The housing market is booming, and Delaware County is definitely seeing a high level of activity. We all have heard the phrase, “buyer beware,” but how does one go about doing this when buying land on which to build or when purchasing an existing home? Here are a few tips and informative resources to help you perform your due diligence and avoid costly mistakes in the future.
• Know where you live. By that we mean, are you within a village or a municipality? Or are you in the unincorporated area under a township’s jurisdiction? This is important in determining what laws, ordinances, and zoning pertain to your property. For example, a home may have a Galena mailing address but is located outside the village limits and so is under an adjoining township’s regulations.
• Know your property boundaries and respect private property rights. Many people call with property questions, only for us to determine that the property about which they are concerned doesn’t legally belong to them. This is especially important when considering permanent alterations such as tree clearing or structure construction.
• Know the utilities that service your property. Do you have a home sewage treatment system? Do you have a well for your household water needs? What companies or agencies provide your water, sanitary sewer, electricity and other utilities?
• Know what is in your deed. Is there a covenant, easement or deed restriction? If so, who holds it and what does it cover? Common easement types in Delaware County include sanitary sewer, drainage, and both above and below ground utilities. Are you located within an historic district? An historic district has architectural standards to preserve its character along with an application process for renovations and new construction. Do you belong to a homeowners association (HOA)? HOAs vary in their bylaws and the responsibilities they require of the HOA members, as well as the fees and restrictions they impose.
• Know the taxes and special assessments that affect your property. Special assessments are not part of your real estate tax but are included as a separate item on the real estate tax bill. These could include such items as drainage assessments, improvement levies such as street paving, curbs, lighting, sidewalks, and sewer or water lines.
• Know the drainage of your property, both above the ground and below the ground. For existing homes, where do your downspouts and sump pump outlet? Are there any drainage tile present? Is there a cistern? For pond owners, where do the pond overflows go? Is there a creek or stream running through the site? Does any part of the property lie in the floodplain? It is critical that you understand the drainage of the property, natural and manmade, so that you can avoid water issues.
• Know the value of the property. If a particular piece of land is priced well below comparable properties, it might be too good to be true. Poor drainage, soils not suitable for construction, and deed restrictions are all things that drive down prices but can end up costing a lot more in the long haul.
If all of this sounds overwhelming, take heart. The Delaware County Auditor has a free and informative website that is searchable by parcel number, landowner, or street address. Once you locate the site you wish to research, a wealth of information is available via the click of a mouse! Check out the Layers tab (top right) to discover soils, contour lines, school district, jurisdictional boundaries, and much more.
Another great free resource is the web soil survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service at websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov. Learn about the soils found on your site and the suitability of those soils for a particular use.
For the most part, Delaware County is relatively flat with poorly drained soils. Knowing the different soils present on your prospective site will help you understand any limitations and what best management practices might be needed to overcome those limitations and create your vision of the perfect home.
The Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District can assist as well. Please call us at 740-368-1921 or use the Contact page on our website at soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/contact-us/.
As Thomas Jefferson said, “Knowledge is power, knowledge is safety, and knowledge is happiness.” Discover as much as you can before you buy or build.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to https://soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/.