Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Land in Maryland

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Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Land in Maryland

Bart Waldon

As the 19th smallest yet one of America’s most densely populated states spanning just over 12,000 square miles, coastal Maryland presents unique real estate dynamics beyond rates accelerating in metro areas like Baltimore and the Capital Beltway's Montgomery County. With approximately 60% of total land acreage working farms and forest according to the USDA, pursuing rural property ownership brings rewards yet requires diligence avoiding costly missteps specifically applying to the Old Line State. This guide taps industry experts detailing key mistakes under-informed buyers make targeting Maryland land buys and vital precautions protecting investments not easily discernible initially.

Maryland Land by the Numbers

Before detailing specific home buying mistakes, foundational land data points on availability and pricing in Maryland merit review understanding wider trends home buyers face. As of 2022, the state consists of:

  • 6 million total acres
  • 15,000+ farms spanning ~2 million acres total
  • Over 3 million acres of forests/timberlands actively harvested
  • Average per acre open land/cropland value: $3,600 (contiguous states comparison)

With considerable upfront effort and expenditures required properly preparing vacant plots for housing, farming or other income uses after purchase, assessing land buying mistakes occurring commonly in Maryland allows new investors sidestepping easily avoidable pitfalls.

Top Maryland Land Buying Mistakes and How Avoid Them

Beyond lacking proper financing contingencies before entering contracts, several key land acquisition errors specific to Maryland regularly surface costing unwitting buyers serious time, money and frustration. Learning lessons smart Maryland land investors and developers follow makes the difference locking up prime sites sans undue stress.

Failing To Check Property Zoning Limitations

Surprisingly numerous novice buyers neglect thoroughly confirming a vacant land parcel's designated county zoning categorization before purchase to validate intended usage plans down the road. Even verifying utilities or road access availability often overlooks deeded restrictions severely limiting buildable areas. Failing to investigate zoning status risks being unable to develop residential or commercial buildings as envisioned later.

Not Ordering Full Home Inspections on Improved Property

When purchasing sites with existing structure improvements beyond raw land, moving ahead sans comprehensive inspection assessing electrical, plumbing, roofing and structural integrity presents massive financial dangers. What may seem like superficial fixer-upper cosmetic touch-ups could mask deeper foundation, toxicity and terra integrity threats. Inspectors mitigate nasty surprises.

Skipping Title Search and Deed History Verifications

Real estate attorneys uniformly agree - successfully tracing back clean property title transfers over prior decades provides immense peace of mind a given Maryland land site or farm remains free of undiscovered liens or legal claims against ownership rights post-purchase. Though title insurance offers protection, self due diligence reduces scenario risks.

Failing To Examine Property Taxes and Assessment Details

Maryland tax officials maintain easily accessible public land/property tax records online. Yet first-time buyers often neglect verifying if tax figures shared by sellers reflect actual levies imposed on specific sites. Significant pending property tax jumps or multi-year delinquencies risk assuming unanticipated tax burdens or even potential property seizure if left unpaid after assuming ownership.

Not Preparing for Extended Listing and Marketing Periods Required

Industry experience indicates under-developed land parcels absent proper preparation enhancement require greater time securing buyers willing assuming site improvement expenditures required to unlock property utilization potential. Absent reasonable timeline expectations risks overpaying if urgent sale needs emerge. Patience prevails.

Paying Full Ask Price Without Seeking Discounts

As in most real estate spheres, Maryland land sellers post listing prices factoring in typical margins negotiating downward during sale contractions closing if adequate buyer financing confirmed. Very few buyers succeed paying full rate unless highly unusual VIP site qualities exist. Customary bargaining remains expected still.

Failing to Buffer for Post-Purchase Infrastructure Build-Outs

Raw land offerings appeal for pricing discounts but essential access roads, utility lines, vegetation removal and erosion control carry costs potentially equivalent to the base property acquisition itself. Neglecting to budget for near-term site enhancement work risks project stalls or cut corners compromising quality developments.

