Vacant Land Feasibility Process

Because of my lake-front land listing on Lake Marcel, I've been asked about what the purchase and development process looks lke for vacant land. In particular, what does it look like for a water-front property like this one?   The process can take quite a bit of time, up to several months or even a year in some cases.  This is why where the land is in the process greatly affects the price. As a rule of thumb, the closer the land is to actually being ready to build on, the more expensive it is. And, of course, what you have to do to build make a difference, also.  Land in an area where there is public water, sewer, and power already available is more expensive than the same land where you need a well, septic system, or where you have to run power lines.   Lets look at the case of property that does not have sewer or water, but has power. (Note that the Lake Marcel property I have listed has water, but not sewer.) One of the best explanations for the development process, in King or Snohomish counties, is available on the website for Amman Septic Design.   The basic process is:

  1. Get a Septic Site Feasibility Evaluation done. This is relatively painless to the pocket-book, and quick. This will tell you if a septic system can be installed and what kind can be installed.
  2. If the site perks, then you will need a Critical Areas Ordinance site-plan in King county. Hire a consultant to do this, not the county. They will work with you to find the solution that works best for you and your site.  This could be the most costly and time consuming piece of the process before building.
  3. Once you have a site-plan, then you can get your septic designed.
  4. And, about the same time you'll need to work on the plans for the well, since the placement of the well and septic system affect each other. Getting a well can be challenging also, so check out the process as described by JKA Enterprises.
  5. Once the well and septic designs are approved you are ready for:
  6. Design your home and get building permits! This will be the most expensive part of the process, but the most fun, since its the results are what you get to see and use everyday.

Where does this fit into the feasibility contingency of your Purchase and Sale Agreement?  That depends, but its pretty typical for the first 2 items to be part of the feasibility period, if they have not already been done. Who pays for this will depend on your negotiations. But, if the seller is handling it, then expect to pay more for the property.

It is possible to find property where all of the leg-work has been done. In fact, you may find property that already has a well and septic on site.  Having trouble finding vacant land like that? Check for mobile homes on land. You can probably build on the property and then remove the mobile home. Be sure to check with the county because the rules regarding development may have changed between the time the mobile was first placed on the property and now. You may not be able to build exactly where you wanted or expected to.  An experienced real estate agent can help you out and point you at good resources to work with.  

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