Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Massachusetts

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Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Massachusetts

Bart Waldon

Spanning over 5 million total acres of which 523,000 qualify presently as protected open space, Massachusetts lets both longtime locals and relative newcomers attain natural escapism without fully abandoning culture found through New England’s most thriving metropolitan launchpad. But given extreme suburban sprawl constraints plus astronomical costs acquiring even marginal remaining inventory as median single family home pricing exceeds $500,000 now, deciding whether buying raw land still makes sense hinges greatly on aligning lifestyle priorities with prudent property selection catering to intended goals balanced against formidable regional barriers. 

Fortunately, over 77% of the total resident population already lives within the Boston to Worcester corridor hotbed where savvy buyers uncovering hidden micro-opportunities through research, relationships, and occasionally pure serendipity chance still achieve attainable escapes suiting needs from full-scale homesteading to modest weekend refuge with the right vision and patience.

Massachusetts By the Numbers

Before we weigh the good and the bad, let's get an overview of Massachusetts itself. More than 7 million people call it home. This little state is densely packed on the East Coast, tucked between New York and the rest of New England. Massachusetts stretches about 90 miles west to east and 180 miles north to south.

The Boston metro area dominates the eastern half of the state. Western Mass has smaller cities like Springfield and Pittsfield scattered among forests and farmland. Off the coast is the famous cape and islands region.

Massachusetts has four distinct seasons, though winter definitely overstays its welcome. You can expect cold, snowy winters and humid summers. Fall is scenic with the leaves changing, while spring boasts flowering trees and milder temps.

The economy here is among the strongest in the U.S. Finance, tech, healthcare, education, and biotech are big industries. Tourism is huge, too. And we can't forget our esteemed institutions of higher education. Basically, Massachusetts punches above its weight economically.

Alright, let's dive into the nitty gritty of buying land here!

The Allure of Massachusetts Land

There are some fantastic upsides to buying land in Massachusetts that draw investors here. Let's start with the good stuff:

Thriving Cities

If you like the energy and convenience of city living, Massachusetts has some gems. Buying land near Boston grants you access to a world-class hub. The job market, nightlife, sports and culture can't be beat in Beantown.

Even smaller cities like Cambridge, Worcester and Springfield have their own unique charms and amenities. If a piece of land gives you proximity to a population center, that's definitely a selling point.

Tourism Magnet

From the cape to the islands to the Berkshires, people flock to Massachusetts year after year to relax and recreate. Owning land in or near popular vacation spots is a smart play. The endless stream of visitors presents opportunities for vacation rentals, hotels, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Top-Notch Colleges

Massachusetts is synonymous with prestigious higher education. Harvard, MIT, Wellesley, Amherst College and the list goes on and on. Many choose Massachusetts for school and end up staying to build careers and families. This feeds the real estate market around college towns.

Historical Significance

History buffs get their fix here. Boston and surrounding towns ooze colonial charm and played pivotal roles in the American Revolution. Out west, you've got Shays Rebellion. And who could forget Salem and the witch hysteria? Land with historic bones or proximity to landmarks holds serious appeal.

Natural Splendor

You want mountains? We've got the Berkshires. You want beaches? We've got the cape. Forests, marshes, islands - Massachusetts wins on natural beauty. For nature lovers, owning a gorgeous parcel is a dream. Outdoor recreation abounds.

Clearly, this state has a lot going for it if you want to buy land. A strong economy, tourism, great schools, history and scenery are big pluses. But it's not all sunshine and roses.

Potential Pitfalls of Bay State Land

Now for the downsides - and yes, there are a few to consider before buying land in Massachusetts:

Pricey Properties

You'd better bring your wallet, because Massachusetts leans toward the expensive end of the real estate spectrum. Housing costs more here than in over 75% of states. And available land is in hot demand from developers and individuals. Deep pockets win.

Seasonal Swings

In vacation meccas like Cape Cod, the housing market gets whipped around between summer and winter. Prices skyrocket and vacancies plunge when the weather warms up. Then crickets in the colder months. Something to factor if you want to rent or build housing.

