- I asked him how he found the land (Craigslist) and if he had a realtor helping him (no). Sometimes land is sold just between two parties but for someone who is unfamiliar with buying real estate, a realtor is definitely worth the money.
- I asked about the well and he said the neighbor said it was good. Always, always pay to get the well tested before you buy property. You want to test the water, the depth, the age and type of pump, find out if there have been recent problems with other wells in the area, etc.
- I asked about the septic system. He said the property owner recently inherited the land from a relative so he didn't know much about the type or condition of the septic system but he though part of the drain field may be on the neighbor's property (?!?). This can become a sticky legal problem in short order so always have any such problems dealt with prior to purchase (this usually involves a lawyer, the county, a possible easement, etc).
- He had a nice stand of cedar trees on the property which he was already thinking about logging and selling. A couple of issues I pointed out (by this time he was probably wondering why he invited a kill joy over) were #1, unless you own the property free and clear (he was getting a mortgage), taking the timber is usually prohibited since it decreases the value of the property, and #2 the trees were along a slope by a stream that cut through the property and some counties require permits or flat out make it illegal to log near streams or on sloping ground that is prone to slides.
- The shape of the property looked a little odd (the neighbor had fenced part of the property, mowed the grass on another part, etc). I asked if he had a plat map of the property or if the county had marked it so that he knew exactly where his property lines were (no). Again (by this time I sounded like I was lecturing) I told him he definitely needed to find out where his property lines were and not take the neighbor's word for it. Many counties will come out and mark the property lines for free, in other places you may need to hire it done but it is well worth the cost to avoid future problems.
- Speaking of the stream, it cut the property in half and a nice chunk of the land was on the other side of it. We discussed access to the other part of the property and he said he would either build a bridge (this is usually mired in permits and fees and engineering, etc) or go down the road that runs behind the property (which was gated off by the neighbor who owned the road and the property that abuts his property--in other words there is probably no easement for access which is another glaring issue).
- I asked if he had an appraisal done on the property (no) or had a title search done (no). Arg.
I hope my lecturing made him rethink his plan to buy the property. I know it is exciting to buy a new place and a good price makes the deal even harder to resist, but unless you get your legal ducks in a row, have a knowledgeable person helping with the purchase, do all of the checks and legwork necessary to ensure a smooth and legal transaction, etc. your dream place can quickly turn into a legal and financial nightmare.