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.
!function(n,t){function r(e,n){return Object.prototype.hasOwnProperty.call(e,n)}function i(e){return void 0===e}if(n){var o={},s=n.TraceKit,a=[].slice,l="?";o.noConflict=function(){return n.TraceKit=s,o},o.wrap=function(e){function n(){try{return e.apply(this,arguments)}catch(e){throw o.report(e),e}}return n},o.report=function(){function e(e){l(),h.push(e)}function t(e){for(var n=h.length-1;n>=0;--n)h[n]===e&&h.splice(n,1)}function i(e,n){var t=null;if(!n||o.collectWindowErrors){for(var i in h)if(r(h,i))try{h[i].apply(null,[e].concat(a.call(arguments,2)))}catch(e){t=e}if(t)throw t}}function s(e,n,t,r,s){var a=null;if(w)o.computeStackTrace.augmentStackTraceWithInitialElement(w,n,t,e),u();else if(s)a=o.computeStackTrace(s),i(a,!0);else{var l={url:n,line:t,column:r};l.func=o.computeStackTrace.guessFunctionName(l.url,l.line),l.context=o.computeStackTrace.gatherContext(l.url,l.line),a={mode:"onerror",message:e,stack:[l]},i(a,!0)}return!!f&&f.apply(this,arguments)}function l(){!0!==d&&(f=n.onerror,n.onerror=s,d=!0)}function u(){var e=w,n=p;p=null,w=null,m=null,i.apply(null,[e,!1].concat(n))}function c(e){if(w){if(m===e)return;u()}var t=o.computeStackTrace(e);throw w=t,m=e,p=a.call(arguments,1),n.setTimeout(function(){m===e&&u()},t.incomplete?2e3:0),e}var f,d,h=[],p=null,m=null,w=null;return c.subscribe=e,c.unsubscribe=t,c}(),o.computeStackTrace=function(){function e(e){if(!o.remoteFetching)return"";try{var t=function(){try{return new n.XMLHttpRequest}catch(e){return new n.ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP")}},r=t();return r.open("GET",e,!1),r.send(""),r.responseText}catch(e){return""}}function t(t){if("string"!=typeof t)return[];if(!r(j,t)){var i="",o="";try{o=n.document.domain}catch(e){}var s=/(.*)\:\/\/([^:\/]+)([:\d]*)\/{0,1}([\s\S]*)/.exec(t);s&&s[2]===o&&(i=e(t)),j[t]=i?i.split("\n"):[]}return j[t]}function s(e,n){var r,o=/function ([^(]*)\(([^)]*)\)/,s=/['"]?([0-9A-Za-z$_]+)['"]?\s*[:=]\s*(function|eval|new Function)/,a="",u=10,c=t(e);if(!c.length)return l;for(var f=0;f0?s:null}function u(e){return e.replace(/[\-\[\]{}()*+?.,\\\^$|#]/g,"\\$&")}function c(e){return u(e).replace("<","(?:<|<)").replace(">","(?:>|>)").replace("&","(?:&|&)").replace('"','(?:"|")').replace(/\s+/g,"\\s+")}function f(e,n){for(var r,i,o=0,s=n.length;or&&(i=s.exec(o[r]))?i.index:null}function h(e){if(!i(n&&n.document)){for(var t,r,o,s,a=[n.location.href],l=n.document.getElementsByTagName("script"),d=""+e,h=/^function(?:\s+([\w$]+))?\s*\(([\w\s,]*)\)\s*\{\s*(\S[\s\S]*\S)\s*\}\s*$/,p=/^function on([\w$]+)\s*\(event\)\s*\{\s*(\S[\s\S]*\S)\s*\}\s*$/,m=0;m]+)>|([^\)]+))\((.*)\))? in (.*):\s*$/i,o=n.split("\n"),l=[],u=0;u=0&&(g.line=v+x.substring(0,j).split("\n").length)}}}else if(o=d.exec(i[y])){var _=n.location.href.replace(/#.*$/,""),T=new RegExp(c(i[y+1])),E=f(T,[_]);g={url:_,func:"",args:[],line:E?E.line:o[1],column:null}}if(g){g.func||(g.func=s(g.url,g.line));var k=a(g.url,g.line),A=k?k[Math.floor(k.length/2)]:null;k&&A.replace(/^\s*/,"")===i[y+1].replace(/^\s*/,"")?g.context=k:g.context=[i[y+1]],h.push(g)}}return h.length?{mode:"multiline",name:e.name,message:i[0],stack:h}:null}function y(e,n,t,r){var i={url:n,line:t};if(i.url&&i.line){e.incomplete=!1,i.func||(i.func=s(i.url,i.line)),i.context||(i.context=a(i.url,i.line));var o=/ '([^']+)' /.exec(r);if(o&&(i.column=d(o[1],i.url,i.line)),e.stack.length>0&&e.stack[0].url===i.url){if(e.stack[0].line===i.line)return!1;if(!e.stack[0].line&&e.stack[0].func===i.func)return e.stack[0].line=i.line,e.stack[0].context=i.context,!1}return e.stack.unshift(i),e.partial=!0,!0}return e.incomplete=!0,!1}function g(e,n){for(var t,r,i,a=/function\s+([_$a-zA-Z\xA0-\uFFFF][_$a-zA-Z0-9\xA0-\uFFFF]*)?\s*\(/i,u=[],c={},f=!1,p=g.caller;p&&!f;p=p.caller)if(p!==v&&p!==o.report){if(r={url:null,func:l,args:[],line:null,column:null},p.name?r.func=p.name:(t=a.exec(p.toString()))&&(r.func=t[1]),"undefined"==typeof r.func)try{r.func=t.input.substring(0,t.input.indexOf("{"))}catch(e){}if(i=h(p)){r.url=i.url,r.line=i.line,r.func===l&&(r.func=s(r.url,r.line));var m=/ '([^']+)' /.exec(e.message||e.description);m&&(r.column=d(m[1],i.url,i.line))}c[""+p]?f=!0:c[""+p]=!0,u.push(r)}n&&u.splice(0,n);var w={mode:"callers",name:e.name,message:e.message,stack:u};return y(w,e.sourceURL||e.fileName,e.line||e.lineNumber,e.message||e.description),w}function v(e,n){var t=null;n=null==n?0:+n;try{if(t=m(e))return t}catch(e){if(x)throw e}try{if(t=p(e))return t}catch(e){if(x)throw e}try{if(t=w(e))return t}catch(e){if(x)throw e}try{if(t=g(e,n+1))return t}catch(e){if(x)throw e}return{mode:"failed"}}function b(e){e=1+(null==e?0:+e);try{throw new Error}catch(n){return v(n,e+1)}}var x=!1,j={};return v.augmentStackTraceWithInitialElement=y,v.guessFunctionName=s,v.gatherContext=a,v.ofCaller=b,v.getSource=t,v}(),o.extendToAsynchronousCallbacks=function(){var e=function(e){var t=n[e];n[e]=function(){var e=a.call(arguments),n=e[0];return"function"==typeof n&&(e[0]=o.wrap(n)),t.apply?t.apply(this,e):t(e[0],e[1])}};e("setTimeout"),e("setInterval")},o.remoteFetching||(o.remoteFetching=!0),o.collectWindowErrors||(o.collectWindowErrors=!0),(!o.linesOfContext||o.linesOfContext<1)&&(o.linesOfContext=11),void 0!