How To Buy Land Sight Unseen

Culebra Peak reflected in Smith Reservoir, southwest of Fort Garland, CO. Credit to David Herrera on Flickr.

The idea of buying land without ever having been to the property is understandably intimidating for most people. Nonetheless, that’s how a lot of land sales are done, including most of them here at Ocala Road.

So how do you buy land sight unseen? Here’s a few tips, tools, and tricks to get comfortable with the land you’re thinking about buying.

Google Maps

The first and obvious questions every land buyer has: “where is it?” and “what’s it look like?” We typically have a picture of the actual property here at Ocala Road, but not always. So what’s the next best thing? Google Maps. Every one of our property listings has a link to Google Maps which shows its exact location.

You can also use use Google Maps to get an idea of what a property looks like as well:

Street View: In the bottom right corner of Google Maps, you’ll see a few basic tools to go to your current location, and zoom in and out of the map. The last option is a little man icon, which you can click and drag to highlighted blue portions of the map and get a street level of view of the area.

In rural areas, you may not have street view level access, but you can probably get street view on a nearby main road. This can give you a very good idea as to what the area/neighborhood looks like. In flat areas with little or no tree cover, this nearby street view is almost the same as being on your future property.

3D Satellite Viewing: Another great way to get an understanding of how a property (and the surrounding area/neighborhood) looks is by clicking the Satellite viewing option in the bottom left corner of Google Maps.

Once you’ve switched to Satellite view, your bottom right toolbar will have a cool new set of options for you to use. Click on 3D, and your map will tilt slightly. You can use the rotate tool to adjust the directional view and rotate the map. As always, you can use the + and – buttons to zoom in and out.

The coolest part of this feature is your ability to tilt the map the way you like. Hold down the Control key on your keyboard and move your mouse to tilt your map at varying degrees. From there, use the zoom keys to get a better view and explore.

Using 3D Satellite viewing with Google Maps, you can get views like this one below:

Google Earth has similar features, but Maps is a little more user friendly and does the job just fine.

Google Maps is usually enough for most people, but if you want to really get up close, there’s always the next option.

Hire a Local

If you want eyes and ears on the ground, you can always pay a local to go out to the property in question using an address, longitude/latitude coordinates, and/or a Google Maps link and take some pictures and maybe a quick video.

If you’re on Facebook, you can join a local Buy/Sell group in the area where the property is located and ask for someone who can go and take pictures of a property you’re thinking of buying.

To avoid getting scammed, only pay someone after you’ve received the pictures and/or video you requested.

Getting Proof Of Ownership

If you’re buying land, it’s never a bad idea to ask for proof of ownership. Is the person you’re buying land from the person who owns the land? If it’s a company that owns the land, is the person you’re taking to a representative of said company?

Ask the person or company who is selling the land for a copy of their deed, which they should be able to provide you as a PDF or picture. On the deed, look for Grantor and Grantee information, which is usually at the beginning of the deed. The Grantor is the previous owner of the land and the Grantee should match the person or company who is selling the land to you.

The deed should be signed and notarized.

Complete Your Due Diligence Over The Phone

You can confirm a number of key facts about the land you’re looking to buy simply by calling the relevant county office. Make sure you call as opposed to email:

  • Call the county assessor‘s office and confirm the land is owned by the person or company that’s selling you the land.
  • Call the county treasurer‘s office and confirm there are no back taxes owed on the property.
  • Call the county clerk‘s office to confirm there are no liens on the property.
  • Call the county planning and zoning office to confirm the land is zoned for what you’re planning on doing with the land. Ask about any restrictions.

How We Help You

At Ocala Road, we do all of the above when buying property ourselves, as it would be impossible for us to visit each parcel (much as we’d like to!) So know that if you’re looking to buy land from us, we’ve done our due diligence. We also offer a 90 day guarantee on all land we sell, so if you don’t like the property you buy you can get a refund within 90 days of purchase.

Nonetheless, we know that you may prefer to “trust, but verify.” That’s why we wrote this article! Getting an understanding of what a property looks like and ensuring you’re buying a quality property that meets your needs can all be done from the comfort of your living room couch. All you really need is a phone and an internet connection.

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