Plenty of Red Tape

The bureaucratic headaches to develop land or build here are no joke. Between strict zoning laws, conservation protections, permits and more red tape, expect obstacles aplenty. Lots of hoops to jump through.

High-ish Taxes

Property taxes are definitely on the high side, averaging over 1% of assessed value in most of the state. Those yearly bills add up fast. Between state taxes, local taxes and HOA fees, owning land isn't cheap.

Fewer Choices Out West

You'll find more available acreage and vacant parcels out in western Massachusetts. But inventory is low compared to sprawling western states, so good luck finding a bargain. And the choice rural lots go fast.

The Cold Never Bugs Me Anyway

Maybe you love winter, but dealing with snow, ice and bitter cold for months on end can be tiring. And in coastal areas, storms and nor'easters beat up properties with flooding and erosion. The climate is definitely harsh.

Clearly, land buyers can't ignore the realities of seasonal markets, stringent development rules, high taxes and expensive buy-in costs here. You've got to be strategic analyzing the pros and cons.

Tips for Navigating the Massachusetts Land Market

Alright, hopefully we've given you an honest picture of the ups and downs of buying Massachusetts land. Now let's get you prepped with some tips:

  • Use a buyer's agent who knows land - they can steer you away from problem properties and find gems.
  • Inspect properties in person - don't buy sight unseen. Walk the land and make sure it matches the listing.
  • Research permits needed for any development - factor those costs into your budget.
  • Hire a local real estate attorney - they know which hoops to jump through.
  • Get land appraised for fair market value - don't overpay in hot markets.
  • Buy title insurance - it protects against claims from unknown heirs, liens, etc..
  • Evaluate taxes, construction costs, rental rates - crunch the numbers!
  • Make contingencies for seasonal slow periods if in a tourist area.
  • Time the closing for after snow melt to inspect thoroughly.

The bottom line is Massachusetts has tremendous upsides but also challenges for land buyers. By understanding what you're getting into, researching diligently and surrounding yourself with knowledgeable real estate pros, you can make the most of your purchase. Weigh the pros and cons carefully for your needs.

The Bay State is an amazing place to put down roots or invest. With the right property and the right prep work, owning a piece of Massachusetts can be hugely rewarding. We hope this overview gives you a real sense of what to expect so you can make the right move. Just don't forget your winter parka!

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, whether or not buying land in Massachusetts makes sense comes down to weighing your own priorities. There's no question the Bay State is beautiful, historic, and economically thriving. But you have to contend with cold winters, bureaucratic headaches, and lofty price tags. Do your research, know the pros and cons, partner with experienced real estate advisors, and set realistic expectations. If you go in informed and strategic, land ownership here can be a wonderful lifestyle investment and a piece of the iconic Massachusetts landscape to call your own. Just brace yourself for some winter shoveling!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I buy land in Massachusetts?

There's no one right answer - it depends on your goals and priorities. If you want access to top-tier cities and schools, historical charm, or natural beauty, Massachusetts has appeal. But high costs and seasonal markets are downsides. Weigh what matters most to you. Massachusetts can be a great place to put down roots if you go in informed.

What are property taxes like in Massachusetts?

Pretty steep compared to other states. Average effective property tax rates exceed 1% in many counties. Taxes gobble up a sizable chunk of your rental income or development profits. It's a big carrying cost factored into Massachusetts land ownership.

How much land inventory is available in Massachusetts?

Less than larger western or midwestern states, but still decent options, especially west of Boston. Inventory gets snapped up quick though during real estate booms. Quality parcels under an acre can go fast when demand spikes. Yet there are still deals for patient buyers.

Is land cheaper on Cape Cod or inland?

Inland rural towns of western Massachusetts tend to be more affordable per acre. But you sacrifice proximity to Boston and coastal amenities. Prime parcels on the Cape fetch premium pricing, especially oceanfront. If your heart is set on the Cape, brace for steep costs.

How complicated is it to develop land in Massachusetts?

Red tape and regulations make development more arduous than in many other states. Zoning, conservation rules, community input - there are many hurdles. Hire experts like real estate attorneys to navigate it. Delays and frustration are common if you DIY the process.

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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