==e&&e.exports&&n.module!==e?e.exports=o:"function"==typeof define&&define.amd?define("TraceKit",[],o):n.TraceKit=o}}("undefined"!=typeof window?window:global)},"./webpack-loaders/expose-loader/index.js?require!./shared/require-global.js":function(e,n,t){(function(n){e.exports=n.require=t("./shared/require-global.js")}).call(n,t("../../../lib/node_modules/webpack/buildin/global.js"))}});
Fortunately the lot is over 500 feet deep. The price reflects the known fact that the front erodes due to natural occurrence. I really love this lot but am scared that it might be too many loopholes and fees to deal with DEQ regulation because of the topography. Do you recommend walking away from this lot? It’s only $25000 and is less than 1/4 the cost of almost any other lot half its size anywhere else in the state.
In addition, landowners may more readily find buyers for smaller subdivided parcels that are more affordable than one larger piece of land. Try to understand the market’s needs. Completing the lot subdivision up front saves the purchaser the time, effort and risk of doing it themselves, increasing the salability – and often the value – of the overall property.
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?
Your potential buyer needs to see more than just the words you use to describe the land. They also need to visually connect with the property via high quality maps and pictures of the parcel and surrounding area. You don't need to have 50 pictures but you do need at least five or so to give the buyer an idea of the terrain, soil and views as well as the road of where they would access the land. You should include a plat map (call the county for a copy), general area map (I like to use Google Earth for maps) and a topographic map is always helpful as well. You can always contact a local surveyor if you need help preparing the maps and getting the GPS coordinates.
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.
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.
Showing: Once a prospective buyer becomes interested in your property, they need a way to see it. Land professionals can do that in several different ways: by walking over it, using an ATV or UTV, or by SUV or truck. A potential buyer must see the property and all of its key features to truly decide if they want to purchase it or not. I find 90% of the time, if a property is well-priced that its location and features are generally what convinces the buyer to make the purchase. But to become convinced they must see it, all of it. Last week a residential agent asked to show one of my tracts that is nearly 300 acres. I told the agent I would be happy to show the property and that you have to be equipped to show the property. They asked, ”Do you mean, I would need a big truck?” This agent drives a Toyota Camry, and there are water bars on the property bigger than this car. You do not want to hire an agent that is unwilling or unequipped to effectively show your property.
Know what the land is zoned for. From the beginning, you need to have a clear understanding of what this land is zoned for. You don’t want to discourage buyers by keeping them waiting until you have the answer, and you definitely don’t want to mislead a buyer with incorrect information. It’s better to be honest and then refer the buyer to information about changing land classifications and zoning exemptions.
Especially when I'm buying vacant land out-of-state, my first line of business is to understand the topography of the property. There are many, many places around the world that have very unpredictable elevations, cliffs, mountains, valleys, ravines and more. In many cases, the topography of the land can have a huge impact on the build-ability of a property. For the same reasons you can't build a house on 90-degree cliff, you should be doing some preliminary research to find out where your property is located, and what the lay of the land is.

