Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Maryland

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Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Maryland
By

Bart Waldon

Maryland spans a range of landscapes - from the Atlantic beaches and heralded Chesapeake Bay to Piedmont farmlands, mountain forests and the urban density of Baltimore. This diversity translates into abundant real estate options for prospective buyers with vary interests. However, each region also carries unique considerations around risks.

Astute investors recognize the importance of looking past postcard-perfect first impressions when evaluating properties in Maryland. The same historic harbor towns and fishing piers also contend with worsening coastal erosion and flooding. Meanwhile, the state’s agriculture industry faces embedded challenges like commodity price fluctuations and capricious weather threatening harvests.

Additionally, quality of life factors like highly-ranked school districts continue attracting new residents to bedroom counties surrounding employment hubs. But added population density strains aging transportation networks and utility infrastructure in need of upgrades. Therefore, prudent due diligence and guidance from knowledgeable local advisors proves critical preceding any land purchases.

By carefully weighing the pros and cons distinct to Maryland’s patchwork of micro-markets, buyers can determine where current momentum and forecasted conditions best match their budget, lifestyle vision and tolerance for risk. However, no single county fully optimizes every advantage without exposure to inherent tradeoffs. Objective insights bring realistic expectations.

Pros of Buying Land in Maryland

Many advantages come with owning land in Maryland:

Job and Economic Growth Across Industries

Maryland enjoys low unemployment rates and a vibrant, diversified economy spanning sectors like biotech, life sciences, information technology, aerospace, healthcare, education, and tourism. Major employers continue expanding operations across the state, with the explosion of cybersecurity, defense contracting, and other tech jobs also fueling growth tied to Maryland's proximity to Washington D.C. This economic resilience and variety provides stability in the real estate market.

High Median Household Incomes

Exceptional employment opportunities lead to rising household earning power over time across Maryland. Recent census data ranked the state number one nationwide for median annual household income, now exceeding $84,000. As more residents command such robust wages, their purchasing power rises in lockstep, supporting real estate expansion and land development.

Top-Ranked Education Systems

Maryland houses several elite higher education institutes, including Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland flagship campus, and the U.S. Naval Academy. The state also boasts public school districts that rank extremely highly on national surveys, further attracting families to the region. With higher education and K-12 systems fueling a knowledge economy, real estate fundamentals gain support through the education sector.

Tourism Appeal

Tourism sustains Maryland’s economy thanks to popular assets ranging from Ocean City resorts to the award-winning State Parks system to culturally-rich Baltimore. The state also hosts an array of casinos, racetracks, professional/college sports teams and more. Such varied attractions bring over 41 million visitors spending billions annually. This fuels substantial demand for hotels, restaurants, activity vendors, secondary vacation homes, and other real estate channels.

Retirement Haven

With top-tier healthcare facilities, tax incentives for seniors, miles of scenic coastline living, and generally temperate weather, Maryland ranks 6th nationally as a popular retirement destination. As waves of aging baby boomers reach retirement age, the state sees rising interest for secondary homes, condos and investment properties ideally suited to this demographic shift. Such migration patterns fuel real estate property valuation growth in select areas.

Strategic Location

Given Maryland’s location bordered by Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the District of Columbia, it provides easy access conduits reaching major cities like Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Richmond. This allows convenient transport not only along the eastern seaboard but also inland. Such connectivity enables flexible land usage for commercial purposes - from warehousing to distribution hubs to data centers requiring extensive fiber networks.

Cons of Buying Land in Maryland

Despite advantages, some potential hindrances exist as well:

Coastal Areas Face Climate Change Threats

Properties along the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coasts contend with flooding risks intensified by sea level rise as climate change accelerates. Hurricane storm surges also spark erosion destroying shorelines and structures. Always research vulnerabilities beforehand and prepare mitigation plans if investing in coastal land.

Lengthy Development Approval Processes

Depending on county guidelines, construction projects or developing raw land can take 12-18 months for full approvals. Timelines stem from environmental impact studies, traffic assessments, public hearings, and other red tape. Account for prolonged processes hindering utilization of properties.

High Costs of Living in Central Maryland

While beneficial economically, desirable suburbs surrounding Baltimore and Washington D.C. come with elevated living expenses. Housing, general goods/services, and utilities cost well above national averages. If buying land in these prime zones, ensure your budget tolerates inflated regional pricing.

Potential Transportation Bottlenecks

While accessibility is a plus, Maryland’s urban density also causes traffic congestion on critical highways, bridges, tunnels, and commuter rail lines during peak times. Delays from bottlenecks must be factored into decisions around land slated for commercial facilities, distribution hubs, mixed residential/retail buildings and such. Plan wisely.

