Things to consider when buying vacant land

If you’re planning to build a new home, it’s only natural you’ll spend hours poring over architects’ concepts and builder designs, weighing up choices and options, and making lists of ‘must-haves’ and ‘would-likes’. And while the other side of the coin – choosing the actual block of land – is often not as exciting, it is just (some say even more) important to spend time seriously considering what the ideal block of land looks like. After all, it’s much easier to change a home design than it is to change some features of a piece of land. So, what are the things to consider when looking at buying a vacant block?

Check for any zoning or overlays
All land in Victoria is zoned for particular usage, and while some of the zoning types are obvious, others can be confusing (for example, what is the difference between a Neighbourhood Residential Zone and a General Residential Zone?).

All zones carry specific rules about what can and cannot be done on the property without specific approvals from council etc., and unfortunately, these rules can change from one council to the next.

In addition to zones, land may be subject to one or more overlays, such as bushfire, heritage, flooding. These can bring in further regulations about what can be built, where and how.

In short, make sure your dream block can actually accommodate your dream home. Thankfully, your WhiteStar conveyancer will be able to get all that information for you, before you buy.

Check for nearby applications and approvals
Imagine purchasing a block (at a premium) with beautiful views only to discover that approval has been already given for the construction of a huge building between you and your dream vista. It happens. So, make sure you know what’s in the planning pipeline that may affect the enjoyment or value of the property you’re looking to buy. Also check nearby land zones for possible activities that may cause noise, smell or other disruption to your life.

Research the area
This is one of the considerations people do tend to spend time checking before committing. In any case, at minimum, look at transport options, school zones, medical facilities and community services, even noise and traffic at different times of the day and week. Also read up on any Council development plans and strategies that may impact your home (positively and negatively) down the track.

Inspect the title deeds and do your own measurements
Simply looking at a block of land will often not give you the true picture of what the block comes with. A good conveyancer will help clarify anything on a deed that may look odd, such as easements, covenants or restrictions. They may also suggest getting a surveyor to take accurate measurements of the block, particularly ones in old established areas where fences are often erected on supposed boundaries, not actual boundaries. You may end up with less or more land than you can see just by visiting.

Find out about utility connections
Not all blocks come with power, water and/or sewerage conveniently located at the boundary, and the cost of having these utilities brought to the block can be expensive. Utility plans can be requested by your conveyancer to give you a better idea of where these are located and whether it may actually be better to go off-grid, or find somewhere else altogether.

Check rates, taxes and other costs
Naturally, buying the block is only the first cost. Afterwards, there’s the ongoing rates and fees you’ll need to pay – and factor in to your overall budget. Freehold land will attract council rates, and sewer service fees if you’re connected to the sewerage network.

Understand the contract
Finally, make sure you read, understand and, if you need to, question the contract of sale. These are typically long and complex, however a WhiteStar conveyancer has a wealth of experience in taking all the detail and explaining it in plain English, so you know exactly what you’re buying and what you need to consider before doing so.