1. I never use loans when I buy vacant land, because I’m able to get my properties very, very cheap (and I’m only able to do this because I know where/how to find motivated sellers). Most banks won’t lend directly on land UNLESS you have an immediate plan to build on it – and this is why seller financing can be such a helpful tool when selling land (because most buyers will need it in order to do the transaction).
Here are reasons why I believe an Exclusive Listing Agreement is better for the seller when it comes to selling land. (Let me preface all of these reasons with the assumption that you have researched prospective listing agents with experience in selling land and you are only going to deal with ones that appear to be qualified and have good reviews. For more explanation read, “Not All Agents are Competent About Land.”

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.

In order to determine the right buyer for your land, look at the highest and best use to determine where to start placing ads. If it is country land that is perfect for hunting, look for local outdoor forums and clubs to advertise your land. If it is a good home site, a land broker or traditional real estate agent may be best. You can also contact the neighbors, who may be interested in extending their property.


There are many reasons people decide that their vacant land has become a burden and they need to sell land fast. For some, they no longer have a need for it, and they would rather cash out of the property. For others it is the cost associated with paying the property taxes on the vacant land. Finally, some will sell because it wouldn’t be cost effective to keep it, and the value has dropped significantly when the bubble burst in 2008.

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.

A large piece of undeveloped land may get you the greatest return if you subdivide it and sell each parcel separately. Have the land surveyed to determine which parcels are suitable for home building, which have other uses and which are likely to remain undeveloped. Keep one or more parcels for yourself if you still want an investment stake in the land, in case its value rises in the future.
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.
Tenants. Informal arrangements with tenants can also pose a problem when it comes to selling. If you let any buildings to business tenants they should be on proper leases which are contracted out of the security of tenure provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Any residential tenants should be on Assured Shorthold Tenancies. For agricultural tenants, make sure they are on licences if appropriate or Farm Business Tenancies under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995. Bear in mind the long notice periods and that compensation may also be due for these tenants. Agricultural tenancies that were granted before 1 September 1995 are likely to have lifetime security of tenure and if they predate 12 July 1984, successors can also be named by the tenant so that up to three generations can farm the same land. Compensation will also be payable on termination for any tenant improvements to the land. Again, it will help to have all the paperwork accessible and to hand.
These can include a requirement that you dedicate part of “your” land that is in the road right-of-way to the local government, causing you now to be working with a smaller parcel. Other rules may require you to build or improve roads, sidewalks, curb and gutter and even to plant trees. In addition, you also may be required to install water and sewer connections and meters for the lots, or to pay capacity fees, impact fees and other assessments when adding the new homesites.
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.
But do not — and I repeat — do not try selling directly to a developer/builder. These folks, when dealing directly with a property seller, will base their typically lowball offers on a “fair market value” determined by appraisers they hire, who are typically agenda-led cronies. Such offers will almost certainly not take into account the recent increase in land values that all this upscale multi-tenant development is creating.
I’m learning the hard way about the hidden costs of buying empty land. Unless utilities are already there, it can be VERY expensive to run them from the street to the building site. For example, one parcel we looked at was about 1000′ feet off the main road where utilities are located. To run city water, gas, electricity, and cable could run anywhere from $10-100 per foot! Multiply that by 1000 and I better understand why developers say that they spend the same on running utilities as they do on the land. It may cause us to reevaluate our goals and possibly shift to buying a property that already has a rundown home on it.
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.

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.


