As REALTORS® representing buyers, we are responsible for verifying the zoning classification of each and every property (within ten days) according to the NAR standard contract.
Perhaps I am naïve in believing that documents recorded in the county courthouse about a property's zoning classification are accurate. Wanting to perform my fiduciary duties to verify the zoning classification on a home located on 2.7 acres in the country, I first consulted the tax documents available on the Multi-List. There I saw the code identifying said property as "Residential." Because the listing agent mentioned that the property is zoned "Agricultural," I thought that it would be prudent to speak with the tax assessor in the country courthouse. According to this official, the property is zoned "Residential," so I promptly called my clients to share that information and wrote it on the contract that I was going to present that same day. Before meeting with the L.A., I called him/her and shared the zoning information that I had received from the tax assessor. Once again, the L.A. stated that the property is zoned "Agricultural." He/she referred me to a Web site for the municipality where, you guessed it; the zoning is listed as "Agricultural." Evidently, the reasoning behind the zoning as such is to permit the home owners, if so desired, to have one or two horses on their property. Whew!!!
My second example, in a different municipality, centers on a property with a professional office building on the premises. At my request, the owners provided me with a news clipping dated about the time the home and ancillary building were constructed. Clearly, this article identifies the zoning as "Residential, with Conditional Office Use." In preparation for listing this property, I checked the tax documents provided by the MLS only to find the zoning as "Mixed Residential and Commercial." In another column on the tax record, the zoning is listed as "Residential with Commercial Use." The zoning for this property is a critical factor because the current owner is an architect with only one other employee. If another type of professional such as physician or dentist is interested in the property, the zoning category of "Conditional Office Use" will not be permitted by the township due to the heavier traffic on site and passing through the private residential setting. Whew again!
Whether representing a buyer or a seller, it is imperative to know the zoning classification ahead of time. It equally as important to READ the DEED to see if any entity has the first option to purchase the property, in the event that it were to go on the market. I heard a "horror story" about an agent who allegedly sold an expensive property to a group of physicians who, having big plans for their new facility, purchased lots of expensive equipment. Not long after settlement, another entity apparently came forward to exercise its right to purchase property first as per the deed. What a mess!
What all of this means is to a) check the zoning status of a property and b) READ the DEED carefully before listing a home.