Do your homework before buying land

Rural stream
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

It seems like the current market for land is good right now no matter what county you may be located in. After all, they don’t make any more of it, right? Working in the soil and water industry, it seems a majority of our drainage assistance calls are “after the fact” an individual has made a land purchase and it now has drainage issues. 

The new landowners want to know what is or is not allowable for works of improvement to be performed on their newly purchased parcel of land. We often hear the question, “is there any problem with us moving that stream over to the other side of property?” 

Once in a great while, an individual who is interested in purchasing a particular parcel will call in and do their homework! This little bit of leg work could save you big headaches down the road. 


Depending upon your intentions with the parcel, here are some questions you should asking; is it in a flood plain, are there wetlands present, do sensitive areas exist, is it traversed by a blue line stream, what will happen with the taxes if the land will now be utilized with a different purpose; say for a home build rather than used as cropland? 

They may ask the question, “will I still qualify for CAUV if a structure is built on it?” When we assist individuals interested in purchasing land, most of the time they plan to develop or to farm their newly purchased land. 

We greatly enjoy assisting people when they are purchasing land to farm. That is what put the SWCDs into existence — helping farmers and producers farm with conservation practices. And with the growing population, we need more farms. 

If you are purchasing land to farm, thank you. When purchasing land to farm, be sure to inquire if it is currently enrolled in CAUV and what you must do to keep the land qualified and enrolled in the CAUV program. 


Another aspect to consider is contours and runoff. If you plan on performing manure application, be aware of where your runoff may go and what it might affect in a heavy storm event. Are there residents nearby? If so, be aware of the suggested Natural Resources Conservation Service setback rule for private wells and watersheds in distress. 

Knowing if wetlands, sensitive areas, or blue line streams exist on the property will affect what you can and cannot till. If you are purchasing existing crop ground and there is an issue with sediment runoff and drainage, contact your local U.S. Department of Agriculture office for possible assistance. A grassed waterway may be the answer for you! 

For our land buyers with the intent to develop, be sure to check with your local and county zoning to ensure you are meeting any rules and regulations prior to your purchase. A few times now, we have witnessed individuals purchase lands only to be turned down for building permits due to a number of possible reasons; located in a floodplain, wetlands and sensitive areas are present, or they need to change plans due to the presence of a “blue line stream.” 


If you are purchasing an old farm that has been given a CAUV tax reduction over the years, be sure that you will still be eligible for the CAUV reduction, or contact your local auditor’s office to get a true assessment of what your taxes will be if you are not eligible for continuation within the CAUV program. 

Many times family farms go up for sale, but are sectioned off to sell in multiple parcels and house lots versus one whole parcel. This “divvying up” of the property can greatly affect the tax role status of these newly formed parcels from current agriculture to non-eligible parcels at a much higher tax bracket (especially with a newly built house on the parcel). 


One also needs to be aware of county regulations as they relate to retention/detention ponds. More often than not, it is the current land owner’s responsibility to maintain these functioning stormwater ponds in working order to decrease the risk of localized flooding. 

Should you purchase a parcel with either a retention/detention pond on it, depending upon the amount of rainfall and runoff, plan on paying for the cost to keep it maintained at some point in time. So, the next time you’re thinking of purchasing a new parcel of land, or selling yours, give a call to your local SWCD. 

They will be able to help you out by letting you know what, if any, hydrological or contour features you should be aware of depending upon your end goal with the parcel. A little bit of leg work up front can save you from possible headaches down the road.


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