For many people, the idea of owning land, and developing it from the ground up, has always been a prized goal – this goes for young families looking to build the home of their dreams, just as it does for developers looking to create the next great institution in their local neighborhood.

Land ownership has always held a special, romantic place in our popular culture. Many see buying land as a springboard to grow one’s wealth, and then leapfrog ahead to greater things. For others, it’s all about carving out a space to create, to build the life you’ve always hoped to have, with greater financial freedom and personal independence.

Our cultural fixation on land is summed up well in three quotes. For one, there’s John D. Rockefeller, who once noted that:

“The major fortunes in America have been made in land.”

This squares with the ideas of real estate investor Louis Glickman, who said:

“The best investment on earth is earth.”

And then there’s the British sociologist and author Harriet Martineau, who eloquently put it like this:

“There have been few things in my life which have had a more genial effect on my mind than the possession of a piece of land.”

Owning land can be a path to prosperity and fulfillment – but it’s also important to remember that purchasing raw, vacant, or undeveloped land can often come with its own unique set of challenges and obstacles.

While you may have starry-eyed dreams of investing in vacant land, it’s important to keep in mind that this real estate opportunity isn’t going to be the right fit for everyone – and that turning raw land into real success is often going to mean building up the right team first.

Often, this is going to mean having an experienced real estate attorney on your side. As with a home transaction, an attorney is going to be a vital partner when you purchase a lot, one who can assist with the many moving parts that go into making sure your real estate project advances forward. That may mean handling routine documents and paperwork, like processing purchase and sale agreements, to be sure. But, depending on the circumstances, it may also mean getting through zoning boards, historical commissions, licensing boards, easement granters, and more – all with the right papers in the right places, at the right time.

This is particularly true with “raw” or undeveloped lots, where a blank space may often mean more work in the long run. When it comes to buying vacant land, there are many different ways that an attorney may be able to assist you, including:

  • Helping you understand zoning challenges. An attorney can help you look into zoning ordinances for the area, allowing you to determine if your lot is zoned for residential development, commercial development, mixed use, or so on. If necessary, your attorney can be a partner as you make appeals or submit relevant documents to zoning boards and other local or governmental bodies.
  • Helping you to research the history of the property. An attorney can help look into the history of the land, including determining if other developers have attempted to build on the lot previously – and, if so, why they were unable to complete their projects. Helping you to find liens, lawsuits, and other judgments involving the property, or nearby properties.
  • Helping you to find restrictions on the lot. A real estate attorney can assist when it comes to ordering a plat of survey and discovering any easements or other restrictions on the property, such as historical designations or environmental regulations. Land surveys can also help determine the boundaries of the property, and help determine if there are any legal complications, such as encroachments or disputed boundaries, that might come up.
  • Helping to clear title on the property. Title searches and insurance aren’t just for homes. An attorney can help review title paperwork and ensure that the land is free of judgments or disputes and cleared to be sold, without any title issues getting in the way.
  • Helping to handle recordkeeping, documentation, and financial disbursements.

Bottom line? The land may be vacant – but that doesn’t mean it’s free of potential problems and pitfalls. In fact, in many ways, purchasing and developing land can be incredibly challenging, even for seasoned investors and builders.

Having a real estate attorney on your side is one piece of the puzzle, which could help streamline the process and help you avoid unique problems before they get the chance to derail your project, and your long-term real estate goals.

About the Gunderson Law Firm

Chicago is a city full of real estate opportunities – but it’s important to have the right team by your side as you plan ahead for the project of your dreams. The right attorney will bring a working knowledge of local law, taxes, and more, helping ensure that you get the fairest deal possible, whether you’re looking to build on vacant land, convert commercial properties to residential, or even construct the next skyscraper to dominate the Chicago skyline.

Looking for help? Have any questions about any aspect of real estate law in Chicagoland? The Gunderson Law Firm can help.

Ready to find out more? The attorneys and staff of The Gunderson Law Firm specialize in helping individuals and businesses in the State of Illinois with real estate transactions insightfully, promptly, and professionally, with a focus on providing unparalleled legal expertise and financial insight. Don’t hesitate to drop us a line or give us a call to arrange your free initial consultation or to continue the conversation.