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Buying Land? 10 Questions to Ask First

Buying land in Wisconsin is the dream of many. Land is a valuable asset that no one can make more of. Vacant land can be a great real estate investment, it’s pivotal for the hobbies of many outdoorsmen and women, and you need land before you can build your dream home.

🎶 There’s a reason the lyrics of this popular country song say: If you want my two cents on making a dollar count, buy dirt. 🎶

Whether for recreation, investment purposes, or building your dream home, there are some important things you should consider before buying vacant land. Below we’ve listed ten of them to form a Beginner’s Buying Land in Wisconsin.


If you have any questions about buying a home in Wisconsin, buying vacant land, or building a house in Wisconsin, please fill out a website form, call, or stop by our office in Jefferson, WI.

1. Do you want to buy land in the country or a subdivision?

The first thing to narrow down is do you want to buy land in the country or in a subdivision. Where do you see yourself living? And what can your budget afford?

2. If you want to buy land in the country, what is the land zoned?

Zoning is an important thing to consider when you’re buying vacant land because zoning sets the parameters on how the land can be used.

If you’re planning to build a house on the land, you should find out if the land zoning is suitable for residential construction.

Related Post: Cost of Building a House in Wisconsin


3. Is the land convertible to residential? And are you willing to go through the process?

If the land you want to buy is not zoned for residential construction yet, there’s still hope. Lots of land has been changed, but it is a process. There are forms, meetings, and other hoops to jump through. (You’d be wise to befriend those working in the local zoning department.)

There is also a conversion charge and tax implications to be prepared for if you’re changing agricultural land to residential.

We hear the end result is worth it for most, but consider if you’re willing to go through a process. It can help to talk with others who have gone through the process in the area you’re considering, as each zoning department and area is unique.

4. Does the land have a sewer system or do you need a septic system?

Next, you’ll need to consider how wastewater will be treated or removed. Does the land have a municipal sewer or will you need to install a private septic system?

Septic vs Sewer:

Septic Systems treat wastewater on site. It’s usually placed underground on the land your house is built on.

Sewer Systems take wastewater away from your house and route it underground to a treatment plant that’s typically operated by a city.

5. Has the land had a “Perc Test?”

Before you buy land that needs a septic system, you’ll want to know if there has been a Perc Test (also called ‘Perk Test’) by a Wisconsin-certified soil tester.

Perc Test, short for a Percolation Test, is an evaluation of the soil that tests the rate at which water drains through the soil.

The results of this test give crucial information about the type of septic system you’ll need and how many bedrooms you can build on that land.

“The land perks” means the land passed the perc test and a conventional septic system can be installed.

“The property doesn’t perk,” means an alternative septic system is needed, which can be more expensive.

There are three types of septic systems:

  • Conventional
  • Mound
  • Holding Tank

If the land has not had a perc test, you can request one of the sellers as part of your offer or get one yourself before closing. Allow several weeks for this test to be completed prior to closing.

6. Does the land need a well installed?

You’ll also want to consider if there’s a way to get water before you buy land.

  • Is there already a private well?
  • Will you need to have a well built?
  • Or is municipal water available?

Here’s more information about private wells from the Wisconsin DNR.

7. Do you have money to install a well and septic system?

It costs roughly $30,000 to install a well and conventional septic system, so keep this expense in mind if you’re buying vacant land to build on.

8. Is there access to utilities?

Access to utilities is another important consideration before buying land, such as:

  • natural gas
  • liquid propane
  • Internet

Internet access can be limited in rural areas, so if you need internet for work or it’s essential for your lifestyle, reliable internet access is worth looking into.

9. Is the land part of any government programs or easements?

Landowners can participate in government land programs, such as:

So you’ll want to find out if the land is in any government programs before you buy it. These may pass on from one owner to another and the new owners may need to complete transfer of ownership paperwork.

Similarly, you’ll want to know if there are any easements that grant access to another party, such as:

  • utility easement
  • private easement
  • public easement

This information should be disclosed by the seller on the Vacant Land Disclosure Report.

10. If you want to buy land in a subdivision, are there any covenants or restrictions?

If you’re considering building in a subdivision rather than the country, it’s usually more straightforward. The main thing to be aware of before building a house in a subdivision is if the land is under a Home Owner’s Association (HOA), and what are the covenants and restrictions.

Some subdivisions have restrictions on things like:

  • Who can build the house
  • Style of house
  • Color of house
  • Size of house
  • Landscaping
  • Fences, pools, decks, outbuildings
  • Distance structures must be from property lines

Curious About the Next Step to Buying Land?

Purchasing vacant land in Wisconsin can be an exciting endeavor, but it is a process!

There’s more to take into consideration, of course, but hopefully, these questions to consider before buying land offer you a good starting place.

Reach out to us anytime if you need a professional who has your best interest in mind. Our goal is to walk you through the process of buying the right piece of Wisconsin land.

Zoning Contact Information for South-Central Wisconsin

If you have a question about the zoning and acceptable use of land, you should contact the local zoning office to get the facts before you write an offer to purchase land.

For your convenience, here are the websites and contact information for several of the zoning departments in our area.

Jefferson County Zoning

Jefferson County Zoning Website

Phone: (920) 674-7130

Dodge County Zoning

Dodge County Zoning Website

Phone: (920) 386-3700 x2


Waukesha County Zoning

Waukesha County Zoning Website

Phone: (262) 548-7790 


Dane County Zoning

Dane County Zoning Website

Phone: (608) 266-4266


Rock County Zoning

Rock County Zoning Website

Save & Share These Tips for Buying Land

Save these tips for buying Wisconsin land for later by bookmarking this page or saving it to Pinterest.

Be sure to share it with friends or family who are considering buying a lot or acreage too!


This post was originally published in 2023 and was updated in 2024.

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