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.
First impressions are lasting in real estate. When selling a home you would never leave out your dirty laundry for potential buyers to see, and you should also clean up your lot before it is shown and marketed. Cut the grass (or weeds), remove trash and take marketing photos of your property when it is looking its best. Some sellers even plant wildflowers to make their vacant land look beautiful. It’s like staging a home, but you’re just working with raw land instead.
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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.
Particularly in popular neighborhoods and areas where undeveloped space is limited, purchasing existing property for the sole purpose of building a new structure on the land is fairly common. In many cases, developers and building companies will redevelop multiple properties in a neighborhood, knowing buyers will eat up new, bigger homes where midcentury ranch houses once stood.
Hi Chris, thanks for the comment. That’s a pretty subjective question (there are a lot of variables to consider), but I don’t see how it could hurt the value of your overall estate. The question is – what is the land actually worth? Is it worth more or less than $25K? One way to find out would be to follow the ideas in this blog post. As long as the property is worth substantially more than $25K (and assuming you actually want the additional land), it’s probably a worthwhile investment… but again – it’s impossible for me to tell you anything concrete without looking at everything (which I can’t really do).
I probably wouldn’t go so far as to put down a gravel drive or anything else yet – simply because you don’t know what your buyers will have in mind, and they may want to go in a different direction with the property altogether… but something as basic as a perc test and survey will apply to most potential buyers (and it’s not terribly expensive to do).
anyone interesting in commercial land on busy road? very close to i279 north of pittsburgh pa area and its permit allow to rebuild home or parking lot or something of business as well. last price value is 12 k but not sure what it is worth in value it is on 3856 east street... 15214... 2041 sq feet formerly warehouse was there and the land is cleared out... with fence...
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.
Thanks so much for this article! I’ve run into a unique situation, where we found an amazing historic house that we’d like to restore, but it is currently listed as a vacant lot for sell with a shell house on it, rather than the house itself being listed. We know it’s not in a flood plain, the deed is unrestricted, and the home appears to have been lived in within the last 30 years so there is electric, heating, and plumbing. Any suggestions on potential issues we should be asking about before we jump in? We’ve never looked at land before, so we’re a bit overwhelmed by how much more complicated it appears to be vs buying a house.
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.
There is swampy/nonbuildable property next to me that is landlocked by 5 residential properties. We are interested in purchasing it – yes, we want landlocked swampland. We spoke to the owner who said he wants to sell it at whatever the going rate is for vacant land. Prior to offering him a very lowball offer, we’d like to gather resources that show the property’s true “potential” so that we don’t offend him. Other than a printout of a map, is there something more official we can acquire that shows he is landlocked? Also, the tax record shows the property’s assessed tax value is 100k, which is definitely inaccurate. Is there a way to have that reassessed to reflect its true tax value? We heard through a neighbor that it is recorded as nonbuildable and he doesn’t have to pay taxes, but I have not been able to find anywhere to verifiy that. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!!!
And I know what you mean about the assessed value – this number means almost nothing in my mind, because the county will usually peg this number as high as possible, because it allows them to charge more in tax revenue for the property. I think you can get it reassessed in many cases, but there usually aren’t any guarantees that your request will get traction, and the process isn’t necessarily fast or easy. It may be worth your while to call the local tax collector and just ask them how much the annual tax bill is – that should tell you pretty quickly what the obligation would be.
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.
If you're planning to build a “dwelling” of any kind on your parcel of land, there is one issue that may seem insignificant at first glance, but it has the potential to make or break a land deal. It's called a “Perc Test” – and if you're dropping some serious coin on land in a rural area, this is an issue you'll want to be sure about before you sink your money into it.
You also need to confirm that each of your planned lots will be properly serviced. Most homeowners expect to face a public road (with adequate frontage) and have water, sewer, power and other utilities available. So be sure to confirm both that typical utilities are available for your lots and that they will have the capacity to handle the load from any new homes that would be built on the subdivided lots. Do your research and have your surveyor locate water, sewer, gas, electricity and other utility lines and infrastructure on your plan.
Once we have come to an agreement on the sale of your property, we will prepare a basic purchase agreement. Our typical process uses a very simple and easy to use digital-signature platform to save both the time and hassle of having to send mail back and forth. Agreements will gladly be mailed to you upon request, however most people prefer the speed and simplicity of our standard process..