I agree with Ellen Chung, finding the right type of buyer to target is very important. Also, you should consider the amount of time you have to sell the land. If you are short on time due to back taxes owed or other financial obligations, your best bet may be to talk to a vacant land investor. You will not get the full market price for your property, but the typically can pay cash and close quickly.
I just purchased 5 acres in a rural setting for half the assessed value (the assessment seems a bit high) as an investment. The advice I’ve received to increase the value is have it surveyed, sub-divided into 2 lots, and get a perk test done for both lots. Does this make sense to you? What about others ways to increase the value, such as putting in a gravel drive, running electric, or wells? It has good road frontage, and utilities are at least at the corner of the property.
A Perc Test (also known as “Perk Test”, and more formally known as a “Percolation Test“), is a soil evaluation that tests the rate at which water drains through the soil. If a property doesn't have easy access to the local sewer system, a perc test is required to determine whether a septic system (the alternative to a sewer) can be installed on the property.
Thanks for the article Seth. Very informative. Vacant land is one of those types of property I’m coming across in my search for good deals on houses. I’ve been a little brave offering people a cash offer for their lot. Only to find out later the parcel has a myriad of challenges. (Most of which could be dealt with-time and money, but still not worth it). Thankfully nobody took the deals yet. I have learned a lot and gained more understanding. I am closer to getting raw land at a great price that is build-able! Articles like yours, helps guys like me, stay focused and saved from troubles! As we know the bigger the challenges and unknowns the higher the risk-and the payday. Tread carefully.
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Also note that many landowners think they “own” all of the land along the roadway in front of their property, but often that land along the existing pavement is owned by the local government or DOT as part of the public right-of-way. Mailboxes, landscaping, fences and walls often are built in the right-of-way, but will need to be removed or relocated for road improvements. Confirm with a survey where your property line actually ends along the right-of-way.
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I am currently listing a 10 acre piece of vacant land, which is zoned R-1, in Hesperia, California. The seller states the property can be zoned commercial. I spoke to the planning department and they stated it is zoned residential. My client is totally convinced they are wrong and it can be switched if someone pitches a commercial rezoning presentation. What is your take on this?

Hi David – it would depend on what financing you can get for the land… and since most banks don’t finance land without an immediate plan for development, chances are, you’d either have to pay cash or find your financing from a separate source (like if the seller is willing to finance it, or if you’re able to obtain a loan with some other collateral).

Know what the land is zoned for. From the beginning, you need to have a clear understanding of what this land is zoned for. You don’t want to discourage buyers by keeping them waiting until you have the answer, and you definitely don’t want to mislead a buyer with incorrect information. It’s better to be honest and then refer the buyer to information about changing land classifications and zoning exemptions.

48. Using a similar approach to how I find motivated sellers, you can find a list of all the properties in your area that have sold for cash over the past 6 – 24 months. From this list, create a direct mail campaign and contact them. Let these people know that you have some great deals on real estate and that you're looking for investors who want to buy them for cash.
Whether you’re selling your land yourself or with the help of a real estate professional, it’s important to ensure that you have all the necessary documents to complete the transaction. It’s highly recommended that you consult with an attorney to ensure that your contract includes all of the necessary information and to ensure that you aren’t missing any important documentation. If you plan on selling the land yourself, be sure to do your research to avoid complications during the sale process.
I have a home on a lot that is large enough to be subdivided. I met with the city to discuss subdividing and they said that each lot needs a 20′ street frontage (currently I only have a 20′ street frontage. They said that I can subdivide if I put in a drive tract to the subdivided section. However, they would consider the drive tract a road and as a result I would need to remove an attached carport because the rules indicate that a house needs to be 20′ from a road. The only reason that I need the drive tract instead of a typical driveway was to create the 20′ street frontage.
It was a very simple process. Even though everything was done remotely, it was just as good as if I was standing in front of the person doing the deal. Paperwork was received really shortly after I spoke with Jake. We got it all signed, sent it back, and shortly thereafter we received the money. Everything was done very simply and it was very easy to do.

