Buying a vacant parcel and building a home in Big Bear means having total control over every aspect of a house, from the foundation to the flooring to the views. There are many things that need to be considered when buying land in Big Bear. Will a hillside location make building costs prohibitive? Am I overbuilding for the area? Can I keep horses on the property? What’s the potential re-sale value? Who is the local building authority – City v.s County? The following is a list of things to consider when purchasing land in the Big Bear area.
Visit at different times of the day and week. You need to see clearly how your parcel and the surrounding area looks both during the day and the night. What seems like a quiet neighborhood during the week may transform into a busy area on the weekends when everyone seems to be in Big Bear – especially around the lake and ski resorts where vacation rentals are popular.
Visit the local seat of government. Once you’ve picked out that dream lot, the next stop is the building department. In Big Bear, depending upon where the land is, it will either fall under Big Bear Lake or Big Bear City’s jurisdiction. There are different rules & fees that apply to each, so be sure you are going to the right one! The building department can tell you about local water and sewer codes and fees, as well as details on building and zoning restrictions. They review building plans, specifications, and engineering calculations, and inspect new construction for compliance with life, fire, and seismic safety requirements.
Conduct a title search. This is typically done during escrow. A title company or the nearest assessor’s office is where you’ll find information on things like flood-zone boundaries for seasonal streams and wetlands proximities, both of which will affect where you can build. A title report can also tell you if there’s an easement from a neighbor to get access to any part of your property or if anyone else has an existing easement on your land. As part of this as well, check for CC&Rs or HOA rules & regulations that affect the property & your lifestyle. For example, if you have an RV or boat you’re planning to keep somewhere on your property, you need to make sure that’s even allowed.
Do your homework. Read reviews, use online tools, talk to neighbors and realtors. Make sure you’re getting what you think you are. You may want to check with the city or the local Big Bear Grizzly newspaper (and recent archives) for any proposed construction projects in the area. It can be frustrating to move into your wonderful new Big Bear retreat, only to have multiple construction projects popping up around you.
Talk to multiple contractors and lenders. A list of local Big Bear contractors can be found on the Big Bear Valley Contractor Association’s website at https://www.bigbearvalleycontractorsassn.com/. The cost to build a home will vary widely depending on the style, quality and materials used. A good range to use is $120 to $200+ per sqft. Of the few lenders who actually finance a vacant lot purchase, they typically require close to 50% down payment —compared with 3-20 percent for an existing home—and the terms of the loan will be quite different as well. Also, the interest rate on a land mortgage is higher than on a regular home loan. For this reason, it is quite common for land purchases to be cash sales, or owner carry financing.
Vacant land sales were nearly non-existent from 2008 to 2012. The market for vacant land in Big Bear picked up over the last year as residential sales gained steam and inventory levels dropped. By keeping some of these thoughts above in mind, buying you piece of Big Bear paradise will be a more enjoyable experience.
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