April 19, 2024
The buyer’s agent can spot issues, but proceed with caution.

Question: The multiple-offer bidding process in the Bay Area is exhausting. We give up. As first-time homebuyers, we have written over 10 offers. We have yet to receive a counteroffer.

Yesterday, my in-laws suggested we buy land. My father-in-law’s golfing buddy inherited a Bay Area lot. The ancestral family home on the property has long since been torn down. My father-in-law’s friend agreed to sell us the lot. They sealed the deal with a handshake.

My wife is excited. She says this is our opportunity to buy in the Bay Area. The lot is expensive. I’m worried. We have to build a house. It feels overwhelming. We were bidding on “turnkey” houses. Now, we are buying a piece of land on a handshake.

We will visit the lot on Saturday. We will meet the seller. The local escrow office will consummate the sale if we want the lot. That also makes me uncomfortable.

Buying a Bay Area house includes agents and presale seller disclosures. It should be the same way for a lot sale. In other words, what is the safest way to buy a Bay Area residential lot?


Answer: Buying a residential lot in California can be like purchasing a house. Agents armed with California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) forms provide safeguards.

The seller’s agent will elicit disclosures. The buyer’s agent can spot issues. A flat suburban lot often has nearby fire hydrants with public water, utilities and sewer. The sloped rural lots, miles from a fire hydrant, might have private well water, solar power, septic tanks and shared road agreements. Proceed with caution. The differing zoning, easements, premiums for hazard (fire) insurance, disclosures and subsequent due diligence are worthy of attention.

Agents, supervised by their brokers, armed with C.A.R. forms, outperform a handshake in an escrow office. See why in the following examples.

C.A.R. forms for a lot seller:

Seller’s Vacant Land Advisory (C.A.R. Form SLVA)

Para. 2. A. General Disclosure Duties:
“You must affirmatively disclose to the buyer, in writing, all known facts that materially affect the value or desirability of your property. You must disclose these facts whether or not asked about such matters by the buyer, any broker, or anyone else.”

Seller Vacant Land Questionnaire (C.A.R. Form VLQ)

Paragraph headings:

5. Documents

6. Statutorily or Contractually Requires or Related

7. Boundaries, Access, and Property Use by Others

8. Geologic Conditions and Environmental Hazards

9. Governmental

10. Water-Related Issues

11. Utilities and Services

12. Landscaping, Agriculture, Structures or Other Improvements

13. Neighborhood

14. Common Interest Condominiums and Developments

15. Title, Ownership, and Legal Claims

16. Disaster Relief, Insurance, or Civil Settlement

17. (If Checked) Additional Comments

Square Footage and Lot Size Disclosure and Advisory (C.A.R. Form SFLS)

Vacant Land Listing Agreement
(C.A.R. Form V.L.L.)

C.A.R. forms for a lot buyer:

Buyer’s Vacant Land Additional Inspection Advisory
(C.A.R. Form BVLIA)

Vacant Land Purchase Agreement and Joint Escrow Instructions

(C.A.R. Form VLPA)

Do not worry. Many people report that building a home is as challenging as it is rewarding. Not to mention, it might be the only home you will ever own.

For Housing Market Data in your area, visit my webpage for trends here. Do you have questions about home buying or selling? Full-service Realtor Pat Kapowich is a Certified Trust and Probate Specialist, Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager and career-long consumer protection advocate. He is based in his hometown of Sunnyvale, California. Office: 408-245-7700; Broker# 00979413 [email protected] www.youtube.com/@PatKapowich