Do you want to buy a plot of land, but don’t want a realtor? Let’s learn more about how to purchase land as a private person.
Buying a plot of land without a realtor is definitely possible. You’ll be replacing a person who generally understands contracts well and has experience in finding a place to buy. Otherwise, buying land by yourself can save you some cash.
We’ll talk about the process of buying land without a realtor. We’ll introduce some advantages and disadvantages to try to buy land without hiring someone.
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How to buy vacant land without a realtor
To be fair, people who are even a little bit technically adept have been able to find plots of land by themselves online using any variety of land based websites. Most people find the land first, then engage a realtor.
There is a bit of a difference between buying a house from a realtor and buying a plot of land. Not all pieces of land are publicly listed for sale. Some might be available via word of mouth or on rather specific websites or listings. A plot of land’s only indication of being for sale could even be a hand written sign. The job of most realtors is to know these kinds of things since that is how they get paid!
Learn about the land
Realtors tend to learn about the land primarily for the purpose of selling you the land. You’ll want to know lots of details, like the zoning requirements for your vacant lot. City hall is the best place to learn about these things, and you should ask about the city measured acreage as well as any registered easements or restrictions on the land.
The idea here is that a realtor would typically look up a few of these things to shield you from trying to buy land that doesn’t work for your needs. Having to do it yourself involves a bit of government navigation, which isn’t too difficult for the patient.
Negotiating and contracts
Here is the slightly more difficult part, and we’ll be really honest about it: making a contract for a land purchase isn’t exactly easy. If you zone out while reading a book or detailed document, we would suggest brewing some coffee and getting ready to focus, because you’ll be reading legalese - and rather important legalese too.
The basic idea here is to cover your own problems as much as you can. Ensure you know what you are agreeing to and what you can seek legal action on after the contract is signed.
In our opinion, and probably the same opinion of most realtors and lawyers: buying land is easier than buying a house. You don’t need a home inspection. You won’t need to test for lead paint or radon. You will have to do a percolation test for soil, but that should be done before the offer goes through.
Of note, you can likely find land buying purchase agreements online. Just be sure that they apply to you and be sure to include any contingencies for which you’d back out of a land sale - like learning that something is not as presented, or that the seller didn’t know about themselves. You can generally back out of a land sale for any reason, and could even include that in your offer. A few more common contingencies include failing environmental tests, septic tests (the perc test), offering correct boundaries, and that zoning regulations do fit with the buyer’s needs. All of these things need to be sought during the inspection period, which usually starts right after the offer is accepted.
Other services you’ll still need
Sure, you can save money by not hiring a realtor. You’ll still spend a few dollars on a title search to ensure the property is indeed owned by the current owner without issue, and title insurance, as well as small closing costs.
Hire a lawyer instead?
While a realtor might not be necessary, a lawyer might be helpful. A lawyer could help you navigate potential legal issues with your contract and ensure that the wording in the contract is right for you.
Some safeguards for buying a plot of land without a realtor
We stated this before in passing, but to state the importance again: If you are buying land without a realtor, hire a closing company and get title insurance. Title insurance is generally required anyway, but it will help a lot if a sticky situation about claims to the property comes up. You may want to hire a title company and a lawyer, in part because the title company isn’t actively looking out for you - but an attorney usually is!
An attorney typically charges per hour, though some can charge a percentage of the value of the contract. Compare this to a realtor who is usually asking for 3 to 6 percent of the value. We suggest looking up rates for both before pursuing.
What will I miss about not using a realtor to buy vacant land?
Most everything will be up to you. If you are an independent person with time to research the land and learn more about it, you could do very well buying land without a realtor. If you want guidance through the process - and maybe just someone to talk to about the land purchase, you would otherwise want to consider getting one.
In my opinion, one key advantage to having a realtor is knowing the market. Unless you actively study local prices for land, which can fluctuate, it is difficult to know what to offer. You also end up negotiating for yourself, which isn’t a bad thing if you are up for it. The primary issue here is that if your offer isn’t quite right in a competitive market, you may not stand a chance at getting the land if you aren’t aware of how many offers the land seller has. Of course, you could ask!
For many buyers, it’s also worth knowing that a realtor's fees will probably eat up a large portion of the negotiated difference between the original land price and the price you really pay.
Who should not try to buy land without a realtor?
If you know nothing about the land you are buying and don’t want to spend the time learning about it, or potentially working with the city to learn more about the legal aspects of the property, we wouldn’t suggest trying it by yourself. Anyone with the time and energy otherwise should be capable of filling the role.
About THE AUTHOR
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.Read More About Brittany Melling