10 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying Hunting Land

Are You Looking to Buy Land? Ask These Questions First.

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What are all the options for accessing the property?

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1 | What are all the options for accessing the property?

Mark Williams, a western Kentucky land agent for Whitetail Properties, stresses the importance of access.

“Access to a property is extremely important and should be considered when purchasing one,” Williams said. “Most properties have direct access of a public road or road frontage. This is the preferred choice by most land buyers, because it usually provides easy access to utilities. Properties can also be accessed by easements for ingress and egress. This option gives you more security and makes the property more private. However, it does turn a decent percentage of buyers off due to the lack of public road access. If you buy a property with an easement there are a couple of things you should consider."

Things to know:

  • Is the easement recorded?
  • Is the easement transferable to heirs, assigns, and successors of the property? Or, is it valid just for the current landowner?
  • How wide is the easement? Important to know if you plan on moving a mobile or modular home in or simply moving large equipment. Not all easements are the same width, however, 20 to 30 feet wide are pretty common.
  • Who is responsible for maintenance? Usually the entity that has the easement is responsible for road maintenance.
  • Does the easement also have rights for utilities? Some easements are just for ingress and egress and do not cover utilities. If that is the case, you would have to acquire a utility easement to run power and/or water to the property.

“If a property does not have road frontage on a public road or an easement for ingress or egress, then it is landlocked,” Williams said. "In Kentucky, it is not legal to landlock a property but that doesn’t mean that you will not spend thousands of dollars getting access if there is not any. Verbal or handshake agreements are not easements and can be stopped anytime, so make sure the easement is recorded and is transferable to heirs, assigns, and successors if you are looking to buy a property without public road access. Some buyers prefer properties with easements because of the added security it provides. You don’t have to worry as much about trespassers and road poachers.”

View Mark Williams’ land agent profile here.

Photo credit: Mark Williams

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How long has the property been listed on the market?

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2 | How long has the property been listed on the market?

The amount of time the property has been listed can be very important. If it’s been there awhile, the reasons why are even more so. But it isn’t always bad. Williams encourages you to ask this question, too.

“Asking about the time on the market can provide you some important information,” Williams said. “Some sellers are in the market to see if they can demand top dollar and really don’t care if they sell the property at all. If they get the price they want they’ll sell. If they don’t they will just keep it and continue to enjoy the property. So, be careful not to assume too much when talking about [number of] days on the market. It can be useful but sometimes it can work against you if you have a seller that doesn’t care if he/she sells or not.

“Some buyers assume that a long time on market means sellers are desperate to sell and make extremely low offers,” he continued. “Those low offers, even if the seller counters, tend to start the negotiations off on a bad foot and make sellers less willing to negotiate. The moral of the story is to not read too much into days on market, because you never know the seller’s motivation regarding selling his/her property.”

View Mark Williams’ land agent profile here.

Photo credit: Mark Williams

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How much will the taxes be?

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3 | How much will the taxes be?

Taxes are often overlooked when budgeting for a property. But it’s an expensive component of a land purchase. Jeff Propst, a Whitetail Properties land agent in northern Missouri, goes into more detail.

“It’s very important to find out what the real estate taxes are,” Propst said. “When budgeting for a farm, this could be a significant amount of money to the new landowner. Depending on the area the farm is located in, real estate taxes will also be affected by any improvements on the farm, such as a home, cabin, barns, etc. that may be added to the property.”

To do:

  • Ask the agent you are working with to provide you copies of the taxes from the county collector on the property.
  • Have a clear understanding of how much you will have to pay each year.

View Jeff Propst’s land agent profile here.

Photo credit: Jeff Propst

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Are there any utilities on the property?

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4 | Are there any utilities on the property?

Another thing to consider is utilities. Utilities increase the value of the property. Depending on your specific needs, utilities may or may not be a necessary component.

“If utilities are not available on a particular property you are looking at, it would be important to inquire about potential costs to get them ran into the property should you desire to build a house, cabin, or have an RV hookup,” Propst said. “I frequently contact utility companies for my clients to get a quote in writing on potential costs to get water and electricity ran into a property. Also, having utilities on the property is a very good feature if and when you elect to sell the property in the future. It’s always a plus to have them.”

To do:

  • Always ask the agent if utilities are available.
  • If not and you want them, get quotes in writing (not verbal) from the utility companies.

View Jeff Propst’s land agent profile here.

Photo credit: Jeff Propst

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Is there a property disclosure available?

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5 | Is there a property disclosure available?

This is another important factor when looking to purchase a property. Don’t overlook this crucial question. Bob Stalberger, a Whitetail Properties land agent in southeastern Minnesota, can explain the details.

“Many clients look at a property and see what they want to see and if they like it they are ready to purchase,” Stalberger said. “First thing is to have an experienced agent working for you to make sure you are doing your due diligence when purchasing land. Make sure the seller provides you with a property disclosure so you know what they already know about the land. A property disclosure can reveal a lot about a property that you won’t learn when walking the property. You may find out about an old dump site, buried waste, half the property floods yearly, or worse, hazardous waste buried. This disclosure can help you determine the value of the property for the better or for the worse.

“You can also find out about easements, current rental contracts, rights of first refusals, tenant contracts and more,” Stalberger continued. “I have even had a property a client was looking at and it noted an old home foundation in the woods. This would grandfather the property in for a buildable site and add a lot more value to the property. So it is very important to read these disclosures very carefully. If you find a property that you like and the seller has not filled out one of these, you can ask for it prior to making an offer or add it as a contingency with the offer.”

