What to Know Before Buying Land in Maryland | How To Buy Land & Lots in Maryland

Friday, September 18th, 2015 at 12:00pm. by Northrop Realty

What to Know Before Buying Land in Maryland

Whether choosing a lot in a trendy new subdivision or an out-of-the-way patch of land to enjoy the countryside, there are important factors to consider when buying vacant land in Maryland.

Buying a vacant lot is a different--and sometimes more tedious experience-- than purchasing a property with an existing home. However, if you understand what you’re getting into and the process involved, building your perfect home from scratch on your own beautiful piece of Maryland can be exhilarating as well.

Buying A Lot in Maryland

Size and shape are just two small factors when it comes to evaluating a lot. Where the lot is located in the state could make the buying experience a vastly different process than buying in another location.

Here are some things that could differ a lot from lot to lot:

  • Zoning – It may be worth a trip to the zoning office in the Maryland county where the lot is situated. Looking at what future construction projects are scheduled in the area can give you valuable insight into the long-term value of the lot. There is also information about environmental factors that may impact your overall happiness there. 
  • Restrictive Covenants – Some lots may let you build anything you want as long as it meets building codes, but other lots may have restrictions. These might be as simple as square footage restrictions or can be as detailed as colors you can’t paint a home’s exterior. They could also be included to protect historic or environmental elements, like property located within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area.   
  • Soil and Site Evaluation – Also called Perc Tests, these evaluations must sometimes be performed on a piece of land you intend to buy, especially if the land is not part of a pre-planned subdivision. The test evaluates your lands topography, water table, and other factors to determine the best place to install a septic system. Planned subdivisions will likely have taken care of these tests before offering the lots for sale.
  • Utilities – If there are utilities already existing at the property, you’ll have to pay the county to tap into them. There are additional and often very costly fees if the utilities need to be brought onto your property.

Where to Buy Land in Maryland

Maryland includes two large urban centers, around Washington DC and Baltimore, and the counties they occupy are thus heavily urbanized. The most developed counties in Maryland are Montgomery, Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Howard, and Baltimore. However, the further you move away from those two cities, the more rural Maryland becomes. 

Counties like Washington, Frederick, Carroll, and Harford, as well as those on the Delmarva Peninsula (shared with Delaware and Virginia), are covered by a patchwork of farms, woods, and small communities. Maryland's western panhandle region is heavily wooded, and lined with deep valleys and hills. 

Towns like Frederick, Mt. Airy, Westminster and Bel Air usually include many lots and available land for sale, as existing properties are subdivided or their fringe areas are earmarked for development. 

The Contract

A contract for the purchase of vacant property differs from a contract for an existing residence because it often addresses the issues listed above. It is a legal arrangement that allows for the final sale to be contingent upon the lot meeting certain conditions when all tests and surveys are completed. Moreover, it may even designate whether the responsibility of paying for these feasibility tests lay with the buyer or the seller.

A contract may also request the seller provide:

  • An approved septic system installation permit
  • Water quality tests on well water systems
  • Hazardous material testing
  • Any surveys that may be required to meet underwriting requirements

A good realtor specializing in land purchases in Maryland can help write a contract that should better ensure you are going to get the type of land you are expecting to suit your needs.

Land Loans in Maryland

Vacant lots will usually require a construction-to-permanent loan. These types of loans convert to a standard mortgage after you meet certain requirements and milestones. These requirements include closing on the land purchase, building the escrow to build the residence, and meeting government and lender occupancy requirements.

Once you get your loan, be smart about choosing your piece of vacant land--just as you would when choosing an existing residence. Research home values in the areas and have your real estate print your MLS listing for homes in the areas you are considering. If you build a $350,000 home in a neighborhood where most homes are being valued at considerably less, you won’t experience the growth in value like you would if you built in a neighborhood where values were comparable or higher.

If you take all of these factors into consideration and consult a knowledgeable real estate professional—like the experts at the Creig Northrop Team—purchasing a vacant lot in Maryland will be the positive, rewarding experience it should be.