Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News. Since joining the Consumer Advice team in 2015, she has focused on breaking down the homebuying and selling process, as well as reporting on trends in the real estate industry and their effect on the public. Thorsby previously worked in research and communications for commercial real estate information company CoStar Group, and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where she worked for the student-run newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at dthorsby@usnews.com.
First, you need to understand the exact dimensions of the parcel of land you are evaluating. Next, call the local zoning department and ask them what the designated building setbacks are for the property in question (building setback requirements are very common, and are imposed as a way of giving order and consistency to the buildings in any given area). When you take these setbacks and regulations into account (relative to the size of this parcel of land), is there still enough room to build something worthwhile – or does it render the property useless? I've come across several properties that were designed (albeit, unintentionally) to be too small and after factoring in the setbacks – you can't build anything on them at all, leaving them virtually worthless!

great article and timely. I have several undeveloped lots located in urban and well rural settings., from quarter acre to 120 acres. I am also thinking of developing the lots my self but need a step by step process including spread sheet showing cost of development and potential roi. what type if assistance should I expect from local gov’t in this process for environmental goals, building green, workforce housing etc. thanks
We buy land fast from people for many different reasons.  Unlike what most people guess, it’s actually not usually from people who are trying to avoid foreclosure.  In reality, most land owners just have a piece of property that they really can’t use.  It’s also really difficult to sell most types of land, unless it’s something you focus on……like us!
Hi David, I think it has everything to do with the zoning of the property, and what the local municipality will allow you to do with it (given the size, shape, location, and what exactly you’re hoping to do with it). Once you have a specific property in mind, you could find out pretty easily by calling the local planning & zoning department. Just ask them what can be done with the property, and they should be able to give you your answer!
anyone interesting in commercial land on busy road? very close to i279 north of pittsburgh pa area and its permit allow to rebuild home or parking lot or something of business as well. last price value is 12 k but not sure what it is worth in value it is on 3856 east street... 15214... 2041 sq feet formerly warehouse was there and the land is cleared out... with fence...
Other options to consider are selling your land with owner financing which makes it easier for people to afford. Trying to find cash buyers can be difficult depending on your asking price and banks don't typically want to lend on vacant land. Also, if you have land you want to sell in a hurry and you'd like to get cash for it there are a number of wholesale land buyers that make be interested in making you a cash offer for your land.
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!
If you have plenty of time and are not in a hurry to sell the property, and would like to do very little work I would suggest listing it with a broker. They will be able to create a listing for the property, answer phone call and emails, and handle the closing. The downside of this approach is comes at a price and you typically only get local exposure and most real estate agents who deal with both land and homes will most likely put more effort into selling their homes as the commissions are greater.

You’ll want as much money as you can make as quickly as you can get it – but developers play a longer and broader game.  Land you sell may become one small part of their land bank in your locality and, if you’ve signed the wrong deal, you may find they never get planning permission for your land because they choose to promote one of their other local sites which looks an easier consent to win.


