If you find items during your review that may be problematic, you and your attorney should evaluate them carefully to find a solution, or see if you are able to get title insurance that provides specific coverage to protect you and ultimately your buyers. But never ignore a tricky restriction or convince yourself that it won’t be a problem. Beware, even the pros can get into trouble if they become too wedded to their grand plans. You may get away with bypassing restrictions for a while, but doing so can cost you down the road – especially when trying to sell or finance the property. We’ll describe more of these real-world risks in the second article.
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.
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.
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I might add that in some development-friendly communities, the city and developer might try to play the eminent domain (condemnation) card. Ostensibly, eminent domain should be used only in the exercise of public good such as a new highway or road widening, though some cities get away with it in dubious circumstances. Your agent should know whether this could be an issue. Such a scenario, as unlikely as it is, would probably force you to hire a lawyer to get a decent price.
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.
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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.
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Thanks Ann! I’m so glad you got some good value out of it. I think you’re probably on the right track in getting outside help with the zoning details – that can be quite a confusing area if you don’t have any prior experience with it. If you have a builder in mind, you may want to get them involved on the front end too – as they will be able to point out most of the important details you’ll want to evaluate before they’re able to start building (even if you don’t plan to build for a while, they’re still great for some free consulting if they’re expecting to help you at some future date).
My only real complaint with Zillow is with their video feature. While I'm certainly glad they provide ANY options to add video (unlike most of the free listing sites I've come across), I'm not a huge fan of their 2-minute self-shot video option. It's not easy to show a property in it's best light in under 2 minutes and/or by only using the camera in your pocket. It's unfortunate that they don't offer the ability to upload or embed a higher-quality, better-produced video. If they added this option, it would be a MAJOR improvement to their FSBO listing platform.
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 land is usually a more complicated process than selling improved property. When you sell a property with a building, its use and value is established by the building on it. Before buying unimproved land, most buyers want to investigate what they can do with it to determine what it's worth. At the same time, the buyer pool for land is usually smaller than the buyer pool for improved property. With this in mind, selling land quickly requires unique strategies.
The hard part, however, is getting your neighbours on board if that’s what you’d like to do. Offering a developer a larger parcel of land can be more profitable for them, and therefore more lucrative for you. This will require negotiations and time, possibly between yourself and your neighbours or between your agent and the neighbours. Be prepared that not everyone else will want to sell, even if there’s a big payout promised. Make sure that the extra effort will be worth the final sales result by comparing an estimated selling price for your home with what your portion of the sale will be if you sell to a developer.
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.
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Seek a veteran agent who is experienced in land valuation and who understands the implications of location, zoning regulations and parcel size. These are more prevalent at larger brokerage houses. You’ll want the agent to determine what the other neighborhood homes that have been scooped up by developers are fetching and what type of development is planned for your tract. These little nuggets will help you establish a price baseline.
Once you provide us with a few basic pieces of information, using our simple and easy to use Sell My Land Form, we will automatically receive a copy of that information and begin our review process. Using a mixture of county assessment information, recent local sales data, and research on comparable land properties in the area, we will determine what we’d be able to offer you for your land.