While often unpopular with locals, people who wish to cash in on their gardens get a lot of help from planning laws. According to Craig Noel of Strutt & Parker, it is becoming very difficult for planning authorities to resist applications to build houses in back gardens, thanks to one of the new planning guidelines, PPG3, which obliges houses to be built at higher densities in future.


Just wanted to thank you for the help you provide to everyone here.I live in Europe and would like to buy a 2 acre to retired on a mobile or prefab cabin on it ,using the land as a small homestead but would you buy when you are not even in the states?I would use golook to check the property but Im scared or doing such a move.I found a 1acre owner finance and Im tempted.
Since land is often a unique commodity, it can often be a pain for you or an agent to try and sell it.  Land is often hard to value, and most buyers lack vision for what it could become.  And that’s not to mention the fact that you have to be available to show it and explain the same land package over and over again to lots of potentially interested buyers.
Land Agents have Expertise: True land professionals know how to price and market properties effectively. Any agent you are hiring should be able to clearly articulate their strategy for selling your property. A good agent will employ multiple prongs for engaging prospective buyers, including advertising in print media (when appropriate), on the internet in key places people look for your type of property, and other avenues such as signage or word-of-mouth. Good agents have a proven formula for attracting the attention of quality buyers. I have my own multi-point system that I use for each listing that generates results.

I worked with Grace Chang in liquidating a mortgage I held on property my late husband and I had owned. It was probably the easiest land related business deal I have ever been involved with. Grace was knowledgeable, informed and available. She was in contact with me and I never had a question she was unable to answer. I was amazed at how quickly the transaction happened; which was far quicker than estimated at the onset. It is refreshing to do business with an organization that has such wonderful customer service and professional business associates. I would highly recommend First National and specifically Grace to everyone.read more
Just like you'd stage a home, you want the vacant land to show at its best. A lot overgrown with weeds is going to look less desirable in the eyes of a potential buyer than a lot that's apparently cared-for. Professionally trim trees, mow grass, remove weeds and perhaps plant wildflowers to show the property at its best. Visit the property weekly – or hire someone to do so – to remove windblown trash, beer cans, fire rings or anything else that might detract from its curb appeal.
As for what type of land can be used for horses – you’d probably have to call your county or municipality planning & zoning office and ask them what the zoning would have to be for this particular use. Once you know the answer, it’s pretty easy to generate a list of these land owners with a service like AgentPro247 (as I describe in this blog post). You could then send out a direct mail campaign and try to find deals on this type of property (at least, that’s why I would try to do if it were me).
The way that we found it was by checking our local county tax assessor site and seeing that it was vacant and owned by a gentleman who lives out of state. It wasn’t on the market, but I asked our realtor to contact him and low and behold he is willing to sell (it was inherited). As soon as we were ready to make an offer, he stated that he wants to go forward with an independent appraisal to see what the value is since he does not live in the area, which I understand (he is also a realtor in CA).
Get Proper Tax Advice. This is an absolute, and again must be done early on in the procedure. Professional advice is needed to structure the transaction in the most tax efficient way, making the most of any reliefs and exemptions that may be available. Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance Tax, Value Added Tax and Stamp Duty Land Tax are all taxes which may need to be considered and planned. Many developers will want to certain that the seller has obtained professional tax advice before exchanging contracts.

