Selling land is usually a more complicated process than selling improved property. When you sell a property with a building, its use and value is established by the building on it. Before buying unimproved land, most buyers want to investigate what they can do with it to determine what it's worth. At the same time, the buyer pool for land is usually smaller than the buyer pool for improved property. With this in mind, selling land quickly requires unique strategies.
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.
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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!
Say, the property is going to cost you $150 per square foot to build and you expect a return on your investment at 10 percent. So, 1,000 square feet at $150 equals $150,000; which means you expect to get $15,000 back after your expenses, including management fees and debt service on the property, and some reserve. "Although in today's market, the return on investment is less than 10 percent and more like 6 percent. Calculate the most you are willing to pay the seller based on the outcome of your cost analysis," Veissi advises. Once you have done all of the analysis and appropriate planning, he says, you still need a contingency. You can think you have it nailed down and all of a sudden something crops up, unsettling your plans, he explains.
Environmental issues. Contaminated land is what springs to mind when environmental issues are mentioned, but in this scenario, what is most likely are potential flooding or drainage problems. A history of flooding or waterlogging is clearly not going to be welcome news for a developer, but equally if the land has been used for potentially contaminative uses in the past or is near to sources of contamination, remember that remedying any actual contamination is costly and will significantly affect the value of the land. Any past surveys or reports that have been carried out should be to hand if required.
Use a title company if you are not familiar with deeds, deed conveyance and closing of real estate. I prefer First American Title and you can find them anywhere. They will handle the monies, title search, title policy, deed, recording of the deed and pro-rated taxes, etc. Fees will vary and you can certainly negotiate. Typically the seller pays for the title policy and the buyer pays for half of the escrow fees. You can always charge an extra recording fee to offset these expenses.
You mentioned that the adjacent development already is “underway” and that the developer recently sold 92 lots. This makes me wonder why the developer would be coming to you now about roadway frontage for a turn lane. Usually the road improvement plan is in place prior to the subdivision being formally approved and recorded and the developer secures rights to all of the land it needs for turn lanes in advance. The existence of lots in this development suggests that the road plans already should be approved. Get information from your local planning or subdivision department (as applicable, or possibly the DOT) and see if you can find the plans for offsite road improvements for this subdivision. It’s possible that there was a lapse in the planning process — or that the original roadway improvement plans have expired if the project was abandoned during the downturn — and the need for land for a turn lane has recently come to light. Do your research to understand the facts.
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.
If you truly are in a hot area, which it sounds, your land has already been researched and investigated and deemed not to be desirable to the surrounding developers. A one acre parcel in the realm of larger subdivisions going in is only desirable if it's IN THE WAY, or if your house is an eyesore that will affect the marketing of the bigger development (which I'm guessing your house is not an eyesore).
That's tricky. It is not as easy to find a buyer for land as it is for a residence. Not all buyers have the resources or the vision to do a project like that. I would say try marketing to a builder that will put something on it, or try marketing to those that would like to build. First, and most important is location. What is in the area. Is it a highly sought after residential area, is it a commercial area. Know what your zoning is, and who this piece of property would appeal to. You have to have some kind of a vision for who it would suit in order to know who and where to market it.

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.
If your property and those around it have recently been rezoned, this could be a sign you can sell your property to a developer for a good profit. But nothing is set in stone. The next best step is to speak to your real estate agent, who will know what has recently sold and whether any developers are actively looking in your area. They can then assess your home to see whether it would be able to sell and some estimated figures.
If you need to find a buyer fast, our company is in the land buying business. If you've got time to wait for a few months, then get it posted on your standard online sites (don't underestimate Craigslist!) and consider hiring an agent. If that doesn't work out or you don't feel like waiting, we've got a network of buyers at Landmark Property Buyers.
To a shrewd investor, any asset of value is for sale, for the right price. Undeveloped land, also known as raw land, represents a real estate investment that is different from more traditional house and land deals. While undeveloped land sells for less than land that is ready to build on, or already includes viable structures, it can still turn a profit if you put care and thought into the sale process.
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 a property doesn't pass this test, you could have a very difficult time building any type of dwelling on the property, so unless you're able to tap into the municipal sewer system (which will negate this issue altogether), be sure to give the county health department a call and ask them what is required to install a septic system (or connect to the local sewer) in your area. For a detailed overview of how a perc test works and how to verify the status of this issue, check out this blog post.
