What Catches an Appraiser’s Eye?

Laws, zoning rules and conditions differ by region and state. Here are some of the things an appraiser looks for on a property.

What are the zoning laws? Zoning determines what you can do with the property now, or down the road. Zoning laws tell you more than the restrictions that apply to your property. They also give you an idea of local intentions for land around your purchase.

How much road frontage do you have? Short of that frontage being an expressway, easy access to property is generally a great advantage for property values. Unfortunately, it can also be a detriment if the county or state limits access to your property from the road.

Is it a wetland? The designation can limit the property’s value and your ability to build on it. Wetlands affect drainage. You’ll want to know if the wetland increases the potential for flooding on the property.

Are the soils suitable for building? Knowing the soil structure provides answers to any number of building issues—can you build a basement, will the soil drain storm water, is it suitable for a septic system?

• We have our own example. When The Progressive Farmer built its first Idea House and Farmstead in 2003, we discovered a bit of sandy soil. The builder found he had to pour one footing 18 feet into the ground to support a corner of the home. It was an unexpected, additional expense.

Is there development nearby? The closer you are to suburbia, the more valuable the land and the higher the taxes. Property that sells for $1,000 ¬an acre, once surrounded by properties selling for several multiples of that, will bring higher property taxes to your door.

There’s undesirable development. For example, your property borders a tree farm. The trees are a natural enhancement to the value of your property. But then those trees are harvested. Or more, the trees are harvested, and the owner decides to sell the property to a trailer-park developer. Had you known the potential for significant development, would you have bought here? This is a time when an appraiser can help you foresee a nasty turn of events.

Used with permission, The Progressive Farmer, All Rights Reserved.

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