The final post of this series on land buyer due diligence focuses on physical attributes that can significantly influence property value. Please keep in mind that this is only a primer for buyers of land for sale, to assist them in identifying a property.
Soils Outside of forestry and agricultural circles, soil is perhaps the most under-appreciated and misunderstood factor in successfully growing and managing a healthy crop.. Understanding the various soil types, specifically their capacity to retain or hold water, is an important consideration when developing long-term forestry plans.
To learn more about soils and their importance to forest health, there is no better source than the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. While you’re there, check out the “Soil Survey” section, which provides a process to access published soil data to create a detailed soil map of the parcel of interest.
Water: Many buyers seeking recreational land for sale desire some type of water body. Some seek ponds, lakefront, rivers or even open water wetlands. While we often chuckle when we read “babbling brook!” in the property description, real estate agents are simply appealing to market demand. Given a choice between land with no water and land with a small brook, buyers will often gravitate to the latter when all other aspects are relatively equal.
Regardless of the water body type or size, it’s a good idea to consider the surrounding land use patterns to determine what “upstream” activities may impact water quality. Using Google Earth Maps, study the surrounding topography contributing to the water body on the parcel of interest. Ask the broker or the seller about the land use history of the parcel. If it’s a large parcel (>100 acres) consider conducting a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), a visual site inspection conducted by a licensed environmental consulting firm to identify any prior or present evidence of hazardous contamination. Part of a Phase I ESA includes a voluntary interview with the landowner to document what they know about the past land uses of the property.
If forestry is the primary use, understand the buffer zone laws and setback distances from various water bodies for forestry activity. Consider timber retention in these areas as part of your forest management plan.
If fishing is a passion, then you will want to know the native fish populations and fishing regulations. Is it a warm water fishery hosting bass, perch and pickerel or a cold water fishery hosting trout and land-locked salmon? Some states, have historical lake and pond surveys that offer the water depth, type of fishery and stocking status. These surveys are often dated (>10 years old) but still offer useful information for avid anglers.
Written by Patrick Hackley, a professional forester and timberland broker with Fountains Land who has served timberland owners and buyers in the northeast since 2005.