Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Pennsylvania

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Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Pennsylvania
By

Bart Waldon

Buying land in Pennsylvania can seem like a great idea. The Keystone State is filled with lush forests, rolling farmlands and snaking rivers that evoke a sense of tranquility and privacy. As more people seek out affordable land for country living or outdoor recreation, Pennsylvania has become a popular destination for folks looking to buy and own a piece of undeveloped property. But before pulling out your wallet, it's important to carefully consider both the potential pros and cons of investing in land here.

On the plus side, Pennsylvania offers plenty of wide open spaces to choose from. You're likely to find sprawling properties that can accommodate large house plots, barns, riding arenas - you name it. The state also has a thriving agricultural economy, so fertile soil abounds whether you want to grow crops or let the forests be. With the right location, undeveloped land can gain value over the years as nearby communities expand. And having your own parcel provides the freedom to hike, hunt, ride ATVs or just soak up the sights from your own back deck.

However, buying land here is not without its challenges. For one, the buying and selling process can drag on, sometimes taking over a year to find the right buyer if you ever want to sell. There are often hidden costs like survey fees, permits and unpaid back taxes too. And depending on where you purchase, zoning laws and terrain may restrict construction plans. Doing your homework on regulations and local dynamics is a must.

At the end of the day, landing the perfect plot of Pennsylvania land can be done with realistic expectations, thorough research and a good dose of patience. Take time to explore different counties and towns to find an area that fits your goals and budget. While buying land is never easy, Pennsylvania offers ample opportunities to claim your own special stretch of the Keystone State.

Pros of Buying Land in Pennsylvania 

When folks think of Pennsylvania, images of rolling hills dotted with barns and sprawling farmland likely come to mind. There's a reason so many paintings depict the Keystone State’s rugged rural beauty. And with so much wide open space, it’s no wonder more and more people are snatching up vacant land here.

Sure, buying empty property has its share of headaches. But for many, the benefits outweigh the risks. Here are a few of the biggest perks:

Freedom to Build Your Dream Home

Having a blank canvas to work with when constructing a homestead is a big draw for land buyers in Pennsylvania. You can customize every last detail—from the floor plan to the light fixtures—when building from scratch. Not feeling constrained by what some other owner imagined is appealing. And with all the elbow room, you can create outbuildings for hobbies and install amenities not possible on smaller lots.

Of course, building on raw land isn’t for the faint of heart. From septic tanks to zoning laws, you’ll have to tackle complex projects and paperwork. But folks willing to roll up their sleeves love bringing their unique vision to life.

Endless Recreation Right Out Your Back Door

If you love the outdoors, what better way to tap into nature than owning your own piece of it? Pennsylvania's forests and fields offer an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. Just step outside to hike, fish, ride horses or hunt. At night, head out to gaze at the stars or listen to owls hooting in the distance.

And for the hobby farmer, fertile soil makes growing vegetables, herbs and flowers downright easy. You’ll have all the space you need for tractors, tools, and enough beds to supply the whole county with produce.

Privacy and Solitude

Most land buyers crave privacy. And properties here allow you to find seclusion tucked away among thousands of acres of forests. With no neighbors in sight, you can retreat from the world and find your inner peace listening to songbirds or watching deer graze.

Value Appreciation Possibilities

As small towns grow into bustling cities, empty land on their outskirts gains value. While banking on appreciation is risky, some strategic land investments here have paid off handsomely. Parts of Pennsylvania have transformed radically over the decades. And there’s always the possibility previously rural areas will eventually boom.

Of course, the land’s hidden costs and development challenges can dash dreams of free riches. And growth often takes decades, not years. But with well-researched purchases, buying land can provide long-term profits.

At the end of the day, owning vacant land in Pennsylvania lets you have your own path on a piece of the iconic countryside. With careful planning, it can also be a smart investment in your future. Just be sure to enter the buying process with eyes wide open. The joys of open spaces come along with very real obstacles. But for many, the rewards make it all worthwhile.

Cons of Buying Land in Pennsylvania 

The rolling rural landscapes of Pennsylvania inspire dreams of owning your own slice of paradise. But vacant land comes with its share of headaches. Before pulling out your checkbook, consider these potential pitfalls:

Hidden Costs Add Up

At first glance, an empty property may seem affordable. But hidden fees drive up the true price tag. Be prepared for expenses like:

  • Surveying - Without clear boundary lines, disputes with neighbors could arise. Paying for an official survey protects your interests.
  • Back Taxes - You may owe years of unpaid property taxes accrued by previous owners. This can amount to thousands of dollars.
  • Permits - From well drilling to septic systems, you'll need permits to develop the land. Applications and compliance costs add up.
  • Infrastructure - Running electricity, digging a well, and installing a driveway are just some of the major infrastructure projects required.

Without factoring in these indirect costs, you risk overpaying. And if you ever want to sell, recovering these expenses may prove difficult.

Limited Construction Potential

Visions of your perfect country home may hit roadblocks. Zoning laws could restrict the size, height or even location of new structures. In some cases, buildings aren't permitted at all.

