Welcome to the John Hall and Company Buying Land in Alabama series.  This is part two in the series. Go here to read, part one written by Pete Hall

Purchasing land can be intimidating and a foreign concept to some. It does not have to be. Having a checklist on steps to take when purchasing a property can insure that you make informed and educated decisions. These decisions can mean the difference in you owning exactly the property you have dreamed of or not being satisfied with your purchase.

I believe there are three main questions a buyer needs to answer or have established when their search for property begins; Budget, use of the property, and preferred location. Honing in on these three questions to begin with can save you from wasting time searching and looking at properties that are not the right fit for you. Take the time in the beginning of the process to establish a budget. Whether that means meeting with financial advisors or exploring your options with financing. In Alabama there are several “land banks” that specialize in financing rural properties and can provide great insight on how to establish a budget in your search for land.

Once a budget is established then you are really able to kick off your search. When speaking with first time land buyers I tend to ask the question “What is your vision or why do you want a piece of rural land?” There is a reason people begin to look for rural land and keying in on what your hobbies are and what you envision yourself using the property for is a good place to start. Once you have the big picture it’s important to start keying in on the attributes the property needs to have. Listing out several attributes a property needs to have is a great place to start. Things such as a creek, pond, cabin, pasture, timber, wildlife food plots, topography, and any other attributes. Once you have your list of attributes then go through and identify which of those are absolute necessities to make up your ideal property. The landscape in Alabama changes dramatically throughout the state. If you’re looking for the property to consist of a cold-water creek with rocky outcroppings then the coastal plains of south Alabama may not be the best place to focus your search.

Preferred location. This is what I consider to be one of the three more important questions to ask yourself. I always suggest to people to be flexible when establishing a preferred location though. There are areas within the states that are like micro markets where land values can be significantly higher! You may have to travel a little bit further to find a better bang for your buck! Sometimes preferred locations and preferred attributes in a property don’t always match up. The landscape in Alabama changes dramatically throughout the state. If you’re looking for the property to consist of a cold-water creek with rocky outcroppings then the coastal plains of south Alabama may not be the best place to focus your search.  Figure out where your ideal property would be located and then search outward from there. Preferred property attributes and location may need to be adjusted. It just depends on which is more important to you.

Although the internet is a great tool and can provide more information than we know what to do with I still highly suggest identifying a real estate broker who specializes in land to represent and assist you in searching, viewing, and purchasing a property. They can provide invaluable insight for first time buyers and help avoid mistakes when purchasing a property before it is too late. An active land agent can have an understanding of an area that you may not be familiar with, be up to date on what the market value for a property is, be able to thoroughly and knowledgably show you properties, identify potential problems, ask important questions to the sellers that may otherwise not be understood or revealed, assist in negotiations, and importantly make sure that you are getting a fair deal while not being taken advantage of.

All in all, purchasing a piece of rural land can be a much simpler process than purchasing a home. Many times, it doesn’t consist of all the inspections and reports needed to close as a home would. Once you have developed a budget, identified what attributes a property needs to meet your desires, and generalized a preferred location then the search process can become much more enjoyable. Having a land agent on your side to assist you through the process can result in a land buying process that was enjoyable and stress free. Before you know it, you will be spending time on your own piece of property enjoying it just the way you dreamed of!

-Hoke Smith

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