suited to your needs and priorities. 

Environmental and Zoning Matters

More than just the land itself, it also pays to look around the immediate vicinity of the land you’re looking to purchase. Use maps and aerial surveys to investigate environmental and zoning matters of concern, such as: 

  • Landfills
  • Noisy highways
  • Industrial use areas

After Purchasing: Permits and Obligations 

Once you purchase a parcel of land, you might need to obtain certain permits and comply with obligations or rules to prepare your land and build your home legally. You also need to investigate utility services like sewers and water sources.

Regulated Water Sources

If your land is near regulated water sources, you may need to obtain other permits. Some areas are even restricted and do not allow building activities within the vicinity. If your land is near any of the following regulated water sources, you need to evaluate it and take a look at the federal, state, and local laws that may apply. 

  • Lakes
  • Ponds
  • Rivers
  • Streams
  • Wetlands

Sewer Service

You need to make sure that the sewage service capacity within your locality is enough for you to make a connection. This, you can determine by speaking to the local board of health or town clerk. You should also ask how much it will cost you to connect to the sewer service. The further your land is from the sewer line, the more expensive it will be. In these instances, you might want to consider installing your own private septic system. 

When it comes to sewer connections, there are also permits that you need to fulfill. These will require you to conduct soil testing and determine your soil quality, groundwater height, etc. Usually, the property seller would have a permit for an engineered septic system, but if not, this is something you need to undertake before building.

Special Regulatory Issues & Subdivision Rules

Some types of land are also governed by special regulatory issues, especially if they are located in historic districts or other preserved and protected areas. If so, you need to educate yourself on the special laws that govern your land and comply accordingly. 

In the same manner, parcels of land located within subdivisions may also have unique laws and regulations. Speak to the town clerk and ask about the subdivision rules you need to comply with. 

Title Issues

The title to your land may also have some underlying issues that may limit what you can do to your property. Your attorney can help you determine and address title issues, including: 

  • Rights of way 
  • Easements
  • Foreclosures
  • Tax collection proceedings 

If any title issues that concern your land exist, you should resolve them before closing the sale. 


Permits are required for you to connect your land to public water sources or to install your own private well. Be sure that you fulfill these permits and comply with the rules and requirements of installing private wells on your property.


All towns will have zoning rules and regulations that govern your land, what you can do with it, and the permits that you need to accomplish. As a general rule, you need a residential zoning permit if your land is for home use. The zoning bylaws can also lay down other rules regarding how your property can be developed. 

Before Building

Before you get started on building your home on your newly purchased vacant lot, there are other things you should consider. 

Find out if there are endangered animals or plants on the land.

Endangered species and their habitats are protected by laws. If there are any near your land, you will need to accomplish additional permits and comply with the construction rules set forth to protect these endangered animals and plants. You may also be required to pay a fee for the protection of these endangered species and their habitat, but there are loan programs and financial protections that you can avail of. 

Hire an attorney.

To ensure that your journey of buying, building, and developing your vacant lot goes smoothly, you should consider hiring an attorney. A lawyer can help you avoid issues that involve zoning, land titles, etc. 

And You’re All Set!

The process of purchasing vacant land and building your home can get very complex and complicated. But accomplishing all these is absolutely necessary to ensure a seamless journey of building your home. 

Adequate preparation and full knowledge are key to a successful venture. So take this checklist and make sure that you get everything set up before you decide to purchase vacant land and build on it.

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