Tennessee is among just a handful of southern states that enjoys no state-level income tax. Also being home to Nashville, this is a booming and exciting market to be in. But if you are planning to make Tennessee your home, you need to take into account some special considerations when evaluating a vacant piece of land to purchase.
Can the land support a build site?
Seems obvious right? You obviously don’t want to build directly on the current of a flood zone (unless you can elevate on stilts). But, a special consideration to take into account is the soil conditions. In places that are rocky, mountain-type, or near the Appalachian in general, you want to make sure your homesite location can support either a conventional septic system or an aerobic septic system. These days either solution can run anywhere from $7,500 to $15,000 (depending on state and location) but in Tennessee in particular, there is a certain process you need to follow in order to qualify your homesite for the installation of a septic system. This is a crucial step in selecting your land in Tennessee. If it won’t qualify for a septic system, you are out of luck in being able to get a building permit.
Get a High-Intensity Soil Map
Ultimately, you will need a High-Intensity Soil Map from a state-registered soil scientist. The High-Intensity Soil Map is a drawing on your survey or plat that classifies the slopeage, soil type, and percability of a given spot where your septic drain field would be installed. The idea here is to give the homeowner a recommendation on where to place the drain field, so that their system and homesite can be located accordingly. The High-Intensity Soil Map is the report that you attach as a backup to your septic application (also called an OSSF or On-Site-Sewage-Facility application).
Getting one of these can take Months Depending on where you are
Here’s the catch: You need to refer to a state-registered soil scientist and request to get on their schedule to be in line for a soil evaluation.
You can find where to submit your septic applications by County here: https://tdec.tn.gov/septic-service-request/
You can find the current list of who is available in the state of Tennessee here: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/environment/water/land-based-systems-unit/wr-sds-soil-consultants.pdf
Now, you will notice this is not a very long list. Many of these folks are the single (only) available state-registered soil scientist in a 3 or 4-county area (sometimes more). Imagine how many calls these people get every day!
Our recommendation is to try and match up the closest city where you plan to be located with your nearest soil scientist and send a TEXT Message (not a phone call) to their registered number from this list. These guys and gals are in the field and if you can imagine when they get home from a day of fieldwork, there are 30+ voicemails in their inbox. If you were in their shoes, would you listen to them? :-).
Take it from us, the best and most effective method is to send a friendly text message to 2 or 3 of your local soil scientists, providing:
- Your Name
- Your Phone #
- County Name
- Parcel ID # for that tract of land
- Nearest intersection, and
- Offer to provide a copy of your survey if you’ve got one
- Request to be added to their schedule
So what can I do about this when I’m evaluating land to BUY and I’m not able to wait 2 – 3 Months for the Soil Map?
If you don’t want to fuss with this, check out some of our listings at https://land.elegment.com/land-for-sale/tennessee/ for land that already comes with the High-Intensity Soil Map ready to go.
Otherwise, our best recommendation is to check out awesome tools like Land ID (link) and Google Earth (link) that allow you to look at things like Slopeage. Slopeage is defined as Rise / Run. You will want to know how much the land drops or rises in elevation across the length of the land. A good rule of thumb in Tennessee is to make sure your chosen property has at least a 20′ x 75′ section of land that is less than 25% sloped to qualify. If you can at least determine this, there is a good likelihood that your property is going to pass a High-Intensity Soil Exam and you can be much more confident in your purchase. Also, we always recommend you walk the property, front to back and side to side to fully understand the dynamics of elevation change across your chosen property.
Don’t forget: There are free resources available to you too. A friendly phone call to your local County Commissioner’s office asking if he or she wouldn’t mind “riding along” with you to look at the property with you can be extremely valuable. County and state-level officials are often more than happy to get an adventure out of the office and they can give you a candid evaluation of the soil and drainage conditions on your land. They will have experience working with properties and solving problems all over the area, so be sure to give them a call.