Learn to evaluate the risks and rewards of subdividing land into residential lots. In this first of three articles on the subject, a developer and real estate lawyer provides landowners specific items to evaluate when considering whether or not to subdivide land. Come back for the next articles in this series that provide insights for landowners based on the author’s real world experiences with the subdivision process, as well as a hands-on description of the steps landowners should take when subdividing land.
Investors look for future potential. A priority would be to look at a municipal developmeant plan to see if the property is within a plan area. Personally, I would never invest in land that is not already under a municipal area structure plan. If you want to take a risk, you could look for land that was in the obvious path of development and be prepared to hold the land for a very long period of time.
Hi, Viz. That really is going to depend on your local laws and any possible restrictions related to the land, as well as the best size to make the new lots appealing to builders and home owners in your local market. You should get in touch with local real estate experts in your market, like a surveyor, attorney or real estate agent with lot and land expertise to help you better understand the local regulations and the most marketable lot sizes for your subdivision plans. Good luck!
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!
One of the most important first steps before subdividing your land or land you wish to buy is to make sure there are no restrictions that will block your plans. Everything from ordinances, neighborhood covenants to deed restrictions may prohibit – or fatally complicate – your plans. Review these items carefully, plus order a professional title review (typically through a real estate attorney) so that you can understand whether there are any deal killing issues that apply to the property and prevent subdividing.
"When you walk into a dealership you have a pretty good idea what you want to buy and what your budget is, whether it's $20,000 or $50,000," explains Veissi. "Some people walk out owning a car that they can't afford (and getting financing terms that are not favorable). Often that is because they bring emotion into the buy." In addition, you need to hire professionals with a good track record—an engineer, appraiser, realtor, and real estate attorney. You will avoid a lot of headaches once you start negations, he adds.
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.

When you sell land by yourself, this is called a private sale. So, you will need to find a private buyer. It may help you to talk with local farmers if you are looking to sell raw land; farmers have all kinds of experience in purchasing land for their crops. If you are selling your land on your own without the aid of a real estate agent, this next section is for you.

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.
In the right location, today’s seller’s market makes it so you could put your home on the market as-is and likely still receive interest. But if there’s a possibility you’re misdiagnosing your home as a desirable purchase for a teardown, you should think about preparing the home properly for the market, as minor updates and cleaning can go a long way. You could have your property appraised to see how it would likely fare compared to similar homes in your neighborhood, or consult a real estate agent to see if they expect more builder versus homebuyer interest.
The main problem you will be faced with when you go to sell land online is that you have to create an imaginary future for that land that the potential buyer will see and buy into. It is simply not enough to say “hey, I want to sell my land fast” you need to work with the buyer to create that vision of what the land can do for that potential new owner.
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.
To be honest, I actually had a hard time with this site at first. For some reason, it was automatically flag and removing all of my listings almost immediately after posting… which was a little problematic. I'm still not sure why it was doing this – but I'm guessing it was because my listings were all for vacant land, and these properties typically don't have a verifiable street address. That being said, if you can actually get your listings posted successfully – the ads do a good job of highlighting all the important details in a short amount of space.
Hi Colt, whenever I buy landlocked parcels, my offer is VERY low (because practically speaking, if nobody can access it, it might as well be on the moon – which isn’t all that useful UNLESS someone can obtain legal access). One way to prove that it’s landlocked would be to find a parcel map of the property – and I explain how to do that in this blog post: https://retipster.com/property-pictures

Very interesting read. I am looking at some desert land in both NV and AZ. They are between 40-80 acres each. My budget seems to afford places that either have an old well, or power at the lot line, but not both. Which utility do you feel is initially more critical to have of the two? I know adding a solar system or having power brought in is very cost prohibitive, so my thought was to go with the power on the lot. I figured I could always have water trucked in and stored in a tank since the properties are easily 2WD road accessible. I figure that buying property with an old well may be worthless and not worth the price increase of the property. And I have been reading that drilling a well is a gamble. Thanks in advance for some insight.
After 10 years in the rental business industry, my husband and I opted to sell off our properties. We sold two through land contracts and another through a traditional mortgage sale. Though the steady monthly income was reliable, we opted to sell our larger note to pay down debt and free up our monthly budget. After testing the waters with 5 different firms across the nation, we selected to use First National Acceptance Company. Our agent was Richard Nzokou. Richard provided the best information with the most clarity on the process of selling our note. The offer and closing value were very fair. Richard kept a close eye on our sale through the approval process and kept me informed every day. I highly recommend this company and encourage you to work with Richard.read more
It is not unknown for restrictive covenants to ban, for example, the keeping of dogs at a property, though the more restrictive covenants you put on a plot, the more they affects the price you will receive. As a rule of thumb, developers expect to pay one third of the value of the finished development for the plot. So, if a £150,000 house can be squeezed into your back garden, you should think in terms of receiving £50,000.
I just purchased 5 acres in a rural setting for half the assessed value (the assessment seems a bit high) as an investment. The advice I’ve received to increase the value is have it surveyed, sub-divided into 2 lots, and get a perk test done for both lots. Does this make sense to you? What about others ways to increase the value, such as putting in a gravel drive, running electric, or wells? It has good road frontage, and utilities are at least at the corner of the property.
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.)
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.

