Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Connecticut

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Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Connecticut

Bart Waldon

Connecticut lands beckon endless possibilities, yet buyers must weigh nuances behind the privilege of ownership stewardship as well. As Connecticut confronts crossroads balancing preservation with progress, land exploitation patterns evolve. Already, over 500,000 acres are permanently conserved while 65% of remaining open spaces face medium to high development pressure as unquenched demand persists. This shifting supply and sustainability dynamics leaves Connecticut land purchasers examining expanded benefits like wealth building and recreation against surging regulations, property taxes, heirs' future burdens and environmental constraints when plotting expansion moves or estate planning nowadays. 

With Connecticut’s open space inventory expected to decline over 1 million acres by 2040 to service population growth/commercial needs, decisive buyers must project intended usages, site viability and ownership style ramifications amid these movements early when pull the trigger. As your navigators guiding informed acquisitions maximizing enjoyment for decades, we cut through the protections versus productivity debates by quantifying key return predictors as Connecticut’s land stewardship climate transforms.

Pros of Buying Land in Connecticut

Investment Potential in Growing Regions

Connecticut features a mix of urban centers and charming rural towns, many home to strong public school systems, historic architecture and natural amenities that fuel real estate demand. The state is divided into 8 counties - Hartford, New Haven and Fairfield counties in the southwestern part of the state anchor much of the population and economic activity around cities like Bridgeport, Stamford, New Haven and the state capital of Hartford. Portions of these counties are experiencing growth - leading to land investment potential. 

For example, northeastern Fairfield County including Danbury posted 6.5% population growth from 2010-18. As more people move in, land values often rise over time - especially for strategically located undeveloped parcels suitable for either conservation or construction.

Freedom to Build & Productive Use Potential

Statewide, over 60% of Connecticut’s land area remains forested presenting unique opportunities to purchase rural land not available in all parts of the densely populated northeast. Buyers have the flexibility whether to keep the land wooded, establish a homestead or attempt larger development. 

Less restrictive rural zoning classifications like RA-80 - permitting residential plots with a minimum of 80,000 sq ft of land - offer more freedom than dense suburban areas for land use. Even buying agriculture-zoned land with clear soil and access to utilities may allow for easing rezoning for commercial activity like storage facilities over time as local development shifts.

Incentives for Open Space & Conservation

Connecticut land conservation programs aim to preserve undeveloped land and natural resources. State agencies and nonprofits like the Connecticut Farmland Trust offer millions in funding yearly to permanently protect open space whether wildlife habitats, forests or working farms through purchasing development rights easing pressure on landowners to sell land for other uses. Land trust nonprofits and public land acquisition for preservation dominates in some rural areas like Litchfield County where nearly 20% of land sits in conservation. 

Some conservation programs allow agricultural activity, renewable energy installations or even controlled timber harvesting on conserved lands. Landowners accessing conservation funding in exchange for development restrictions or donating the value for tax deductions can benefit while preserving natural assets for public benefit.

Cons of Buying Land in Connecticut

Complex Zoning Restrictions

Connecticut’s land use patterns stem from a long history of municipal home rule. There are over 100 distinct zoning authorities statewide with varying restrictions at town, city, borough and county levels. While this locality allows tailored planning, it also creates legal complexity for development. Changes in state zoning policy require public input and review which progresses slowly even with shifts in population or markets. 

Buyers must research granular ordinances like wetland setbacks, sewer access rules that limit building density, noise ordinances around highways as well as restrictions around subdividing parcels before purchase to ensure land use plans align to regulations. Review processes for variance requests or controversial proposals like clustered housing can drag for years, especially in areas with active citizen involvement.

High Property Tax Rates

While Connecticut land itself may seem reasonably affordable by northeast standards in some regions, new owners must be prepared for above average property tax rates that often surprise first time buyers. Statewide property taxes per capita in Connecticut run 42% higher on average than the rest of the country. 

Key drivers include extensive services and good quality infrastructure and schools in suburban areas alongside urban poverty and distressed local budgets. With no county-level governance, municipalities fund most services so buyers will navigate high tax environments like Hartford County at over 2% median tax rate. Smart land buying strategy must account not just for property restrictions but carrying costs long term as well.

Variable Market Conditions

Market exposure varies greatly in Connecticut with higher sales volumes and land prices clustered around growing population centers in western and southern counties closer to Metro New York. The statewide median vacant land price peaked around $170,000 in the early 2000s before declining to around $95,000 after the housing crash in 2009. Prices have rebounded closer to $130,000 as of 2018 but recovery has lagged behind nearby states. 

