Should you Use a Realtor to Buy Land

Hi Carl,
My husband and I have found a building lot we are interested in purchasing but we are not quite ready to build a home yet. 
The lot is in a subdivision that was foreclosed on before it was finished. 
It is a swim/tennis community and we have already gotten copies of the covenants to make sure we will be comfortable building there.
All the current houses are right in line with what we would like to build.
My questions come in with the actual process of the purchase.
We are not in a position right now to put a large amount down and everywhere we have looked for financing they want 20% - 25% down payment on the loan.
I have set up a spreadsheet to log every empty lot in the subdivision to keep up with sales, values, etc. We have no idea where to begin with the purchase.
What would be a fair offer?
Do we need to get another appraisal, survey, soil analysis if it is in a platted subdivision?
What about title insurance, property deed, etc?
I would like to cut out the cost of a real estate agent unless it is really recommended that we use one.
I just have not been able to find any information on how to purchase land in today's real estate market since there is so much developed land available.
Everything I have come across involves raw land and talks about traditional financing. Any answers/advice you can give would be greatly appreciated!!
I just bought your book yesterday and have been fascinated with the information I have found on your website. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks so much, Amy

Hi Amy,
There's an old adage; "A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client."
I would say the same thought can be applied to home buyers who try to "go it alone" buying real estate.
I recommend that you use a local Realtor (member of the Board of Realtors) as a "Buyer's Agent", if for nothing else, so that you have recourse if something goes wrong.
It shouldn't cost you any extra money to use a Realtor, because most land sellers or home sellers have a real estate commission built into their selling price. Sellers pay commissions!
Even in a good real estate market there are many things that can go wrong often costing the home buyer money that may have been avoided by getting expert advice.
But this is a subdivision that has been foreclosed upon, so I would advise you to be extra careful.
A local Realtor can also access current comparable lot sales to help you determine how much the lot is worth.
I would use a Realtor for the above reasons as well as helping me find and work with the experts below:
  • real estate attorney to investigate the foreclosure and bankruptcy if there was one as well as the HOA (Home Owners Association) to see if the HOA dues on all the lots, even the vacant ones, are current and being paid on time, and by whom.
  • A Title Insurance company to investigate tax liens, mechanics liens, HOA liens, etc. on the property. Since there was a foreclosure involved, a careful investigation of the chain of title and underlying mortgages is critical.
  • The local building inspection department, health department, and any other departments to see if water and sewer are available and the fees have been paid, if any other local assessments are pending or coming due, including property taxes, and the buildability of the lot.
Your Realtor can present an offer to the seller contingent upon you getting answers to any of your questions and should also be able to help you locate financing as well as answer all your other questions.
Good luck, Carl Heldmann