It looks like you're using an older version of Internet Explorer. Upgrade your browser to view this site—it's easy and free.



Real Estate - Buying Land

Grand Highlands at Bearwallow Mountain
On Bearwallow Mountain, in Western North Carolina, a bird’s-eye view shows how enchanting pastoral life can be. These mountains have plenty of roaming room, with communities like Grand Highlands, near Hendersonville, that simply gild what nature has presented.
Photo Credit: Grand Highlands at Bearwallow Mountain

Plantation, Equestrian Estate, Mountain Camp, or Small Farm – whatever your motivation, it's all about land.

Rumor is, a number of military personnel returning from overseas are looking for land to buy. Understandable, but nothing new. Americans have always had a love affair with the land.

For many, it's a privacy motivation. Build a home in the middle of 10-15 acres and you probably won't be bothered by the neighbors, traffic noise, or manmade intrusions.

Others want to preserve a special piece of forested hillside or lakefront property for their heirs. Still others want hunting or fishing preserves, with no intention to build on the premises.

That type of purchase might be more investment than dream fulfilled, and for some, it's a way to protect assets from impatient youngsters.

And finally, a fair number of Carolina newcomers are out to realize their particular fantasies of owning a vineyard, ostrich farm, apple orchard, equestrian estate or conservation easement.

All of the above are available in abundance in both Carolinas, where there is an estimated 50 million-plus acres of undeveloped land. And, land has steadily increased in value in the Carolinas over the past 30 years.

A recent issue of Progressive Farmer reported that "more than ever, people are choosing the country lifestyle over the bustle of the city."

The article went on to identify a few reasons why, including "better quality of life, a great place to raise a family, and a return to the simple things."

According to John McAllister, Vice President of the Realtor® Land Institute and owner of John McAllister Realty Consulting, in Columbia, South Carolina, many potential land buyers have dreamed about buying property for years. "They want the experience of having their own piece of land, their own peace of mind, and their own peace and quiet," he explained.

Ellen Peric of Carolina Farms, a real estate company in the north central piedmont area of North Carolina, says that approximately half of their buyers are from outside their area, and most of those are relocating from out of state. "The most universal request is for space around their home for privacy," she explained, noting that only 10% of the clients she sees are seeking retirement. "There is nothing retiring about active, working farms," she warns.

Of course, that depends on your motivation behind all that newly-purchased acreage.

Now, although there are major differences in the reasons why a family seeks to buy real estate, the guidelines are quite similar - to get the best possible financial and emotional value from your investment.

For those thinking about living out their land-ownership dreams, and perhaps making a handsome profit in the future, we say, take the time to learn from those who have gone before.

If you are a shopper and determined to get the best value, here are a few guidelines that are important for first-time home buyers, as well as "investment" tycoons:

We suggest you insist on a licensed Realtor with at least three year's experience and one who has earned credentials as a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) or Accredited Land Consultant (ALC).

Buyer agents/brokers are the best solution for those who want an agent to represent their interests exclusively. Study the area. Review real estate websites and publications. Order a subscription to the local newspaper. It might help you identify a potential problem before signing a contract to buy.

If you find land that fits your goals, make a reasonable offer. So what if you get turned down? The negotiation process must begin somewhere.

Consider cash as an option. And, no matter what sized property you are seeking, get pre-approved by a mortgage broker so that your financing is in-hand. That kind of leverage is invaluable.

And finally, don't discount the potential of a land auction. Today's process has nothing in common with old Westerns in which penniless widows were forced from their homes by evil bankers.

John McAllister is enthusiastic about the process, and is involved in land auctions throughout the United States. The increasing popularity in purchasing land at a live auction is something he calls "bargain theory."

"When you attend a live land auction, you know what the market will bear, and if you are the highest bidder, you know immediately that there were others willing to pay almost the same price," he explained. Mr. McAllister referred to a recent study from the National Auctioneers Association, which reported that land and agricultural, commercial and industrial and residential real estate sold at live auction reached $48 billion in 2004. Sales of land and agricultural real estate alone increased 14.7% that same year.

Of course, many buyers are seeking to eventually subdivide that big parcel for residential development, while others intend to keep a majority of the land intact, selling just enough – on their terms – to help finance the investment.

Land ownership was the goal of virtually every immigrant to the United States, and buying land is intriguing to many. For those with their sites set on mountain land, woods or meadows, the Carolina choices are abundant.


The Carolinas are a hotbed for those looking to purchase. If you're in the market for farmland, recreation, resort, undeveloped or timberland here, the following tips from Carolina Realtors Land Institute (RLI) members will be invaluable.

1. Target areas that are adjacent to state or national parks and within a two-hour drive (100 miles) of a major city. Many families can now afford vacation homes close to where they live.

2. In the Carolinas, pine trees are definitely beautiful, especially when buying tracts of land. Pines, like community developers, do not like wetlands. The more pines you see, the better off you'll be.

3. Rural land prices in the Carolinas are averaging $6,000-$10,000 an acre close to urban areas. Expect to pay $2,000-$4,000 for land farther out. Land is more valuable if you are within 30 miles of the coast, within 20 minutes of metropolitan areas, have a water view, or waterfront.

4. Regardless of the type of land, make sure your broker provides you with recent closed and confirmed comparable sales of similar properties.

5. When dealing with rural property for residential use, it's important to have the soil tested for percolation characteristics, ensuring that a septic system will work properly. Obtain a free County Soil Survey from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

6. Double-check for availability of power, sewer, water, fiber optic cable and natural gas. Not all areas are equipped and approval for extensions takes time.

7. Never assume anything regarding access from the tract of land to the public road. Even if the parcel has frontage on a public road, confirm with the Department of Transportation that an entry can be installed. If the tract is located off the public road, get the seller to provide a deeded right-of-way from all landowners between the tract and the public road that have an obligation to provide access.

8. In today's marketplace, purchasing and developing land raises many important issues: Tax laws, zoning, flood plains, environmental limitations, conservation easements, state and county permits, wetlands, and wildlife management all come into play. When buying or selling land, it pays to use a professional Realtor with Realtor Land Institute credentials.

9. Get a referral to a recognized Carolina expert in land brokerage and the most up-to-date advice on the highest and best use, tax benefits, and government regulations affecting land purchases.