Author Topic: Finally close to buying land, but one big ditch is in the way (literally)  (Read 909 times)

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Offline Pallas

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Honestly, thank you all for the truly invaluable information given by each post.

I called the county zoning office who told me that because it was in the National Inventory, I would have to go through the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit, which would likely be cost prohibitive.  The parcel is in New York, btw, and only a couple of hours from NYC so it's still close enough to civilization that the restrictions aren't yet rural friendly.

I think all of this together makes this a deal breaker, sadly. But I'm very glad to have only spent a few hours and dollars on document fees instead of a few thousand on a potential (literal?) money pit. I'm so glad I came back to the forum! This is an incredible resource.

So onward I'll continue in my search for land, but for now I'll focus on the Yestermorrow course I'll be taking in a few weeks. Happy to share feedback on it once I'm done. Thanks again!

Offline hpinson

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Probably a wise choice. It might be a difficult or even impossible task to get a wetlands fill exemption there.  You might search this forum for posts by a fellow named Adam Roby, who had similar issues doing a land search in New York State.  Lots of good info in those threads specific to where you are. I think ultimately he was successful.

Offline Pallas

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Hi all,

Just wanted to check in one more time to confirm this for myself - realtors always lie, right? Is that the number one rule? I ask because I followed up with the realtor asking if the owner has a wetlands permit (given that he started to fill it in the past) and she said it wasn't classified as a wetland. I told her it shows up on the parcel map and also the National Wetlands Directory but I could "confirm with the county next week". Meanwhile, I've called the county twice and the only help they could provide is to tell me to call the Army Corps of Engineers - which to me sounds like they're not willing to call anything not-a-wetland unless confirmed, right. Then she told me that "it has a bond for the driveway to be put in". Does anyone know what this means? Is a bond a permit? Google isn't helping me here.

Is there a scenario where I can make a condition of sale that I have legal access to the property, but he somehow does it through violation of permits? I figured I'll go see the land anyway this weekend, since I made the appointment and can see other parcels too. It could be an opportunity to catch her in the lies... any tips?

Offline hpinson

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Disagree - if all real estate agents lied they would constantly be getting sued.  A licensed real-estate agent is ethically bound to tell you what they know about a property. Most real estate agents take that at least somewhat seriously, since if there are complaints to the state licensure authority they can lose their license.

An agent can work for the seller - a sellers agent. They have the sellers interests in mind. This is most common.

An agent can work for the buyer - a buyers agent. They have the buyers interests in mind. This is usually preferable. Agents cannot switch allegiance once they have engaged with you on a property.

An agent may not be aware of all the defects on a property, or trained in the implications of a defect. This is often that case with inexperienced agents.  Also defective properties are usually not very profitable for the agent, and they don't spend a lot of effort getting to know them. An example might be a high water table that requires extraordinary measures for a septic system. Likely an engineer would determine something like that in New York. Thus the perc test that was recommended. An agent may have little understanding of these details.

So due diligence is UP TO YOU.

You can make any offer you want. The seller can accept, negotiate, or decline.

Again, if you really are interested in this property, ask the seller to wholly remedy the defects that you identify as part of the offer, with your acceptance contingent of performance of those remedies. Based on what you have told us that at a minimum would be do a survey, provide vehicle access, and find a solution to the encroaching abutters house.  In addition, personally I'd be looking at other things too, is there a feasible water supply, is soil suitable for building, does soil allow for normal septic, are there covenants, restrictions or other legal encumbrances on the land?

Should state that none of our opinions here are legal advice.

But yes go see it. If nothing else you will learn a lot.



« Last Edit: July 20, 2018, 11:18:48 AM by hpinson »

Offline NathanS

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My experience searching for land taught me realtor and ethics don't go too well together.

