In this article we discuss how to search for the right land – how to search the real estate ads efficiently, some tips for what to focus on, and how to balance the online and physical onsite checks.
Our favorite real estate search engines
Sreality is currently largest Czech real estate search engine, and aggregates offers by various real estate agencies. Buyer will have to pay the commission to the real estate as well, and it differs on a case by case basis whether this is included or not in the ask price.
Bezrealitky (“without real estate agency”) aggregates offers listed directly by the owners, hence supposedly saving the commission (although it may lead to quick-witted sellers slightly increasing the ask price to compensate for this). Bezrealitky.cz is free to search but being able to contact the sellers is already a paid service (currently it costs about 100 CZK for 3 months to be able to respond to offers). However if you are serious about finding a land to contruct a house on, the money should be worth it.
Both of these websites provide advanced filtering of land plots (and other real estate) in English and nice interactive maps.
Typically a land plot offer will be cross-posted on several websites including Sreality. Competition on the “peer to peer” market is more limited, although alternatives exist as well such as bazos.cz, they aren’t quite comparable to bezrealitky.
Parameters for searching
We recommend making the search specific with the aim of resulting set of results generally less than say 100 offers. If you are searching in a particular location (say a particular region “okres”), the search should be specific enough to return no more than say 20 offers. If there’s too many results to review, prioritize locations.
We recommend setting at least the following parameters:
- minimum and maximum price (minimum will filter out offers that are clearly not what you are looking for)
- minimum (potentially maximum price) area in square meters
- land type – construction (where possible – bezrealitky does not have this)
- allowable regions
How to approach a given offer
Any offer should be a priori considered untrustworthy unless you know the seller personally. There’s a large assymetry of information in the real estate markets, and sellers use clever tricks to make any land appear as good as a free parcel just next to New York’s Central Park.
Some orange flags (i.e. when extra due diligence in the first phase is required) are the following:
- The particular land plots that are being sold are not obvious from the advertisement nor from screenshot of the cadastre. In case of interest we recommend reaching out to the ad contact and request it.
- The advertisement generally lacks importants details such as information about infrastructure,
- Ad mentioning temporary solutions e.g. “municipal water pipes are just about to be built, temporarily it is possible to drill a well”
- Plots flagged as for housing construction and currently containing a timeworn holiday cottage. Even if the new spatial plan newly allows for a house as opposed to a cottage for recreation purposes, typically the cottage itself is worth negative money as there will be more stamps required and costs connected to tearing the cottage down (and the existing infrastructure will not be useful)
Tips and tricks for basic online check
Verifying if all information provided in an advertisement is accurate representation of reality is essential, However, it is very time consuming so we recommend doing it in a later stage after you confirm your genuine interest in the land plot.
Here’s a few things that you can check quickly before visiting a land plot in person:
- Checking googlemaps or mapy.cz to get a basic understanding of the surroundings and general area. Check if there’s any nuisances around (factories, highways, or racing stadiums such as in Figure 2 below). We list a selection of notable noise and pollution sources in this article.
- Where available, check the street view. On mapy.cz, this is called “Panorama”. Googlemaps and mapy.cz have different coverage and sources, so we recommend checking both. This will help you not only identify the land plot later but also identify if there could be visible issues such as electricity cables going above your land.
- Quickly check the basic information about the plot and the owner in the Cadastre
Tips and tricks for basic onsite check
To conduct the physical check need to be reasonably sure you will find the correct plots if you start with physical onsite check, so if in doubt contact the real estate agency. Typically they will be happy if you visit the land plot on your own, and more often that not onstruction plots are freely accessible. In a minority of cases, often if the land is part of a larger development project, real estate agents will suggest meeting you personally on the land plots.
In what follows we list out a a few tips on what to do when visiting the land plot:
- Check the access path – e.g. who owns it, how ready it is and whether it is likely to adhere to fire regulation (also refer to our article on the access path)
- Check the land slope and any large objects on the land, as these will significantly increase costs of construction.
- Check the state of the concrete pillars with electricity, if any. Building these pillars is is a habit of most owners, signalling to the world that this plot is about to become land for construction. If they are in bad shape due to age and bad maintenance as in Figure 3, this signals issues with getting a construction permit, legal issues, etc.
- Talk to neighbours – unless related to the seller, they don’t have any incentive to be dishonest, and will typically be willing to provide views on life in the neighborhood. You can ask them about municipality leadership, availability of drinking water in the area (if there’s no municipal water pipes), and how difficult it was to get the building permit,
- Get a grasp of the general location, both from amenities perspective (nearest groceries, kindergarten…) and nature perspective (where to go for walks). You may also uncover some visual nuisances that might not be obvious from the map – an example is in Figure 4.
- On the way to the land, assess how likely it is to get traffic jams in the rush hour (~7:30-10am on workdays), if dependent on road as opposed to a railway
Balance between online and onsite check
Conducting a comprehensive land check is effortful, but a very brief check of the spatial plan can be quicker than say visiting the plot. To optimize time spent on physical checks and online research, a rule of thumb is if you found 3 or more plots you are interested in which are in the same direction / region and can be visited in one afternoon, start with the physical onsite check. If not, consider conducting basic check online first and if it passes, then follow up with the onsite visit of the land plot.
If you prioritize well, over the course of several months you could visit dozens of plots and conduct detailed checks only on the few top ones. When it comes to searching for a land, practice makes perfect holds as anywhere, so rather than trying to conduct a deep check on the first couple lands you find interesting, getting the volume of experiences may be a better strategy.