Just as no two people are exactly alike
neither are any two properties, whether bare land or improved.
Here in the Bitterroot Valley there are certain considerations
that are critical to the purchase of property, especially
bare land. Water, water rights, wells, septic systems,
bridges, roads, easements, utilities, and permitting are
all important and require at least a basic understanding
by the would-be buyer.
Water and Wells
Perhaps the most important
consideration when considering purchasing property in Montana
is the availability of sufficient water. Unless you
live in an area served by a municipal water company you
will need to dig a well. Digging a well might sound
like a routine procedure but there are certain areas where
water is hard to get. This is an area where
our knowledge of the area and our network of local contacts
can be a real asset to potential buyers. We have access
DNRC Water Rights Bureau water rights and well log data
base and are able to quickly assemble information about
the depth and flow rate of all recorded wells in the surrounding
area which is being considered for a home site. Of
course, there is never a guarantee of a successful well
but the information we can provide will be a great help
in making this important decision. Many buyers make
the drilling of a successful well a contingency in the purchase
agreement in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
The buyer usually pays for the well and the seller agrees
to postpone closing until the well is successfully completed.
Buyers should be sure to state the maximum depth and minimum
flow rate they will accept. The going price for a
well is approximately $23 per foot not including the pump,
pressure tank, and wiring. Be prudent and deal only
with a licensed, bonded well drilling contractor.
In Western Montana water is scarce
and therefore precious. Nothing is more misunderstood
and fought over in Montana than water rights. Water
rights date back to the 1800's and "first in time is first
in right". This means that when there is a drought
those whose water rights are dated the most recent will
lose their water soonest. Water rights transfers are
done at closing and fees are generally below $100.
Records are kept by the
DNRC Water Rights Bureau and may easily be accessed
online. There are also field offices located around
the state to help you should you need personal service.
Private water consultants may be hired to provide reports
on specific properties and water rights. Fees for
these services are usually reasonable, between $100 and
$500 depending on the effort required. In short, get
informed and avoid unpleasant surprises.
Septic systems are a
way of life in rural Montana. It is vitally
important in Montana to verify that the property you are
interested in meets all the requirements needed to obtain
a septic permit. Septic permitting falls under the
jurisdiction of county authorities in Montana and can be
a complicated procedure. The ground water level is
critical in determining whether a septic is suitable for
a particular property and high ground water can make a septic
permit an impossibility. The type of soil and terrain
can also affect the suitability of property for a septic.
This is one area where our knowledge of the local area can
be a real benefit to you. Don't just assume you can
put a septic system anywhere. Know before you buy!
Roads and Bridges
Montana is a large
state with a small population and does not have the funds
to adequately maintain all the roads and bridges in the
state. This makes it important to determine ownership
and maintenance of roads and bridges in advance that provide
access to the property being considered for purchase.
A road that is nice in the summer may be impassable in the
winter. There is also the matter of maintenance fees
on private roads to be considered. These are usually
reasonable but should be known in advance of any property
purchase to avoid unpleasant surprises. Let us provide
you with this information before you buy.
Please be sure to inquire
about the availability of electric and telephone service
in areas you are interested in. These services are
not always available in Montana and the cost of providing
them can be prohibitive. There are easements to consider
in addition to $6 - $8 per foot to run the underground cable.
Please let us help determine the availability and feasibility
of services in the area you are considering.
In some rural counties
building permits are not required for certain types
of buildings (farm structures, residences of less than 5
dwelling units, private garages, and private storage buildings).
All electrical work requires permitting and inspection.
Plumbing permits are required to hook up to public water
systems and sewer systems. Homeowners, however, may
do their own plumbing without a permit on their own homes.
Farms and ranches are exempt from permitting.
An easement is the right
to use the land of another for a particular purpose.
An appurtenant easement is annexed to the ownership
of one parcel and allows the owner the use of a neighbor's
land. The easement transfers with the property and
is said to run with the land. It is considered an
One type of easement to be especially wary
of is an easement by prescription. When a claimant
has made use of another's property for 5 years or more in
Montana an easement by prescription may be acquired.
The claimants use must have been continuous, exclusive and
without the owner's approval.
Conservation easements are a way
to protect natural habitats for wildlife and plant life.
It is similar to donating assets to charity in that it benefits
the donor with tax benefits and benefits the public by preserving
land from development. High income buyers may find
it advantageous to acquire property and place a conservation
easement on it. The resulting loss in value results
in a charitable contribution that can be deducted from gross
income. Property taxes are also reduced. Estate
taxes can also be reduced and can enable heirs to keep the
property rather than being forced to sell it to pay estate
taxes. If this interests you I will be glad to provide
you with additional information.
Why Use a Buyers