Check the zoning rules before you buy a property

It can be a great idea to buy a “fixer-upper” – as long as you’re sure the local zoning rules will allow you to actually fix it up. Unfortunately, many people have bought a home or other property with the idea of remodeling it to their tastes, only to discover that what they had in mind is against the law.

For instance:

  • If you’re thinking of removing trees to enhance your view, is this permitted?
  • If you want to create a rental unit on the property, do the local zoning rules allow for rentals? If they do, what restrictions apply?
  • If you want to fill in a low-lying area, will this violate environmental regulations?
  • What if you want to build an additional building, such as a garage, guest house, or even a shed? Is this allowed?
  • If you want to add on an additional room, will this violate rules against building too close to a property line?

Of course, if the building is on a list of historic homes or is part of a homeowner’s association, other rules will apply as well. In general, if you’re thinking of buying a property with an eye toward improving it, check the rules first. It’s better to be safe than sorry.


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