It all begins with understanding the type of land parcel you are interested in. Purchasing vacant land in Alaska can be overwhelming as there are so many options. If you want to know more about the different types of parcels available in Alaska, check our blog post on the subject here.
Once you understand what type of property you want, it’s time to narrow down locations of interest. The best way to do this is by viewing a map of Alaska (available on our website) that allows viewers to filter out certain areas based on their personal preferences and specialties (such as building a home with green energy). Make sure to check out our population density map along with information about the respective counties in Alaska. Next, we recommend doing some research on what areas might interest you by looking at photos or reading articles from fellow Alaskan land owners.
Land purchase process overview
- Research the acreage of the property and the zoning for the parcel
- Think and decide how to structure the purchase, such as with cash or a loan.
- Find properties for sale on independently-operated listings. Or, get help from a real estate agent.
- Draft the purchase agreement and proposal and make the offer
- Research the land by conducting your due diligence (e.g. survey, title search)
- A title company or a local real estate market attorney will coordinate the closing
Here’s more information on how to buy land in Alaska:
- What are the different types of vacant land parcels?
There are three main categories of land in Alaska:
General Zoning District A General Zoning District is a part of the state where you are able to build anything as long as it meets the zoning requirements. The zoning regulations vary, but there is typically a requirement that the land be at least 1 acre in size. The general zoning district is a main part of how your property will be taxed. If you live outside of Alaska you should pay attention to what type of subdivision your land is in and follow those rules.
Residential Zoning District A residential zoning district requires all lots (land parcels) to have at least 20-30 feet between buildings or structures. It is generally a lot smaller than the general zoning district. The zoning regulations vary, but there is typically a requirement that the land be at least 10 acres in size.
Agricultural Zoning District You can choose to own land in an Agricultural Zoning District if you plan on doing seasonal farm work and livestock raising. If you live outside of Alaska, you should pay attention to what type of subdivision your land is in and follow those rules.
- What are open areas that are not zoned?
There are open areas that are not zoned, and therefore don’t require special planning or approval from the local municipality for building structures on them. These parcels of land are reserved for activities that include:
Recreation (hunting, fishing, camping, hiking) or nature appreciation (bird watching, photographing nature)
Wayside parks and rest stops along the highway for people to access to go hiking or fishing but not live in
Heavy industrial activities like mining and oil drilling without contaminating other areas
- What are subdivisions?
Subdivision is a term used to describe a residential community that has been divided into sections. In Alaska, all new communities must be developed using subdivision regulations. Subdivisions are developed from the smallest parcel of land all the way to the largest parcels of land. Subdivision regulations vary by area, but there is typically a requirement that the land be at least 10 acres in size.
- How do I find vacant land for sale in Alaska?
You can find vacant acreage through many different channels. Landowners in Alaska often use an outside real estate agent to help them sell their land. The real estate agent will also help you with finding a new home or business for your property. Other people who are looking to build a new home or business will acquire vacant land directly from landowners who need to sell their parcel of land. Alternatively, you can go on websites such as Landwatch.com or landandfarm.com to find “for sale by owner” properties.
Basic services to consider when purchasing land in Alaska
Vacant land in Alaska is considered rural and tends to be located in the more remote areas of the state. Water supply is a key consideration for most property owners.
Electricity – Before you can even begin thinking about building a house or other structure on your land, you will need to check out the electrical infrastructure of the area. While Alaska has a history of being powered by renewable energy, future development may change this landscape. Solar panels in Alaska are subsidized by the government, so we recommend looking at the possibility of installing solar panels on your new home.
Land Survey – A land survey is important because it will tell you exactly how big the property is, and it will show you where all of the property lines are located. This is a key component to buying land in Alaska. You can pay for a land survey or do one yourself, but we recommend contacting a real estate attorney to make sure that everything appears to be in order with your purchase.
Land Title Search – This process involves finding out if there are any liens or encumbrances that have been placed on your property against it. It also helps to know if any parties have filed a notice of adverse claim on it.
Insurance – Routine title search is one part of the insurance process, but there are other ways to secure insurance coverage before you purchase vacant land in Alaska. A large majority of property owners have insurance coverage on their land even though they do not own it yet.
Communication is key in rural areas. Although Alaska has maintained its legacy as a “bush” state, it still requires significant infrastructure to provide health care and other necessities to its residents.
Education – Education is important in rural areas. Regardless of the area of Alaska you choose to buy in, it is more likely that people will choose to live close to school districts. If you decide not to have children, this could be an ideal situation for you.
Transportation options are critical for rural areas and are especially important in the Southcentral region where the nearest town is a minimum of 2 hours away from most properties. This means that getting clean water, waste management, fire protection, and other services will need to be considered before moving into a geographical area.
In Alaska, internet is crucial to getting a job, socializing, and staying relevant with the rest of the world. You can explore satellite options such as Starlink and others.
