Once you've got a grip on how much money to shell out for a piece of property, there are still quite a few roadblocks between you and that dream lot. For starters, government zoning restrictions control what kind of construction takes place on any property. Buy in a residential zone, for instance, and you'll never be able to get a construction permit for anything other than a house. Shopping on a real estate Web site should simplify this issue, as you can easily choose between residential lots, commercial land and so on. A second option is to use your county's planning and zoning office to better understand local zoning ordinances. Residential covenants -- rules that dictate what everyone in a community can and can't do with their property -- may also impact the land you're looking at [source: Curry].
Finally, utilities can be a major hassle (or a major convenience) on a vacant lot. Some lots are sold with utilities like electricity and water already available. Purchasing a lot with utilities would eliminate the burden of putting in the work -- and potentially thousands of dollars in expenses -- of having those services added. If no utilities are installed, you may be responsible for drilling a well, installing a septic system or having your property connected to local utility company services.
Also be aware of how the lot is accessed. If it's via a public road, you'll have no added complications. But if there's no public road that connects directly to the land, you'll likely need an easement on a neighbor's property to gain access. Easements grant you legal protection to use another person's property -- even if the land around your lot is also vacant and for sale, make sure to check with the owner(s) before using the land for any reason, including running utilities across the property. If the land owners are nice, establishing an easement probably won't be a problem, but it's just one more thing to watch out for.
Now that you're armed with the knowledge to begin your vacant lot shopping, read on for info on what to do once you've found that ideal lot.