Outlying rural markets may see fewer sales and more volatility in land prices year to year as local economic factors like a plant closure or new highway interchange reshape demand. Without professional expertise, buyers can overpay if they lack context to value land beyond comps or don't account for development limitations.

Best Practices for Buying Land in Connecticut

Connecticut's locally driven approach to land use planning presents both opportunities and pitfalls. When buying land, follow best practices:

  • Review county GIS mapping for flood zones, wetlands, zoning classifications and document deed restrictions
  • Drive the area at different times to assess noise, traffic, surrounding land uses before choosing sites
  • Seek professional input from engineers, surveyors, attorneys to identify risks before making offers
  • Evaluate appraisals against actual closed vacant land sales in city/town over past 1-3 years
  • Model long term property tax and ownership costs at higher mill rates when calculating ROI

Careful upfront research allows buyers to tap into Connecticut’s strong real estate markets while avoiding overpaying for land with development challenges. Partnering with specialized local professionals can help navigate zoning codes and identify parcels matching intended use. Land can prove a solid investment in Connecticut over the long term - if acquired strategically.

Mistakes to Avoid While Buying Land in Connecticut

Not Researching Zoning and Development Regulations

Connecticut has complex zoning laws that vary widely across different towns and counties. Before purchasing any vacant land, you must thoroughly research the zoning classification, density regulations, setback requirements, wetland restrictions, noise ordinances, and other municipal codes to determine what you can actually build or develop on that land. Attempting to change zoning post-purchase through variances can cause lengthy delays. Improper zoning research risks buying land you cannot use as intended.

Ignoring Property Taxes and Other Carrying Costs

While Connecticut land prices may seem reasonable at first glance, new owners often underestimate tax burdens buying here. Connecticut has some of the highest property tax rates in the U.S., averaging over 2% in many counties. Additionally, costs like boundary marking, debris removal, road or utility access, wetland mitigation, land clearing, legal fees and site preparation can quickly add up. Failing to accurately forecast carrying costs over a 5-10 year ownership horizon may negatively impact returns.

Not Inspecting the Land Thoroughly Before Buying

Seeing land only through listing photos can prove misleading. You must walk the actual acres you intend to buy, testing access, observing surroundings across seasons and weather conditions. Look for large trees at risk of falling, hidden wetlands, stream erosion, leach fields, culverts blocking access, illegal dumping of waste. Surveyors can uncover title issues like inaccuracies or encroachments from abutting owners. Don't waive right to inspect in purchase terms or buy land sight unseen.

By avoiding common but impactful mistakes like these, buyers can mitigate key risks in Connecticut's complex real estate environment. Lean on professionals like land use attorneys, engineers and real estate advisors as needed before acquiring land. What seems like a good deal may carry heavy post-purchase surprises unless you verify land condition and how codes limit plans. Do your homework before committing funds in Connecticut.

Final Thoughts

While buying land in any state requires navigating legal complexity, Connecticut presents particular challenges with zoning restrictions, high tax rates and locally variable market conditions. However, in growth areas and for buyers targeting conservation usage or lower density development, Connecticut still affords attractive opportunities. Following best practices for thorough research and input from experts helps prospective buyers find and fund land acquisitions matching needs and long term plans. Connecticut's distinctive New England character, small town charm in nurturing communities and natural amenities will continue making land investment here appealing if done carefully.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the main benefits of buying land in Connecticut?

Some of the key benefits of buying land in Connecticut include investment potential in high growth areas like Fairfield County, freedom to develop more lightly zoned rural properties, and incentives that pay landowners to conserve undeveloped land. The natural beauty and small town New England charm also appeals to many land buyers.

What should I know about zoning and regulations before purchasing?

Connecticut has complex local zoning laws that vary widely across municipalities, towns, cities and counties. Study how codes like density rules, wetland setbacks, noise ordinances etc. affect allowed use before buying land intended for development or construction. Changing zoning post-purchase can mean lengthy delays.

How much do property taxes impact cost of ownership in Connecticut?

Property tax rates in Connecticut run about 42% higher on average than the rest of the US, averaging over 2% yearly, raising carrying costs. Buyers must accurately estimate tax burdens alongside other ownership costs over their investment horizon to avoid surprises undercutting ROI.

How can I determine true market value of land in different Connecticut counties?

Pricing can vary substantially between regions, with sales volumes and land prices notably higher closer to New York near Fairfield County. Study actual closed vacant land sales records over the past 2-3 years in the specific town or city area where you intend to buy to gauge market value accurately.

What steps should I take before finalizing a land purchase?

Do not waive right to inspect in purchase terms or buy land unseen. Walk the actual site across seasons, test access points, watch for erosion, tree risks, debris etc. Hire professionals to review zoning codes applicable to the parcel and address risks upfront before committing funds.

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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