Tips for buying vacant land

Buying a home is great -- but building your own is often better. If you want to build, however, you first have to find someplace to do it. That means buying a vacant piece of land, however, before you can get started.

Purchasing vacant land can get a little tricky, so here are some tips that experts have passed on:

1. Get your money ready.

The odds are high that you won't be able to get a regular bank loan for vacant property. There are typically not enough guarantees there for the bank, should they have to foreclose and sell it again, to take the risk. (Getting a construction loan for your actual house should be easier.)

2. Never skip the necessary checks.

Always get an empty piece of land surveyed before you buy. The boundaries may not be where you think they are. In addition, you need to have environmental testing done on the soil to check for problems with toxic waste, poor soil quality, clay and any other issues that might affect your build. You also need to make certain that you understand the zoning. Getting it changed to suit your plans could be tough.

3. Don't forget about accessibility.

Accessibility basically means two things: Can you get utilities, and is there a road? While being "off the beaten path" may seem an ideal place to build, complications with access to the road or utility lines could dampen your enthusiasm.

4. Consider the neighborhood before you build.

Maybe you plan to live in your custom-built home forever -- but things happen. If you're building a home that's several hundred thousand dollars out of the norm for the area, that may be problematic in the future if you ever need to sell.

Purchasing a vacant property is, in many ways, much more difficult than buying an existing home. Make sure that you have experienced assistance as you proceed.