Buying Rural Arizona Land – Things to Consider
When considering a land purchase in
any small rural communities in Arizona, including
the White Mountains of Arizona:
Never buy Arizona land sight unseen. Always make a visit to the property during the Due Diligence (Inspection Period) because:
- The property may be impacted by a wash. If the property
has a ravine or wash through it then this may be
a large drainage vehicle for rainwater from surrounding
properties during Arizona's monsoon rains. How wide
is the wash at the highest surrounding
land? If a wildfire burns the vegetation miles upstream
from the property, or there is a major rain event, that is how much water will come
pouring down that little bed. Possibly nothing would survive the torrent of water-- buildings, trees, shrubs,
- Lack of water. If there is no metered water (provided by a water company) or private well water, it may have
to be hauled from miles away by tanker truck at some
expense to you. Or, in some instances, the water table may be too deep to make drilling a well practical or even successful.
- Accessibility/Inaccessibility. There may be no vehicular access to the property due to the presence of steep canyons, rocky outcroppings, washes, in the path of the road that would be expected to reach the site.
Easements are no guarantee of vehicular access. Beware
of ranch "developments" where only a map was
developed, and not the land. You may need a helicopter to reach your land!
- In the event that you are provided with a plat of your property, the accuracy of
which should be confirmed by having the property surveyed by a licensed
- Fences, roads, monuments, etc., and other physical landmarks that appear to separate
properties may be misaligned with the true property lines. Survey pins may be missing or may have been moved.
A survey of a property is the only way to confirm the location
of property lines.
- In most counties you can check with the Planning and Development
Department to confirm that a property's zoning is compatible with how
you wish to use it.
- The land around your property may change in zoning. You can check with the controlling
county's Planning, Zoning, and Development Department to find out how the
surrounding properties are zoned and to learn about what future developments
are planned. The view from your property may change, or noise levels increase, etc.
- Some areas have covenants and/or zoning restrictions (CCRs) that
may limit the use of a property. It is very important to obtain a copy of
these guidelines and make sure that you
can abide with them. It is also important to find out if there are none.
- Buyers will find the Vacant Land Seller's Property Disclosure
Statement, which is a document provided by the Realtor, to learn
important facts about a property. Generally, this document will tell you what the seller materially knows or does not know about the subject property. You must verify the accuracy of this
- Easements may require you to allow others to construct roads and
utility lines across your land. There may be easements that are not
of record and therefore are not enforceable. Check issues concerning
- Most rural communities, including the White Mountains of Arizona, have many unpaved dirt or gravel roads. Being able to drive
to your property does not guarantee access at all times.
- You must consider what the response times of firefighters, the sheriff's department and emergency paramedics may be slow in extreme conditions.
- If you gain access via or across property or properties belonging to others it is
a good idea to obtain legal advice and verify the legality of these easements through the
county recorder's office.
- While your county maintains most roads, some properties are
served by private and public roads that are maintained by those
who use them. Some county roads may not be maintained by your
county. Contact your local highway department to determine what
type of maintenance is performed and who provides it.
- Weather conditions can destroy roads. Check to see if
your road is properly engineered and constructed by consulting professionals.
- Your county will repair and maintain county roads. All other
roads, however, are the responsibility of the landowners who use
them. A dry wash or ditch that has the potential to become a surging torrent and wash
out roads, bridges and culverts may need repair or
- Check for adequate vehicle clearances before you build because
some roads may be too narrow for larger vehicles, such as cement trucks and/or earth movers. If you are planning to have
a manufactured home delivered to your lot, make sure that the access
road is wide enough to allow passage, that it is not too steep or that it
has no sharp turns that would be difficult for large trailers.
If there is a fence along both sides of the narrow access road,
you should ask for permission, before you buy the property, to
remove one or both fences for temporary truck passage. The
landowner may refuse permission.
- School buses may travel only on county maintained roads. You may
need to drive your children to the nearest county road to catch a
bus. Your local school district can provide you with bus schedules
- Unpaved roads generate dust. Roads in many communities are not treated
for dust suppression, making dust a fact of life for residents.
You must factor airborne dust around your property and the impact it may have on family members.
- The post office may not deliver to your rural home. Instead,
you may be given a mail box in the local post office, or in a bank of mailboxes that you will have to travel to. Ask the
postmaster if delivery is available in your area.
- Factor in that building in a rural area may be more expensive and time
consuming because of added delivery fees and the extra time
subcontractors need to reach your site. Expect delays in construction.
- If certain utilities are not available at your property, check
with the utility companies about their plans for future service
expansion, or for your individual cost to bring these utilities to your property.
- Water rates vary widely in Arizona because the state consumes
more water than it has ground water available. Some small communities have
the highest water rates in the state.
- The cost of bringing a water main to your property can be very
Expensive, or even impossible. Get a written estimate from the water company and do not rely
on a "guesstimate." Make sure you know the proposed
location of the water meter and where the water pipe will most likely
- If piped or metered water is not available, you may need to dig a well,
join a well cooperative, participate in a well share, or have water trucked in weekly, or on some other schedule. Wells are
often expensive to install and maintain.
If an electric pump is used and there are problems with the mechanisms,
without water for a week and face replacement costs. Get an
estimate for these charges.
