Purchasing Land


LAND is coveted, prized, valued, and, in many respects, it is a more complicated purchase than buying a house. Essentially, there are many unknowns. A Purchaser is well-served to discover as much information about the land prior to settlement.

Raw land or unimproved land in Northern Virginia and the Piedmont is sought after for a variety of reasons and uses, including:

  • Agricultural use: soy beans, corn, hay, orchards, and increasingly Vineyards
  • Farm operations: including cattle, alpacas, horses
  • Estates
  • Subdivisions
  • Conservation Easements and its tax benefits
  • Equestrian activities: indoor arenas, cross-country tracks, race tracks, and increasingly …Polo fields.
  • Dream Homes

Because of the complexities of purchasing raw land – the Virginia Land Contract provides for an opportunity for the Purchaser to request a Study Period. The time length or even granting of the study period is negotiable, but it is key.

The land may look beautiful, but there are also some basic questions or issues to resolve during the Study Period or prior to settlement.

• Permitted uses based on covenants, jurisdiction, topography, zoning or other constraints.

• Does it Perc? If you want to build a dwelling unit or out buildings with a kitchen and bathroom (most people do), can the land sustain a septic field and either a conventional or alternative septic system and for how many bedrooms/bathroom?

A Soils Consultant or Soil Engineer can conduct the studies necessary to determine the answer to this very basic question.

• Does it have Water….drinking water? Are there one or more well sites and do you want to drill your well prior to settlement. Land without water is not valuable to many buyers.

So, typically the following tests or tasks occur during the Study Period unless the land is being offered with these improvements already in place.  It is very important to aggressively pursue this information to benefit your final decision to “perform” within the terms of the contract.

Survey: If a survey does not already exist for the lot, one will need to be conducted to determine boundary lines, easements, landmarks and other pertinent features. The Soil Engineer works from the survey and it will be provided to the Title Company for your file.

Soil Test: The purpose of hiring a Soil Consultant is to determine if the land is suitable for the installation of a sewage disposal system or drain field and what kind of drain field. This is the Perc test or Percolation Test.

Well and Water: If the land you are acquiring cannot produce drinking water, it has no practical use or value, thus it is critical to determine if there is a water supply on your land and ultimately the gallons per minute that it produces. Before a well can be drilled, you must go to the county for a permit and assistance with siting the well in relation to the building site, septic tank and drain field.

Builder Visit – for house location, site prep, cost estimates, issues:
The land may look beautiful and the Buyer or Seller may think that structures can be built in certain desired locations, but its wise to rely on Builder input. A good Builder can often eyeball a property and help the Buyer determine if the driveway and house and barn and outbuildings can be sited where desired and at a price the Buyer can afford or is willing to pay.

Land Use, Roll Back Taxes, Conservation Easements:
These relate to the financial implications for the land beyond the excavation, clearing, infrastructure and construction costs. Always check with the County Jurisdiction to research these matters and discuss with your Real Estate Agent, Attorney and Tax Accountant or other experts.

Speak to a Lender: Financing on Land is structured differently than a conventional home mortgage. Ratios, amounts and length of the loan are very dependent on your qualifications. Lenders will want to know not only if you are financially qualified but will your land purchase become a construction loan that ultimately becomes a permanent loan. Work with a lender who understands land.

Gloria Rose knows the experts to refer in all of the above areas. Now that you know, let the hunt begin!

vineyard land