I am looking at a property in Spanish Fort, Alabama. The neighborhood development began prior to the 2008 crash and sat for years. A house has started being built on a lot in 2013. A crack formed in the foundation of the house, and a stop work was ordered by the city. At this point my thought was to buy the property, scrap the house (its still sitting in the beginning stages after 3 years) and start over. The property now has made a mess in the neighbors yard for a over two years. 1) can the run off problem be fixed (its a huge mess) 2) how can a person get copies of photos (topography) of the property before the development started by the builders? These copies would have been from around 2006. I heard seeing the natural lay of the land could be very important when deciding if this run off problem is fixable. Thanks you for any help you can offer. I am just fearful of purchasing a huge nightmare that can’t be fixed.
In the very least, your land contract should include the address of the property and a full legal description of the land. It should also include the down payment amount, purchase price, the number of payments that will be made, the monthly payment amounts, and any balloon payments that may be required. You may also consider creating and attaching an amortization schedule.

I am looking at 95 acre property for hunting and camping listed at $132k in southerm PA, property will be timbered before sold and closest electric pole is approx 1/3 mile away from where i would build small cabin. I could use a generator since cost to run power would not be feasible. I am still interested but think the asking price is to much since this is not really a buildable property and has limited market value. typical buildable property with electric access is approx $2k an acre in the area. What should I offer? I was thinking possibly 95K?
You will need to advertise an email address and phone number for people to contact you so you can field additional questions about the property. Most often, people will want to know if the property is free and clear of any liens or encumbrances including back taxes. They will want to know if there are any other closing costs, Home Owner Association Fees and other details regarding the property. Always be direct when dealing with your customers. If you don't know the answer simply say you don't know and that you'll find out or direct them to the appropriate resource. Typically a surveyor or the local county can help them with what they are looking for.
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.
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!
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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
Advice: One of the added benefits of hiring this agent is that they can advise you on much more than just the price of your land. A true professional will have a network of individuals that can help you with anything from tax planning to pond building. An experienced agent can tell you what is possible. They may know many things that can save or make you money during your transaction. Most of the time a good agent will help you net more money from selling your property than you can get on your own.
i am very confused on what to do. i have 2 lots in the 100yr floodplain with up todate septics and electrical poles. i have rented 2 spaces in the pass for 250 each. However i am allowed to put 2 mobile homes per the permit office. i can rent each home for appox 800 a month. the land is paid for and very low taxes. or i can sell the propery on owner finance for 55,ooo, the property does have a creek behind it and the creek is a floodway. the total land is approx 1.63 acreas. should i sale the property since. its in a floodzone or put the mobile homes and have a good rental income. what would u do. would u even rent in a flood zone. thank you, please respone for 2 months i have been undecided on what o do.
Great article. This is actually the first time I am learning about all of this. I bought my first property (that I currently live in) in 2012 and I am interested in investing in more property and generating passive income. My question is, once the property is purchased how do you ensure that it sells? I’m assuming that the only way to generate income from vacant land is for someone to build property on your land. If there is no interest in that land it could possibly turn into a loss.
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I just purchased 5 acres in a rural setting for half the assessed value (the assessment seems a bit high) as an investment. The advice I’ve received to increase the value is have it surveyed, sub-divided into 2 lots, and get a perk test done for both lots. Does this make sense to you? What about others ways to increase the value, such as putting in a gravel drive, running electric, or wells? It has good road frontage, and utilities are at least at the corner of the property.
I am considering buying a quarter acre, to build a house for my retirement in a few years. I have never bought land before but it is in an area that will definitely increase in value over the next few years so I want to lock it down now and build the house I want later, rather than purchase a home and make payments in addition to my current home. Thanks for the tips on how to assess, my question is whether I should use a realtor and/or get a property appraisal. I will probably pay cash for the land. Thanks much!
I am searching for land also. I would like it to have a septic and well. I have been using zillow and landwatch.com. I have tried reaching out to real estate agents for help but they haven’t been very helpful. I was wondering would you be able to share how you find this property with elec, well and septic? Was it posted online or through a real estate agent, etc?
Tenants. Informal arrangements with tenants can also pose a problem when it comes to selling. If you let any buildings to business tenants they should be on proper leases which are contracted out of the security of tenure provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Any residential tenants should be on Assured Shorthold Tenancies. For agricultural tenants, make sure they are on licences if appropriate or Farm Business Tenancies under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995. Bear in mind the long notice periods and that compensation may also be due for these tenants. Agricultural tenancies that were granted before 1 September 1995 are likely to have lifetime security of tenure and if they predate 12 July 1984, successors can also be named by the tenant so that up to three generations can farm the same land. Compensation will also be payable on termination for any tenant improvements to the land. Again, it will help to have all the paperwork accessible and to hand.
For most commercial properties, the best way to do this is by ordering a “Phase I Environmental Report” (many banks will automatically require this because it affects their collateral). This report will identify if there are any “Recognized Environmental Concerns” (RECs) on the property that you need to worry about. If you neglect to do any environmental due diligence, the liability for any existing environmental contamination on the property could ultimately fall on your shoulders – making it very difficult and expensive to sell the property in the future.

4. eBay.com – Once our top selling venue, eBay is still a great place to advertise and gather buyers and drive them to your dedicated selling website. Cost to post property for a 30-day auction style sale, is a $50 insertion fee with a $35 notice fee when the auction ends. Other sale types are “buy-it-now”, which is a fixed price type with same fee structure. Think of eBay as; $50 per month worth of advertising to reach potential sellers.
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