Challenge of buying land

Q:

I was a bit surprised by how negative you seemed to be during the discussion with my son about buying land. He saw a few parcels he found interesting, but you spent all your time warning us abut how difficult and expensive it would be to build. He has built a house before, in Colorado, and knows what he’s doing. Why all the warnings?

A:

 

I’m sure your son can build a house. That’s not the issue at all. This is not Colorado. What I always stress to folks looking to build, is that the requirements and costs of doing so in unincorporated King County are daunting. I have three different sets of clients right now to whom I sold land two to three years ago. In each case, they purchased property with a water share and septic design approved (the only safe way to buy, in my view) and none of them are in a completed home yet.

There are many challenges in going through the permitting process. The County always seems to have too few people working in each department, so everything moves very slowly. There’s drainage review, health department review, critical areas review, fire flow review, etc. and each of these can take many months. Work can be stopped along the way even once you have started construction if you or your contractor have missed some step in the process.

Taking on a property without a water share or already certified and approved well is even more difficult. You must wait your turn for the few well drillers in the region that will even come to Vashon. In addition, the well must pass very stringent purity tests. It’s very expensive to drill a well and often requires expensive filtration systems.  If you don’t have a septic design in place you are also taking a chance that the property doesn’t “perk” for a septic system or that it will be a very costly system. I do sell land, but I simply want to be sure everyone knows what they’re getting into in terms of cost and time.

 

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