Things different agents 'didn't know' about their properties we visited:

- Land abutted garbage transfer station
- Barn sectioned off with poly to either grow weed or some kind of meth lab, didn't go close enough to find out
- Squatters setting up electric fence and using it to pasture cows, store old farm equipment, use as a dump.
- Realtor tried to pressure us into an 'exclusivity' contract where he would represent us for 6 months for a fee of $2000


My experience is also that when land is cheap, there's a bad reason why.

We did eventually find a nice realtor that we used as a 'buyers agent.'

Offline SouthernTier

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I ask because I followed up with the realtor asking if the owner has a wetlands permit (given that he started to fill it in the past) and she said it wasn't classified as a wetland. I told her it shows up on the parcel map and also the National Wetlands Directory but I could "confirm with the county next week". Meanwhile, I've called the county twice and the only help they could provide is to tell me to call the Army Corps of Engineers - which to me sounds like they're not willing to call anything not-a-wetland unless confirmed, right.

It sounds like you already decided not to go with this property, which sounds like a good decision.  However, I'll add my 2 cents since I am also in NYS and for my day job work on environmental projects, so I am familiar with wetlands.

An area could be considered a wetland because (a) it is on a National Wetlands map (see https://www.fws.gov/wetlands/data/mapper.html), (b) is a New York State Wetland (not necessarily the same as the national delineation (see http://www.dec.ny.gov/gis/erm/)  and/or (c) isn't on either of these maps but is still a wetland.

Obviously (a) and (b) are the first things to check, but there is plenty of work for specialized wetland delineators whose job is to actually delineate wetlands based on vegetation, moisture, etc.  The maps don't necessarily show everything.  For example, NYSDEC says "They do not show ALL wetlands that may be present in an area. There may be additional wetlands on a site that may be protected under local or federal law."

And as to boundaries on the online "GIS" maps, they are not really "GIS" maps but tax maps.  GIS is a tool to provide geographic information.  This could be tax map info, which is imprecise but "good enough" for determining taxing.  Actual property boundaries need to be determined by a licensed surveyor and are almost always different from the boundaries shown on a tax map.  Working for an engineering firm, I do GIS and have access to both tax map and survey GIS data.  Here is my property showing both data and how they don't match.



I get some much useful info from this forum I like to give back when I actually know something.

Offline ChugiakTinkerer

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In addition to the tax map data being inaccurate or imprecise, there is also the fact that much of the satellite or air photo imagery available online is not well rectified to yield an orthonormal image.  So even if the parcel boundary is accurate the underlying image could be off.  So an apparent encroaching house may in fact be within the adjoiing parcel.  Or not, always good to do your due diligence.

My cabin build thread: Alaskan remote 16x28 1.5 story

Offline Pallas

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Thanks all for the really helpful replies. There was a lot of great knowledge exchanged in this thread which I think can be useful for anyone who will almost certainly run into wetland issues when looking for land.

So, to conclude this saga, I went to look at the land, and first takeaway was that the ditch was HUGE. I'm talking more like a pit-of-despair huge - really deep and literally beginning and ending across the property lines. It's pretty obvious that the surrounding lands were subdivided and no one wanted to claim the pit, so it ended up being its own parcel, with some good property in the back, but ultimately no access. Additionally, the narrowness of the lot meant that you could see your neighbor from either side, so it didn't really feel as private as 5 acres should.

On the realtor, turns out it's a husband and wife team, with the wife being the realtor to the husband owner. He was there and basically waved away the wetland issue, said he had a permit for a driveway already and when I suggested the Army Corps of Engineers he said that "if you go looking for problems anywhere you'll find them." So I didn't get a great vibe. He did admit that this parcel probably wasn't for the faint of heart or the best "starter land" for someone - though I do have to say, I got a bit of a patronizing vibe from him, given that I'm a young woman. I asked all my questions to make sure he knew I had done my homework and basically decided it wasn't for me.

Anyway, I'm glad I went and learned a few things. One good thing to come out of it is that as I was driving around I found a few other parcels for sale, so I'm researching those further. Thanks again all!

 

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