This is one of many reasons why people buy title insurance when they purchase a property, because it ensures that the title is clear and that the buyer is actually getting all of the rights they’re expecting to get (unless otherwise noted in the title insurance commitment). If you’re concerned about this and you haven’t already ordered a title commitment, you might want to consider doing this.
In most cases, rural land owners should enlist the help of a professional land agent in selling their properties. Unless they have a lot of experience or it is a slam-dunk deal, the seller will benefit from having an agent on their team. In fact, most serious land investors have at least one agent that they go to for finding deals or making sales. Take a cue from sophisticated land investors and enlist the help of a true land sales professional to market and sell your rural land. You will be glad you did.
Very good question, Trevor. We plan to do a blog article on this subject soon. You are pretty much on the mark with your example of 25% of the final to-be-built home’s value as a rough guide to a lot’s value. You’ll see that some markets use different valuations (even within the same city or region), but in many markets an estimation of the value of the lot generally can range from around 20% of the home value (for more rural or lower price point homes) up to around 30% or more (often for higher end communities or for urban/infill areas with less lot supply and higher home prices). Of course for some lots/properties these rules simply don’t apply, like oceanfront lots or land with other unique characteristics.
If you are dealing with a single lot being subdivided into two or three residential lots, you may be able to handle this by working with a few real estate professionals that will help you in the process. Be thorough during your due diligence and planning so you can evaluate whether subdividing is feasible and makes financial sense. (More on this in a minute.)
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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).
Promotion Agreements. Agreements of this type are arguably now more popular amongst developers than traditional option agreements. They allow the promoter, often a developer or specialist planning consultant, to apply for and obtain planning permission at their own cost. Once planning consent is obtained, the landowner must sell and the promoter receives their fee out of the proceeds. BHW has produced a detailed article on this type of agreement. Landowners will need to negotiate to protect their interests under these agreements and specialist advice is essential. One of the points to consider is how long you are prepared to be tied into such an agreement.
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.
Market for Land is Less Active – The market for existing homes is almost always more vibrant than the land market. There simply are fewer numbers of buyers for vacant land than consumers looking for homes. Start marketing a new home listing and a new lot listing when both are desirable and priced well, and you generally can expect fewer contacts about the new lot listing.