We are coming down to the home stretch, today we will be talking about finding land to put your tiny house on. In my last post in this series I spoke about the legalities of Tiny Houses (read it here), so make sure you read that one as a backdrop for this post.
Finding land where you can have a Tiny House is an exciting process. At this point you can see things coming together on your Tiny Home. It is worth mentioning that it can sometimes be easier to purchase land with a home on it, rent that house out, and put your Tiny House elsewhere on the property; This helps you with the whole primary dwelling issue. For some they just want raw land.
Regardless, I encourage everyone to take some time to create a list of attributes they want in their land. What size do you want, are you able to conceal a Tiny House on the property, does the land have access to municipal utilities, does the land “perk”, if you are going have a septic system, where will it go and where will your house go. Other things include the location of course, what town/city and what part of town do you want to live in? For some, good solar exposure for solar panels or water on the property.
For many people it makes sense to talk with a realtor as in many states it doesn’t cost a buyer anything to use their service and even if it does cost, it might be worth it. Regardless if you use a realtor there are taxes and city/state fees that are required, so you will need to plan for those.
If you do decide to get a realtor, don’t just pick one out randomly. Do your homework, make a short list, then interview them, I’m totally serious! Even as a buyer you want to know their background, the record, references etc. In the interview come prepared with a few photos of the house you would like to build, the plans/floor plan and be ready to talk about how the home you want to have isn’t quite above board. You need to find a realtor that is comfortable with this and get one that knows the rules and how to creatively get you utilities, certificate of occupancy, etc.
During your interview it is important to discuss the fees, taxes and terms. Do they charge buyers (not all states do)? Remember that their commission is negotiable, don’t ask them if it is negotiable, just negotiate. If you don’t they will just charge you the maximum and take your money gladly. Another thing to be warned of is if they use terms like “the going rate” which there is no such thing and they can even get in trouble for suggesting it. In a down market, they are usually more open to negotiation.
You also want to get references from them and review the terms (exclusive or not) and how they typically handle the process. Never just sign something on the spot, take it with you, review it carefully and sleep on it.
For those of you who don’t want to use a realtor or realtors cost money In your state we need to get creative. The fact is that realtor’s association is a bit monopolistic in my opinion because they closely guard their MLS listings, get regulations in their favor and other tactics. To find land we need to again make our list, then start our search. We want to check EBay, Craig’s List, the newspaper, do a search for local realtors website’s to get addresses, find property owners through local tax records (usually online), word of mouth, and finally just driving around.
You will still need a lawyer to handle the documents, remember to have your own lawyer, don’t use theirs. Take time to review things ahead of time, if they are trying to rush you tell them to back off or you walk away.
Once you find a land you want to be sure that you are clear on the boundaries, when was it last officially surveyed? Where are the build-able sites on the lot? What about utilities, internet, and trash? Septic tank site and does it perk? Ask about zoning in the areas around the property and consider what might be able to be built there. You should always walk the land and the property lines, looking at flat spots, run off/erosion, is there trash from people dumping, consider clearings and if you might need to make more space. Most often you will not be able to build in a community/neighborhood, but ask about home owners associations or other land restrictions. For those who like to garden, a soil test is a good idea too.
I also suggest mapping out where the closest grocery store, gas station, hardware store, restaurants, hospital, airport etc. Going out to the property early so you can drive the route from there to your work during normal commute times is useful too, know where traffic is and how it would impact you. Finally consider road access to the property, making sure it is not land locked, how will you get to your property, could a delivery truck make it to the property?
So in summary, there are a lot of things to consider, take your time and don’t let emotions get into the mix. If a realtor/buyers agent doesn’t cost you anything, then I’d recommend it as long as they interviewed well and their terms are agreeable. Regardless you will have to pay some lawyer fees, taxes etc.
Because this is such a huge topic here are 4 great resources for you to read to get a handle on it all: