35 Questions to Ask Before Buying Vacant Land ?

Are you interested in buying your own piece of earth?  There’s nothing more fabulous than having a few acres of your own, and building your own place from the ground up.   But, buying land, especially in highly regulated areas like California, can be a lot more risky than buying a home.  These days of real estate disclosure for a home buyer have come a long way from the traditional law of “Caveat Emptor” (meaning buyer beware)!  Land, however, does not have the same rules.  I constantly hear stories like:

Ojai Land for slae

“I thought we were buying 80 acres, it turned out we got 65!”

“We had no idea this area was in an ancient landslide.  Its almost impossible to build here.”

“We thought we got an amazing deal, $1m for 120 acres, but it turns out its going to cost another $1m to get to the pad before we can even think of starting the house.”

“We bought a small lot in town and it turns out we can’t get water service so we can’t build!”

Unfortunately there isn’t one place to get answers.  Many local departments are involved and sometimes have conflicting information.

Here are 35 questions you can ask
Or you can get professional help – call me 310 963 7900.

Planning and Zoning

  1. Is it a legal lot? If not, how do I make it legal?
  2. What is the zoning classification of this lot?
  3. Does the Zoning on the property permit my project?
  4. Does the County General Plan permit what I wish to do?
  5. Are any planning permits required prior to building on the lot?
  6. Are there any zoning violations on the lot?
  7. Are there any special building restrictions in this area?
  8. Are there any cultural heritage sites on the property?

Building and Safety

9. Describe the structures on the property and are there permits for them?

10. What other permits have been issued?


11. Does the lot have legal access to a public road? (For example, if the only access to the public road system is via a private road over a neighboring property, will the buyer of the lot acquire a legal easement?)

Fire Department

12. Does the existing access roadway meet the Fire Department requirements?

13. Can the County Fire Department water requirements be met ?

14. If the access road is not adequate, what will it cost to improve the road?


15. Is the lot served by a public sewer system? Contact the appropriate sewer district.

16. What is the sewer connection fee? Contact the appropriate sewer district.

17. Does the sewer district have the capacity to serve my lot? Contact the appropriate sewer district.

18. If a public sewer connection is not available, what do I do?

19. Will I be able to install a septic system on the lot if a sewer is not available?


20. Is the lot served by a public water system? Contact the appropriate water company or district.

21. Does the water purveyor have enough capacity to serve the lot?

23. How much is the water connection fee?

24. Is it possible to drill a water well on my property?

Other Utilities

25. Can the lot be serviced as needed by gas?

” electric

” telephone

” internet

Traffic Impact Mitigation Fee

26. How much will I have to pay?


27. Is my lot subject to flooding?

Geologic Hazard

28. Is the property subject to geologic hazards (landslides, earthquake faults, liquefaction, etc.)?

Homeowner Association/Deed Restrictions

29. Does a Homeowners Association have jurisdiction over the lot?

30. Are there any Homeowner Association or Covenants,

31. What deed restrictions exist on the lot?


32. Should I have my lot surveyed?

33. What will it cost to have my lot surveyed?

34 . What will it cost to record a Record of Survey?

Building Permits

35. What building permits are required to build on the lot?