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On its face, unrestricted land sounds like a pretty great investment. Having the ability to do whatever you want in terms of building and maintenance on your land, without the oversight of a homeowner’s association or village regulations, is the dream after all—right?

Here’s the thing: unrestricted land does have a lot of benefits, but it’s not necessarily a free for all. Below, we’ll go over three things that you need to know before you purchase unrestricted land so that you can ensure you make a sound investment.

1. “Unrestricted” Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You Can Do Whatever You Want

A plot of land might not have any direct restrictions handed down from a homeowner’s association or local municipality, but there is still a strong chance that it has certain deed restrictions, easements, or zoning regulations that will place parameters around exactly what you can (and cannot) do.

So what might this look like? Deed restrictions and easements can limit where you place a structure on your property and what type of structure it is. Zoning regulations, meanwhile, can effect everything from what you use your land for to the design features of any structure on its grounds.

Before closing a deal on unrestricted land, be sure to check for additional limitations that may require a change of plans.

2. It’s On You to Double Check That a Property is Truly Unrestricted

Land sellers love to note that their property is “unrestricted” because it appeals to a wider range of buyers. However, just because the word is in the listing doesn’t mean that it’s true. The onus is on you—the buyer—to check up on exactly what restrictions are or are not placed on the land and to verify the seller’s claim.

Work with your real estate agent to conduct thorough research on any unrestricted property you’re seeking to purchase, even if the seller’s claim seems legitimate. And again, be sure to check not just for general restrictions but for deed, zoning, and easement restrictions as well.

3. Your Neighbors’ Probably Have Unrestricted Land, Too

There’s a flip side to every coin, and in the case of unrestricted land, it’s that the properties around you are likely going to be unrestricted as well.

While it won’t have a direct impact on how you use your land, it’s definitely something to consider if you’re worried about aesthetic cohesion. Restricted land typically comes with distinct design and upkeep rules that all property owners must follow, which in turn creates a uniform look that helps distinguish communities and keep them looking their best.

With unrestricted property, it’s every owner for him- or herself, and that can lead to some incongruous structural designs. It also means that you won’t have any recourse if your neighbor stacks a bunch of old and broken furniture in their front yard, or if they fail to maintain their lawn.

Your best bet for enjoying all of the benefits of unrestricted land without suffering the drawbacks is to do as much research as you can before you buy so that you don’t have to worry about any surprises later on. While you’re at it, talk to your local Building & Planning Department about your own plans for the property to make sure that you’ll be good to go.

By Laura Mueller