If you're not on good terms with the lot owner, then ask him for recommendations for soil testing. Ask at the local building department. Depending on where you are, the digging for the test can be done by anyone with a backhoe. The professional to observe and record might be an civil engineer or surveyor.
I would talk to other lot owners to get more information, if possible.
Another thing, around here, a perc test doesn't cost $1000, but that might be a local thing. Try checking with the city or county, or whoever does the inspections.
[This message has been edited by rpxlpx (edited February 13, 2003).]