Gerard Coutts is a project management and development strategist who brings together landowners, developers, investors and industry professionals to maximise the potential of a subdivision opportunity. He says the first step for the vendor is to determine whether their property lies within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) – those areas designated for higher density living.
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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).
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Even if you’ve confirmed that there are no restrictions that forbid subdividing the land (or make it unfeasible), you and your experts also should research the local zoning, subdivision and development laws so that you can understand the layout and size limitations for your planned lots. Each county, city or other authority will have its own regulations that describe important items like current zoning requirements, minimum lot widths, setbacks (front, rear and side), buffers, building heights, required open space and other significant details that affect the size and layout of your lots.
Writing a legally enforceable contract for sale with your buyer means spelling out any contingencies like the buyer obtaining financing if needed and doing due diligence to ensure the property suits intended needs. Look online to review real estate land contracts for your state to ensure that you don't overlook crucial factors. Processing the sale through an escrow at a title company will ensure that there are no liens or other claims to the deed that could cause problems down the road. Title companies also make sure that all legal details are in order, all documents are properly prepared and signed and the deed is officially recorded.

Environmental issues. Contaminated land is what springs to mind when environmental issues are mentioned, but in this scenario, what is most likely are potential flooding or drainage problems. A history of flooding or waterlogging is clearly not going to be welcome news for a developer, but equally if the land has been used for potentially contaminative uses in the past or is near to sources of contamination, remember that remedying any actual contamination is costly and will significantly affect the value of the land. Any past surveys or reports that have been carried out should be to hand if required.


With the Arizona housing prices climbing up to pre-crash levels and single family homes being snatched up by investors to flip or rent back to millennials, do you think buying raw land now is the best strategy ? In my opinion, the fact that its hard to generate income off of raw desert land many investors pass because there in no rate of return. Million dollar homes are within a few miles of these parcels I’m looking at and i can buy a 2.5-5 acre parcel below 250k. I want to park my money in land because i know this area is up and coming vs risking it in the stock market. I would sit on the land for 10-20 years before building. Am i crazy or just see something a lot of other investors are missing out on? Also, small washes on parcels are not a huge issue right? I avoid anything that falls in a flood plane


Thanks so much for this article! I’ve run into a unique situation, where we found an amazing historic house that we’d like to restore, but it is currently listed as a vacant lot for sell with a shell house on it, rather than the house itself being listed. We know it’s not in a flood plain, the deed is unrestricted, and the home appears to have been lived in within the last 30 years so there is electric, heating, and plumbing. Any suggestions on potential issues we should be asking about before we jump in? We’ve never looked at land before, so we’re a bit overwhelmed by how much more complicated it appears to be vs buying a house.


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
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.
Especially when I'm buying vacant land out-of-state, my first line of business is to understand the topography of the property. There are many, many places around the world that have very unpredictable elevations, cliffs, mountains, valleys, ravines and more. In many cases, the topography of the land can have a huge impact on the build-ability of a property. For the same reasons you can't build a house on 90-degree cliff, you should be doing some preliminary research to find out where your property is located, and what the lay of the land is.

The modern real estate housing market fluctuates on a daily basis. While houses typically sell quickly, most vacant land parcels are stagnant and can be difficult to sell. Land owners can find it nearly impossible to sell their land. You will more than likely have possession of your property for a long time and continue to pay the real estate taxes while you own it.
On those notes, pay attention to who you’re likely buyer will be, and seek out those people. If the land is zoned for commercial businesses, make entrepreneurs and existing business owners your target audience. A real estate agent who is selling a flat property that gets a lot of sunshine may want to reach out to energy companies who are looking to build solar arrays.
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On the surface, it seems like such a simple creature – but there can be A LOT of potential problems lurking beneath the surface of any piece of land. I wouldn't necessarily say all these issues are common, but the fact is – any one of these things could potentially be a deal killer if not addressed properly. When you take it all into consideration, it adds up to a sizable list of things that ought to be investigated as part of your due diligence process.
In terms of an investment – I only buy land when I’m getting it for FAR below market value (which basically guarantees that I’ll be able to sell it some day for more than I paid for it)… and it doesn’t sound like that’s necessarily what’s happening here. If you think you’d be able to use it for something that would increase the overall value of your current property, then it may make sense… but if not, then it may not make the most sense from an investment standpoint.
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.
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.
I read your email and on your website almost everyday. New at this . Bought few lot in PA . Sold some @ EBay. Most challenging part is to sell land fast @ reasonable price . Your “50 Creative Ideas To Sell Your Property FAST ” really opened up new frontier for me . Tried few of them daily basis. Hope to try all of them soon. Is there any one works for you better than other ? Thanks for all help and ideas. Hope to join your mentoring program once I sell few more lot / land .
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).
Just like you'd stage a home, you want the vacant land to show at its best. A lot overgrown with weeds is going to look less desirable in the eyes of a potential buyer than a lot that's apparently cared-for. Professionally trim trees, mow grass, remove weeds and perhaps plant wildflowers to show the property at its best. Visit the property weekly – or hire someone to do so – to remove windblown trash, beer cans, fire rings or anything else that might detract from its curb appeal.

You mentioned that the adjacent development already is “underway” and that the developer recently sold 92 lots. This makes me wonder why the developer would be coming to you now about roadway frontage for a turn lane. Usually the road improvement plan is in place prior to the subdivision being formally approved and recorded and the developer secures rights to all of the land it needs for turn lanes in advance. The existence of lots in this development suggests that the road plans already should be approved. Get information from your local planning or subdivision department (as applicable, or possibly the DOT) and see if you can find the plans for offsite road improvements for this subdivision. It’s possible that there was a lapse in the planning process — or that the original roadway improvement plans have expired if the project was abandoned during the downturn — and the need for land for a turn lane has recently come to light. Do your research to understand the facts.
Amazing and brilliant ideas and really thanks for sharing them, I will join a new property management company next month as sales manager and they have around 790 units for sale from villas to an Appartments and this field is so new to me and I know it will be a big challenge since the market is down and economic situation is not that much good, your ideas helps me a lot and would appreciate if you or any other would share another smart ideas of how to reach buyers and how to manage my team in my first month so I will take the lead
And last but not least, you can advertise it for sale online. Three sites that I recommend, especially if you need to sell your land fast, are Bid4Assets.com, eBay, and Craigslist.org. The internet should be your medium of choice for those of you who are selling land that is located in very secluded and isolated areas of the country, far removed from civilization, since there won’t be any people nearby to see your “for sale” sign.
Although the process of selling land is less complex than selling a piece of property with a home, this is still a process that requires the help of a professional. Real estate laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to work with an experienced real estate attorney when selling your land. The help of a professional becomes even more important if you’re creating a land contract.
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
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