Can You Build a House On Agricultural Land? | askBAMLand

Owning agricultural land comes with a lot of benefits and incentives, but building a house can sometimes be problematic for property owners.

Yes, you can build a house on agricultural land so long as your development does not violate any of the zoning laws associated with the parcel. To build a house on agricultural land, you must evaluate zoning laws, utility & road access, and obtain permits from your local building authority.

After extensively researching real estate zoning laws, I have gathered enough information to determine if you can build a house on agricultural land. My research has indicated that zoning laws can vary from state to state, and you need to confirm the regulations in your area before you start building a home on agricultural land.

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What is Agricultural Land?

Agricultural land, commonly referred to as ‘farmland,’ is real estate designated for agricultural use. Typically, agricultural land can only be used for rearing livestock and growing crops. These are some of the most common types of agricultural land:

  • Farms
  • Homesteads
  • Ranches

To ensure food security, state and federal governments reserve vast amounts of land solely for farming. Farmers are given a lot of benefits for growing food, but there are some drawbacks as far as what you can and can’t do with your plot.

Can You Build a House On Agricultural Land?

Yes, you can build a house on agricultural land so long as it does not violate any of the zoning laws associated with the parcel.

This can sometimes be tricky to generalize because each state has its own laws for development regulations on agricultural land. In most cases, zoning laws permit farmers to build a personal private residence on agricultural land so that they can live on the property.

This allows farmers to stay close to their work and encourages some people to get into agriculture, as farmland is quite cheap to build on. However, building a house on agricultural land is more complex than pursuing development on residential land. You need to meet certain criteria, and the home can only be used by the farmer.

How to Build a Home on Agricultural Land

If you are the owner of a farm who is actively growing food, then getting permission to build on the parcel is much more straightforward compared to an outside investor. Unlike residential real estate, you cannot just build any home that you want on agricultural land.

With that said, the zoning laws of each state vary, and you need to ensure that you are within your legal rights before you can begin developing a home. This is the procedure for building a home on agricultural land.

1. Contact Your Local Building Authority

Given how complex and inconsistent zoning laws can often be, you need to contact your local building authority to confirm the guidelines for your agricultural land.

Your local building authority will provide detailed information about your agricultural land’s zoning laws and the building limitations of the property. If the development regulations are strenuous, you may be able to request that part of the parcel be rezoned for residential use so that you can build a home without hassles.

2. Confirm Utility Access

Before you commit to your development plans, make sure you can connect the utilities you need to live on the land. These are the standard utilities you will need in your home:

  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Plumbing
  • Gas

That said, the essential utilities you must guarantee are water and electricity. Everything else you can find a workaround for, but water and electricity are often deal breakers for most residential developments on agricultural land.

3. Confirm Road Access

Building a home on residential land is about as good as useless if you do not have road access. Given that farmland is often located in the middle of nowhere, you need to confirm that you will be able to physically reach the property.

If road access is only a minor setback, you can build a road to connect your property to the nearest highway or street.

4. Cost Evaluation

Although farmland is cheap, building a house on this type of parcel can get quite pricey if you overlook certain expenses. You need to create a budget for the development and consider all of the expenses required for the project.

Naturally, you should have an idea of the specs and layout of the home that you want to build. However, you also need to include the cost of connecting utilities, building a driveway, and any additional features you want.

5. Permits & Inspections

Once you have compiled your plans, created a budget, and confirmed that the farmland is suitable for developing a home, get approval from your local building authority.

Schedule an appointment to have a representative inspect your home to ensure that your plans are within your zoning rights. The inspector will evaluate the property and give you the green light if everything is in order.

6. Hire Contractors

Unless you plan on building the home yourself, hiring contractors to develop the agricultural land will be a must.

Present the specs and desired plans to a qualified contractor. They should be able to assist you with the rest of the logistics of building your home on agricultural land.

What are the Limitations of Building a Home on Agricultural Land?

As I’ve covered, building a house on agricultural land can be complicated, and for a lot of people, the process is more trouble than it is worth. You need to jump through several hoops to get the ball rolling, which can make or break a building project.

Before you commit to any development plans, consider the limitations of building a house on agricultural land so that you know what you are in for.

Zoning Laws

Whenever you build a home, you need to ensure that the planning is in line with the local zoning laws of the area. This is rarely an issue with standard homes on residential land, especially if your development plans are non-invasive and straightforward.

However, zoning laws with agricultural land can be challenging. Agricultural land is designated for farming, and zoning laws can potentially block any development that is not aligned with growing food.

You may be limited by the type of home that you can build, or you may be prohibited from developing a private residence entirely. The bottom line is that zoning laws are a major obstacle for a lot of building projects on agricultural land, which is why you should be thorough when researching your development rights.

Restricted Land Use

Real estate is one of the safest investments you can make and a lot of people buy land specifically to pursue development projects. The cheap price tag associated with farmland grabs the attention of many investors, but the limitations tend to present many obstacles.

Unless you are willing to go through the process of re-zoning the agricultural land, farming is the only thing you can do with the real estate. With that said, even if you buy agricultural land, there is a good chance that you will not be able to re-zone it.

This implies that building homes, apartments, and commercial businesses will likely be out of the question.

Easements

An easement is essentially an agreement the previous landowner made to give up certain rights to their property. It’s common for agricultural land to be associated with an easement that prohibits specific types of land use.

Some easements are very relaxed and simply involve sharing the maintenance of a fence - or giving public access to a road or highway through your property. In contrast, other easements are invasive and greatly limit your ability to use your land the way you want.

Conservation easements, in particular, can dictate how you can develop agricultural land and perhaps even how you can grow food. If you want to build a house on agricultural land, make sure that there is no easement attached to the property that limits your development plans.

Access to Utilities & Amenities

Agricultural land is often in rural and desolate locations, which can be very problematic for accessing utilities and amenities. Utilities are an essential part of every home, and the location of agricultural land is often unsuitable for connecting water and electricity.

If there is no power or water source in the area, the agricultural land is simply unlivable in the traditional residential sense. Furthermore, having access to basic amenities such as grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants are also a major issue for a lot of aspiring homeowners.

About THE AUTHOR

Brittany Melling

Brittany Melling

Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.

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