Owning a bunch of acres of land with your home may sound like a great idea at first, but it can also turn into a bad move quickly if you do not take several things into consideration first.
The advantages of owning acreage include giving you privacy, quiet and a beautiful, natural view, among other benefits. However, the potential downsides to owning acreage may be less initially apparent.
You need to consider the factors of the acreage itself, including its practical, physical usability and possible legal restrictions on the use and responsibilities of ownership. You also need to consider factors cursory to the nature of the property, such as its proximity to public facilities and access to them. Fortunately, there are many tax breaks available to landowners you may be eligible for because of your acreage. Finally, you cannot overlook the value of the home situated on the land.
Not all land is created equal. Land with access to the shore, its own pond or a river running through it can be more useful than dry, landlocked property with no water. Land with rich, fertile soil can be more useful than rocky land. Land with flat, open spaces can be more useful than land with dense trees on steep slopes. Land on the sunny side of a mountain can be more appealing than land on the shady side.
One other factor affecting the usability of a piece of land is the presence of any restrictions limiting the use of the land. Remember, just because you own land, it does not mean the town, state or federal government cannot impose and enforce restrictions on what you can do on it. For example, if you are looking to grow food on your acreage, then you need to know if there are restrictions on farming on the land.
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Likewise, you may not be able to use your land for logging without the proper permits or even at all in some cases. Just because you own land, it does not mean you can hunt whatever you want, whenever you want on it. Even building extensions on the home or outbuildings like in-law homes, sheds, barns or vacation rentals on the land may be restricted by some government body. Be sure you investigate any and all such restrictions affecting how you live and what you do on the acreage you buy before you decide to buy it.
Is there only one road in and out of the property, and if so, is it paved or dirt? If it is a dirt road, then how well is it maintained? In inclement weather, whose responsibility is it to make sure the roads into and out of town are passable? On some properties with acreage, the owners are responsible for road maintenance. That means you may be responsible for maintaining the roads leading to and from the property and any roads running through it. If such a road floods or if lightning knocks a tree down over the road, then it may be up to you to clear it.
Speaking of access, how easy or difficult is it to get into and out of your home? Most homes with acreage are rural in nature and even those which are not can still be somewhat isolated from the common needs and conveniences of civilized society, like hospitals, fire stations, schools and shopping. When considering a home with acreage, consider how far away the facilities you use are located, including your workplace and doctors’ offices. How far do you have to drive for a carton of milk?
If someone sustains an injury in your home, then how long does it take for an ambulance to reach you? Are you able to get postal delivery at your home or trash and recycling pickup service or do you need to go into town to pick up your mail and drop off your refuse? Consider your social life in terms of proximity and access as well. How far away are the bars or movie theaters you frequent? How likely are your friends and family to visit you on your new acreage?
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Another factor of proximity and access to consider is safety and liability, including your own personal safety and your liability for others on your property. How close are your nearest neighbors if you suddenly need someone’s help? What are the crime statistics in the area? These, along with the proximity of roads, schools, prisons and other neighborhoods could help you gauge the likelihood of other people trespassing on your property. Not only could some trespassers have ill intent and pose a danger to you, but also even innocent people unaware they are trespassing on private property could sustain an injury on your land, for which you may be liable.
One often overlooked the benefit of buying a home with acreage is the tax break it may make available to you. In some localities, programs exist to offset landowners’ property taxes by using the property in certain ways. For example, you may claim an agricultural exemption on your land. To get those tax breaks, there may be certain steps you must take or additional restrictions you must abide by. For example, you may have to fence in a particular area to claim it for a particular use.
Do not get so enchanted by the appeal of beautiful acreage you overlook clear problems with the home sitting on the land. Far more important than the acreage surrounding your home is that you can live in your home safely and comfortably. Consider vital factors like insulation, foundations, roofs, septic or sewer system and utilities. You may get a swath of acreage for what feels like a steal on a property purchase, but if you have to spend the money you thought you saved to make the home inhabitable, then it sounds like the seller is the one who got the steal. Let your appraiser and home inspector be your guides to help you evaluate the true worth of a home independently of its acreage.
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