Whether you are buying land to build a new agricultural business or farming operation or growing the size of an existing one, you should be aware that the process of purchasing land can present problems that can be both costly and difficult to resolve. Because the ownership of large tracts of rural land may have been retained by the same owner or owners for many generations, it can be more apt to develop encroachments and other boundary issues than a residential lot, that changes ownership every few years. If you are looking for rural land to purchase for farming, you can use the following questions to help you detect potential problems before you sign a purchase agreement.
Question One: Will all property rights convey with the property, including water, minerals and timber?
Land that cannot be cleared for farming activities or that may be impacted negatively by water or mineral rights issues in the future carries risk that you may not be willing assume. If you find that a property you are interested in does not include all property rights, ask for complete details, including copies of any binding agreements that exist before making a final decision.
Question Two: Are there any existing covenants or deed restrictions that will convey with the property?
Restrictions or covenants that limit the ways in which you can use or develop the land may limit the types of farming you can pursue or prevent you from growing your farming operation in the future. If restrictions or covenants exist, make sure you take time to consider each one carefully before expressing further interest in the property.
Question Three: Are there encroachments or easements that affect the property and if so, are they legally documented and recorded?
Since both encroachments and easements can affect many aspects of farming, make sure you get complete, verifiable information about any of these that exist before making a decision on whether or not to proceed with any plans to purchase. If the property borders municipal areas, you should also speak with their planning and zoning departments about future development in the area that may affect your farming activities or plans for expansion.
Question Four: When was the property last surveyed and are the boundaries properly marked?
If the last known survey of the property is more than a few years old, the markers may have become lost or the boundary lines may have been altered, with or without the owner’s knowledge or consent. This is particularly important regarding the location of improvements such as structures, shared fence lines or deeded easements and access roads. The safest course of action is to insist on making any offer to purchase contingent upon the receipt of an acceptable survey, completed by a reputable, licensed surveyor, such as Goldsmith.