Not Pre-Confirming Rezoning Possibilities Before Contracting

Overpaying for land betting surrounding site uses validate near-term rezoning approval for more intensive applications like multi-family housing risks municipal rejection forcing buyers paying 2x+ premiums above comparable zoning status. Verifying rezoning probabilities pre-contact protects buyers lacking development experience.

Following Final Inspection and Funding Contingency Best Practices

Avoiding outlined mistakes when preparing to buy and carry out required development work on vacant Maryland land parcels provides key insights indicating savvier buyer moves. However, following two overarching best practices guards from sink cost outcomes at any phase.

The first implores buyers to make all contracts contingent on satisfactory environmental inspections for rural lands and comprehensive private appraisal valuations for improved sites to ensure independent subject matter expert opinions align with offer terms rather than just seller claims alone.

Secondly, given the extensive site preparation expenditures involved unlocking property utilization potentials, retaining rights delaying full purchase payment until construction funding confirmed through private lenders or public bond issuance protects buyer interests avoiding stranded asset scenarios temporarily lacking full project financing.

Integrating informed perspectives from local land developers, rezoning officials and experienced property attorneys supports seamless acquisitions even amid complex zoning limitations found in small but densely packed states like Maryland with costs of errors amplifies without proper guidance upfront.

Final Thoughts

Vacant land and farm buying in Maryland throws several location-specific curveballs toasted veterans know checking zoning codes, validating property taxes and requiring contingencies address upfront in purchase contracts well before transfer closing. Embracing patience warranted securing proper inspections, and not rushing to pay full ask prices amplifies success rates achieving deals maximizing investment returns as land gets prepared to support revenue-driving usages long-term. Avoiding assumptions while leveraging the experience of local market experts paves the way to prosperous property investments as highest and best use projects unfold.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the penalties for purchasing Maryland land without checking zoning codes first?

Counties hold right enforcing current zoning ordinances outlined in master plans regardless of new owner intentions. Fines up to $500 per violation day apply for unapproved structure projects on sites zoned agricultural suddenly attempting commercial buildings. New owners also risk forfeiting bank construction financing if zoning status represents misaligned asset usages.

What parts of Maryland offer exemptions allowing buying land without title insurance?

Maryland universally requires purchaser title policies on improved real estate transfers for consumer protections. However, for some cash purchases below $50,000 in just a few rural counties, title insurance waivers may be possible if existing seller policies still active, title company approves and underlying purchase development plans limited in scope. But huge risks arise losing property rights failing tracing clean deeds.

What are risks buying Maryland land at auction sales without thorough due diligence first?

While tempting bidding land parcels at public foreclosure auctions blindly for perceived deep discounts, hidden property right issues, contamination liabilities or tax debts tied to sites typically prompts initial government seizure and sale attempts anyway. Failing confirming zoning codes, deed histories and assessment amounts risks overpaying resolving inherited site headaches post-auction.

Can I use crowdfunding loans to buy Maryland land minus bank financing pre-approved?

Limited circumstances allow if contributing investors receive approved equity-like interest returns exempt from state lending statutes. Most direct peer-to-peer loans fall under regulated bank standards still requiring subsequent property development plans itemizing capital usage with reasonable payback schedules tied to asset. If crowdsourcing consumers, regulatory compliance proves complex.

What steps should I take if discovering title discrepancies after a Maryland land purchase?

If issues surface after purchase like easement disagreements impacting boundary lines, immediately consult your real estate attorney who should submit official complaints to title insurers for policy claim settlements related to deeds, restrictions or liens while pursuing alternative dispute resolutions between relevant parties. This underscores importance confirming clean titles pre-closing.

What are specific environmental risks I should inspect for when buying rural Maryland land?

In addition to standard water, soil, radon and mold tests using a professional home inspector initially, buyers of older Maryland homesteads and farms should ensure testing drinking water wells, identifying potential buried storage tanks, checking any chemical storage structures, and examining if priority wetlands exist on properties given the state's stringent enforcement of Chesapeake Bay watershed conservation efforts over the years.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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