Due to Alaska’s climate, it is best to consider the weather when planning your move. In general, you will want to ensure that you can adequately heat your home and other structures when necessary. While some areas are better than others in terms of seasonal temperatures, all areas have high winds during spring and fall when debris is able to blow around easily.
In Alaska, citizens cannot dump their own trash. You will need to work with the solid waste department of the local municipality to take care of your solid waste needs.
Water and sewer systems are not available in all areas and therefore need to be considered before you purchase a property.
Taxes are calculated based on the property as a whole, as well as the land value. Local legislation is passed by city councils, borough assemblies, or municipal assemblies. The legislative organizations in each area can pass ordinances that do not contradict state law.
Considering Alaska, with such a large area, you will need to take into consideration that there are about three mail delivery services: UPS, FedEx, and USPS. In addition to the mail delivery services, post offices are also available.
As of 2015, Alaska is a very homogenous state with an overall population of 736,732 people. The largest ethnic group was white at 77.6%. American Indian has been on the decline at 8.6% while Alaskan Natives increased by 2%. The Hispanic or Latinos in Alaska are at 2%, while Black or African Americans are at 1%. Asian or Pacific Islander are at 4%. Lastly, race other is only 0.
Other things to consider when purchasing land
In Alaska, the building codes are different than they are in California. There is more of a focus on the building materials used, but not as much on earthquakes and fire safety. However, there may be some code differences that you need to know about.
The county planning and zoning office would be able to help you find out more about building codes.
Property Size – Vacant land near a beach with no building may be used for purposes such as a beach access path, or appurtenant to a new residential subdivision. Parcels range from less than one acre up to thousands of acres.
If you decide to build a home on vacant land, you will need to contact the local municipality to obtain building rights. You will also need any permits and approvals from the Department of Natural Resources which can be obtained at their office in person, or online if you use a computer and internet connection (as is commonplace in Alaska). You will want to make sure that all work has been inspected by a licensed contractor.
Dirt on Properties
Remember that most vacant land parcels in Alaska have dirt on them that is being used for farming purposes or animal grazing rights.
Planning and Zoning
You will need to check whether your county has an ordinance that regulates development in your area. Most counties have different ordinances for Commercial, Industrial, Agricultural and Residential uses. The ordinance for “Open Space” uses such as parks may differ somewhat from the rules for zoning changes. In some cases it will be necessary to get local signoff for your project from the planning and zoning office so that you can get off the ground with the use of some of this land for your project or property.
Vacant land in Alaska can be placed under conservation easement to preserve wildlife, bird watching, or other important aspects of the environment.
There are restrictions on how far away from bodies of water you can build a home and the maximum square footage you can have. Vacant land may also have restrictions against building a storage shed that exceeds some maximum size or number of feet of structure that you can build.
Vacant land in Alaska may be contained by covenants and restrictions that can govern such things as how you use your land. People need to know if they exist on the property before making an offer. How so? You may be prevented from doing something with your property in the future,
In Alaska, wildfires are a major threat to private property. In fact, the state’s largest fire in recorded history was in 2016 and burned over 400,000 acres. Furthermore, wildfires can be set by humans as well as occurring naturally. Wildfires can leave behind land that is unusable for residential purposes.
In Alaska, there is a need for specialized workers to fill the gaps in customer service, business development, construction and factory work. Unemployment is low in Alaska creating an opportunity for those who are considering relocation for employment purposes.
FEMA Flood Zones
In Alaska, there are areas that are in FEMA flood zones. Before purchasing land, make sure that you have a land survey done to ensure that you will be able to build on it.
In Alaska, wildlife can be a huge threat to your property if you do not take proactive measures. Large predators roam the area, and often they will follow easy trails leading up to your house if given the chance. Moose are particularly dangerous because they can knock down buildings with their hooves.
Vacant land in Alaska is known for its topography. The land is full of straight roads, and beautiful snowy mountains. Alaska has a range of elevation which can make it difficult to develop the property or build new homes depending on the location.
Drainage is affected by the topography of Alaska and becomes an issue in many areas during heavy rains, snow storms, and other seasonal events.
When purchasing land in Alaska, environmental factors should be considered before moving into the area. In some areas you may be susceptible to flooding, wildfires, or wildlife encounters. In general, you will find that vacant land in Alaska is underdeveloped compared to other states. Many people choose land in Alaska because of the unique experience they get from living away from a more urban area. However, there are still many considerations that need to be taken into account when purchasing vacant land in Alaska.
Does your deed include mineral rights? It is often a difficult question to answer. Can you develop a home and other buildings upon the land? May there be restrictions that forbids some constructions?
Easements and Rights of Way
There may be “easements and rights of way” that you need to consider before purchasing vacant land in Alaska.
What are the soil conditions of your property/land? Are there many rocks and other obstructions?
To conclude, purchasing land in Alaska is a great idea! However, before you make any real estate decisions, we recommend that you consider all of the factors above. We hope this article will help to guide you and help you navigate the process of looking for land in Alaska.