Buying Land in the Adirondacks: 3 Things You Need to Know

From financing and zoning restrictions to utilities and road access, buying land comes with its own set of challenges. Of course, that’s not to say it’s not worth it. For some buyers, a land purchase truly is the best option, because it ensures you get the location you want and the ability to build the home of your dreams.

If you’re thinking about buying land in the Adirondacks for a build, instead of purchasing an existing home in Lake George, Bolton Landing and the surrounding area, here are a few things you should know.

Financing

Traditional mortgage lenders are not likely to finance the purchase of land. Instead, you’ll need to apply for a land loan. Although these loans can usually be obtained through a community bank or credit union – with a check of your credit history, income, etc. – they are a much riskier transaction for the lender. For one, it can be complicated for the lender to figure out what the land is worth, and two, there is no home to act as collateral for the land loan. Therefore, the loan repayment periods are usually shorter and the down payments and interest rates tend to be higher than if you were securing a typical home loan. 

It’s also worth noting that local financial institutions are more likely to offer land loans than national banks, and if you’re planning to build a primary residence in a rural area, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a few loans that can help, as well. Alternatively, buyers who have an existing home with significant equity, may opt for a home equity loan instead of a land loan.

Utilities & Road Access

Running water, sewers, electricity, gas for heat and phone lines for communication are all things we take for granted when buying an existing home, but when buying land, these are not always a given. When looking at plots of land for sale in the Adirondacks, you’ll want to consider whether the infrastructure is there, or if you’ll need to have utilities brought in. This can be costly and complicated, particularly if the land is not accessible via public roads, and is cut off from city water and sewer. In this case, you’ll need a well and a septic system, which typically require permits.

With regard to road access, if your property is landlocked, you’ll need to make an arrangement with a neighboring property owner for access via a private road on their land. This is known as an easement, and although you may be able to establish this through some friendly discussion with your neighbor, it’s always best to consult a real estate lawyer to draw up and negotiate the agreement.

Zoning

Simply put, zoning laws, codes and ordinances govern what can and can’t be done with the land. They may limit what can be built on a property or require certain steps to a build a safe structure. For instance, there may be required setbacks from the waterfront, or requirements to maintain a bulkhead, or limitations on the height of the structure. If the land is part of a homeowner’s association, or within city limits, there may be additional covenants, deed restrictions or ordinances that govern things like trash removal.

You can contact your local zoning office for land use information, and you’ll also want to research the county’s future plans for the area, such as new highways, schools and, shopping centers, which can affect the value and long-term enjoyment of your land.

Within the Adirondack Park, the state zoning agency is the Adirondack Park Agency (APA)

Work with an Adirondack Real Estate Agent to Find Land

While it’s important to do your own research with any land purchase, it’s also important to hire a real estate agent who has experience negotiating land deals. If you’re looking for a plot of land in the Adirondacks that’s ready to build – zoned properly and already has utilities – I not only have the inside lead on those parcels of land, but I’m often able to recommend a local land loan lender, a real estate attorney and any other vendors you might need.

To search properties for sale in Lake George, Bolton Landing and the surrounding Adirondacks, please go to my Property Listings and select type: “vacant land” from the dropdown menu, or give me a call me at (518) 321-1870.