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.
There are hundreds of millions of people passing through this site each month (with many of them coming from syndicated outlets like AOL, Yahoo, Trulia and more) and most of them are there with the sole purpose of looking for real estate to buy and rent. It's also worth noting that many buyers start their search with Zillow (instead of looking only at their local MLS listings), so it's a great way to gain exposure to a massive (and targeted) audience at no cost.
If either of these things are inhibited, it wouldn’t be highly unlikely that the land can be secured in the way you describe. In a free market, the seller can (and usually will) sell to whoever is offering the best deal at the right time – so if the developer can’t be competitive in this way, it boils down to the old saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers”.
Land Agents have Expertise: True land professionals know how to price and market properties effectively. Any agent you are hiring should be able to clearly articulate their strategy for selling your property. A good agent will employ multiple prongs for engaging prospective buyers, including advertising in print media (when appropriate), on the internet in key places people look for your type of property, and other avenues such as signage or word-of-mouth. Good agents have a proven formula for attracting the attention of quality buyers. I have my own multi-point system that I use for each listing that generates results.
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.
Like most free listing sites, the format isn't necessarily optimized for vacant land properties (like the kinds I typically sell), but it's certainly possible to work within the parameters they give you (Pro Tip: On the first step when they ask for an address… you can also enter in the GPS coordinates of your property, in case it doesn't have a registered address yet).
Settle on a price that is acceptable to both parties. But don’t exceed the price you initially set as your maximum amount to pay. No property is worth paying more than you can afford. "Decide what a transaction is worth to you. A property may be worth more in value to you than the actual appraisal. Take the emotion out of it and deal with it in terms of dollars and sense," confers King. And, "don't be afraid to walk away from a deal, just do so with a handshake and a smile and do not burn that bridge."
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.
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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.
Hi Seth – very helpful blog indeed. I have recently been given the opportunity to buy the 6-acre wooded lot, zoned residential, that adjoins my already-owned 3-acre lot for $64k. I know the terrain of the 6-acres quite well as I’ve had to chase my dogs all through it when they get loose. On the back end is a power line right-of-way, so certainly nothing will be built behind it. It does have a site cleared for up to a 4-bedroom home, a “proposed” well location, and although the site will not perk, the seller has an off-site discharge permit issued from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for a sewage disposal system. The owner will finance, with $998 down payment and $688/mo for 10 years, but that comes out to a LOT of money for 6 acres so I would likely come up with 40 percent down on my own, and pay off the rest with a personal, lower-interest loan. My concerns when it comes to land, especially as an investment: would the monthly payment for the land not be better spent to pay down my existing mortgage? Or, would the monthly payment for the land not be better invested in something with a higher rate of return? Of course, from a diversification standpoint the land may make perfect sense. I live (and the land is located) in an area mid-way between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA – – – an area that is growing like mad. I have a tough time believing that in the 15 years I have left until I retire I would LOSE money on the investment. And unlike a 401k or an IRA, which can disappear overnight should an economy tank, land will never be totally worthless. I would not actually DO anything with the land (aside from perhaps harvesting some firewood) other than to HOLD it for 15 years until I retire and leave this area.

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!

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.
The gross value figure per acre that the land is worth once it has planning consent in your locality.  This is normally referred to as ‘the headline price.’  Developers generally make deductions of up to 10-15% to the headline price to cover the costs of their efforts to secure consent.  It’s very rare indeed for a developer to offer a landowner 100% of the headline price!
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.
Hi Tracy – have you considered looking for properties that aren’t currently listed for sale? That’s how I find all of my properties (and this is something most Realtors won’t be able to help you with, because most of them are only looking at the properties currently listed on the MLS). I find these properties by sending out a direct mail campaign to the delinquent tax list in counties that are RURAL.
This is fraught with problems due to human fallibility. As long as you and your neighbor(s) get along great, everything’s fine, but there are about a million ways for it to go wrong. If he get’s pissed off at you, your water goes off. If he dies and stops paying the electric (pump) bill, your water goes off. If he decides to fill his private lake and uses up all the water, your water goes off. What if it was originally his well, you move in, then a month later says the well has to be redone – are you paying for half of his expenses enough though you just got there? If you refuse, your water goes off. The possibilities go on and on… so keep it in mind.
Rule #18: Before traveling to view a promising parcel, check the county assessor’s website using the parcel number. Some are VERY helpful, containing all sorts of information such as what areas are known for landslides, flooding, wetland/buffer areas, contamination, noxious weeds, etc. The sites also give past purchase pricing and tax information, and sometimes even if there’s been “issues” with the land (such as a previous owner building unapproved structures which they may have had to tear down, leaving a foundation for you to deal with).
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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!
If you feel that you have been a victim of real estate fraud, there are many resources available for you as the victim. Your first step is to contact the local District Attorney’s office and report the incident. Our office will stand by you and provide any relevant information to support your claim. Here are additional agencies that can assist you and provide more resources:
This has got to be one of best articles out there about land investment. Thank you so much for the advises. I live in San Jose, CA and I am also looking into buying land myself to build a residential home on. I’m somewhat skeptical about it as i’m very new to this whole process and afraid i might be stuck on a parcel that is not build-able or would cost too much to develop. The parcel i’m looking at is currently zoned “commercial”, however, the surrounding area is heavily residential so i wonder if this was a city’s mistake. To avoid troubles down the road, I plan to hire a professional for all the permitting and developing advises/estimate (if you know anyone in the Bay Area that provides this type of service, could you please refer?) but I just don’t know how much i can completely close my eyes and just sign wherever i was told by the professional. Any advise will be much appreciated.
But do not — and I repeat — do not try selling directly to a developer/builder. These folks, when dealing directly with a property seller, will base their typically lowball offers on a “fair market value” determined by appraisers they hire, who are typically agenda-led cronies. Such offers will almost certainly not take into account the recent increase in land values that all this upscale multi-tenant development is creating.
Additionally, the land contract should indicate how many payments will be made, their due dates, grace periods (if applicable), fees for late payments, and how the buyer should deliver each payment. Under a land contract, buyers are usually treated just like a property owner, and will be responsible for paying property taxes, insurance, and any utility bills associated with the land use.
Whether you are working with a real estate agent or not, we absolutely encourage you or your agent to target your marketing to the right types of buyers. Adding a development parcel or lots to a general real estate listing site, or even MLS, just doesn’t get your property the exposure you would want to builders, developers, investors that are actually looking to buy this type of property.

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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