Zoning 101: What You Need to Know Before You Buy

By LandCentral


So you’ve found the perfect property. You scoped out the area, fell in love with the neighborhood and already called dibs on where to park your boat. Before you go picking out curtains, you may want to check out the zoning laws for your new spread. While zoning laws often keep order in an otherwise chaotic world, they can also be the party pooper to your property fun. Think of zoning as the hall monitor of the development world. But lucky for you, LandCentral is here to give you a crash course on Zoning 101: What You Need to Know Before You Buy.

What is Zoning?

Zoning is the way a society controls the physical development of land and the ways that land can be used. Most zoning categories fall into a classification called single-family residential. Though some can be zoned for multifamily, transitional or mixed use residential plus commercial. This means a business or apartment building may be erected in the future.

Types of Zoning

  • Residential – Areas designated for single and multi-family residences.
  • Commercial – Areas intended for businesses which provide consumer goods and services as well as a wide variety of commercial, retail, office and recreational uses.
  • Industrial – Areas intended for research and development, factories, warehousing, and other industrial uses.
  • Agricultural – Areas now used for agricultural and farming purposes which may be developed for urban use sometime in the future.
  • Forestry – Area with limits to development that could conflict with forestry practices. Keeps forest lands from being divided into parcels.
  • Open Space – Areas designated for public recreational use or to be left in a generally natural state.

How Does Zoning Affect You?

Planning on doing a bit of remodeling? How about opening an in-home daycare? These types of decisions can only be made when you understand the zoning of your property and can affect:

  • Structure additions – this can be a fence, pool, barn, or even a tree house. Any new structure added to the property.
  • Large vehicle parking – Have a boat or RV? Make sure your zoning laws allow for the parking of oversized vehicles on your property.
  • Landscaping changes – This applies to cutting down that giant oak tree or bringing a chicken coop onto the property.
  • Operating a Home Business – Your home may be the perfect location to run an in-home business, but you’ll need to make sure the zoning gods think so too.
  • Renovation – Don’t add that second story just yet. Easements and other red tape may prevent you from building up, out, or down.

Why Do We Need Zoning Anyway?

While we’ve focused on all the things zoning restricts you from doing, let’s focus a little bit on why it is critical to keeping the peace. The pros of zoning:

  • Protects and enhances property value.
  • Conserves existing neighborhoods.
  • Preserves existing structures.
  • Prevents the mixing of incompatible land (think strip club next to a preschool).
  • Provides better lot arrangement, protecting recreational areas and open spaces.
  • Protects environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Determines location of utilities.
  • Restricts height and size of buildings (so everyone gets enough space).
  • Ensures availability of adequate number of parking spaces.
  • Guarantees adequate light, air, and privacy to new and existing homes.
  • Gives community some control over its land uses, appearance, and quality of life.

How to Learn About Your Zoning Laws

With the help of your real estate agent or attorney, you should be able to easily access the zoning laws of your area or the property you’re thinking of buying. But just in case you want to skip the meeting and do it yourself, check with your local planning department on your city or county website; many will post information on zoning rules and ordinances. If your city’s website does not include the text of local ordinances, check out this State and Local Government website.

Heads up, not all zoning is set in stone. If you really want to change the zoning of a space, locate the Office of Planning and Building in your area and file a petition for rezoning. Remember, zoning may restrict you in some ways, but at its core, it really is better for everyone. Now that we’ve armed you with Zoning 101, feel confident to not only find the property of your dreams but the zoning to make your dreams a reality.

Want to know what you’re getting into from the beginning? LandCentral offers zoning classifications upfront on all properties. Talk about a team player.

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