My question is how does the land being full of trees affect the value? We received an estimate of clearing 1 acre of land of trees (logging plus stump removal & grinding) of $17K with a potential timber profit of $11k. It seems that my realtor is under the impression that the land is worth more because off all of the timber. In our opinion, it is worth less with all of the work plus out of pocket costs to clear for building.
You can also try to contact a few local real estate agents in the area and ask them if they wouldn't mind driving by the property and snapping a few pictures when they have a chance. Most agents are regularly in the field anyway, and it isn't a huge ask for them to swing by your property and get some pictures (especially if you show an interest in using them for your future listings and/or paying them a few bucks for their trouble).
Hello Elizabeth, thanks for posting. LandInvestors is a great place for you to start. It is an incredibly valuable tool for newcomers (and old-timers alike) to bounce ideas off other (like-minded) investors, ask questions, share concepts, etc. It’s a remarkably symbiotic community that everyone gets a lot out of. This forum-based site should be the first place you go with questions, and Jack, Jill, myself, and the rest of our staff are on there often helping in addition to our whole community. There is a wealth of free information about selling properties on the site. The Cash Flow from Land Program is also a place that fully covers selling your property. Feel free to email us if you have any questions.
Today I had a land owner tell me to keep her property in mind, and that she would pay my fee if I sold her land. She said she did not want to list her land with an agent because the previous agent she used did not even bring her one offer during the time of their listing contract. That is understandable from her side, but the odds of me making that sell are pretty slim.
Hi, I found your blog via searching for help for a decision. I have two 10 Acre parcels with views of the Stanislaus Mountains in Northern California that are part of an 8 parcel development back in 2006 for $160k each (ouch) with the intention of building a home on one and the other as an investment. One has a well the other does not. There were two owners of the development that built right before the financial crises but no one has built since. I wanted to lower the property tax so I listed them each for $60k, not thinking I’d ever get an offer and since dirt is not selling in that area well, but low and behold within two weeks I received two offers on the parcel with the water well (one from a real estate agent/2nd from a neighbor behind the property). I’m not sure but I think both have different intentions for purchasing which doesn’t matter (you are able to grow marijuana in that county). Now I’m uncertain about selling since it was not my intention and I’d really like to recover my investment. Should I wait to see if land values rise to what I paid back then or should I take the money and run!? They both asked for owner financing. There is access to power and the development’s access is through a gated community. Any comments would be welcomed and appreciated. Thank you!
If an application is turned down, it is usually because access to the site is difficult or it adjoins a main road. The ideal building site has frontage on an existing road. As little as 30 ft to the side of your house can provide enough land for a new house, although permission is more likely to be given on tight plots if existing houses in the street are closely packed.
Great article. I’m having trouble finding information, as most of it is about buying and constructing right away. I’m looking for information on how to buy a rural piece of land 2-10 acres where I can camp on it for a couple of seasons to get the best site to build a little summer/fall shack to get away on the weekends. So I won’t be building right away, just ‘squatting’ on my own land for surveying purposes, see where the hottest/sunniest spots might be, etc. Do you have any advice on what regulations/restrictions I might come across? Is this a “depends on” on kind of thing, meaning, different counties/townships all might have different rules? Thanks again.
Selling lots is not like Field of Dreams, where “if you build it they will come.” You need to make sure there is a market for lots in your area and at a price that makes sense. Determine the size, layout and other requirements that are expected for new lots to be marketable. A good real estate agent with expertise in land can help you with this. You also may be able to get some advice from builders – reach out to the ones who are active in your geographic area and in the price range for new homes that would likely be built on your lots. Getting their input could be the key to successfully subdividing marketable lots.
Great information.. l just acquired a parcel of land on the coast with a beautiful ocean view. The city says it can be broken into three or maybe four lots. It has all at street , water sewer, electricity, etc. for one lot., lm to old to fool with it and needed some ideas of how to market it , pre Estate sale. Your list gives me lots of ideas, where l had none. Thank you so much….

