How To Buy Land From The City | askBAMLand

Buying land from the city comes with a lot of benefits and can be a great opportunity to establish your dream home or set up a profitable investment.

To buy land from the city you must obtain all necessary permits and approvals from your local city government. All parcels should be carefully reviewed for foundation quality, topography, and utility access to ensure the land specs are in line with your real estate interests and property goals.

In many cases, cities or government bodies own vacant lots that can be purchased by individuals looking to build on the land. These lots might be situated within neighborhoods or in more remote areas. It's essential to carefully research potential land options, legal requirements, and the possible costs involved in this type of purchase.

Key Takeaways

  • Buying land from the city can open up opportunities for homeownership or investment.
  • Research and understanding of local regulations is crucial for a successful purchase.
  • Consider legal aspects, costs, and the role of professionals when buying city-owned land.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Basics of Buying City Land

As someone who's interested in buying land from the city, I first wanted to understand the basics. In this section, we'll cover the different types of land and the benefits of buying city land.

Developed vs Raw Land

When looking at land for sale, I found that there are usually two main categories: developed land and undeveloped (or raw) land.

Developed land has existing infrastructure and utilities, while raw land is completely untouched and requires more planning and investment for future development.

In some cases, you might come across undeveloped land or vacant land that had previous development but is now empty or unused.

Building on City Land

Permits and Approvals

When I decided to buy land from the city to build a home, I quickly learned that understanding permits and approvals were crucial.

It turns out that construction projects, especially when building on city-owned land, require various permits and approvals from local and state governments. These permits may include zoning, building, environmental, and safety permits.

Residential Building Considerations

Building a house on city-owned land required me to take into account several factors that wouldn't necessarily be as crucial when building on privately-owned land.

I needed to consider the foundation type, topography, and utilities available on the land before starting the construction process.

Home Foundation

First, I needed to determine the best type of foundation for my new home, as different soil types and land conditions require different foundation types.

Factors such as slope, water tables, and soil type could immensely impact my home's stability and longevity.

Land Topography

Considering the topography of the land was also essential. Sometimes, city-owned properties might have complex topography or environmental constraints that can affect the overall design and layout of my home.

By understanding these constraints early on, I was able to proactively make design adjustments that saved me time and money.

Utility Access

Lastly, I made sure to confirm the availability and accessibility of utilities such as water, sewer, gas, and electricity. On city-owned land, these may already be in place or, in some cases, may require additional negotiations or permits to access.

Land purchased without utilities will present challenges. If that’s the case for your plot, you will need to contact your local utility company to get hooked up to.

Researching Potential Land

Identifying the Location

Before I purchase land from the city, I need to identify the location that best suits my needs. I'll consider factors such as access to utilities, transportation, and proximity to other developments.

Driving around the area and getting a feel for the neighborhood can be a valuable starting point. It's also helpful to consult local zoning maps, which will guide me in understanding the types of developments allowed.

Inspection of Land

While searching for my ideal land, I'll hire an inspector to perform the necessary evaluations. They'll help me with environmental and soil testing, surveying, and confirming the presence of utilities.

By inspecting the land that the city owns, I can save myself from future headaches – from severe limitations to my development plans to expensive additions of utilities.

Understanding Zoning Rules

It's essential for me to familiarize myself with the zoning rules that apply to the land I'm interested in buying.

A property zoned for 300 units might only be approved for 100 units by the city or county. Thus, understanding zoning rules and the potential for future development ensures that I'm making an informed decision.

Identifying Hazards

In my research, I'll check for potential hazards such as wetlands and other environmental concerns that could affect my development plans.

Identifying such hazards not only helps me minimize my risks but also aids in making an informed decision before committing to a land purchase from the city. This way, I can avoid costly mistakes and choose a location that is perfect for my needs.

Legal Aspects and Considerations

When buying land from the city, you'll encounter legal aspects and considerations that are crucial to understand.

In this section, we'll discuss two main sub-topics: easements and reviewing covenants, conditions, and restrictions.

Understanding Easements

Easements are a crucial aspect of land purchasing, especially when dealing with the city. They grant a person or entity the right to use a portion of someone else's land for a particular purpose. One common easement is the right-of-way easement.

These allow for public access or utilities to pass through a property, making them essential in urban planning. When buying land from the city, I'd make sure to consult a real estate attorney to decipher the nature and terms of any existing easements.

Reviewing Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions

Another important aspect of buying land from the city is understanding the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) associated with the property. These CC&Rs may be imposed by the state or local government and can affect how you use your land.

They may dictate architectural designs, landscaping requirements, or other land-use restrictions. As a land buyer, it's my responsibility to have these CC&Rs evaluated by a real estate attorney before making a purchase to ensure compliance and avoid any potential legal pitfalls.

Role of Professionals in Buying Land

If you are conflicted about how to buy land from the city, you should consider working with a real estate broker who knows the ins and outs of local property taxes and municipal owned properties.

Working with Real Estate Agents

When I set out to buy land from the city, I quickly realized that working with a real estate agent is an excellent start. These professionals have access to on-market and off-market properties, making it easier for people like me to find the perfect piece of land.

Real estate agents also help with the negotiation process and provide guidance on the legal requirements for purchasing city-owned properties.

Additionally, they can help me understand the zoning regulations and development potential of the land, which is crucial when buying land from the city.

Hiring a Real Estate Attorney

Once I found the perfect piece of land, I knew it was essential to hire a real estate attorney. They play a crucial role in ensuring the buying process goes smoothly, especially when purchasing land from the city.

Real estate attorneys are experts in understanding how to pay property taxes and following real estate laws to make sure I'm abiding by them, and that my investment is secure. They're especially helpful when addressing potential issues with the city, such as liens or unpaid taxes.

Effects of Local Politics on Buying City Land

As someone who is interested in buying land from the city, I was curious to know more about the role of local politics and community engagement in the sale process.

Public Approval Process & Stakeholders

After conducting some research, I discovered that the sale of city-owned land can be a highly politicized issue, with different stakeholders advocating for different uses and priorities.

In some cases, community input and public hearings are required before land sales can be approved, which can add time and complexity to the process.

Varying Community Input

One interesting finding from my research is that the role of local politics and community engagement can vary widely depending on the city and the specific parcel of land in question.

For example, in some cities, community advocacy groups play a major role in shaping the sale process, while in others, the city government has more control over the decision-making process.

Understanding the local political landscape and the role of community engagement is therefore essential for anyone who is considering buying land from the city.


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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