Honestly, since you’re the buyer, there’s no real reason not to use a realtor (because they’ll take their money from the seller, not you). I’d just be sure to get one who knows their stuff (i.e. – make sure they have some level of experience dealing with vacant land, as it’s a whole different animal than what most realtors are used to dealing with).
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Offer owner financing. Land is usually hard to finance and if you're willing to take back a mortgage for the buyer, you'll expand the number of people who can buy your land. On the other hand, you're also taking the risk that the buyer won't make his payments and will default. To protect yourself, work with an attorney to draft strong legal documents that follow your state's laws and get as much money up front as is reasonably possible.
Negotiating:  A good agent can help you navigate the negotiation process and give you perspective on what to offer and what to accept in order to help you reach an agreement with a potential buyer. Negotiations are often tense and can become emotional. The agent serves as the go-between, and is paid to defuse and diffuse the negotiating process. A man that I showed land to last week, was planning to sell a property he owned and do a 1031 exchange into a property I have listed. He told me about a cash offer on his tract that was “as good as in the bank” for about $350,000. One of the owners that adjoined this man’s property had made the offer about a month before he came to see my tract. His adjoining owner called back yesterday and dropped his offer from $350,000 to $315,000. Had I been his agent, I would have advised him when the offer came in to go ahead and accept it. His delay in accepting the offer probably knocked him out of buying my listing which he liked a lot.
Hi Rainie, if it were me, I’d be most concerned about the septic system (making sure the property passes the perc test, if it’s not located near a sewer system), making sure it’s not in a flood zone, and making sure the property is zoned properly for the type of house I want to build. Judging by the fact that there was a house on the property before, you probably won’t find many surprises here… but it’s always good to verify.
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Hi Debbie – that’s an interesting question… I’ve never heard of that one, but I suppose I can see why you might wonder. I’d have to imagine any harmful chemicals from a cemetery would be in extremely trace amounts (nothing like you’d expect from a gas station), but at the same time… I’m not an environmental professional, so I’m really not qualified to give my opinion on it.
Planning Consent. This will be needed before development is begun, but who obtains it is a question for landowners. Embarking on the planning process at your own risk can pay off, but it is a gamble and we recommend that you speak to either a surveyor, a planning consultant or a planning officer at your local authority to get an idea as to whether or not an application for consent for development would be successful. Many such applications will go to appeal. Is the planning consent you obtain going to be the one developers need? This is why many landowners enter into promotion agreements or conditional contracts which oblige others to apply for planning, as they often have a greater chance of success on the right terms. Be aware though, that extensive price negotiations can take place once planning consent is obtained, and the actual net development area can be calculated. This will take into account any ‘extra’ costs such as wildlife surveys or ground investigations that are required as a result of the planning conditions.
If this process overwhelms you, consider hiring a land broker. A land broker will take a commission but they will handle all of the above for you. Hopefully they will price the property so that you make almost as much as you would have without hiring the land broker meanwhile it saves you a lot of time and hassle. I do not recommend working with a land broker who charges a flat upfront fee even if the property doesn't sell as there is no built-in incentive for them to sell the property. Keep on top of them and make sure they are doing their job. Unless the commission is hefty, a land broker isn't going to care as much about selling your land and may end up just listing it on their own website and letting it sit there forever. Communicate regularly with your land broker so your listing remains a priority for them even if it's just to get you off their back!
I think I’m in trouble….because I signed a contract for a 1.23 acre land and I haven’t ordered a perc test…the land couldn’t perc about 8 yrs ago according to the owner…. the piece of land is near other homes, that are build on an acre of land or more…. it is near a state park as well…. There is a stream called gunpowder that is near this area…. I am scared to death right now…. my contract doesn’t have a contingency to a perc test passing…it is full of trees too. So I know the land needs to be cleared… in your experience is there a way to cancel a contract or a way out….the contract has already been sent to a title company….. I need help asap…. thanks
These can include a requirement that you dedicate part of “your” land that is in the road right-of-way to the local government, causing you now to be working with a smaller parcel. Other rules may require you to build or improve roads, sidewalks, curb and gutter and even to plant trees. In addition, you also may be required to install water and sewer connections and meters for the lots, or to pay capacity fees, impact fees and other assessments when adding the new homesites.
Successfully subdividing your land into residential lots can have many benefits, including providing a landowner both increased profits and flexibility. If you are buying or already have a large parcel of land for sale, or even a home lot that has “extra” land area, you may wish to consider whether subdividing your land can help you maximize your real estate resources, something that many landowners are evaluating in the current market conditions.
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1. I never use loans when I buy vacant land, because I’m able to get my properties very, very cheap (and I’m only able to do this because I know where/how to find motivated sellers). Most banks won’t lend directly on land UNLESS you have an immediate plan to build on it – and this is why seller financing can be such a helpful tool when selling land (because most buyers will need it in order to do the transaction).
The best place to list free classified ads these days is craigslist.org and backpage.com These are simple no-nonsense interface sites where you can list the property price, description and add images. The big drawback is you have to continue to edit and update your listing to stay on top of the listing system otherwise it will be more difficult for buyers to find you. You can learn more about how to do this through basic Google searches.
Hi David – it would depend on what financing you can get for the land… and since most banks don’t finance land without an immediate plan for development, chances are, you’d either have to pay cash or find your financing from a separate source (like if the seller is willing to finance it, or if you’re able to obtain a loan with some other collateral).
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Undeveloped land without significant zoning limitations is open to a variety of uses. Reach out to all types of buyers who might find the land appealing. This may include home builders, private individuals looking for land to build on, park or camp developers and environmental groups that want to keep the land undeveloped. Reach out to the owners of adjacent land to see if they want to add to their property. Advertise in different publications and websites, not just in local real estate magazines targeted at people looking for new homes.
The asking price may not always be the agreed-upon purchase price. You may try to negotiate a lower price upon review of the current title of land for sale. In reviewing the property, look at the vesting deed (available from the county clerk's office) and the appraisal, advises Veissi. Real estate property interests are usually conveyed by a deed. Sometimes people sell or transfer partial interests in a property. Check the deed to see if there are any easements or rights that have been granted for use of the property without having to own the property. Either the seller or buyer (even both) may order an appraisal. Ask the appraiser for a like property analysis, Veissi suggests. Meaning, request to see a list of like properties that have sold in the area and compare those prices to see if the asking price for the property you seek is reasonable.
Know what the land is zoned for. From the beginning, you need to have a clear understanding of what this land is zoned for. You don’t want to discourage buyers by keeping them waiting until you have the answer, and you definitely don’t want to mislead a buyer with incorrect information. It’s better to be honest and then refer the buyer to information about changing land classifications and zoning exemptions.
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