I am considering buying a quarter acre, to build a house for my retirement in a few years. I have never bought land before but it is in an area that will definitely increase in value over the next few years so I want to lock it down now and build the house I want later, rather than purchase a home and make payments in addition to my current home. Thanks for the tips on how to assess, my question is whether I should use a realtor and/or get a property appraisal. I will probably pay cash for the land. Thanks much!
The trick with vacant land is to understand why it's vacant in the first place. I've run across quite a few vacant lots that seemed attractive at first glance, but eventually, I discovered the reason nobody was using them was that you CAN'T use them. If one (or more) of the issues above are prohibiting someone from putting a property to good use, believe me – you don't want to find out after you already own it.
A really rough guideline that alot of spot-lot developers use is that the land should be somewhere between 10 and 15% of the sales price of the home. So, if the homes on ten acres were selling for $1 million, the developers were likely paying $100-150k for the lots. The home on your lot would likely sell for substantially less given the smaller lot size, so expect less for the land sale.
Once you get over about an acre in size and two or three lots, the complexity of the subdivision process can rise dramatically. The level of difficulty – and expertise needed — can be compounded if you have a site where lots will not front on an existing public road or where utilities and infrastructure must be built. This likely will require you to undergo municipal oversight (possibly even state or federal, for some situations) for the subdivision’s site design and layout, as well as construction of roads, utilities and other infrastructure. In this scenario, you basically are stretching the activity from simply subdividing a parcel to full-scale community and land development.
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.
Your responses is truly encouraging. I am Construction Manager, starting out in development. I could really use your insight or how to begin. I want to build an resort, a place where families can come with all the amenities that you have to pay leaving the state of NY. With Executive suites for out of state executives. some rooms, some kitchenettes and E. Suites. Anyway, I found this great location, went to the town to see who owns the land. It is in a commercial area. I have a broker who will reach out to the owner for the sale. What would you suggest my next steps should be; get the property, get it survey, have a design prepared. I want to get investors on board. What would you suggest, I have for pitching my proposal to investors. I currently work with Architects, Engineers and they are willing to support me in this project. Just not sure what my next step should be. Any recommendations.
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.
We currently own 10 acres of land with a lot of road front footage. A very large nice development is underway adjacent to our property; the developer also recently had some type of auction and sold 92 lots. It has been brought to the attention of my husband and I that no homeowner construction can begin until development access issues are resolved. Presently, they have issues with line of sight entering into and out of the development; the development has a small privately paved 2 lane road entering onto the public highway system. Our property sits high on a small hill, it is large enough to occlude site to the left when pulling onto the highway. Our home also sits on a curve. We also have fencing – similar to what you might call pasture fence – that also occludes a drivers site pulling out as well. The developer has sent a neighbor (also his friend, may even be a partner) – who lives in the only house built in the development – although how they built that with restrictions in play – I do not know… Maybe because it was a single dwelling??? It was there before the current developer purchased it from the previous developer (who built the home in there as a “spec house”. First, this representative showed up saying they would like for us to move our fence and they would pay for us to move it (how kind). We just listened… And told him we like our fence just where it is – we know that even with the fence moved the line of site is still occluded – the hill would have to come down or be graded somewhat for it to work. 92 homes would also generate a lot of traffic. A turn lane was mentioned but no details were given – in fact no plan was presented at all. We think he was just feeling us out. My real question is how much should or could we ask for the property if we agreed to whatever their plan is – of course, we would see the plan proposals and bring in a lawyer. I don’t know how to begin to calculate it! I have considered 92 lots multiplied by something! Maybe 20,000 each? My husband spoke with a member of the NCDOT who was out here doing some surveying – he stated that the DOT really had no interest in the property – I want to take that to mean they would not force access for the developer – but I do not know – my knowledge is very limited on this subject. Bottom line is they are in “a real pickle” if we decide not to accommodate/sell them the needed frontage. No money has been offered – it was just stated that we would be compensated. It seems we are in the position of power as far as a selling price – as they cannot develop without meeting those requirements. What would/do you advise and what resources should I use to educate myself. I have found the Policy on Street and Driveway Access to North Carolina Highways and been reading over it. I really do not want us taken advantage of either as far as the construction phase and the end result to our remaining front yard.
Great article. This is actually the first time I am learning about all of this. I bought my first property (that I currently live in) in 2012 and I am interested in investing in more property and generating passive income. My question is, once the property is purchased how do you ensure that it sells? I’m assuming that the only way to generate income from vacant land is for someone to build property on your land. If there is no interest in that land it could possibly turn into a loss.
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.

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