Pricing land can be trickier when compared to pricing a home.  Developed lots in communities may have a clear “market” price based on the recent sale of similar lots. Raw land, however, may have fewer “comparable” sales to use in determining your price. In addition, the price you ultimately can attract for a singular lot or undeveloped land can vary greatly depending on the buyer’s intended use of the property. For example, if a buyer feels that your acreage is appropriate for a high-end home development it likely will bring a higher price per acre than if a buyer only intends to build a single home on it.


Double check ad data for any property you’re considering; they’re often full of mistakes – not necessarily misleading information, but it comes from laziness. What doesn’t help is that when a listing first gets posted, apparently nearly all real estate websites post it as their own without checking it for accuracy. For example, we’re considering a property that has multiple issues:

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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.
I’m learning the hard way about the hidden costs of buying empty land. Unless utilities are already there, it can be VERY expensive to run them from the street to the building site. For example, one parcel we looked at was about 1000′ feet off the main road where utilities are located. To run city water, gas, electricity, and cable could run anywhere from $10-100 per foot! Multiply that by 1000 and I better understand why developers say that they spend the same on running utilities as they do on the land. It may cause us to reevaluate our goals and possibly shift to buying a property that already has a rundown home on it.
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.
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
If an application is turned down, it is usually because access to the site is difficult or it adjoins a main road. The ideal building site has frontage on an existing road. As little as 30 ft to the side of your house can provide enough land for a new house, although permission is more likely to be given on tight plots if existing houses in the street are closely packed.
First, find experienced professional advisers. Arranging the deal yourself to avoid fees is almost certainly a false economy. An experienced agent, a solicitor and importantly, an accountant, are all essential before any sale negotiations are begun. Developers will have strict criteria for the land they wish to purchase in order to maximise their own profits, so obtaining the correct advice at the start will help ensure you can offer land for sale in the most appealing way to the developer and lucrative way for yourself.
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).
The best place to list free classified ads these days is craigslist.org and backpage.com These are simple no-nonsense interface sites where you can list the property price, description and add images. The big drawback is you have to continue to edit and update your listing to stay on top of the listing system otherwise it will be more difficult for buyers to find you. You can learn more about how to do this through basic Google searches.
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If you truly are in a hot area, which it sounds, your land has already been researched and investigated and deemed not to be desirable to the surrounding developers. A one acre parcel in the realm of larger subdivisions going in is only desirable if it's IN THE WAY, or if your house is an eyesore that will affect the marketing of the bigger development (which I'm guessing your house is not an eyesore).
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When you are buying and selling lots and land, working directly is often the best way to go. Agents don’t typically put in the time or energy that they’d put into a selling a house. Comparatively, the commissions are low, and the land market is slow. When a parcel is listed on the MLS, the price is often inflated to cover commissions and other fees that will offset the seller’s profit. Typically there is less money and less effort put into marketing a piece of land, so it ends up sitting there, with the price being slashed time and time again.
Know what the land is zoned for. From the beginning, you need to have a clear understanding of what this land is zoned for. You don’t want to discourage buyers by keeping them waiting until you have the answer, and you definitely don’t want to mislead a buyer with incorrect information. It’s better to be honest and then refer the buyer to information about changing land classifications and zoning exemptions.
Even though you hope to sell that land fast or to sell that land online you will still want to ensure that you have a sign or two made and placed in a prominent spot on the land in question. This way anyone driving past the land will be able to see that the property is for sale and can get a hold of you in the easiest way possible. This especially true when you want to sell land by owner as you may not have to ability to reach as many potential buyers as a property listed in the Real Estate databases, you need to in effect create your own marketing and having a sign will help to advertise when you want to sell land fast.

Contact the owners of surrounding parcels of land to determine if they want to buy it. Sometimes, a land owner will want to increase the size of her holdings. If your land has access to a road, water or another valuable feature, it can be particularly valuable to a neighbor whose land doesn't have that attribute. Your neighbors are also familiar with your land, the area and its prospects, so they should be able to decide more quickly than someone who comes into the area cold.
Keep in mind, using the Wetlands Mapper and/or the Web Soil Survey is NOT the same thing as hiring a wetlands consultant and/or having the USACE do a delineation on your property (so realize, there are no guarantees with this approach). However, if you're just looking for an educated guess, both of these online tools can be used as a starting point.
My husband and I have a lot of land that we don’t need, so we have decided that we should sell it. We are very busy with work and our family, so I like the idea of selling it in a way that won’t take a lot of time. I like the idea you give of auctioning off the land because we will be able to find people that are wanting to buy real estate quickly. I imagine that it would be a good idea to look for a real estate company to help us do this so that it all goes smoothly. Thanks for the idea!
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.
You always have the option of selling your land through a professional which is your real estate agent. There are some significant benefits to doing this when you are looking for a quick sale. These experts have the training and expertise for selling property. They also have a large database of potential buyers. Then they have ready access to many more forms of marketing that you as a private seller may not have. This includes selling through the internet. Most have high profile sites set up that draws traffic from interested buyers. If you are attempting to sell your property online you probably don’t have this same outreach.
An open listing generally brings the same result to a landowner. If you engage several agents to help you sell your property, then no one is responsible for marketing and selling your property. By making it open to everyone, you essentially make it for no one. Why would an agent spend money advertising a property that they have no reasonable guarantee that will produce a return on their investment? When they do, sellers often get the impression that the agent has nothing to offer and is not effective. Good agents will not do that as a standard practice.
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We are an established Real Estate Firm looking to buy Raw Land in your area for short term and long term investment purposes.  We have many highly satisfied clients who were glad to get CASH rather than have the burden or liability of property ownership. Many of these clients had plans for their property when they initially purchased it, but with time and circumstance…these plans changed.
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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