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ImageRecently, a client came across a .25 acre parcel for sale.  He wanted to build a house on it.  It was a bank foreclosure in Vienna, VA.  The property was listed in the MLS as a “lot for sale”.  The listing stated that electricity was available near the property, but water and sewer would have to be brought in.  Also in the listing was the fact that there was no direct access to the street.  The price you ask?  $105,225.  Everything screamed RED FLAG!

We drove to the area where the lot was located and had a difficult time finding it.  There was a curb cut in the street and beyond that you could see that the adjacent property owner had taken over what would have been a right of way to the lot with swings, logs, junk and in the trees, a burned out automobile!  There was no way to get to the lot that was for sale!  Another RED FLAG!  Nevertheless, thinking it was the right price, the buyers insisted that I submit an offer on their behalf immediately.   I had never written a land contract before, so after a quick lesson, I prepared the offer.  However, I warned the buyer that he had a short amount of time to determine whether he could build on the land, what it would cost to bring the utilities in to the property and what it would cost to add an access road.

Although I didn’t have any experience with land purchases, I knew where to go for answers . . . . down to the Fairfax County government land records offices.    After a wait of about 10 minutes, this is what I found out.

Although the county records say that the lot is “buildable”, you cannot build on it!  A sewer line goes straight through the lot, along with a nice creek!  You can’t build a house on top of a sewer line and you can’t build  over a creek either.  Not to mention that a road to the property would probably cost $100,000 anyway.  Furthermore, the lot is within a larger piece of land owned by someone else.  How the county allowed this lot to be separated from the larger property is  something I don’t understand.  And how a bank financed the property is another issue!  Clearly, there was something shady here!

Suffice it to say, the buyers withdrew their offer.   But guess what??  As of this date, the property is still for sale,  see FX7591195.  The new price is $84,000.   Good luck with selling this .25 acre of land.  This is truly a case of Buyer Beware!

Before you make an offer for land in Fairfax County, just stop on buy the land records office and have a little chat with one of the specialists there. It may save you a lot of time.