Buy land thru a broker or from a Land Co. ?

This is an easy one for me but most likely isn’t for the average person who wants to buy land in New York. Since I own a land company in NY and I’m a NYS licensed Real Estate Broker I can give you the view from both sides , believe me it matters. The differences in the buying experience are significant so let’s take a look ….

Your experience when looking for land in NY is obviously going to be influenced by the 1st ad you see that catches your eye. How you proceed is up to you but you should be educated on what’s ahead in terms of what you can expect from the people you’re working with. As a person who’s in the business of buying and selling land I deal with the typical “listing broker” you’re all familiar with. Many times I buy land directly from the seller without a broker involved but there are times I’m working with a broker. Either way is fine for me and really doesn’t make a difference because I know what info I need before I sign anything. Do you ? Maybe not.

I have no interest in knocking any brokers out there but I believe buyers need to be aware of what’s ahead. If you , as a prospective buyer , are working with a broker you will find yourself to be “on your own” much more so than if you’re spending time with land companies , real land companies. When a broker lists a parcel of land they only have info available the seller provides. Many times that isn’t much. You want to see a map of some sort , who doesn’t ? A broker rarely has a survey map because the seller doesn’t want to spend the money to get a survey done. So what you’ll have is a copy of a tax map which is rarely accurate. So if the place isn’t surveyed , the property lines are not maintained (clearly marked ) , you have a lousy tax map copy where do you go from here? Most likely you will stand on the road scratching your head because you don’t know where to begin. In addition a broker will rarely meet you at the land to show you around. 99% of the time the broker/sales person has never set foot on this parcel and only has a couple notes from the seller. That doesn’t work. If no one can guarantee you exactly where this property is how can you buy it? If you’re dealing with a legitimate land company you will find the survey is complete long before you ever show up. The person you’re with will have a survey map and will show you exactly where the property lines are. They will walk you through this parcel and point out all you need to know while referring to the survey map along the way. THIS is how it should be and I can guarantee every time you’re with a land company up here you will be treated this way. For us in this business the survey is #1 and it should be for you also. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

Maybe you get lucky and find the seller has a survey done and the broker can show it to you. Will they guarantee you the title to this property is free and clear of liens and/or any other encumbrances? No they won’t. the only way you will find out if the title to this property is clear is if you make a deal , sign a contract , hand over a deposit and THEN demand a title search prior to closing. A seller is supposed to do this but it doesn’t always happen. In the meantime your money is tied up while you wait for a couple lawyers to take the time to communicate with one another and get this done. You’re looking at weeks. A land company has this done before THEY buy the property so there’s no questions when YOU buy it. Next up is what can you do on this property you want to buy ? Can you build , where can you build , what are the local zoning requirements , can you construct a driveway where you want to , are there wetlands on the property ? I can go on all day but you get the idea. There are many things you need to know and you need to know this before you ever sign a contract not afterward and have your money tied up.  Can you imagine taking this on if you live out of town ?

Sometimes we in this business will hear someone say ” I can buy x # of acres from this broker for less than what you’re selling at”. Sounds good up front but by the time all is said and done you haven’t saved a penny or you did save a penny but don’t know what you bought and what you can do afterward. When buying from a land company you will know all your costs up front and will know exactly what you’re buying , what you can do and where you can do it. Not to mention the fact sometime down the line you will have questions you want to ask about your land or perhaps questions about local contractors/builders and stuff like that. Who are you going to call ? The broker won’t be there after the sale , that isn’t their job and it isn’t the responsibility of the person who sold you the land. You buy from a land company and you can call them anytime and they will help every single time.

This doesn’t sound like I’m a friend of listing brokers but trust me I am. I have many great relationships with brokers and have had for many years. They’re good at what they do which is sell houses. They aren’t good at selling land and don’t exactly hide that. The land business is one of those things you’re either in it or you’re not. I’m in it. Occasionally I buy a property that has a house on it which I’m going to sell. So what do I do ? I call a broker and list it with them because I don’t know anything about selling houses and am the 1st to admit it. I leave that to the pros just as you should leave land to the pros. We know what we’re doing and we know more about this than anyone out there. If we didn’t we wouldn’t be in business. Thanks for stopping by and please share with your friends and SIGN UP for all the outdoor / land info available right here all the time. Take care.    mj


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