How do I buy land for sale in Arizona to build my dream home?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Zion Realty


Purchasing land can seem like a monumental task to those who have never ventured down that road. There are so many different laws and regulations that accompany land transactions that you never have to deal with or think of when buying a traditional home. Questions that you need to consider such as do you want to buy a plot of land in an already subdivided location or would you rather buy your parcel far away from the city limits are just the beginning. Arizona can truly be known as the wild west when it comes to land acquisition but I'm here to help you sort it all out with a brief overview of issues you need to be aware of before you begin your land search. 


1. Infill Lots vs. Raw Land 


What is the difference between an infill lot and raw land? An infill lot is a parcel of land that is located in an already developed subdivision. The surveys have been done, the land has been leveled and graded, and the parcel sizes have been marked and divided. In most cases utilities have already been run to the lots and roads and sidewalks have been paved. Also most infill lots are located in developed neighborhoods that have an established Home Owners Association which will have it's own rules and guidelines you must follow if you wish to be a homeowner in that subdivision. Your HOA dues will also go towards maintaining the common areas of the neighborhood and the cost of street repairs and other community fixes that will need to be done. Due to the fact that infill lots are ready to be built upon and are usually located closer in to a major city a buyer will pay a much higher cost to purchase a lot of this sort. 

Raw land is just that. It's a piece of land that is still in it's natural, undeveloped state. The owner of the lot should have a copy of a survey showing boundary markers and perhaps has already had utilities run to the property but it isn't a guarantee. If you purchase a piece of raw land, most likely you will incur the cost of leveling and grading the land, obtaining a new survey if needed, and paying for utilities to be run to the property. Because of these extra expenses and due to the fact that raw land is generally a great distance away from a largely populated area, it is not as expensive as buying an infill lot. Raw land is almost never located in an area with a Home Owners Association meaning you usually will not have amenities such as sidewalks, street lights, or paved roads leading to your property. Raw land almost never has access to city water and sewer services so septic tanks and wells must be dug and installed at your expense. 


2. Read and Understand CC & R's


What are CC & R's? CC & R stands for Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. They are the legal documents that are recorded in the County records where the property is located which govern what you can or cannot do with respect to any home you want to build on your land.  They are legal and binding and were created at some point in time by either a previous land owner, builder, developer, neighborhood association, or home owners association. CC & R's can however be changed if the new owner, builder, or association wish to draft new documents, laws, rules, and restrictions, and have them filed and approved by the County. It is essential that you receive, read, and understand any CC & R's in relation to a piece of land you are thinking of purchasing. This may affect your willingness to move forward with the transaction depending upon what rules and restrictions have been placed upon the property.


3. Understand Zoning Regulations


Every piece of land has a zoning designation attached to it according to the County in which it resides. The designation of zoning on a particular parcel could determine what you can build on the property, how many structures you are allowed to have on the land, whether or not you are allowed to have livestock or the ability to farm, and whether you can run a commercial business off of the land. There are land zoning designations such as Commercial, Rural, Industrial, Single-Family, and Multi-Family just to name a few. There are also multiple layers of zoning designations within each zoning category. 

Let's use the Rural Land Zoning designation as an example. A 10-acre piece of property you may be interested in purchasing that has a Rural zoning may mean you are able to futher subdivide that property in to Five 2-acre lots and build a home on each subdivided lot. Perhaps the zoning allows you to subdivide that same 10-acre piece of land in to even smaller 1-acre lots. That means you could file a request with the County to have your 10-acre piece of property split in to 10 individual 1-acre lots. What you do with all of those parcels is up to you. Many would keep several acres for themselves and sell off a few of the others to help pay for the costs of building their own home. Some may choose to keep all of those land lots in the family and transfer ownership to children or grandchildren so they can build their own dream home. 

What if you are interested in buying a property that is not zoned to allow a residential structure to be built? Purchasing a parcel of land with the intention of requesting the County re-zone the property to allow a residential structure to be built can be a very big gamble. The County sets zoning designations in each city according to the precedent that has been set with surrounding areas and also with the forward thought of where further city planning and development will be headed in the future. You will be hard pressed to persuade the City and County planners to go against their original intent for an area of vacant land. However, it is within your right to do so. Every County has their own guidelines in regards to requesting a zoning change. You should research your County's rules and regulations before deciding to purchase a property with the intent of requesting a re-zone. 


4. What type of house can you build on your land?


This will be completely reliant on the CC & R's that accompany each parcel. Purchasing your own land does not mean you will be allowed to build your dream home exactly how you always wanted. Some infill lot neighborhoods can restrict the size of home you can build both minimum and maximum, and whether you are allowed to build a single-story, 2-story, or basement home. They can restrict the style of home, exterior fixtures and finishes including exterior color. They can also dictate the placement of the home on the actual lot. 

You generally will not have these same restrictions when you purchase raw land that is not being overseen by an association. You will however be naturally restricted by where you can place your home on the property as you will have to obey easement and utility line restrictions. But the style of home you build will generally be open to your own creation. 

Regardless of why you are purchasing a vacant parcel, land acquisition can be tough terrain to tread on. Let us here at Zion Realty help you decide what piece of land is right for you. We'll guide you through the entire process so you can be confident that your land purchase will be a great experience and one that you can build your future on. Contact us at today!


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Jennifer Provencio
San Diego County and Central Valley - Oceanside, CA
The Reverse Mortgage Speciailist

Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert Great post! There is so much for a buyer to consider. Thank you for sharing. Have a fabulous Friday!

Jul 24, 2015 02:49 AM #1
David Shamansky
US Mortgages - David Shamansky - Highlands Ranch, CO
Creative, Aggressive & 560 FICO - OK, Colorado Mtg

This is a great post for those looking in this market. I also love that opening pic make me want to build on it!

Jul 24, 2015 04:20 AM #2
Joe Petrowsky
Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709 - Manchester, CT
Your Mortgage Consultant for Life

Great job with your post, this is such and important topic and misunderstood by so many that are interested in purchasing a building lot or acreage.

Jul 24, 2015 06:13 AM #3
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Jennifer - The rules for buying land are much different than purchasing a home. Buyers need to be as educated as possible. 

David - Well that's a picture looking out towards the Superstition Mountains I took while on a hike. You'll have to talk to the State of Arizona if you want to buy any of that land!

Joe - To add to the confusion, zoning laws are always changing as well. There's no way an ordinary consumer can keep up with it. That's what we're here for!

Jul 24, 2015 07:28 AM #4
Conrad Allen
Re/Max Professional Associates - Webster, MA
Webster, Ma, Realtor

Hi Nicole.  If you want to buy real estate you call Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert of course

Jul 25, 2015 10:04 AM #5
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Conrad - Yes, yes they should!  Thanks for the shout-out!

Jul 26, 2015 01:23 AM #6
Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC


Your post provides great information for a consumer thanking about land and building a home in Arizona.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Jul 26, 2015 11:24 AM #7
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Hi Nicole.  Excellent discussion of that issues that face those looking to buy vacant land for building.

Jul 26, 2015 08:03 PM #8
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Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert

Broker/Owner of Zion Realty
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