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I am thinking about buying a lake front lot of land near my home town in Texas. The area is incorporated, but there are very few built houses around it. I am thinking about buying it as an investment, either to build and sell or to just hold the lot for a few years. This would be my first time buying land.

The real estate agent told me that water is "two lots down the road", and therefore it would be cheaper to have water and sewer installed in the land, as long as I contact the city and pay for them to install it on my lot. I asked her to send me as much documentation about the land as possible, and she said "there isn't much to send since there's nothing there", which I found weird since I would expect an air view with the delimitation of the land and other sorts of important information. Perhaps the city could give me that info?

With that said, I have a few questions:

  • When buying raw land, does it make more sense to grab information from the city rather than the agent?
  • According to the agent, the city has some requirements about the builds. For example, the home has to be bigger than 1,500 sq ft. What other types of requirements can I expect and that I should do research on?
  • What other information should I look for? I realized that water and sewer is one of them, and also it's best to know if the land is in an incorporated area.
  • Particularly if it's an empty lot, you should have a land surveyor determine the boundaries (are there existing utility easements?) and possibly try to get a title report. Also what about power, telephone, internet? – mkennedy Mar 13 at 19:52
  • @mkennedy I thought the land survey/boundaries would be included in the title, no? Otherwise how does the title grant rights to something that is not clearly defined in a legal document? – Hill Mar 13 at 19:57
  • water is "two lots down the road" sure doesn't sound like "a lake front lot". – RonJohn Mar 13 at 21:21
  • What do you mean @RonJohn? I was referring to the public water system, not the lake itself. – Hill Mar 13 at 21:22
  • Ah. Please clarify that in the question. – RonJohn Mar 13 at 21:22
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Don't rely on anything the seller or their real estate agent say. If they are wrong they will claim later that you misunderstood, or they gave you what they thought was accurate information.

You need somebody experienced with the local land market who can advise you on cost, documentation, and understanding what building or use requirements exist. They can also access the records that will prove ownership, boundaries, easements, and the access to utilities and the like. This person should have no connection to the seller or their agent.

You don't want to purchase land with a vision of X and then find that using it that way is either impossible or very expensive.

  • Should I be able to find all that information with the city? – Hill Mar 13 at 16:54
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    Maybe. The city/local government has it. But you have to know how to access it, and understand it. – mhoran_psprep Mar 13 at 17:00
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In the state of Texas, much of the information you want will be available from the local tax assessor/collector's web site for the specific county. It's usually an easy Google search. For instance, in Harris County, it's http://www.hcad.org and in Fort Bend County, it would be http://www.fbcad.org. It would be unfortunate if you were to end up with a property that you couldn't sell and yet owed high taxes on.

Other things that would be really important to know in Texas might include the Homeowner's Association (if any) and any deed restrictions. In Texas, the HOAs usually have a lot of power and are frequently responsible for the things that are normally handled by ordinance in other states. If you ever had any plans to bring an RV in overnight before there's a structure (since it's your property and you want a little R&R) you may discover that is forbidden.

Because it's lakefront, you might want to know more information about recreational use and water quality. Flooding might be a concern too, and might impact your ability to sell later.

There are certainly a million other things that you should verify, and as stated elsewhere you should certainly verify this independently of the seller's agent.

  • Thanks @Istanari. So I guess my question is: how do I find this info without relying on the agent selling the property? I went to the Travis County assessor/collector's website and couldn't find anything other than tax information about the land. I know the lot doesn't have an HOA and I know there are some restrictions from the city on what can be built, but how can I find the exact restrictions? (is it only by calling the city hall?). How can I find out the exact measurements of the land? This must be registered somewhere in a legal document. – Hill Mar 13 at 21:23

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