Questionable Future of Agriculture

Farmland still dominates Maryland’s landscape in many rural counties. However, climate change, global competition, thinning profits, and recent shortages of migrant labor cast uncertainty over the agriculture sector. Consider potential auxiliary income sources for farmland bought as investment properties or future developments.

Best Locations to Buy Land in Maryland

Where you buy land determines how efficiently it gets utilized. Research which areas best match intended uses:

Washington D.C. Suburbs

Bedroom communities in central Maryland like Columbia, Ellicott City, Laurel, and Annapolis offer short commutes to abundant tech and government agency jobs. Excellent school districts also appeal to families seeking homesites or residential development land. Values remain stable given the job density.

Baltimore Metro

The I-95 corridor outside Baltimore teems with industrial parks, distribution hubs, manufacturing plants, business parks and warehousing land ideal for commercial purposes. Retail spaces also thrive thanks to substantial population density. Monitor development patterns for investment clues.

Ocean City & Eastern Shore

Tourism sustains Ocean City, St. Michaels, Easton and eastern shore towns. Ample semi-retirees also flock to these quaint historic coastal communities. Raw land allows vacation rentals or building beach homes. Just confirm flood risks and development laws first.

Western Maryland

For more affordable land options, venture to Appalachian mountain counties like Garrett. These remote areas lure outdoor recreation fans and off-grid homesteaders seeking elbow room and scenic views. However, construction costs run high and tourism-based business ventures stay limited by distance to cities.

Best Practices for Buying Land in Maryland

When searching for land to purchase in Maryland, follow these best practices to ensure you make a sound investment:

Research Zoning and Development Regulations

  • Thoroughly investigate local zoning codes, land use plans, utility availability, and other development regulations.
  • Make sure intended usage aligns with guidelines for that area regarding residential buildings, commercial facilities, agriculture, etc.
  • Mismatched zoning wastes money and limits possibilities.

Evaluate Environmental Factors

  • Research susceptibility to flooding, sinkholes, erosion, groundwater contamination, or other environmental risks.
  • Consult flood zone maps to identify vulnerabilities.
  • Environmental issues significantly impact construction expenses and land usage safety.

Carefully Scrutinize Location

  • Desirable locations near transportation, towns, recreational amenities warrant higher prices but maximize usage options.
  • Remote areas typically have more affordable pricing but fewer prospects to develop or operate businesses.
  • Make sure the location aligns with your goals for utilizing that land.

Examine Sales Trends and Market Conditions

  • Analyze recent market trends to determine ideal times to buy land at reasonable values or sell at higher prices.
  • Be prepared to wait out slower markets until conditions become more favorable.

By thoroughly investigating all zoning regulations, environmental factors, location merits, and market conditions related to any land for sale in Maryland, you can avoid costly mistakes and make wise investment decisions. Conduct proper due diligence before committing to any purchases.

Final Thoughts

Maryland provides almost endless prospects spanning residential communities, growing commercial markets, tourism/recreation, retirement living, and agriculture. Just carefully analyze all factors from property valuations to zoning policies to environmental threats before purchasing land. Also match locations closely to your intended usage. If preparing properly through due diligence, land ownership in Maryland can undoubtedly improve your quality of life and build lasting wealth.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What counties are most popular for land investments in Maryland?

Suburban counties nestled between D.C. and Baltimore like Howard County and Anne Arundel County draw young professionals and families craving amenities, top-ranked schools, and reasonable commutes. Shoreline destinations like Worcester County also see vacation home developers gobble up plots with Atlantic views. Just confirm flood maps before breaking ground!

How much does vacant land typically cost per acre in Maryland?

Pricing fluctuates wildly based on location and parcel suitability for building. In rural western Maryland, 50 acres of forest with highway frontage sells for around $5,000 per acre. But one bay front building lot Allowing condo development in Ocean City could run $1 million-plus for less than an acre once permitting issues resolve.

What types of land development face the least regulations in Maryland?

Counties like Garrett and St. Mary's welcome agriculture-related buildings like produce stands and equestrian facilities with minimal red tape. They also fast-track permits for modular homes on rural parcels compared to luxury developments requiring environmental studies. Just don't expect quick access to utilities.

Which areas of Maryland see the fastest land appreciation over time?

Job growth corridors around cities experiencing revitalization, like Baltimore's Canton neighborhood or newly hot Howard County cities of Columbia and Ellicott City, show promising value gains as infill projects take off. Just beware overpaying at the peak. Plan to hold through inevitable market dips.

What precautions are advised for land buying as a non-Maryland resident?

Partner early on with an experienced localized agent familiar with zoning codes, permit approval timelines, utility realities, flood vulnerabilities and tax incentives unique to the target county. Also connect with surveyors, title insurance vendors and inspectors with regional familiarity. There are no shortcuts to due diligence before investing!

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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