My grandmother is thinking of selling me her lakefront parcel that has been sitting for 40 years. My wife and I have recently began to look into real-estate investment homes but think we might want to go this rout instead. My question is how you generally attract people out to land that is rural ( no airport within an hour rural)? And do you recommend any websites, companies, or law firms that can help us build a house on the site from scratch purchase laws. We are also looking into premade cabin homes.
If a property doesn't have access to one or more of these staples of reasonable living, the property (for all intents and purposes) may not be considered build-able. After all, who would want to build a house where they can't flush the toilet or get access to clean water? If a property isn't build-able, you will lose a massive portion of the property’s usability, marketability and value. Since most people buy land with the intent building on it, you will definitely want to be aware of anything that could become an obstacle to that objective.
Thanks for the article Seth. Very informative. Vacant land is one of those types of property I’m coming across in my search for good deals on houses. I’ve been a little brave offering people a cash offer for their lot. Only to find out later the parcel has a myriad of challenges. (Most of which could be dealt with-time and money, but still not worth it). Thankfully nobody took the deals yet. I have learned a lot and gained more understanding. I am closer to getting raw land at a great price that is build-able! Articles like yours, helps guys like me, stay focused and saved from troubles! As we know the bigger the challenges and unknowns the higher the risk-and the payday. Tread carefully.
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).
My question is how does the land being full of trees affect the value? We received an estimate of clearing 1 acre of land of trees (logging plus stump removal & grinding) of $17K with a potential timber profit of $11k. It seems that my realtor is under the impression that the land is worth more because off all of the timber. In our opinion, it is worth less with all of the work plus out of pocket costs to clear for building.
Also note that many landowners think they “own” all of the land along the roadway in front of their property, but often that land along the existing pavement is owned by the local government or DOT as part of the public right-of-way. Mailboxes, landscaping, fences and walls often are built in the right-of-way, but will need to be removed or relocated for road improvements. Confirm with a survey where your property line actually ends along the right-of-way.

Sell your land to a speculative investor. Many areas have investors that will buy just about anything as long as it is cheap enough. These investors can close quickly, but will frequently offer you a very low price for your land. That's how they're able to move so fast -- they're getting a great deal. Investors usually won't require you to finance the land for them.


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 would appreciate your opinion about my situation. When I purchased my home on 5 acres twelve years ago, the builder included two acres at no additional charge. Both the 2 acre and 5 acre parcels are adjacent to each other. So, I have two properties with two tax bills. In the future, I plan to obtain a reverse mortgage, so I would like to maximize the value of my home by combining both parcels into one larger 7 acre parcel.
2. The answer to this question depends entirely on the property, how much timber is on it, and how much money you can get from the sale of the timber. If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to sell the timber for more than you paid for the property itself (however, I would say this is more the exception than the rule). You might want to check out this article for some more insights if you haven’t already.
In terms of an investment – I only buy land when I’m getting it for FAR below market value (which basically guarantees that I’ll be able to sell it some day for more than I paid for it)… and it doesn’t sound like that’s necessarily what’s happening here. If you think you’d be able to use it for something that would increase the overall value of your current property, then it may make sense… but if not, then it may not make the most sense from an investment standpoint.

Today I had a land owner tell me to keep her property in mind, and that she would pay my fee if I sold her land. She said she did not want to list her land with an agent because the previous agent she used did not even bring her one offer during the time of their listing contract. That is understandable from her side, but the odds of me making that sell are pretty slim.
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.
2. The answer to this question depends entirely on the property, how much timber is on it, and how much money you can get from the sale of the timber. If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to sell the timber for more than you paid for the property itself (however, I would say this is more the exception than the rule). You might want to check out this article for some more insights if you haven’t already.
These are the questions I ask myself before I buy any piece of vacant land. This isn't intended to be an all-inclusive list of EVERY possible issue you could ever encounter, but I’d say it covers about 95% of the potential concerns you ought to be aware of. Most of these issues come up very infrequently, but they are very important things to consider nonetheless. Remember, you don't need to be afraid of buying vacant land. You just need to be informed.
Jonathan is passionate about helping people buy and sell land. He is an associate broker with Southeastern Land Group, LLC (SELG) and is the Responsible Broker for the company in Mississippi. Jonathan is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC), working with Southeastern Land Group (AlaLandCo) since 2008, serving Alabama and Mississippi. He is a member of the Alabama and Mississippi chapters of the Realtor’s Land Institute (RLI), and is currently serving as Vice President of the Alabama Chapter. Jonathan specializes in marketing rural properties online, and is a contributor for LANDTHINK.com, writing articles focused on helping people buying and selling rural land.
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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
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