Title Report: Ask the realtor or seller for the name of the title company the seller has chosen. Then ask the title company for a preliminary title report before buying the land. A title report is a listing of all recorded documents found by the title company to apply to the land in question. Once you have the report, you can ask for copies of all documents listed, which may include deeds, easements, licenses, liens, property tax information, and Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R’s). These could restrict how, what and where on the lot you may build, even more than county or city zoning regulations. If you have any questions or concerns about any of the documents on the title report, consult an attorney rather than the Planning or Building Departments, since these are legal documents, not government-imposed building restrictions.
CC&R’s: If there are Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions that run with the land, they may include rules about the design and/or materials you can choose when building your house. If so, there may be a design committee that must approve the house design. Find out if the committee is currently active. Make sure there is an actual legal procedure for obtaining design approval, including an address to which you will send the plans. Often there will be a limitation on how long the committee may take to approve or disapprove, at the end of which time the design is automatically approved. If so, you can go ahead and legally build, even if the committee does nothing or doesn’t really exist.
Water Rights: If the property has a spring, stream, or river that you plan to use for potable or irrigation water, you may need water rights. In Oregon, these are granted for a particular use by the state and are not guaranteed by title companies. It could take some time, even years to obtain water rights if they do not already exist. If they do exist, find out how they may be transferred to a new owner. Your realtor should be able to do some research for you, or at least to find out what agency confers water rights. If you need assistance with gaining water rights, contact an attorney.