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.
With the Arizona housing prices climbing up to pre-crash levels and single family homes being snatched up by investors to flip or rent back to millennials, do you think buying raw land now is the best strategy ? In my opinion, the fact that its hard to generate income off of raw desert land many investors pass because there in no rate of return. Million dollar homes are within a few miles of these parcels I’m looking at and i can buy a 2.5-5 acre parcel below 250k. I want to park my money in land because i know this area is up and coming vs risking it in the stock market. I would sit on the land for 10-20 years before building. Am i crazy or just see something a lot of other investors are missing out on? Also, small washes on parcels are not a huge issue right? I avoid anything that falls in a flood plane
Alternatively, you could talk to the county health department about doing another perc test – just because it failed once doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible (though it is a fair indication that you won’t have much luck). You could also try investigating some alternative septic options, like building a mound septic system. I don’t have any experience with these, but it could be worth your while to investigate it further.
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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.
All four of these elements impact the value of your land dramatically.  We speak with hundreds of land owners each month who did not take some of these elements into consideration when they purchased and they have difficulty coming to grasp with the reality of the value of their land.  Each situation is very unique and the marketplace is not very forgiving at the moment.  Read the rest of this entry
I am currently listing a 10 acre piece of vacant land, which is zoned R-1, in Hesperia, California. The seller states the property can be zoned commercial. I spoke to the planning department and they stated it is zoned residential. My client is totally convinced they are wrong and it can be switched if someone pitches a commercial rezoning presentation. What is your take on this?
1. I never use loans when I buy vacant land, because I’m able to get my properties very, very cheap (and I’m only able to do this because I know where/how to find motivated sellers). Most banks won’t lend directly on land UNLESS you have an immediate plan to build on it – and this is why seller financing can be such a helpful tool when selling land (because most buyers will need it in order to do the transaction).
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.
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.
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.
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It’s an odd phenomenon, but believe it or not – there are thousands of properties all over the country that have no road access. They are surrounded on all sides by other private property – which (according to some) deems the land virtually useless. In a sense, these properties might as well be on the moon – because nobody can legally access the property.
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.
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.
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