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

Gerard Coutts is a project management and development strategist who brings together landowners, developers, investors and industry professionals to maximise the potential of a subdivision opportunity. He says the first step for the vendor is to determine whether their property lies within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) – those areas designated for higher density living.


You’ll want as much money as you can make as quickly as you can get it – but developers play a longer and broader game.  Land you sell may become one small part of their land bank in your locality and, if you’ve signed the wrong deal, you may find they never get planning permission for your land because they choose to promote one of their other local sites which looks an easier consent to win.
Great article. I’m having trouble finding information, as most of it is about buying and constructing right away. I’m looking for information on how to buy a rural piece of land 2-10 acres where I can camp on it for a couple of seasons to get the best site to build a little summer/fall shack to get away on the weekends. So I won’t be building right away, just ‘squatting’ on my own land for surveying purposes, see where the hottest/sunniest spots might be, etc. Do you have any advice on what regulations/restrictions I might come across? Is this a “depends on” on kind of thing, meaning, different counties/townships all might have different rules? Thanks again.
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.
Get your title sorted. This may seem obvious, but title issues will deter developers and delay sales. Unregistered land, missing documents, restrictive covenants, boundary problems, lack of easements, or rights of access or rights of way- these can all be resolved but it is better to address the issue early and ensure the title is good and marketable. Does your land have direct access to the adopted highway? This is one of the key things developers look for.
This question is out of my realm...but I'm curious why you decided that the current developer is not interested in your property? If his equipment is close... it might not be that hard to deal with your property. Since you already have a house on it, I can assume there's sewage, water, electricity, etc... So your land doesn't need to really be developed, but they could build something nice on it.
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.
Ideally, you should employ a realtor and real estate attorney that know what restrictive covenants there are and what you can and can’t build on that piece of property, says Veissi. "But you still may need to do some grunt work. Find out how the property is zoned." Zoning ordinances and regulations are laws that define how you can use the property. Depending on your needs, will you have to change the zoning? For instance, if the property is zoned for an industrial warehouse or office building and you want to build a retail outlet. Also, zoning ordinances will typically limit the total height of a building or require a certain number of parking spaces for a commercial building. Opposition to zoning changes by local residents or other invested parties can be fierce—time consuming and costly.
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.
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