OCTOBER 2000 BACK ISSUE
Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 10/2000; 2:00:00PM.
Important Considerations For Buying Rural Land
This article provides you with basic information on important points to consider before you buy rural land, whether for a home or for a business.
The benefits of the rural lifestyle will, for most people, far outlast any drawbacks. However, it is important to realize that rural living is nothing like living in the suburbs of the city. The transition can be a difficult one. Fantasies about living a peaceful, independent, existence in the country, far from the maddening crowds, can soon turn to feelings of isolation and hardship. Many people buy rural property on a weekend binge or because it's the trendy thing to do. Deliberation and exploration should be made before packing up the wagon and heading out to the prairie.
County governments do not provide the same level of service as those in the city. People who move to get away from urban problems soon discover they no longer have the same conveniences that living in the city provides. The transition can be educational to say the least.
One can become very disillusioned with the hard work that comes with rural property ownership. Sometimes getting to work in the morning will mean first clearing out a 500 foot driveway after a major snowstorm. And in some cases not being able to get to work at all because the small county you live in only has two snowplows, which are not scheduled to dig you out for three days.
Prospective buyers of land are strongly advised to carefully inspect the property and make appropriate inquiries to determine whether there are any current or potential problems which could affect the use of the land for their intended purposes. Drawing up of a contract to protect a buyer from an unscrupulous seller should be considered.
Included in the contract should be the purchaser's intended use of the land. The contract should contain provisions that enable it to be terminated if you find out, or tests reveal unacceptable residue or disease problems. Written answers to key questions should be sought from the seller.
The presence of pesticide residues (e.g. herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.) in animal and plant products can have a major impact on their marketability. Community sensitivity and market resistance to pesticide residues in food is increasing. The residues of major concern to land purchasers are those which persist in soil for prolonged periods (years or even decades).
Polychlorinated biphenyl's (PCBs) were used in transformers and hydraulics, which can leak and leave hot spots of contamination. Residues arising from the recent use of other chemicals can occur in animals and plants and persist for variable periods.
Buyers should inspect the property for evidence of potential sites of residual contamination, such as pesticide storage sheds, used drums or disposal sites; buildings, garbage dumps; or abandoned transformers and hydraulic equipment. The new landowner becomes responsible for all dumpsites (including cars and machinery and buried fuel tanks), so it is worth checking out the land thoroughly before finalizing the purchase. Abandoned, uncapped wells may also be a source of groundwater contamination from agricultural pesticides and fertilizers.
Prospective buyers should also inquire about current and past agricultural practices on the property and in the area, such as intensive vegetable, fruit, or tree production, which could increase the risk of soil residues. For example, old orchards may be contaminated with arsenic compounds, which have an extremely long breakdown period. Soil can be tested for specified residues.
Some livestock diseases can persist on contaminated land even when the property is de-stocked when sold. Again, find out the history of a site before investing.
Plant Diseases and Pests
Land purchasers who intend on operating a horticultural or cropping enterprise should make themselves aware of relevant disease and pest problems, protection zones and regulations which apply in that county. The disease/pest history and current status of the property should be sought from the seller.
Find out if the parcel of land you're interested in has noxious weeds on it. A noxious weed is a plant, not native to the area that is invasive and detrimental to forest, pasture, cropland, or water environments. Some species, not all, may be poisonous to people or animals. A guide to common noxious weeds is available through the local County Noxious Weed Control Board. If you buy a weed infested site you assume legal responsibility for those weeds, control of which can be expensive.
Noxious Animals and Insects
The prospective purchaser should also inspect the property for signs of noxious animal and insect activity, and ask the current owner about any pest problems they experience.
Other Conditions of Land Use
There are a number of other factors that could affect people buying agricultural land. Many farming industries are subject to licensing and other legal requirements. People must familiarize themselves with these requirements before engaging in an agricultural enterprise.
Land Use Planning
There are many features of agricultural land which may not be governed by legislation but which can significantly affect the land's suitability, productivity, amenity and value. These include natural features such as topography, climate, soils, water availability, and natural vegetation. Infrastructure and other improvements such as road access, sheds, yards, fences, water and power supply, established horticulture and overall farm layout are also important.
The viability of any proposed agricultural enterprise or pursuit should be closely examined before land is bought with that purpose in mind. Marketing, enterprise requirements, farm planning, farming techniques, and business management should all be looked into.
If you are looking for a rural lot on which to build, take the following precautions:
1. Check with the planning board to determine what type of development is planned in the area.
2. Determine if there are oil or gas leases on the property.
3. Determine what utilities (gas, electric, cable, water and sewer) will service the property.
4. Ask the owner if a percolation test has been done for a sewage disposal system. If not, have a percolation test contingency clause inserted in the contract of sale. The cost of fill may be prohibitive.
5. Check with the town building or zoning department to find out what building and other permits are required and the zoning requirements that will have to be satisfied--minimum square footage, minimum lot size and minimum frontage.
6. Check to see if the property is in a flood zone.
7. Determine whether state, county or local subdivision regulations have been met.
8. Make sure that the contract of sale indicates the lot's dimensions and size. The contract should also require the seller to have the lot staked by a surveyor.
9. Check for signs of hazardous waste dumping by having an environmental study done.
10. If public water is not available, obtain an estimate from a well digger, and ensure there is adequate water for your needs before you close the purchase.
11.Insert a contract provision stating that the contract is subject to your attorney's approval as to form and content.
The buyer must be aware of and fully assess the suitability of a rural property for its intended purpose. This can include features which might not be readily evident; which the seller is not legally obliged to disclose; and which routine inquiries might not uncover.
Other government agencies exercising control over land use should also be contacted before purchase to clarify any relevant matters.
Ultimately, it is up to the purchaser and their agent to carefully inspect the property, examine the contract, and ask the right questions.
Compiled by Don Dysart. Cooperative Extension programs and policies are consistent with federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability, and sexual orientation. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Cooperative Extension office.