Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Land in New York

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Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Land in New York

Bart Waldon

As one of the original 13 colonies and a central hub from the days of early American expansion, land remains intrinsically woven into the state’s social and economic fabric. With beautiful pastoral regions blending forests, lakes and farmlands beyond its famed skyscraper horizon, New York offers abundant real estate for agriculture, recreational interests or development potential. However, land buyers must remain cognizant of key pitfalls when sourcing prospective holdings in New York’s diverse markets. This overview examines several mistakes for investors to sidestep when seeking land ownership across New York.

According to analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, roughly 54,000 acres of undeveloped land trades hands annually across the state, showcasing a steady pipeline of sites exchanging between buyers seeking holdings for an array of usages. Transactions range from modest 1-5 acre improved cabin lots bordering Finger Lakes communities to sprawling 1,000+ acre dairy farmland operations in Central and Western regions so proper due diligence around prospective purchases remains vital.

Top Mistakes Buyers Make in New York Land Deals

Failure to Independently Verify Total Acreage 

Simply trusting listed parcel size without further validation risks discovering shortfalls unveiled by professional surveys detailing precise boundaries and total acres. Always formally verify.

Not Confirming Usage Zoning Codes

Townships update local land usage definitions and codes periodically that may suddenly restrict development plans so reviewing latest ordinances with county clerk avoids surprises.

Lack of Due Diligence Around Past Land Usage

Avoid assuming land only utilized for passive purposes like timber historically. Conduct environmental tests confirming no remnants from former mining, industrial or waste activity altering soil integrity or build suitability unexpectedly.

Not Examining Improvement/Structure Condition

For sites with existing buildings, carefully inspect foundations, roofing, wiring not just assuming cosmetic repairs suffice or overvaluing existing structures. Consider total life cycle costs/cusp of major replacements.

Failure to Check Access Rights 

Ensure defined easements for roadway access especially crossing abutting sites, validate availability for electric/water tie-ins and make certain usage rights like mineral, water, oil/gas rights transfer explicitly within deed terms.

Attempting Do-It-Yourself Legal Work

Engage real estate attorneys to review purchase contracts, title histories and disclosures to protect financial interests and avoid boundary disputes, ordinance conflicts or title clouds down the line despite additional costs.

The added efforts conducting thorough due diligence avoids regret and ‘purchaser’s remorse’ when revelations around acreage discrepancies, environmental restrictions or improvement costs surface after purchase contracts become binding.

Top New York Land Listing Resources 

Prospective buyers have excellent resources to comb for land deals spanning modest sites to vast acreage including:

Lands of America 

Showcases over 280,000 rural real estate listings searchable across 3+ million acres nationwide, including 1,700+ New York land parcels listed currently.


Leading real estate hub also features 10,000+ land and lot listings across New York offering localized inventory in both rural regions and metro periphery areas.

New York MLS 

Multiple listing services aggregates currently listed land/property deals entered by licensed real estate professionals across New York presenting consolidated statewide inventory sourcing.

These reliable land listing databases allow buyers to filter prospects based on pricing, size parameters and geographic locales matching intended usage plans or budget thresholds. However, mistakes surface once purchase contracts launch if preceding due diligence proving faulty so utilize these sources as preliminary sourcing tools. Vetting land conditions thoroughly remains compulsory to avoid missteps during formal acquisition.

Ideal New York Land Buying Locales 

While scenic acreage awaits across New York’s landscapes, utilize data guiding top growth prospects when site selection including:

  • Buffalo-Niagara Region - Revitalization lifting metro
  • Hudson Valley - Northern commuter hamlets
  • Finger Lakes – Wine trail tourism catalyzing development
  • Catskills – Second home/recreational property appeal

Areas exhibiting housing formation rates exceeding state averages suggest strong underlying demand dynamics suited for well-selected land deals riding inevitable value appreciation as population influx occupies built-out sites.

Keys for Safely Acquiring New York Land 

Once confident site selection researched thoroughly, adhere to vital title transfer precautions including:

  • Formally survey and monument site boundaries
  • Vet mineral/water rights transferring clearly
  • Review title history without gaps
  • Confirm usage codes allow intended purpose
  • Inspect existing site improvements fully
  • Retain real estate attorney for purchase contracts

Sidestepping common but avoidable New York land buying mistakes sustains sound investing once due process runs its course securing sites suiting needs and risk tolerance levels aligned with proper return projections.

Final Thoughts

An old real estate adage maintains that they “aren’t making any more land” which rings especially true across New York’s bounded geography offering a fixed inventory for owners seeking property suited for agriculture, development or recreational pursuits. Conducting careful due diligence forms the foundation for solid land investments in New York real estate across sites ranging from Rochester suburb 1⁄2 acre lots to 500 acre Catskill mountain timber stands. Leverage reliable property listing databases as a baseline source but commit focusing equal energy inspecting parcel specifics before formalizing transactions to circumvent missteps that often surface post-purchase. Adhere to prudent property selection practices and retain legal guidance to best capitalize on New York’s diverse landscape offerings.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the risks of not validating total acreage independently via surveys? 

You risk overpaying if listed acreage exceeds actual quantities determined by surveys of physical boundaries or sellers leveraging excess percentage clauses in purchase contracts even for minor deviations. 

How can I confirm proper land usage codes and zoning classifications? 

Research county and township sites containing latest ordinances that dictate defined categories spanning residential, commercial, agricultural, etc. and overlay districts with special restrictions around viewsheds, habitats that specify development rules. 

What is involved in environmental testing and why necessary? 

Testing includes historical reviews, site visits, soil sampling to identify past contaminants from mining, landfills, industrial leaks etc. lying dormant impacting financing, liability and safe build occupancy. 

What aspects around existing buildings or sites require inspection? 

All structural components (foundations, roof, exterior walls), operating systems (electrical, plumbing, HVAC), plus overall suitability around size specifications within intended land usage plans require architects to determine functional viability. 

When is retaining attorney services mandatory? 

Real estate attorneys interpret complex title history matters, easements/right of ways, contract terminology, disclosure forms and usage ordinances as a prudent buffer before assuming land legalities comply fully with plans. 

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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