Home & Real Estate

Buying an Empty Lot? Consider These 8 Crucial Factors

Buying vacant land is a complex process and there are a lot of vital things to consider before jumping in head first. Depending on what you have planned for the empty lot, there’ll be different things you’ll need from it, and therefore you should keep in mind the following factors when you are interested in buying somewhere. Each one should be mulled over carefully because they will all contribute to your final decision, and could be the difference between success and failure when you are trying to implement what you have planned.

  1. Location

This is arguably the most important factor, and ties in with a lot of the other crucial things to consider! If you are looking for a plot to build a family home, for example, are you willing to completely relocate? You’ll need to think about the surrounding area in terms of access to schools, work offices, retail and leisure outlets, grocery stores, and anything else important to you and your family. 

  1. Terrain and Natural Disasters

You can think about the end result as much as you want but consider what’s on the lot already. Is the land boggy and soft or hard and rocky? Is the land prone to flooding? What’s the weather like a lot of the year – are there often tornadoes or is it buried in snow for 6 months a year? How will each of these affect you and your plans?

For example, in Montana, empty lots can cover tens of thousands of acres. You’ll need to read much more about it to fully understand the different uses and natural resources available on plots like these. For something like a ranch, you’ll need to carefully inspect all the types of terrain that it covers and how much of the land will actually be of use to you. 

  1. Zoning Laws

These laws determine what you can and can’t build, which may restrict what you have planned. Some examples of types of zones include, but are not limited to:

  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Industrial 
  • Agricultural
  • Combination

Knowing what zone the empty lot is in may limit what you are planning to do with it. You should be able to easily find this information online or at a zoning office. When researching this, also look at the long-term plan for the area such as road additions and other building constructions.

It is possible to apply to have the land rezoned, but you should never rely on this. Applications can often be denied, but even if they’re not, official site approval plans can sometimes take years to be accepted. 

  1. Accessibility 

How accessible is the property to powerlines, roads, water, and gas? This is mainly a problem in rural areas, and you may have to live off-grid or arrange an easement.

Off-grid living

This might involve generating your own power, by using things such as solar panels, or you may have to use a septic tank to manage waste. There may be local laws around this so be sure to investigate them.


These are permissions that allow you to use another piece of land for a limited use. For example, if your land is landlocked with no access to a main road, you may apply for an easement that allows you to use a private road owned by another landowner. It may be helpful to consult a lawyer to help with negotiating an easement to help with official documents and make sure everything runs smoothly.

  1. Building Permits

Whilst you may prefer to build your own home because it may be cheaper and gives you the freedom to build a dream home, some people prefer to buy a home because it’s less stressful, and you don’t have to worry about the dreaded permits!

If you do opt for building from scratch, you’ll have to be prepared to apply for building permits for everything. This might include even smaller things (not just the building itself) such as fencing, plumbing, electrics, burning, sewage, and almost anything else you can think of.

  1. Association Restrictions

Check whether a homeowner’s association covers the piece of land you are interested in. These kinds of associations can dictate certain things like the times of day you can build on the land (because of potentially noisy machinery), or things like home maintenance standards. 

Depending on the restrictions, you may not agree with all of them and have to live by these rules. However, you may like the idea of everybody having to conform to a standard set of practices. Be aware that there can be membership fees and there may be penalties if you violate a rule

  1. Surveys

The purpose of surveys is to establish the land’s official boundaries and any pre-existing easements. Sometimes a survey may have been conducted in the past couple of years, but a lot of the time, you will need to hire a professional who can use a plat to determine the exact property lines. This is something you need to consider in additional costs and depends on the size of the land.

  1. Cost

How much is the land being sold for? How much will it cost to achieve what I’m planning to do with the land? These are the two key questions to think about to determine if the price falls within your budget. Remember that there are always going to be unexpected costs so make sure there’s some leeway and also weigh up how much your time costs – because you may be spending a lot of it on this project!

You’ll most likely be requiring a mortgage or bank loan so be sure to look into your options regarding this. You might be required to take out insurance to protect your investment as well as the financial institution lending you money. 

All in all, it’s going to take a lot of work to find the property right for you, let alone all that comes with it once the deal is done. But buying and building on an empty lot can be very rewarding and if you consider the above factors when looking at an empty lot then you should be well on your way.