Choose a Realtor with Experience and Knowledge About Rural Land Transactions
Ron Beitzel, the principal of Four Seasons Land Company, has spent his career working with owners, buyers and sellers of rural and agricultural land. Over the past 30+ years, Ron has worked in government oversight and conservation, residential and commercial development, and rural and large lot property brokerage. This multidisciplinary approach has given him exceptional insights and experience, which he freely shares with buyers and sellers of rural land for sale in Ohio, with a focus on rural land for sale in Central Ohio.
His understanding of the complexities of rural land sale transactions is deep. Born into a dairy farming and real estate brokerage family, he followed a diversified career path and was fortunate to get direction from several expert mentors. Today, Ron is a clearinghouse of information on rural land for sale and waterfront/estate lot development.
One of the reasons Ron is so passionate about his work is that he feels he can educate buyers of rural property about the dos and don’ts of buying land for sale in the country. It is more complicated than one might think. Ron’s understanding of the right steps to take when purchasing land for sale in Ohio and elsewhere includes the transaction process, the building and zoning approval process, land quality and access, and knowing what questions to ask to protect clients’ best interests.
A Career Focused on Farm Land Leads to Expertise in Rural Property for Sale and Purchase
Ron began his career while still a student at The Ohio State University, where he majored in Dairy Science and Agricultural Economics along with electives in Agronomy, Soil and Water Conservation Engineering, and Soil Science. While in college he was awarded an internship at the USDA Soil Conservation Service (now termed the NRCS, or Natural Resources Conservation Service) in Columbiana County, Ohio.
He looks back fondly at the internship with the USDA. “I had an exceptional supervisor there,” Ron explains. “He made sure that I received the full scope of experience of the jobs that a soil conservationist is expected to perform. There were a dozen interns across the state at the time, and I felt lucky to have Mitch Cattrell as my supervisor.”
While at the USDA Soil Conservation Service, Ron’s work gave him firsthand working knowledge in the following capacities:
- Developing soil and water conservation plans for farmers
- Developing crop rotation plans
- Soil and water conservation best practices, such as contour farming
- Technical assistance in developing ponds to lower runoff and improve nearby stream water quality
- Design and engineering of grassed waterway improvements to mitigate erosion and improve stream water quality
- Design of sub-surface drainage tiles in agricultural fields
- Home site approval for the Farmers’ Home Administration in non-sewered areas.
- Administration of No Tillage Grassland Seeding program
That background, coupled with a thorough understanding of the nature of rural property, broadened his perspective on land engineering and appropriateness for development. He is able to help potential buyers identify the perfect site much more expeditiously than a realtor with no experience representing rural land sellers. This is because he has had many years of experience with rural properties in Ohio.
Experienced Brokers Can Help Buyers of Land for Sale Avoid Development Nightmares
It’s important when searching for a real estate agent to assist you in your search for land that they have the appropriate level of education and practical experience with working specifically with land.
Ron’s post-graduate work with development companies taught him to look ahead and eliminate worst-case scenarios, including issues that may prohibit a buyer’s ability to subdivide the property, environmental issues, soils that are not conducive for the installation of private septic systems, and more. Ron cites numerous issues that can disrupt a smooth development process after purchasing land in the country. The following is a summary of these issues, and Ron’s solutions or preclusions, to issues down the road for those seeking land for sale.
Worst Case Scenarios
- Property is in a 100-year flood plain and cannot be developed.
- There are environmental issues on the property.
- There are soils not conducive for the installation of a septic system or require extraordinary systems that may be cost prohibitive.
- Property cannot qualify for a legal driveway access to the public road or may not be able to be placed at the buyer’s preferred location.
- Stream or channel crossings for the placement of a driveway may be cost prohibitive.
- Local government zoning or private deed restrictions will not permit the buyer’s intended use of the property or the development of the buyer’s preferred building plans.
- Utilities are not economically available to the buyer’s property.
- Property has easements such as pipelines or underground or overhead utilities or other features that minimize or prohibit the buyer’s use of the property.
Here are some of Ron’s comments on preventing development issues with rural property for sale.
Utilities Delivery Issues
Most rural properties use propane gas, geothermal, heating oil, or electric for heating and other functions. They typically will not have access to public water or sewage systems and must utilize a water well and a private septic system. Electrical service distribution lines and other utilities should be in close proximity to the property. If not, the buyer needs to determine who is responsible for extending those utilities to their property. If these main line utilities are not in close proximity the cost for installation may be solely on the property owner which costs can be extraordinarily expensive in some circumstances.
In Ohio, most tracts greater than 5.0 acres are exempt from government planning or health department review, meaning they may have a limited or no review process by officials which will ensure the buyers that they can legally build a home on the property. Buyers of land for sale in rural areas who do not perform their due diligence prior to purchase do not find out about health or site issues until they begin developing their land. Then, they are stuck with a property that they cannot build a home on due to some of the issues noted in Worst Case Scenarios noted above.
Under some circumstances properties should undergo a Phase I ESA (Environmental Site Assessment), which includes a title history and an examination of historical aerial photographs to make sure they were not activities performed on the property that could pose a problem.
Road Frontage and Access Issues with Rural Property for Sale
The property may not have the correct amount of road frontage to constitute a legal building site. Both from a county and township government level. This includes properties that are landlocked and the owner accesses the road through an easement from another property, which may be grandfathered, or circumstances where the developer or seller has created parcels that do not conform to the zoning regulations.
Some properties may have the legal amount of public road frontage but not usable frontage. These properties may have roadway guard rails along the frontage, poor sight distance, or a stream or ravine that runs alongside the frontage. They buyer of this type of land for sale may have to install some type of access structure, such as a bridge or elaborate culvert to ensure proper access. In this case, the structure must be able to support large fire department apparatus. This can turn into a very costly process for the buyer of rural land for sale.
If the government authority overseeing proposed breaks in the guardrail will not permit access then the buyer will have to find an alternative to access if possible. Many townships or counties (and certainly the State of Ohio on state highways) now require an evaluation of the property to determine if a driveway permit can be issued.
The buyer of land for sale in a rural area should always ensure appropriate road access prior to a land purchase.
Zoning & Private Deed Restrictions
Many of Ohio’s townships are zoned. Zoning divides privately-owned land areas into different zones (such as residential, commercial, industrial) according to the specified land use. It’s crucial that a buyer confirm that the zoning of the property they are evaluating will permit their intended use. In rural or non-incorporated areas, zoning is administered at the township level. Additionally, landowners and developers can place private deed restrictions in the chain of title of a property that will restrict the use of the property.
A title search of the property by a reputable title insurance company should uncover any restrictions, if any, which are applicable to the property. Private deed restrictions are not enforced by government officials but rather the individuals or entities noted in the restriction document itself.
Easements and Property Encroachments
A title search of the property should be performed prior to purchase to determine if the property is impacted by such things as underground or above ground utility easements, access easements over the property by an adjoining owner to access their property.
Property encroachments such as neighbor’s buildings or structures that are located across the property line of the property being considered for purchase can discovered by a qualified surveyor prior to purchase.
Issues with Subdividing Properties
Some buyers of land for sale in a rural area will purchase the property believing that they can split off a portion of that parcel and develop it separately. The buyer should ensure that the property can be subdivided as desired prior to purchase or determine what that subdivision will be at the time of purchase. This can be an extensive due diligence process involving county and township officials. Seeking the assistance of an experienced real estate professional can be a tremendous benefit in facilitating this process.
One final quote from Ron Beitzel about his philosophy. “I can’t control the building process, but I can at least help people that I represent to have a good experience when buying property in the country.”