Hi Cassie, sounds like an exciting opportunity! I might suggest that you call your local planning and zoning department. Tell them about the property and what you’re interested in doing with it. Ask them if they know of any particular issues you should be aware of. They should be able to help you check at least a few of these things off your list from the get go.
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.
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.
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.
Negotiating: A good agent can help you navigate the negotiation process and give you perspective on what to offer and what to accept in order to help you reach an agreement with a potential buyer. Negotiations are often tense and can become emotional. The agent serves as the go-between, and is paid to defuse and diffuse the negotiating process. A man that I showed land to last week, was planning to sell a property he owned and do a 1031 exchange into a property I have listed. He told me about a cash offer on his tract that was “as good as in the bank” for about $350,000. One of the owners that adjoined this man’s property had made the offer about a month before he came to see my tract. His adjoining owner called back yesterday and dropped his offer from $350,000 to $315,000. Had I been his agent, I would have advised him when the offer came in to go ahead and accept it. His delay in accepting the offer probably knocked him out of buying my listing which he liked a lot.
On those notes, pay attention to who you’re likely buyer will be, and seek out those people. If the land is zoned for commercial businesses, make entrepreneurs and existing business owners your target audience. A real estate agent who is selling a flat property that gets a lot of sunshine may want to reach out to energy companies who are looking to build solar arrays.
I have a home on a lot that is large enough to be subdivided. I met with the city to discuss subdividing and they said that each lot needs a 20′ street frontage (currently I only have a 20′ street frontage. They said that I can subdivide if I put in a drive tract to the subdivided section. However, they would consider the drive tract a road and as a result I would need to remove an attached carport because the rules indicate that a house needs to be 20′ from a road. The only reason that I need the drive tract instead of a typical driveway was to create the 20′ street frontage.
Sell your land to a speculative investor. Many areas have investors that will buy just about anything as long as it is cheap enough. These investors can close quickly, but will frequently offer you a very low price for your land. That's how they're able to move so fast -- they're getting a great deal. Investors usually won't require you to finance the land for them.
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Investors look for future potential. A priority would be to look at a municipal developmeant plan to see if the property is within a plan area. Personally, I would never invest in land that is not already under a municipal area structure plan. If you want to take a risk, you could look for land that was in the obvious path of development and be prepared to hold the land for a very long period of time.
Do you know if the developer had a local brokerage do the sales for the project you mention? You might want to contact the developer, but I'd also suggest you speak with a Realtor first to get a market analysis for the value of your property. Then decide if you want to put your property on the market or if you want to explore contacting either the developer or the owners of properties adjoining yours to see if there is interest.
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 farmer may want to expand his or her land, and your 3-acre lot is perfect for grazing. If you have land that is in a residential area, your neighbor may want the opportunity to have a bigger property and will buy your land for premium since it is adjacent to their land. And these are people you probably know and trust, which makes the entire sales process more pleasant.
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.
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Hi David – it would depend on what financing you can get for the land… and since most banks don’t finance land without an immediate plan for development, chances are, you’d either have to pay cash or find your financing from a separate source (like if the seller is willing to finance it, or if you’re able to obtain a loan with some other collateral).
Great information.. l just acquired a parcel of land on the coast with a beautiful ocean view. The city says it can be broken into three or maybe four lots. It has all at street , water sewer, electricity, etc. for one lot., lm to old to fool with it and needed some ideas of how to market it , pre Estate sale. Your list gives me lots of ideas, where l had none. Thank you so much….
Hi Tracy – have you considered looking for properties that aren’t currently listed for sale? That’s how I find all of my properties (and this is something most Realtors won’t be able to help you with, because most of them are only looking at the properties currently listed on the MLS). I find these properties by sending out a direct mail campaign to the delinquent tax list in counties that are RURAL.
As for whether the seller will accept a lower offer – you’ll never know until you make the offer and wait for his response. It could obviously go either way, but my philosophy is usually to err on the lower side – because unless he’s got other buyers waiting in line (which I doubt he does), you can always come back with a higher offer later if you really want it that badly.
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..