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.
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.
Buyers of undeveloped land will have fewer and less attractive financing options through banks than other real estate buyers will. Banks ask for large down payments on undeveloped land and don't offer interest rates as low as those available for new homes. As a result, finding a buyer for your land will be more difficult. If you can afford to offer your own financing, you will open the door to a larger pool of prospective buyers. Hire a lawyer or real estate agent with experience in seller-financed deals to lay out the terms for this type of sale.
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?
Hi Seth – My brother-in-law and I are looking to get into real estate investing and have our eye on a piece of land (we want to start small, FYI). It is 1 of 8 lots, all of them are only 1,742 sq ft, for commercial use only, and the lot we are looking at is the end lot…My thought is, buy now and hold on to it for a length of time until a developer comes along and wants to buy all 8 lots. This would obviously need all sellers to agree to sell which I am not sure how tricky that would be. My question is, do you see any chance for money to be made here? The lot is in a great location and I honestly can’t believe nothing has been built there yet. More details: $16,500 for the lot, taxes are $1,087 / year which I know is a little high based on what you stated above but even so, after negotiations, I think we could get taxes down to 4%. I know it might be hard to say, ‘yes you will make money’ or ‘no, you won’t’ but just wanted any insight you could give.
Always offer to ‘show’ the property to prospective buyers. It’s an obvious step for home sales, but some people neglect it for land sales because they believe there isn’t a lot to really show. That’s the difference between a strong seller and a poor one. To be a successful salesperson, you’re always selling. You want to show the buyer the property lines, and then, lead them out to see the neighborhood, local businesses and other aspects that could seal the deal.
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.
Thank you for the 50 creative ideas to sell your property fast. With how large social media has gotten there are now so many different ways to list your property so it’s seen. Craigslist, KSL, even Facebook to name a few and that’s not even including the list of sites specifically for selling a home. I think having your house up on multiple sites is a great way to get it noticed and sell fast.
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?
If you want to investigate the situation on your property, you could always order an environmental report. They can either do a high-level look at it (without doing any soil sampling), or they can drill soil borings to verify if there are any chemicals in the soil (which of course, will cost more). I’m guessing you could find out more on whether or not it’s an issue to be concerned about with a quick phone conversation.
We buy land fast from people for many different reasons.  Unlike what most people guess, it’s actually not usually from people who are trying to avoid foreclosure.  In reality, most land owners just have a piece of property that they really can’t use.  It’s also really difficult to sell most types of land, unless it’s something you focus on……like us!
Hi Eric – that’s a good question. I haven’t done much work in that part of the country, but I know that (as you mentioned) there are workarounds for both water and power IF you’re willing to pay for it. I guess it’s just a matter of understanding which one would be more expensive to sustain over the long term, and then you’ll have your answer as to which utility is more important.
Another surprise to landowners attempting to subdivide their land is that the act of subdividing can raise any number of additional requirements and costs on your land. While your existing parcel may have been grandfathered so that it does not have to comply with some newer laws and regulations, undertaking a subdivision can trigger a new set of impacts and requirements.
Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News. Since joining the Consumer Advice team in 2015, she has focused on breaking down the homebuying and selling process, as well as reporting on trends in the real estate industry and their effect on the public. Thorsby previously worked in research and communications for commercial real estate information company CoStar Group, and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where she worked for the student-run newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at dthorsby@usnews.com.
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As for pricing, your suggestion of $20,000 x 98 seems high for a sliver of road frontage to add a turn lane. Granted, you have the right to try to sell your property for whatever you think it is worth (unless it is a government taking for market value, or if you just don’t own the property in the first place), but that does not mean someone will buy it if it is overpriced. The developer likely has other options. Usually valuations in a situation like this are based on an appraised (or negotiated) value per acre or square foot, and then a survey determines the precise size of the sliver of land that is being conveyed at that rate.

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Its the perfect time to sell your land and develop. With the housing market on the up and the need for housing never more apparent, its greatly welcomed to find articles like this helpling the layman find his way through what can be considered a complicated process. http://www.richardhicksdevelopment.co.uk can advise on this process, help gain permissions and hold the land owners hand if needed. Happy to help if anyone needs further advice following this helpful article.
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