Land Fraud is on the rise. Land fraud you say, how can that be true? As real estate
professionals we have to look out for the rights of the seller and the buyer. When a deal
sounds too good to be true, it typically is.
When we work with sellers, the first thing we do is reach out to the title company to do a
search on the chain of title. Are there any encumbrances or clouds on the title?
Typically if the seller holds a mortgage the mortgage and taxes will be listed. But if you
have ever done any improvements to your property, even if it’s vacant land, there might
be some mechanics liens or judgments against the title, sometimes a tax sale has
occurred and the owner is not aware that someone else has paid the taxes and can
claim rights to the property.
Those must be cleared before the sale can take place.
In recent months, we have seen activity in the form of people acting as if they own
property, especially in rural areas, that want to sell quickly. They typically don’t want to
meet us in person, they could have multiple parcels to sell, they are trying to sell under
value (which makes it more difficult as comparables are difficult in rural areas), or make
up reasons they need to sell now.
So when your listing agent asks you a lot of questions about your land, needs to have a
site survey done, requests documentation from you that you actually own the land,
checks title for any clouds, please be patient with them. Land deals can take months if
not years to close. They typically cost the seller more in commissions as well. Be
prepared to wait.
If you intended to improve the property, share with the listing agent what you were going
to do with the land. This will help paint a picture for the buyer as to what they can do
too. Is there septic already installed? How far is water, electric, internet???
When buying land in rural areas, keep in mind things that will add to the cost of
development, like septic, wells, utility connections. Even if you want to be off grid, you
will need a good solar system or heating source that can be used at night or when the
forestry service bans fires due to drought.