- Some aquifers serving wells are in danger of contamination
from toxic waste dumps. See the web site
for an example.
- It is very important to determine the proximity of electrical power
to your property. If there is no utility pole on your property line
or within 30 feet, you may have to pay additional charges for
installation of a primary pole and transformer in addition to the cost of bringing power from the nearest power pole. If you want an
underground line to your house instead of poles and an overhead wire,
an electric pedestal will be placed next to your house and you will
pay substantially more for installation. Check with the local power
company to determine costs for your lot as soon as possible. Do not
trust property disclosure document statements on utility issues. Do not permit a Realtor to make these assurances to you. You must make these material findings for yourself.
- Depending on the area and services, you may have significant power outages during the year. You should
anticipate interruptions and power surges which may cause problems
with computers and other electronic equipment. Have a supply of
flashlights, electric lanterns and batteries.
- If sewer service is available for your lot, check with the local
sewer company about costs to connect and recurring charges.
- Sewer service is typically unavailable for many rural areas and an
approved septic system will be required. The type of soil you have
available for a leach field will be very important in determining
the cost and function of your system. Make the purchase of the
property contingent upon a successful percolation test.
- Contact your county's Department of Health if you want to
install a grey water system.
- Natural gas service may be available in your area and your
realtor will have the phone number of the provider. If natural
gas is not available, neighbors may be able to tell you which
companies supply liquid propane to your area and who has the best
specials and rates. You may lease or buy the propane tank, whichever you prefer
- If you have telephone service in your area, Internet
service is also many times available through them; however, depending on how distant you are from the “hub”, this may impact your ability to receive Internet service. Other local Internet providers may also be available, such as cable or satellite.
- For new houses on undeveloped rural property, the phone company
may take up to 30 days to send an engineer to provide an estimate
of the fee they will charge to extend a telephone line. When you
place the order for new service where no phone line exists, ask for
a new phone number rather than transferring an old number. You may
want to move into your new house before phone service is available,
and disconnecting your old phone number could cause the order for
a new phone line to be cancelled and re-issued, delaying the new
service by weeks.
- It could be necessary to cross property owned by others in order
to extend utilities to your property in the most cost effective
manner. It is important to ensure that proper easements are in
place to allow utilities to be brought to your property.
- While vegetation around your home can be attractive and desirable, keep in mind that you must be “fire wise” to lessen the danger of involving your home in a wildfire. "Defensible perimeters"
are recommended by the State Fire Marshall for protecting buildings
from wildfire and for protecting vegetation from igniting. Trees and
shrubs should be more than 30 feet from a building.
- Topography determines the volume and direction of water
runoff across your property. When drainage ways are altered or blocked, the
results could damage your property and that of your neighbors.
- Flash floods can occur throughout the year, turning a dry wash
into a river. It is wise to take this possibility into account
when situating your dwelling and/or outbuildings.
- Rural development encroaches on the natural habitat of wildlife including coyotes, bear, elk, foxes,
bobcats, mountain lions, javelina, deer, snakes, scorpions and
other wildlife creatures. It is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance and
know that failure to handle pets and trash properly can cause
problems. Never feed wildlife! Wildlife predators going after leftover dog
and cat food may take your cat or small dog next.
- Arizona has an open range law. This means that if you do not
want livestock crossing or browsing your property, it is your
responsibility to fence them out. It is not the responsibility of
the rancher to keep his livestock off your property.
- Livestock may be permitted in some parts of your town. Animals
and their manure can cause objectionable odors. Your county may
have a handbook containing allowances and restrictions regarding
- If the property next to yours maintains animal pens or dog kennels
and is on higher ground, you should consider the possibility of
septic water runoff coming onto your property. Make sure this is
not a problem. If your water supply pipe is under this area,
consider finding another property.
- Check the surrounding properties. If one or more of them has trash and litter in the yard, rusting cars, appliances, etc., in the yard, the occupants
may not be the kind of people you want to live next to. Is it a
rental? Do tenants change frequently?
If the house next door appears to be below your standards, you should
avoid the property.
Land Buyer's Check List
- What is the property's Tax Parcel Number?
- What is the property's zoning?
- Is the property accessed by a county right-of-way?
- Is the property accessed by a private roadway?
- If yes, is it a recorded easement?
- If yes, what is the county recorder's document number?
- Is the width of the easement sufficient for your needs?
- Does the county maintain this road?
- Does the local water company have a meter serving this
- If not, at what compass direction from the center point
of the property is the nearest water company main?
- How many feet from the property boundary is this main?
- Is there a recorded easement from this water main to the
- If yes, what is the county recorder's document number for
- Does the local power company have an electric meter serving this
- If not, at what compass direction from the center point of
the property is the nearest primary utility pole with electric
- How many feet from the property boundary is this pole?
- Is there a recorded easement from this pole to the
- If yes, what is the county recorder's document number for
- Is the property within a local sanitation company district?
- If no, has a percolation test been conducted on the property?
- If yes, did it pass or fail? Obtain results.
- If the test failed, where on the property was the test
conducted? The best location for percolation is where native
vegetation is growing thickest and highest.
- Is the property within a fire station district?