Understanding Zoning Laws: Raw Land Edition

By LandCentral

Zoning laws and codes are an important piece to the real estate puzzle. They help divide up the land into compatible little sections. Ever see an elementary school next to a Gentlemen’s Club? You can thank zoning for that. But what about raw land? How do zoning laws and regulations impact undeveloped land? Let’s find out with LandCentral’s Understanding Zoning Laws: Raw Land Edition:

Most Common Zoning Categories

  • Residential – Home dwellings such as single-family, multi-family, apartments, condos, etc.
  • Commercial – Business properties such as office buildings, hotels, shopping centers, etc.
  • Agriculture – Farming property that can include crops and animal farming.
  • Industrial – Specific business property typically for manufacturing, warehouse, and storage.
  • Rural – Also used for farming and ranches and can refer to horses and cattle and is typically blended with residential.

Learn more with Zoning for Beginners: 6 Easy Basics.

Things to Consider First

When looking at raw land, pay attention to what zoning it falls under. If your dream property is zoned for Agriculture, you may not be able to build a home there. Similarly, if the lot you’re considering is zoned for Residential but your vision is to run a business, it may not be the right location. When it comes to zoning, always check the fine print before you buy.

Now that you’ve chosen a property with the proper zoning for your vision, let’s talk about amenities and certain restrictions you may come across.

Essential Utilities

While already purposed land likely has established utilities and amenities to build whatever sort of structure you want, undeveloped land can be a tad trickier. This is where zoning also comes into play. If the land you purchase is zoned for Rural, it may not have access to the proper utilities needed to build. Utilities like water, electricity, and sewage are pretty essential if you ask us. This doesn’t mean you can’t have those things on your rural lot, it simply means you’ll need to get creative with digging a well, putting in septic, and leaving space for solar panels. Knowing this and the additional costs it will take are all things to consider before you buy.

Environmental Regulations

Depending on the zoning of your vacant land, there may be some environmental issues to consider. For example, if a protected wet land sits on part of your property, building may not be permitted in that area. Or if your lot was previously zoned for Industrial and there were hazardous chemicals on the premises, it may be worth a quick check with an Environmental Assessment. Understanding the importance of zoning and regulations before you buy land will save you a lot of time, money, and stress in the long run.

How to Learn More About Your Land’s Zoning Laws

Your real estate agent or attorney should have this information. Or if you’re really smart and buy a property from us, we’ll give you the deets before you buy. But if you’re more of a type A and want to do some digging yourself, check your city or county’s website and find the Local Planning Department. That’s where you’ll find the zoning rules and ordinances. If you can’t find it there, go to your State and Local Government website.

Changing Your Land’s Zoning

Now to the big question. Can you change your land’s zoning? Yes…and no. Yes, you can technically change the zoning on a piece of property, but the process is a doozy. From surveying your land and researching the rules in your area to getting votes from neighboring land owners and submitting an application to rezone, actually getting your lot rezoned takes a lot of time, patience, friends, and money. But cities and areas change, so it’s not impossible and in some cases, rezoning is quite necessary to keep pace with progress. So we say, if you’ve got the stones to do it, rezone away!

While buying raw land is still one of our favorite investments, it’s worth doing your homework before you buy. Make sure the vision you have for your property is possible and legal. And then get to investing! Did we mention we sell raw land right here on our site? Pssst, we’ll even tell you all the fine print zoning details ahead of time.

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