If you intend to hold onto a property for any length of time, beware of a super high tax bill relative to the actual value of the property itself. I haven't run across this issue very often, but for various reasons, there are some properties that have some ridiculously high taxes in proportion to the property’s actual value (for example, if a $10,000 property has an annual tax bill of $2,000, THIS IS TOO HIGH). In my experience, I've found that a reasonable annual tax bill usually falls in the range of 1% – 4% of the property’s full market value.

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.

This is a great article! I agree that there is a lot to take into consideration when investing in land. Most people fail to realize as well that investing in land is most time, if you find the right deal even better than buying properties already constructed on a piece of land. People also forget that there are many expenses involved in developing vacant land to be “usable”. All of the points made here are extremely important to consider and one should do extensive research before purchasing any property and ask yourself these 15 questions mentioned above before purchasing. I have done lots of research and have bought properties in the past, the best company/website in my opinion is http://www.cheaplands.com I have never seen deals like theirs in my real estate career.


Thanks for excellent recommendations. Meanwhile,I would recommend sellers to monitor the work that manage their properties. So, read the description that agent wrote about your property, make improvements if it’s needed. Pay special attention on photos that the professional make. Great photographs are increasingly becoming essential in marketing a house. Here are tips https://rentberry.com/blog/real-estate-photography-tips that you may share with real estate agent if you’re not satisfied with photos.
Offer owner financing. Land is usually hard to finance and if you're willing to take back a mortgage for the buyer, you'll expand the number of people who can buy your land. On the other hand, you're also taking the risk that the buyer won't make his payments and will default. To protect yourself, work with an attorney to draft strong legal documents that follow your state's laws and get as much money up front as is reasonably possible.

I have lived on this property for 20yrs. Its in Harrison county in WV, I have been trying to buy it for 20yrs. I have a doublewide on a permanent foundation, a 16×16 permanent building, a pool with a 40×60 deck around it, all underground utilities, septic tank with fields, and $10,000 road and parking to the house, THIS IS ALL INVESTED BY ME,, this was all on a verbal family deal , (a hand shake like in the old days, when your word actually meant something) and we were supposed to be the first option to purchase if sold , now they have put it up for sale, we have offered them $1,000 over asking, they have not accepted our offer, they have continued to keep advertising the property for sale, what are my rights as a buyer when this situation occurs as a buyer that has a dwelling on this property for 20yrs.
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

Hey Seth, great info in this article, a couple things I didn’t take into consideration. I’m looking into purchasing approx ten acres which has federal land to one side and state land on the other two sides. This seems to be a good deal as far as no one building around the property and being a secluded tract. Just wondering if there is any specific things I should be paying attention to, do to the bordering of state and federal land.
Side Note: While it's easy to assume that your property listings only belong on websites where tons of people are already there, I think it's also important not to overlook the value of having your listings in front of many different audiences. Even when an advertising outlet is less-recognized or newer to the market, it could still be worth your while to post your property information there.

I’m not the best person to answer that, because I’m not a lawyer and I know very little about what your rights are – but I imagine it could be difficult to prove much without a signed contract. That being said, I’ve heard that there are potential claims on the grounds of “squatters rights“. If you’ve lived at the property for 20 years, there may be something worth exploring here.
I’ve never heard the tip to create your own website when you have a home for sale. I also have never heard the tip to keep an eye out for “For Rent” signs to in order to look for more homes for sale. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to find homes for sale that have been on the market for a while because there’s more room for negotiation, thanks for the tips!
If you really are looking for that sell my land fast solution you need to be prepared to also work the contacts that you have made yourself over the years. Make sure that you tell all those who you come in contact with both on a social or business level, that you have land for sale. They, in turn, may pass the word along. Networking is everything in this technological age and selling land online in no different.
Side Note: While it's easy to assume that your property listings only belong on websites where tons of people are already there, I think it's also important not to overlook the value of having your listings in front of many different audiences. Even when an advertising outlet is less-recognized or newer to the market, it could still be worth your while to post your property information there.
My wife and I are thinking about selling our home and have been looking for tips to get it off the market quickly. I like that you suggest talking to building inspectors because they deal with large volumes of buyers on the market. Having connections is really important to get the word out so we might try talking to a few different real estate agents and contractors. Thanks for the help!

