Developing Private RV Property

Developing raw land into your own bespoke RV property can be an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. Building out that experience does requires research and due diligence to minimize unexpected costs and project delays. The following guide will help you ensure that the property you pick will be the right fit to build out your dream RV experience.

Looking at RV Property with the Eyes of a Developer

Before making any offers on raw land it’s important to make sure the land you buy will work for your camping needs. While it is possible to buy property sight unseen many sellers will wisely refuse to consider an offer unless you’ve seen the property in person. This is because you get a much more realistic perspective of the land, what you can do with it and what you can’t do with it, by walking the property. This prevents buyers from having remorse and cancelling a contract once they see the property in person and realize the photos and description alone didn’t offer everything they needed in the property.

When walking any potential property for purchase think about the following:

  • arrow_right_alt Where would you park your RV on the property?
  • arrow_right_alt Is there enough level land to park your RV?
  • arrow_right_alt Where will you maximize your views or maximize shade?
  • arrow_right_alt Does a driveway exist and does it support the size of your RV?
  • arrow_right_alt Is there enough room to turn around your RV or will you be backing into the property?
  • arrow_right_alt Is there room for other structures you may want to add, such as a shed?
  • arrow_right_alt
  • arrow_right_alt Do you need to clear trees or vegetation?
  • arrow_right_alt Are there any low areas or washes on the land that could flood?
  • arrow_right_alt Will there be any problems accessing this land at other times of the year due to changes in weather?
  • arrow_right_alt What are the agacent properties used for?

As you think about the answers to these questions put together a rough sketch of your lot on paper. Add in your driveway, the place you will park your RV, the utilities you will connect to your RV, trees you want to save, and any other structures you want to build now or in the future. You could also print off a map of your property from Google Maps and draw over that. This will help you visualize how all of these components will fit together. This plan will likely change a bit as you perform your due diligence but it will provide a good starting point to thinking like a developer and making sure the land will fit your camping needs.

Do your Due Diligence

It is vital that you do your due diligence to make sure a prospective property meets your project goals and your budget. Ideally this would be done before making an offer to buy the property but if any questions remain when making an offer make sure they are specified as conditions in your offer. Wording of conditions in contracts can have important legal consequences so you may want to work with a real estate agent or attorney licensed in the state where the land is located to make sure your interests are protected.

Due diligence starts by creating a checklist of tasks to complete. Add tasks for reaching out to any entity that has legal jurisdiction over the property. Some clever research on the internet or a good real estate agent should be able to help you put together that list. Next add in tasks for contacting the providers of utilities and services you wish to use on your RV property. Below is an example of what should be on that list but keep in mind not all will apply to you and you may have others to include:

  • check County, township and/or local zoning offices - ensure zoning on the land you are considering allows camping in a recreational vehicle specifically (mobile homes, tiny houses and tent camping may have different rules). Ask not only if RV camping is allowed but if there are restrictions on how long you can camp and if any permits are required to camp.
  • check County recorders – lookup the deed of the prospective property to make sure developers haven’t placed restrictions on the use of the land and that there aren’t any unexpected easements placed on the land.
  • check Association directors – if the land is part of an association make sure you understand the association’s rules, their processes for obtaining approval for making any changes to the land, and any fees they charge on an upfront or ongoing basis to maintain the association.
  • check Water- if municipal water services are available in the area contact the agency the that manages that service to inquire about costs and time estimates for connecting your property to water service. If no services are available other options include drilling a well or hauling in water from another source. You’ll want to check with local contractors of these services to find out about the feasibility and cost of each. Regardless you’ll likely also need a plumber or general contractor to make a connection from where the water enters your property to a spigot available to connect your RV. In cold climates also consider whether or not you'll need to take extra measure to protect water pipes from freezing.
  • check Septic - if municipal sewer services are available in the area contact the agency that manages that service to inquire about costs and time estimates for connecting your property to sewer service. If no services are available you may be able to install your own waste water disposal system such as a septic system. Reach out to local contractors who will be able to do a perc test on your land to see if such a system will work on your property. They should also be able to provide cost estimates, time frames and permits necessary for installation.
  • check Electricity – reach out to the local power company to see if service is available in your area. Don’t assume it is even if you see power lines in the area. Some lines are for transmission only and are not intended to provide residential service. Explain to the power company that you need service for an RV as they may have different programs for RV hook ups than they do for permanent homes. You will likely need to work with an electrician to apply for the correct permits and install a meter and an electrical pedistal on your lot. If power isn’t available you may be able to setup a solar solution using solar panels, generators and battery packs.
  • check Phone/internet/cable - if these services are important to you see if there are phone, cable and high-speed internet companies that provide service to your lot. If not, cellular phones and hotspots may provide an alternative option. Contact providers to get estimates and remember that advertised availability and speed can change drastically even on different parts of your own property. See if you can test out the service yourself before committing to any longterm contracts.
  • check Natural gas - typically RVers don’t have a need to connect to natural gas supply lines like a traditional home would. Instead most RVers will need propane to power furnaces, stoves and grills. Colder climates will generally require more propane than warmer ones. Find out if there are delivery services available in your area and if not how far you would have to travel to refill your onboard propane bottles.
  • check Garbage – research whether garbage and recycling pickup services are available for your property or if you have to take your own refuse to a processing facility.
  • check Mail – if mail service is important contact the local post office to see if delivery service or post office boxes are available. Shipping services such as FedEx and UPS may still be able to deliver packages even if the USPS doesn’t but you’ll want to call their local distribution centers to make sure.
  • check Excavators - if driveways need to be put in, land needs to be graded or trees need to be removed these costs can add up quickly. Make sure you get estimates and understand any setback requirements for the property up front.
  • check General contractors – do you want to hire a general contractor to manage this work or do you want to find subcontractors yourself? Typically general contractors’ fees are based on a percentage of the total cost of the project. Make sure your general contractor and all subcontractors are properly licensed an have experience with these kinds of projects. It’s always best to ask for and check references as well.

As you make your way through the checklist ask if you can get something in writing from each entity. If not at the very least keep detailed notes including the dates of your conversations and the names of the people you spoke with. When you talk with each provider make sure to understand all restrictions and requirements needed to comply with local laws and ordinances as well as all initial and on-going fees and taxes you’ll be subject to. Be up front with what you are planning to do to avoid running into surprises down the road.

Once you’re finished with your due diligence, complete your property sketch and review the costs against your budget. You’ll find that sketch will come in handy when talking with contractors and applying for permits. As with any building project it is important to leave room in your budget and timeline for any unexpected costs or delays involved in completing your project but the more due diligence you do the less these should be.

As you can see there is a great deal of research and work involved in developing your own RV land but the rewards of doing so are also very satisfying. When it's all finished you can have the ultimate RV camping experience built out exactly where you want it and how you like it.

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