I have an opportunity to buy 53 acres of recreational land. 9 of the acres is a pond and another 16 acres is CRP land. I was thinking about sub dividing these lots for a private campground. I currently own a single lot in a private campground about 70 acres and most lots are .18 ac that sells for $4000 each. I am looking to do the same as the owner did years ago, but with possibly my own piece of land. Without tipping off the owner on this opportunity, land for sale, what problems may I encounter, or unforseen costs will I run into?
Before getting started, check out a few sample ads for houses and you'll notice that they are emphasizing the benefits and amenities of the house. Don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle. Raw land is no different. Take a good look at what makes your land compelling. Mountain views? Water? Hunting? Recreational area? Good access? In the path of development? Trees? Then get out the thesaurus and use some colorful adjectives to describe the area and land. Of course, you will need a section for just the facts such as: elevation, access, terrain, deed conveyance, taxes, driving directions, GPS coordinates, sewer, water, utilities, mineral rights, etc. I like to use a simple table outlining all of the basic attributes and facts about the land. It is essential that the potential buyer have easy access to this basic information but it won't help sell the land. Your language and conviction about the area need to be conveyed to a potential buyer and that is what will sell the property. More information is always better than less. Once you have your content well laid out then you need to add images.
If a property doesn't have access to one or more of these staples of reasonable living, the property (for all intents and purposes) may not be considered build-able. After all, who would want to build a house where they can't flush the toilet or get access to clean water? If a property isn't build-able, you will lose a massive portion of the property’s usability, marketability and value. Since most people buy land with the intent building on it, you will definitely want to be aware of anything that could become an obstacle to that objective.
I’m not the best person to answer that, because I’m not a lawyer and I know very little about what your rights are – but I imagine it could be difficult to prove much without a signed contract. That being said, I’ve heard that there are potential claims on the grounds of “squatters rights“. If you’ve lived at the property for 20 years, there may be something worth exploring here.
You have to be careful, however, that the access road you create cannot also be used for subsequent developments in neighbours' gardens. Otherwise the developer, having bought your garden, will knock on your neighbours' doors and buy several back gardens. If this happens, Mr Noel said: "The access road beside your house, which you thought was only going to be used by a couple with one invalid carriage suddenly becomes the way into a development of 30 homes."
While often unpopular with locals, people who wish to cash in on their gardens get a lot of help from planning laws. According to Craig Noel of Strutt & Parker, it is becoming very difficult for planning authorities to resist applications to build houses in back gardens, thanks to one of the new planning guidelines, PPG3, which obliges houses to be built at higher densities in future.
A major issue that we see when people try to sell property to their friends is that they’ll cut breaks for their friends. Perhaps their friend doesn’t have the money, so they’ll allow for later payment while transferring the property to their friend. Always ensure that you are engaging in a business deal that is within your best interests. If your friend does not have the money to buy the land, have a contract written up with payment details and guidelines. Never trust someone blindly - this is a business deal and should be treated as one despite your friendship.
In order to determine the right buyer for your land, look at the highest and best use to determine where to start placing ads. If it is country land that is perfect for hunting, look for local outdoor forums and clubs to advertise your land. If it is a good home site, a land broker or traditional real estate agent may be best. You can also contact the neighbors, who may be interested in extending their property.

Just wanted to thank you for the help you provide to everyone here.I live in Europe and would like to buy a 2 acre to retired on a mobile or prefab cabin on it ,using the land as a small homestead but would you buy when you are not even in the states?I would use golook to check the property but Im scared or doing such a move.I found a 1acre owner finance and Im tempted.
Hi Victoria – you’d probably want to check with your local municipality to see who owns these parcels that surround the house (or you could also check out this tutorial or this tutorial to figure it out yourself). You generally don’t want to touch any trees that aren’t on the parcel that you own… but in terms of whether those surrounding parcels are “preserved woodlands” – that’s an answer you could probably get from someone with the local government office. Just Google the township or county clerk, give them a call and see what you can find out.

This whole subject always fascinates me, because it’s a pretty difficult question to answer. Even most appraisers don’t really know what they’re talking about when it comes to valuing land… a vacant lot’s true value is usually a very elusive number to nail down. You may want to see this blog post for more details on how I look at it: https://retipster.com/valueofland

Fortunately the lot is over 500 feet deep. The price reflects the known fact that the front erodes due to natural occurrence. I really love this lot but am scared that it might be too many loopholes and fees to deal with DEQ regulation because of the topography. Do you recommend walking away from this lot? It’s only $25000 and is less than 1/4 the cost of almost any other lot half its size anywhere else in the state.
4. eBay.com – Once our top selling venue, eBay is still a great place to advertise and gather buyers and drive them to your dedicated selling website. Cost to post property for a 30-day auction style sale, is a $50 insertion fee with a $35 notice fee when the auction ends. Other sale types are “buy-it-now”, which is a fixed price type with same fee structure. Think of eBay as; $50 per month worth of advertising to reach potential sellers.
Here are reasons why I believe an Exclusive Listing Agreement is better for the seller when it comes to selling land. (Let me preface all of these reasons with the assumption that you have researched prospective listing agents with experience in selling land and you are only going to deal with ones that appear to be qualified and have good reviews. For more explanation read, “Not All Agents are Competent About Land.”
We have been working with Land Century for almost a year now and have had a great experience! Land Century gets us more leads than any of our other marketing efforts. The people that contact us through their site are real and are interested in the land we are listing. Land Century has been easy to deal with and has always performed with integrity. We look forward to working with Land Century for many years to come!! Thanks Land Century!!
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