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  • Writer's pictureDan Caradonna

Key Environmental Considerations When Acquiring Vacant Land

Purchasing land is a significant investment that demands careful consideration from soil quality to land use ordinances. Among the plethora of factors to weigh, environmental considerations can often be underestimated, potentially affecting the land's value. In this article, we will highlight essential environmental factors to contemplate before acquiring vacant land. While not all factors apply universally, understanding these broad categories will aid in your due diligence process and help make informed decisions.

Soil Quality:

One of the fundamental environmental aspects to assess when considering land acquisition is soil quality, especially if the land is designated for agricultural purposes. Soil contamination can stem from various sources, including human activities such as dumping, agricultural runoff, or accidental chemical spills.

In some instances, signs of environmental risks may be apparent, like abandoned pesticide containers in wooded areas. However, in most cases, soil quality issues may not be discernible through a casual walk on the property. As part of your due diligence, meticulously review all historical land-use documents and any previous soil test results. This will provide insights into potential risks and guide you in deciding whether further testing is necessary. Depending on the findings, it might be advisable to enlist the expertise of a commercial real estate specialist or an environmental assessment firm to assist you in this process.

Water Quality:

Ensuring access to uncontaminated water sources on your land is crucial for preserving its value, particularly if you intend to use it for residential development. In rural areas disconnected from municipal water supplies, inspecting existing wells or considering well installation may uncover both environmental hazards and additional site preparation costs.

On the environmental front, investing in professional water quality testing is a prudent expense to ascertain the extent of any required remediation and its associated costs and risks. It may also be wise to test natural water sources on the property, as runoff from distant farms or factories can potentially impact water quality, thereby affecting soil quality and overall land value.

Regarding site preparation, gather information about the water table, well depth, and expected flow rates as part of your due diligence.


The picturesque creek winding through your prospective property may appear charming, but it could pose a flooding risk. Do not take anything for granted. Research local floodplains and floodways to ensure you are not purchasing land susceptible to flooding, which may necessitate additional flood insurance coverage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers abundant resources to help assess flood risks for a given parcel.

PERC Testing:

For properties with access to public sewer systems, PERC testing is unnecessary. However, in rural areas, particularly if you plan to build on your land, PERC testing becomes critical.

A Perc test, or Percolation Test, evaluates how quickly water drains through the soil. Passing Perc test regulations allows for the installation of a septic system and often determines the size of the home you can construct. A failed Perc test or one indicating slow absorption rates could significantly impact your land's value and restrict the size and number of homes you can build.


Acquiring land only to discover wetland protection regulations can be a significant setback. Thorough due diligence can save you from future complications. Various methods can be used to assess potential wetlands, some more complex and time-consuming than others. To be absolutely certain about wetland restrictions, consider hiring a wetland consultant or engage a government entity for assessment. For a quicker initial assessment, you can also utilize online tools like Wetlands Mapper, Google Earth, or the National Wetlands Inventory.

In conclusion, land acquisitions often involve more complexities than meet the eye. Committing to thorough due diligence and collaborating with land experts can help you establish a risk-reward profile, enabling you to make well-informed decisions when purchasing vacant land.

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