Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Arizona

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Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Arizona

Bart Waldon

Arizona offers over 72,688 square miles spanning diverse terrain – from alpine forests to arid deserts – appealing to many prospective land buyers prioritizing climate, scenery and recreational access when searching for rural acreage. In fact, the state saw over 57,000 acres of trust land leased or sold just in the past fiscal year according to the Arizona State Land Department, speaking to surging interest securing property. 

However, statistics never tell the whole story for individuals weighing major land investments in the state. Careful county-by-county examination helps better determine where market conditions like prices and inventory favor buyers against the challenges posed by factors spanning lack of infrastructure in remote areas to extensive regulations around developments in sensitive ecological areas. This guide weighs key pros and cons involved evaluating Arizona land purchases to empower smart acquisitions.

Why Arizona Land is Calling Your Name

Let's start with the positives, because Arizona has a lot going for it. Here are some of the best reasons folks get lured in by Arizona land.

Drinking in That Dramatic Scenery

You aren't going to find more diversity packed into one state. Northern Arizona is all ponderosa pine forests, canyon country, and the spectacular Grand Canyon. Head south and you’ll be exploring the alien vistas of the Sonoran Desert with giant saguaros dotting rugged mountain ranges. Arizona boasts national parks, monuments, forests, and wilderness areas galore. Owning a slice of this beautiful landscape is a nature lover’s dream.

Soaking Up the Sun

If you dread winter, Arizona is the remedy. The southern part of the state averages 85 days a year that hit 100°F or above. But you can cool off in northern Arizona where the high country offers four gentle seasons. Arizona sees sunshine on average for 85 percent of the year. If you’re hungry for blue skies and warm temps, this is your spot.

Keeping Your Money in Your Pocket

Arizona goes easy on your wallet in a few key ways. The property taxes are reasonable at just 0.63 percent on average. The effective state income tax rate is low at 2.59 percent (compared to 4.55 percent nationally). Arizona also doesn’t tax Social Security benefits or most pension income. These perks add up when you’re living or investing in the state.

Cashing in on Business Opportunities

With fast-growing metro areas like Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona offers a thriving job market in fields like finance, healthcare, technology, and aerospace. The state also lures retirees and remote workers with its outdoor lifestyle. For entrepreneurs, tax breaks for R&D and renewable energy projects make Arizona even more appealing. The economic outlook shines bright here.

Living Off the Land

The rural lands in Arizona offer plenty of opportunity for off-grid living, homesteading, or running a ranch or farm. You’ve got wide open space and ample sunshine to raise livestock, grow crops, harvest rainwater, and enjoy the simple life. For the right buyer, it’s a chance to build their homesteading dreams.

Cashing Out Your Investment

Depending on location, Arizona land holds solid potential for appreciation, especially around expanding population centers like Phoenix. Undeveloped land near national parks and outdoor recreation is also likely to increase in value over time. And strategic parcels have development possibilities too.

Factors That May Give You Pause

Now let's talk about a few of Arizona's downsides -- the conditions that might have you questioning whether buying land is the right move. Some key considerations...

Water, Water Nowhere

Lack of water can be a dealbreaker in central and southern Arizona where rainfall is scarce. Groundwater pumping is regulated, so land has to come with guaranteed water rights for wells, storage or access to irrigation canals and reservoirs. Developing the land will be near impossible otherwise. You also may face restrictions on daily household use depending on the location.

Sweating Through the Summers

The price you pay for all those sunny days is intense heat from around May to September. In the Sonoran Desert, temperatures of 110-120°F are typical in summer. Even the higher elevations get hot. If you plan to work on your land during the summer, be prepared to start very early and take lots of breaks.

Feeling Far, Far Away

Many large acreage properties lie in extremely remote areas of the state. We’re talking 30-60 minutes or more just to reach small towns for supplies and services. Pushing a broken down car or driving these desolate roads in monsoon rains are not fun thoughts. Consider distance to utilities, medical care, cell service, and other essentials.

Keeping Your Distance from the Border

Some rural land parcels end up being close to the Mexico border. This raises security concerns related to illegal crossings, trafficking activity, and barrier construction that could directly impact lands along the border. Not ideal for a quiet retreat.

