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Do Wetlands Hold Any Actual Value?

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Published on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 by Land Century

You finally found the perfect piece of land. There’s just one problem: the property includes wetlands. Should you buy the land anyway? Does wetland even hold any value?

Wetlands can be a good investment, but the value of the property and whether this is a smart choice for you will depend on your personal goals for the land. Before we get into that, let’s make sure that you have an understanding of what wetlands are.

What are Wetlands?

Wetlands are land areas that are saturated with water. They may be saturated only during certain times of the year, or they may be saturated permanently. Wetlands are, in essence, their own ecosystem, and they include aquatic plant vegetation.

Many people do not realize that wetlands play an important role in the environment, particularly for flood control, water purification, shoreline stability and carbon sink. These special areas of land are also considered some of the most biologically diverse of all the ecosystems of the world. They often are home to a wide variety of different plants and animal life.

Because of their important role in the environment, private landowners are often limited by where they can build and how they can use their land if it contains wetlands.

Can Wetlands Hold Value?

Technically speaking, yes, wetlands hold value. From a conservationist’s point of view, wetlands are incredibly valuable because they hold such diverse and robust ecosystems, and play an important role in water purification and flood control.

From an investor’s standpoint, wetlands can hold perceived value and will appeal to a certain group of people. But because you cannot build on top of wetlands, the property may be difficult to resell if there is no room to build. In other words, if the property is all wetland, it will likely hold little value. That said, if the property contains land that is suitable for building, there are some great benefits to buying property with wetlands.

Privacy

Many people find wetlands to be beneficial because they offer privacy. Remember, wetlands can’t be built on, so building a home on areas suitable for development can provide you (or a future buyer) with absolute privacy and serenity.

Wildlife

Wetlands are home to a wide variety of different wildlife species, which can be an attractive feature of the land. If you don’t plan on keeping the property for yourself, outdoor enthusiasts will jump at the chance to share their living space with such a diverse range of wildlife.

Stunning Views

Everyone wants a piece of land with a view. If you can’t move near the mountains or buy a million dollar home on the shore, wetlands are a great alternative. They offer uninterrupted views of nature. It’s almost like having waterfront property (almost), minus the high price tag.

The Risks and Complications of Investing in Wetland

Buying wetlands isn’t all rainbows and butterflies – there are some complications and risks. And this type of purchase is not everyone. Although this land can hold value, it’s important to have a full understanding of what you can and can’t do with the land before you commit to making a purchase.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that you CANNOT make physical improvements to the wetland itself. There are a number of local agencies that you need to work with to ensure that your plans are acceptable. And if there happens to be an endangered species living on your property, you will be extremely limited as to what you can do with the land.

Some of the agencies that you’ll need to work with include:

* State EPA
* Corps of Engineers
* County planning/development departments
* DNR (Department of Natural Resources)

Before you consider purchasing wetland, get in touch with these agencies first to find out more information on local laws and regulations regarding the use of wetlands in your area. You’ll also need to ensure that an environmental test is performed on the land before buying.

Possible Complications of Buying Wetlands

Again, wetlands can have value, but you need to fully understand what you’re getting into before purchasing. Just like any other land investment, there are some properties that are smart investments, and others that are simply bad. Making the wrong decision when buying wetlands can cause you even more issues than with regular, solid land.

Take Kurt A. Lorenz, for example. He purchased a partially cleared lot in Virginia for over $300,000 with plans to build a home and a horse barn.

Kurt failed to hire a consultant to check for any environmental issues with the property, and he never asked the seller to disclose environmental conditions that would have a negative impact on his use of the property. Moreover, Virginia does not require the disclosure wetlands when selling property. Unbeknownst to him, much of the property contained wetland.

Kurt went ahead with his plans to start building, and did so without a permit. But when the state’s Department of Environmental Quality was inspecting a group of wetlands on the site adjacent to the property, inspectors noticed Kurt’s work. Immediately they shut his work down, and he was fined nearly $23,000. On top of this, they assessed that he owed an additional $50,000 to restore the wetlands that he had cleared. Kurt attempted to sue the seller and the seller’s broker, but his efforts were unsuccessful.

Kurt is partially to blame for his misfortune. If he performed his due diligence, he would’ve learned early on that the property contained wetlands and that he would be restricted by what he can do with the land. Failure to thoroughly research a piece of land before buying is a terrible mistake – no matter what type of land you’re looking to purchase.

The bottom line is this: wetlands can hold perceived value, but it’s all dependent on the individual property. People love the privacy and wildlife wetlands offers. But they restrict what you can and can’t do with the land. If the property is primarily wetlands, you may want to reconsider as you’ll gain little resale value, and won’t be able to do much with the property.
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