Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Q: I am really confused about "recreational" property for sale.

I see that term on several listings for waterfront land and even some inland property. You told me it almost always means that the property is unbuildable. I talked to someone recently who said that maybe that kind of property could be built on if you know the right builder, or that you could at least put a rustic cabin on it. I just want a place to build a shed and boathouse to store my boat. Can you tell me more?

A: Virtually all property advertised today using the word "recreational" property is not buildable. It could be that it doesn't perk for any kind of septic system. It also might be without a water share and too small for a drilled well. There are many reasons why it might not be buildable.

If most waterfront and view property currently for sale is priced at $200,000 to $600,000 or even more, and you see one for $30,000 to $80,000 you can almost bet it is not buildable. The price tells you the story. Even inland property will be over $100,000 unless it is a very small lot.

According to King County, you can't build an outbuilding, cabin, storage building or anything else unless you have a house on the property. That means that recreational property is only good for temporary camping or picnicking. You should meet with the King County technician at our local courthouse and find out what uses might be allowed. He's there every Tuesday morning to answer questions.

It's common for neighbors to buy such land to increase the size of their property, create a green buffer for themselves, or even to provide waterfront access for their home.

When buying undeveloped land, it's critical that you do a feasibility study. You need to find out everythink you can about the property and its potential. Many a buyer has jumped into something that sounded too good to be true, and guess what? It was.