Remote, rugged topography presents another headache. Steep, rocky, or wet areas make construction exponentially more expensive. Be sure the land is conducive to building before purchasing.

Poor Accessibility

While privacy has appeal, land without good road access can become an island. Driving to and from on rutted backroads, especially in winter, may test your patience.

Emergency services like fire trucks or ambulances may also struggle reaching you in bad conditions. And few delivery or utility companies are willing to serve remote properties.

Professionals Hard to Find

Building in rural areas comes with a small pool of qualified contractors, architects and other specialists. You may end up settling for subpar workmanship or paying a premium for professionals to work in remote locales.

Competition with Developers

In high-growth areas, small land parcels get gobbled up quickly for subdivisions or commercial use. This drives up prices and makes buying future adjacent lots nearly impossible as new neighborhoods pop up.

Limited Rental Demand

While building a future home is a common goal, some also purchase land as an investment property. But rundown cabins or campers on empty land draw little rental demand. And regulations often prohibit park model tiny homes. Don't bank on big rental income.

Holding Period Could Span Decades

Patience is key when buying vacant land. While property values may eventually climb, growth happens slowly. Major profits likely won't be realized for 20-30 years, if ever. If you need to sell quickly, few buyers may express interest.

At the end of the day, affordable land parcels in Pennsylvania tempt those dreaming of wide open spaces. But weighing the downsides against your goals is important before taking the leap. Plenty of hidden obstacles can quickly turn an empty plot of land into a money pit. Enter with clear eyes, and you’ll avoid turning your rural retreat into a regret.

Key Factors to Consider When Buying Land in Pennsylvania

Buying vacant land in Pennsylvania? Do your homework before taking the plunge. Here are some key factors to weigh:

Look into zoning restrictions—make sure you can legally build your dream home or facilities. Also research the soil and topography—is the land conducive to construction or prone to flooding and erosion?

Vet accessibility early. Long, rutted dirt roads that turn muddy or icy may become a headache. And confirm emergency vehicles and utilities can access the property.

Calculate total costs upfront, including property survey fees, unpaid back taxes, permit applications, and infrastructure like well drilling and electricity installation. Expenses add up quickly.

Evaluate the area’s growth potential if you want your land to appreciate in value over time. Rapid development can increase value but also complicate future expansion and raise prices.

Consider your proximity to amenities. Do you have an easy commute to necessities like grocery stores, hospitals and contractors? Remote parcels can mean long drives for supplies and services.

Look into any liens, easements or other encumbrances that could limit land usage or cause legal issues down the road. Know what you’re getting into.

Patience and realistic expectations are key when buying vacant land. While picturesque properties tempt buyers, rural living and construction come with unique challenges. Weigh the pros and cons carefully before investing in your own slice of Pennsylvania land.

Final Words

When it comes to purchasing vacant land in Pennsylvania, there are compelling arguments on both sides. Opportunities for seclusion, recreation, and custom-built homes entice buyers looking to stake their own claim on a swath of idyllic countryside. Yet the buying process also contains hidden costs, construction challenges, and lengthy holding periods that require diligence and patience. Given the complexities of rural living and land ownership, properly weighing your goals and conducting extensive research is a must. Moving forward with realistic expectations, adequate financing, and expert guidance can help ensure your Pennsylvania land purchase fulfills your vision rather than becoming a burden. With careful planning, you can experience the joys of open space living and achieve rewarding long-term returns on your investment. Despite the hurdles, buying land in the Keystone State remains a dream worth pursuing for many seeking their own unique patch of countryside.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are some top tips for evaluating land parcels in Pennsylvania?

When checking out properties, look at more than just price per acre. Vet zoning laws, topography, soil quality, road access, and utility availability. Also research any liens, easements or encumbrances on the title to avoid legal issues. Consider long-term growth potential as well if investment upside is important.

How can I estimate all the costs of buying vacant land beyond just the purchase price?

From surveys to permits to infrastructure, expenses add up. Budget for a land survey, appraisal fees, unpaid back taxes, legal document filing charges, water and electric installation, well drilling/septic installation, grading, road and driveway construction. The purchase price is just the beginning.

What kind of professionals should I connect with when buying land in Pennsylvania?

Your team is key. Work with a real estate attorney to protect your interests and navigate zoning laws. Get referrals for trustworthy surveyors, contractors, and developers familiar with the area. Partner with a loan officer experienced in vacant land financing too.

What are land buying mistakes to avoid in Pennsylvania?

Watch for parcels with limited construction potential or access issues that will complicate development. Also beware of buying land sight unseen—visit any property first. Moving too quickly without soil tests, title research and cost estimates can create headaches.

How can I determine an appropriate offer price when buying land?

Consider recent sale prices on comparable vacant land parcels in the same county. But also factor in the property's unique advantages/disadvantages. Negotiating power depends on how long the land has been listed and the seller’s motivation. Patience and incrementally increasing offers can pay off.

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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