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Real Estate: California/basics of land purchase



first and foremost, thank you so very much for offering your help here!

i have been wanting to move to california for years now and have finally begun taking steps to get my home ready to sell.  my desire is to buy a piece of property and build three homes on it, one for myself, one for my aging, ailing mother and one to rent out as a vacation rental (vrbo).  in starting to look at land and talk with realtors, it seems my plan is almost impossible.  first i am finding that no matter how large the property, even the size of 10 acres, i am only allowed to build 1 home on it?  i also was interested in utilizing yurts, which even though the company that sells them says they are able to pass building codes, every time i ask someone they tell me "no, that will not pass as a single family home", yet i know people do construct and live in these.  in the event i will not be able to use a yurt, i will have to go with a dome kit or a manufactured home.

what i have been trying to determine now is: where in california (i am looking north of san fran) will i be most able to do what i want to do?  

also, what all do i need to have lined up to buy a piece of land, and in what order do i do things?  what should the property be zoned in order for me to build a home, how do i know if i will or will not be allowed to do a yurt or manufactured home?  how do i know if i am allowed to have a few chickens?  and what about more remote areas that require a well and septic - how do you find out if those are possible on a piece of property?  someone told me a i need to get a perc test and i have no idea what that is.  

sorry for the barrage of questions but i am really wanting to not screw this up!  i don't want to buy a piece of property that i cannot use the way i want to use it.  finally i am wondering about cost of finding all this out?  when a piece of property is listed at $10,000 approximately how much more am i going to pay when all is said and done to buy it?  i would have cash so i don't need a mortgage, but i understand there are fees associated with title/deed, etc.

thank you again!!!!!!!!
take care.

Thank you for your patience, Sonya.

You do indeed have a large planning project ahead of you. Your best ally is going to be a Realtor in the area you are searching to buy land. They will have the most general knowledge, motivation, and contacts to help you. One of the most important issues will be zoning. No one will be more of assistance in this area than a well rounded Realtor!

You will find zoning to be the crux of whether or not the parcel/s of your choice will be suitable. To be properly licensed, the land need to be zoned for multiple homes, a rental and non-standard structures.

The reason not all parcels will allow for multiple residences is due to the allowed amount of sewage, utilities, or general population for the area in question. As you know, sometimes you can have multiple residences on less than an acre. Other times, even 10 acres will not guarantee more than one residence. This is due to allotments and -local area- zoning.

The word 'perc' is short for percolation. This is the time it takes water to soak into the ground. The results of this will determine what type of septic tank will be required, a mound or one with leach lines, and how many will be required. Obviously, the more leach lines, the higher the cost. A local Realtor will be able to point you in the right direction on what resource is used in their area. You will also find more detailed perc test info in an internet search.

There are transaction closing costs that are directly related to the cost of the property purchase price. Others, such as title and escrow company service fees, are fairly standard in each metro area. You may also want to have an impound account with your lender, where insurance and property taxes are collected on a monthly basis and the lender pays your semi-annual bills for each when due. There are quite a few variables. Again, a local Realtor will be able to provide more detail and work through what should expect in your price range.

I sincerely hope this helped. Or, at least confirmed what you already knew <smile>.

Best wishes to you and your family, Sonya. It's a big undertaking. But, it could be quite worth it in the end!

My best,

Real Estate: California

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Kathryn Hisert; Realtor


Everyone deserves an answer! My rounded background will provide you with information beyond ‘just’ buying and selling. I can answer questions regarding short sales, foreclosures, deed-in-lieu, home staging, vintage home related concerns, most mortgage related questions, and divorcing couples’ housing options. I am a research oriented individual who strongly believes in connecting all the dots and providing as much, or as little, information and communication my clients want or need. My expertise is in San Diego and Santa Clara Counties.


I started in the mortgage industry in January 2002. In November 2004 I earned my real estate license. The combined experience has provided me with experience within multi-faceted programs including, FHA, VA, 'hard money', private financing, short sales, foreclosures and conventional lending programs and purchasing guidelines. My clients experienced a 'one-stop shop'. Since July of 2010 I have concentrated strictly on being a Realtor with niche markets in vintage homes and divorcing couples.

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