View Bob Stalberger’s land agent profile here.

Photo credit: Bob Stalberger

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Are there any water sources on the property?

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6 | Are there any water sources on the property?

Stalberger also knows the importance of having water on a hunting property.

“As most avid hunters know, the three big things a property should have is food, water and cover,” Stalberger said. “Whether you are shopping for your dream farm or your first farm, there is always a struggle finding a property that hits all three of these key components. Having flowing water on a property usually comes with a higher price tag. I often tell clients I think water is the most overlooked thing today in deer hunting. Having a river, creek, trout stream or pond in the middle of your property would be perfect and without a doubt adds value to your property.

“What if you find a property that checks all of the other boxes (access, cover, food, income) but no water source?” Stalberger continued. “Don’t pass on a property without water. Add it. I personally added water to my property. I have four Banks Outdoors Wild Waters on my farm. I was able to strategically add water in key travel and bedding areas. I harvested my buck last fall while he was drinking out of one of my Wild Waters. It’s also key to see where water is on surrounding properties and how that will affect the deer travel on and off your property.”

View Bob Stalberger’s land agent profile here.

Photo credit: Bob Stalberger

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Has the property been surveyed?

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7 | Has the property been surveyed?

Dave Skinner is a Whitetail Properties land agent for south central Kentucky. He’s a serious deer hunter and land is his forte.

“Survey's aren't cheap,” Skinner said. “Here in Kentucky, it's quite common to buy and sell properties without a survey. But if there isn't a survey, I want to know a few things.”

Thing to know:

  • Are the boundaries known or marked in someway? If not, then you need a survey.
  • Are there any boundary disputes? If yes, then you need a survey.
  • If you purchase a property per the acreage listed in the deed, but it hasn't been surveyed, it's very possible that the acreage listed isn't accurate. Typically, you'd be looking at a small discrepancy but I've seen deeds off by as much as 50 percent both ways.

Land estimator resources:

  • Google Earth Pro allows you to measure acreage if you know boundaries.
  • Plat Plotter is also a resource you can use to plot the legal description and get an acreage estimate.

View Dave Skinner’s land agent profile here.

Photo credit: Dave Skinner

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Is the property enrolled in any government programs?

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8 | Is the property enrolled in any government programs?

Government programs are a great way to help pay for the property. But knowing the in’s and out’s of available funds and programs is vital.

“Some government programs are a great source of income and they're a great way to provide quality wildlife habitat,” Skinner said. “Knowing exactly what program the property is enrolled in is critical to ensure you will be able to continue receiving payments and what maintenance requirements you'll have to meet. You can actually make too much money to be eligible for some of these payments and some types of ownership are not eligible for payments. These instances are very rare, but you need to know about it.”

“Programs such as Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) may offer no future payments and may come with a permanent easement on the property that will severely restrict the owner’s rights as well as lower land value,” Skinner continued. “The good news about these WRP properties is you should be able to purchase it at a fraction of what similar non-WRP properties in the area will sell for. Your local NRCS office will be a great resource for information, but don't expect them to give you specific information about the property you're looking to buy without the seller’s permission. I know this is extremely vague and may be intimidating but there are so many different programs it's hard to be specific.”

View Dave Skinner’s land agent profile here.

Photo credit: Dave Skinner

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Is there income on the property?

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9 | Is there income on the property?

Alex Gyllstrom is the marketing director for Whitetail Properties. So he knows a thing or two about land. And one thing you definitely want to know is if there is available income on the property in question.

“This is an important question to ask when look at a property to buy because depending on the acreage and the type of income, it can literally help the property pay for itself,” Gyllstrom said. “Regardless of how much income the property produces, any amount is helpful. Maybe there is tillable acres where the farming rights can be cash rented every year. Other sources of income might be timber value, CRP program, or other options. This income could help with the down payment of the property, the monthly loan payment or just be added to your annual earnings. However you decide to assess or utilize the income a potential property produces, it is always a good thing.”

Photo credit: Alex Gyllstrom

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Has the timber been harvested recently?

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10 | Has the timber been harvested recently?

Timber is a very valuable thing. If there is any standing timber with some age to it on the property, you could be looking at a very lucrative piece of land.

“Depending on the timber value of the property, and if it has been timbered, can greatly affect the price per acre that the farm should be purchased for,” Gyllstrom said. “A lot of variables play into timber value. What kind of timber is on the property? How was it cut last? When it was cut? All [of these things] play a factor.

“For example, if the timber was thinned, it could possibly be thinned again in another 10 years or so,” Gyllstrom continued. “If a heavy cutting was done, it could be 20 to 30 years before the full timber value could be realized again. Whatever the situation of the timber on a piece of property you may be interested in, we definitely recommend consulting a forester for the most accurate assessment.”

Photo credit: Alex Gyllstrom

Don't Miss: The Ultimate Deer Hunting Property

Editor's Note: This was originally published on March 23, 2017.

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Land. It’s the one common denominator between all hunters. You can’t hunt without access to it. One surefire way to have access — buy some land.

I’ve always wanted to buy land, but haven't — yet. I’m currently in the process of studying up on what I need to know to make a wise and reasonable purchase. And if you’re in the hunt for hunting land, you should be, too.

That's why we’re teaming up with Whitetail Properties to do a series of posts to help you, our loyal readers and die-hard hunters, become proficient in land-buying rules and regulations. Here are 10 questions you should ask before buying hunting land.