Knowing the Lay of the Land in Asheville, NC

You may know this already, but finding and buying vacant land in Asheville, NC is a considerably different process, with its own completely different set of pitfalls than finding and buying residential real estate. I call it, “Knowing the Lay of the Land.” It may sound corny, but it is so true. When purchasing residential real estate you are dealing with a more defined set of parameters, as lots are generally easy to visualize because there is fencing or some other type of landscape feature that distinctly outlines where the boundaries are. However, when looking at raw/vacant land there generally is not a visible boundary. Having an agent on hand who sells a lot of land can help you immensely. There may not be a hedge or a fence running the length of the property and there are some general rules of thumb that an experienced agent will know.

In my experience selling and developing land tracts, I have found that most sensible people historically subdivided large parcels of land along common topographical features. Such features might include ridgelines or creek beds, along old barbed wire fencing present from old farming uses, and the list goes on and on. Being able to read these topographical features and correlate them when referencing a property’s survey or tax map can help you, the client, make sense of a property’s boundaries and whether a certain feature such as a road or creek is actually on or off the land you are looking at.

When investigating large land tracts there are a couple of tools that I absolutely find essential in helping clients make an informed decision. Click over to the next page and we’ll talk about a couple of them.

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GPS Maping in Western North Carolina

In order to give my clients the best possible idea of the land tract they are looking at and some sense of orientation, I use my GPS unit. What is a GPS unit and what does it do? The abbreviation GPS stands for Global Positioning System and was initially used by the US Military for a number of applicable uses. Recently, within the past decade or so, it has become very popular in the private sector for a number of uses, both professional and recreational.

How a GPS Works

etrexHere is how it works. The user has a hand held unit or receiver which tracts the signal from at least four different satellites orbiting the earth. From these signals the receiver can determine a user’s location, speed, altitude and direction of travel. What does that mean to you the client? Simply put, I can use the GPS unit to create maps of existing roads and to plot the location of existing structures or terrain features. I can use the data to determine a properties aspect and the direction that the land faces. By using the data the GPS unit records and then over laying this information on a USGS Quad, sometimes referred to as a topographical map, I can provide my clients with a detailed map of the land tract they are viewing. With this map my clients gain a better understanding of the particular piece of land they are considering and that property’s distinguishing characteristics; not to mention a better sense of orientation. Now they have a map that shows where that old farm house is located, or where that beautiful waterfall was located, etc.. For a more detailed discussion of the Global Positioning System please click here

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Pitfalls of Purchasing Land in Asheville, North Carolina

We’ve talked a little bit about the process of viewing land in Western North Carolina, let us now take a closer look at some of the things to be aware of when looking at a land tract in and around Asheville, NC. It is very easy when viewing a tract of land to be mesmerized by a single feature such as a waterfall or a long range view, but there are certain items that must be considered before moving forward with an offer to purchase. Not only will these items affect your enjoyment or use of the property, they also effect the appropriate price to be paid for the land.

Does the Land Have Adequate Access?

How is the tract accessed? Is there major frontage on a state maintained highway? Is the access through a deeded right-of-way (ROW) or easement road? If you are using an easement or right-of-way road, how wide is the ROW? Is it 60 feet or is it 8 feet, or better yet are we sure that the ROW is deeded and not just some road that has been used for years? I can not tell you how important this issue is and how restrictive it can be on the use of the property. Not only does the bank care, but the local jurisdiction cares. For example, lets say you would like to purchase a piece of land in Asheville with the intention of subdividing it into lots. Good idea, but if the access is only an 8 foot ROW, you can’t subdivide the tract of land in most instances. Another example: you love this 10 acre parcel of land in Mars Hill and want to build your dream home on it, but it is accessed by a 15 foot ROW. Do you know a lot of banks will not finance the construction of that home with that small of an access? Just something to consider before diving in with both feet.

Does the Land Have Access to Utilities?

You may be standing on an absolutely gorgeous piece of land in Asheville, but are there any utilities present on the property? Believe it or not, there might be a power pole directly across the street, sitting in the state held ROW, but that actual piece of land is owned by your neighbor, not the state. Your neighbor may be a reasonable man, but then again he/she may not. The neighbor is under no obligation to give you access to that power pole and the local utility has no authority to force him/her to give you access. For example, I have seen a neighbor charge his neighbor $5,000 dollars for only a couple of feet of easement, so he may have access to power. I’ve also seen neighbors flat out deny access to a utility regardless of the price. These might be rare occurrences, but it can happen.

Septic Systems and Wells in Asheville, NC

A quick word on septic and water in rural Western North Carolina as these are items you provide for on your own property. Here in the mountains of Western North Carolina drilling a well and finding water is generally not very hard. We have a lot of ground water and the vast majority of it is terrific in quality. However, septic systems are becoming more difficult as the local municipalities and counties of Madison, Buncombe and Henderson, just to name a few, tighten up their approval of such systems. In any event please make sure that these contingencies are covered in any offer to purchase.


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