Once you get over about an acre in size and two or three lots, the complexity of the subdivision process can rise dramatically. The level of difficulty – and expertise needed — can be compounded if you have a site where lots will not front on an existing public road or where utilities and infrastructure must be built. This likely will require you to undergo municipal oversight (possibly even state or federal, for some situations) for the subdivision’s site design and layout, as well as construction of roads, utilities and other infrastructure. In this scenario, you basically are stretching the activity from simply subdividing a parcel to full-scale community and land development.
If you have created a land contract, youll also need a memorandum of land contract. This is, essentially, an abbreviated legal document that references the main contract created. This simply serves as a public notice that the buyer is interested in the property without you and the buyer having to disclose and record the entire land contract. Because the deed of the property will not be filed until youve received full payment on the purchase price indicated in the contract, this memorandum will be filed with the county and the city to serve as a record that the buyer is interested in the property.
Get Proper Tax Advice. This is an absolute, and again must be done early on in the procedure. Professional advice is needed to structure the transaction in the most tax efficient way, making the most of any reliefs and exemptions that may be available. Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance Tax, Value Added Tax and Stamp Duty Land Tax are all taxes which may need to be considered and planned. Many developers will want to certain that the seller has obtained professional tax advice before exchanging contracts.
I’m sure it could be done. I actually live in a subdivision that started exactly like how you’re describing back in the 70’s. I think it can be a pretty big speculative gamble unless you’re absolutely certain that there’s a huge demand for what you’re creating… but if you end up being right, you could easily make millions (depending on how big of a project you’re looking at).
I used BHW to draft up legal contracts for my business. They were highly professional and provided me with exactly what I needed and offered excellent advice throughout. The work was completed promptly and I was kept updated throughout the whole process. I would like to thank Michael Lam for being so approachable and accommodating. I would definitely recommend this firm and will be more than happy to use their services in the future!
Seth, I can definitely see how internet marketing would be extremely useful when selling your property. My wife and I have been planning on selling our house in order to move to a much more family friendly neighborhood. I think that we should consider finding finding a real estate agent that could help us to sell it exactly according to our desired asking price.
Usage restrictions aren't necessarily a bad thing – they almost always make sense on some level. They're designed to help maintain order and support the value of each property in the subdivision. On the same coin… if you aren't aware of these restrictions before you purchase, they can also create some conflict with the plans you had in mind for the property. This isn't common for most land investors (because most people have no intention of using their property for purposes that don't jive with their surroundings), but even so – you should always make sure you understand what the rules are BEFORE you buy a parcel of vacant land. This will help you avoid owning a property that requires maintenance you don't want to do, or that can't be used for your intended purpose.
Hi Seth – My brother-in-law and I are looking to get into real estate investing and have our eye on a piece of land (we want to start small, FYI). It is 1 of 8 lots, all of them are only 1,742 sq ft, for commercial use only, and the lot we are looking at is the end lot…My thought is, buy now and hold on to it for a length of time until a developer comes along and wants to buy all 8 lots. This would obviously need all sellers to agree to sell which I am not sure how tricky that would be. My question is, do you see any chance for money to be made here? The lot is in a great location and I honestly can’t believe nothing has been built there yet. More details: $16,500 for the lot, taxes are $1,087 / year which I know is a little high based on what you stated above but even so, after negotiations, I think we could get taxes down to 4%. I know it might be hard to say, ‘yes you will make money’ or ‘no, you won’t’ but just wanted any insight you could give.
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.
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've seen a number of properties that are virtually useless due to their size and shape. I remember on one occasion, I came across a parcel of land that was 5 feet wide and 900 feet long. I've also seen properties that were 10 feet by 10 feet. If you see a parcel of land with an odd shape, use your common sense. If you can't think of a legitimate use for a property with its given dimensions – you'll probably want to think twice before buying it.
Rezoning isn’t a quick process, and there are no guarantees. “Sometimes councils won’t rezone because the land is too fragmented and needs consolidation,” Coutts says. “It can easily take four to five years. Some landowners don’t have that time, so it can be a very daunting and upsetting process. You can see why they say ‘just sell it and let’s get out of here’. But if you can wait and manage the process effectively, the rewards can be considerable.”
Thank you very much for the write-up. I learnt quite a great deal, being a novice in real estate business. As a matter of fact I stumbled on your article while searching for information about possible investment opportunities on a piece of land. One of our client conferred a nine-hectar piece of land to us and we’re considering what investment would be appropriate on it. That’s what pushed me to start searching for things to do before investing on a piece of land, and I must confess that your article provided 95% of the answers. Thank you again. I guess I know how to go about it now, who to talk to and what to look for. In case you’d like to know where I’m writing from, I’m based in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon (Central Africa), a country so geographycally blessed with a long history of political stability and an accomodating business environment. If you happen to think of an investment opportunity in Africa put Cameroon on your priority list. Let’s keep in touch.
We hope this helps provide valuable insight for landowners about the pros, cons and items to evaluate when considering subdividing your land. Check back soon for our second article in this series about Subdividing Land: Tips for Landowners from a Developer, where we will describe some real world issues that we have seen in subdivision attempts. Plus, the third article in the series will provide hands-on details about the steps to take if you decide to subdivide your land into lots.
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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 you’re in a neighborhood where builders are particularly active, you may have already gotten a knock on the door or letter in mail asking if you’re interested in selling. Stanley says he receives many calls from sellers to bring his attention to a property as well. When it's the right kind of property, most builders are happy to make an offer on a home – often in cash – that makes the process simple, quick and free of commission paid to any real estate agents.
I make a commitment to my clients when I become their exclusive agent. I never list a property I do not intend to sell. Until a property sells I spend all of my own money in marketing and showing a tract. Agents cannot stay in business if we do not make money. I tell people that my children like to eat every single day, so I give my best effort to selling their property. That is an arrangement that benefits both the seller and the agent.
Consider your own needs when pricing, and understand how pricing could impact buyers’ interest. When selling real estate, you sometimes have to choose between getting the highest price and possibly selling quicker. Plus, your pricing may be influenced if you need to sell for financial reasons. In addition to your own situation, pricing your property ultimately requires an understanding of the land market as a whole, why people are buying lots or land in that area and who these people are. A good real estate agent with land expertise can help greatly in this process.