Coping with Chronic Droughts

Arizona is prone to long droughts that strain groundwater reserves, rangeland health, reservoirs and more. Lack of precipitation for multiple seasons has major impacts on agriculture, wildlife, wildfire risks and land productivity. Developing land is tougher in drought years too.

Watching Out for Critters

Your new neighbors will likely include coyotes, bobcats, Gila monsters, rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widows and fire ants to name a few. Rural living means learning to manage wildlife encounters and dealing with potentially venomous pests. Not for the faint of heart.

Choking on Dust and Pollen

The dusty desert conditions create frequent wind storms that coat everything in sight with grimy film during spring months especially. Combine this with high pollen counts and seasonal allergies can be miserable. If you have respiratory issues, it's something to take seriously.

Navigating a Checkerboard

Much of the open land in Arizona is designated as State Trust land which creates a checkerboard ownership pattern mixed with private lands. This complicates access, fencing, easements, etc. Familiarize yourself with boundaries on any land you look to purchase.

Considering Long-Term Climate Impacts

Scientists predict the Southwest will continue warming and drying out significantly in coming decades due to climate change. How this will impact water access, development plans, agriculture, wildfire risks and more is concerning for land buyers.

Key Steps Before You Buy Arizona Land

If you are still set on an Arizona land purchase after weighing the pros and cons, do your due diligence. Here are key steps:

  • Work with a knowledgeable local real estate pro that can point you to suitable parcels for your budget and plans and help you avoid costly mistakes.
  • Vet water rights thoroughly. Retaining surface/groundwater rights is critical in Arizona.
  • Inspect land carefully to assess soils, slopes, boundaries, easements, condition of any structures/fences, etc.
  • Research zoning, land use designations and permitting requirements in the county.
  • Drive property perimeter and surrounding area to understand proximity to amenities, services, and any concerning adjacent activities.
  • Get clear on mineral rights – if the seller retains them, future mining could impact your land.
  • Consider terrain and costs to clear vegetation, mitigate erosion, improve drainage, access the land, etc.
  • Hire professionals to survey the land and conduct soils, hazard and enviro assessments to avoid surprises.
  • Check if nearby lands are State Trust, private or federal to understand access issues.

Taking it slow, doing thorough research, and setting realistic expectations will help ensure your Arizona land purchase meets your needs. And contribute to responsible growth for Arizona's spectacular rural lands. Wishing you luck in finding your special slice of heaven out West!

Final Words

At the end of the day, only you can decide if the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to buying land in Arizona. There's no denying the state's raw natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor living attract dreamers and doers alike. But the realities of desert life, from searing heat to water scarcity, aren't for everyone. Do your due diligence to find a property aligned with your plans. Seek local guidance so there are no costly surprises. And approach the process with eyes wide open about Arizona's challenges as well as its rewards. If you enter the journey well prepared, owning a piece of the West you can call home may just exceed your wildest expectations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What's the process for buying land in Arizona?

The process is similar to buying a house. Decide your budget, work with a realtor to identify good listings, make an offer contingent on inspections, and close once all conditions are met. Securing financing if needed can add steps too. I'd recommend having a real estate attorney review the purchase contract.

What permits do I need to build on rural land in Arizona?

It depends on the county, but you'll probably need permits for well drilling, septic system, any structures, electricity, gas lines, etc. Some locations require grading permits and permits to clear vegetation too. Check zoning laws and talk to the county planning department.

What taxes and fees come with Arizona land ownership?

You'll pay annual property taxes, which are pretty low. There can be extra taxes for improvement districts that provide infrastructure like roads. Water use fees apply if drilling a well. You may pay grazing fees if leasing the land. HOA fees too if applicable. And you'll pay for any utilities like electric, propane, trash pickup etc.

Should I buy land in an LLC in Arizona?

It's not required, but some pros are liability protection and anonymity if you don't want your name on public records. Cons are higher closing costs and annual fees for the LLC. Make sure the LLC is registered in Arizona. A land trust provides some similar benefits. Talk to a lawyer about the best option.

What should I look for when touring Arizona land parcels?

Check boundaries, terrain, signs of erosion/flooding, vegetation that needs clearing, access roads, any existing structures, easements or right of ways, views, amount of direct sun, signs of wildlife, cell reception, and more. Take photos and notes so you can compare different parcels.

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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