What you need to know BEFORE buying land in Florida

If you haven’t purchased land before, or if this is your first time purchasing in Florida, there are a few things to know.  I have just gone through this process myself so I wanted to share my own experience on this.  While you may see plots of empty land scattered around, or lots for sale, not every lot you see buildable.  Everything is zoned differently, and depending on what you have in mind to build, you may or may not be able to do it.  We are seeing more and more people interested in buying land, which I think is largely due to a lack of housing inventory, and also a desire to build what they want.  Here are five things I recommend you keep in mind when buying land in Florida.

1. What is the size of the lot? What setbacks does your county require?

Most listings will include either the acreage or square footage of the lot.  Sometimes it is an unconventional size which means you’ll want to see the plat or survey to determine the shape.

Once you know the size of the lot, you’ll want to find out the setbacks that are required by the county. Setbacks are the areas around the boundary line that you cannot build on. Once you know these then you will know how big you can build on the lot.

For example setbacks for the lot I purchased in St Johns County are 25 ft in the front, 8 ft on each side, and 10 ft in the back.  Make sure you call the county where the lot is located and ask what their requirements are for the address or parcel.  This will help you determine what sized building or footprint you can build on the lot.  They will also specify things like building height.

2. What is the zoning?

Your lot will either be zoned residential, commercial or industrial, but within these categories there are also different levels that specify what you are allowed to build, the setbacks, building height etc.  It will also include things like whether you can rent the property and how long for i.e.: short term (vacation rentals) or long term.  It will also determine whether it can have RVs, etc.

3. What is the flood zone?

When buying in Florida this is a question you’ll definitely want to find out what the flood zone is.  The flood zone is designated by FEMA and there are about 10 categories that each have different letters.   To find out the flood zone you can call the local county or go online to their website and see what it is.  It may also be on the seller’s survey if they have done one.  Sometimes your lot will have more than one flood zone.  The flood zone determines things like how high you will need to build, if you need to bring fill in to raise the level, and also whether flood insurance is mandatory or not.  It will also determine how much your insurance will be.  Flood zone X for example is a high and dry flood zone.  This is definitely desirable as opposed to the other zones.   A survey may tell you this information or you can call the county and ask.  Zones A and V are special hazard areas, meaning they are more likely to see flooding.

4. Has a survey been done?

If your seller has already done a land survey or has a plat this is definitely helpful in deciding whether you’d want to purchase the land.  This will show you the exact boundary lines and also the flood zones. If a survey hasn’t been done you will need to get one done if you buy the lot and want to build on it.

5. Is there an HOA?

This is an important question. If there is an HOA just know that you will have a monthly fee, plus there will be regulations around building.  They may specify architectural styles, paint colors, size and height of the home, among other things. Sometimes they will have a build deadline when you have to have the project completed by. Ask for a copy of the building rules and restrictions document to review prior to putting in an offer.

If you’d like to start a land search or if you have questions about a property you bought let me know how I can help.


About the Author
It’s great to meet you. I’m truly honored that you are taking the time to learn about me and my expertise. Throughout my career I’ve had the privilege of being trusted with major clients, projects and roles, always giving my best, and with spectacular results. Born with a marketing mind, and after two decades of hands-on experience, I have fine tuned my craft. I love selling real estate and working with buyers. There are not many professions where you can help people in a significant way and make friends doing it!