Hi Aracely – great question. You might want to contact the local planning and zoning department – ask them if you’re allowed to camp on the property and/or build whatever type of structure you’re planning to build. You’re right – most townships and cities (not the county necessarily) have different restrictions that come into play in different areas. You’ll probably find that the more rural areas have less and less restrictions, but generally speaking – you should always investigate, because some rules will most likely apply.
Great list of ways to reach potential buyers Seth! If someone does ALL those, they’re very likely to get their house sold. We Buy Houses investors can be a great way to sell your house fast if you are short on time or don’t want to mess with the hassle. Otherwise offering the seller financing option can be a game changer and even more profitable for sellers. If you’re in a position to offer that, be sure to vet your buyer for their ability to make good on the payments. Thank you!
Very interesting read. I am looking at some desert land in both NV and AZ. They are between 40-80 acres each. My budget seems to afford places that either have an old well, or power at the lot line, but not both. Which utility do you feel is initially more critical to have of the two? I know adding a solar system or having power brought in is very cost prohibitive, so my thought was to go with the power on the lot. I figured I could always have water trucked in and stored in a tank since the properties are easily 2WD road accessible. I figure that buying property with an old well may be worthless and not worth the price increase of the property. And I have been reading that drilling a well is a gamble. Thanks in advance for some insight.
Get Proper Tax Advice. This is an absolute, and again must be done early on in the procedure. Professional advice is needed to structure the transaction in the most tax efficient way, making the most of any reliefs and exemptions that may be available. Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance Tax, Value Added Tax and Stamp Duty Land Tax are all taxes which may need to be considered and planned. Many developers will want to certain that the seller has obtained professional tax advice before exchanging contracts.
By submitting the information in this form, I give my consent for Landmark Properties, LLC d/b/a Landmark Property Buyers to share this information with its network of affiliate real estate investors. Furthermore, I give my consent for members of this affiliate network to contact me about purchasing the above-mentioned property. I also acknowledge that there is no obligation on the part of Landmark Property Buyers or any member of its affiliate network to extend an offer to purchase my property. By submitting this form I am granting Landmark Property Buyers and its affiliate network my full permission to review the information contained in this form and to contact me about the possibility of purchasing this property. I also agree that Landmark Property Buyers will not be held liable for the actions of the members of its affiliate network. These actions include but are not limited to, sharing my information with third parties and unsolicited attempts to communicate with me. I also confirm that the information contained in the form is correct to the best of my knowledge.

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.


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.

This has got to be one of best articles out there about land investment. Thank you so much for the advises. I live in San Jose, CA and I am also looking into buying land myself to build a residential home on. I’m somewhat skeptical about it as i’m very new to this whole process and afraid i might be stuck on a parcel that is not build-able or would cost too much to develop. The parcel i’m looking at is currently zoned “commercial”, however, the surrounding area is heavily residential so i wonder if this was a city’s mistake. To avoid troubles down the road, I plan to hire a professional for all the permitting and developing advises/estimate (if you know anyone in the Bay Area that provides this type of service, could you please refer?) but I just don’t know how much i can completely close my eyes and just sign wherever i was told by the professional. Any advise will be much appreciated.
There are a lot of properties in the world that don’t have access to a municipal water supply (i.e. – city water). This isn't necessarily a problem, but it does mean you'll have to drill a well in order to access a clean water source beneath the surface. There are a few ways to determine whether or not you'll be able to do this but in most cases, if there are other buildings in the near vicinity (e.g. – homes or other dwellings built next door), this is usually a good indication that you won’t have any problems accessing water either.
Thanks Seth. Great ideas! Going after investors if you have a property that could be an attractive buy for them is something most people wouldn’t think of. Chances are, that if an investor isn’t in the market, he/she probably knows others who are. Forums are also a good idea as people will actually look at and read posts as opposed to other platforms where people scroll through without a car.
×