I should have asked about the other improvements as a different, side question. The property, just under 2 hours from where we live, is close to a large lake, that I wouldn’t mind going to more often for fishing and boating. The thoughts were to, until the property is sold, provide a spot for our rv on long weekends, so having a access, water, electric, and even some type of a septic field would be ideal. A better question would be which of these improvements could we reasonably expect to recover when sold, keeping in mind the exact placement might not be where a new owner would want them.
Unfortunately, I owe $4000 in back taxes on the 2 acres. Most of the $4,000 owed is mostly penalty fees, since the annual tax on the 2 acres is $300 yr. My home on the 5 acres is valued at $500,000 and the 2 acres is valued at $14,000. If I pay the past due tax fees and penalties on the 2 acres, and have both properties joined, will the value of my home increase since it will be on 7 acres instead of 5 acres. And if so, will my homes value only increase by the value of the 2 acres ($14,000) for a total of $514,000? Also, the 2 acres is land locked and on a steep hill. Thank you in advance for your help.
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.
If you have plenty of time and are not in a hurry to sell the property, and would like to do very little work I would suggest listing it with a broker. They will be able to create a listing for the property, answer phone call and emails, and handle the closing. The downside of this approach is comes at a price and you typically only get local exposure and most real estate agents who deal with both land and homes will most likely put more effort into selling their homes as the commissions are greater.
I really appreciate your posting this blog subject. I would ask the neighbors and previous owners what they know. If applicable, go to the Planning and/or Building Department and find out what permits have been issued for that parcel in the past. You might get an indication of what waste products might be on the property. You should also contact your state’s department of the interior or forestry department to see if there are any endangered species, plant or animal, located on the property. Contact the Sheriff’s department to see if there have been any reports of drug manufacturing on the property. If they don’t know, they may be able to direct you to the correct authority. Not all drug manufacturers use stick built houses to do their business (trailers and vans). Also, if there is a stream or creek on the property, you should investigate what is up stream from your property; like a turkey or hog farm or dairy. These may affect the water in the creek upstream, but they may also smell bad coming from the prevailing wind direction. Ask the neighbors.
Remember, the goal is to get your listing in front of as many potential buyers as possible, and the buyers who browse on Website A may never think of browsing on Website B (or C, or D, or E). Since we can never know precisely where our next buyer will come from, it may be worth your consideration to look at what each of these options can bring to the table (and since none of these cost a dime, the only thing you stand to lose is your time).
If the property is part of a Home Owner's Association (HOA) it will most likely have even more stringent restrictions in place to help maintain the “quality” and formality of their neighborhood. The idea is to keep any bizarre behavior OUT of the neighborhood (e.g. – cars in the front yard, lawns nobody takes care of, houses that look out-of-place or aren't built to code). 
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!
I think I’m in trouble….because I signed a contract for a 1.23 acre land and I haven’t ordered a perc test…the land couldn’t perc about 8 yrs ago according to the owner…. the piece of land is near other homes, that are build on an acre of land or more…. it is near a state park as well…. There is a stream called gunpowder that is near this area…. I am scared to death right now…. my contract doesn’t have a contingency to a perc test passing…it is full of trees too. So I know the land needs to be cleared… in your experience is there a way to cancel a contract or a way out….the contract has already been sent to a title company….. I need help asap…. thanks
Undeveloped land without significant zoning limitations is open to a variety of uses. Reach out to all types of buyers who might find the land appealing. This may include home builders, private individuals looking for land to build on, park or camp developers and environmental groups that want to keep the land undeveloped. Reach out to the owners of adjacent land to see if they want to add to their property. Advertise in different publications and websites, not just in local real estate magazines targeted at people looking for new homes.
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My question is how does the land being full of trees affect the value? We received an estimate of clearing 1 acre of land of trees (logging plus stump removal & grinding) of $17K with a potential timber profit of $11k. It seems that my realtor is under the impression that the land is worth more because off all of the timber. In our opinion, it is worth less with all of the work plus out of pocket costs to clear for building.
I read your email and on your website almost everyday. New at this . Bought few lot in PA . Sold some @ EBay. Most challenging part is to sell land fast @ reasonable price . Your “50 Creative Ideas To Sell Your Property FAST ” really opened up new frontier for me . Tried few of them daily basis. Hope to try all of them soon. Is there any one works for you better than other ? Thanks for all help and ideas. Hope to join your mentoring program once I sell few more lot / land .

Selling lots and land has its unique challenges and strategies when compared to selling a home, and these are several of the ways you can boost your selling efforts. Whether you’re just starting the process of selling your lot or land or you need to re-energize your efforts, we hope these tips help you. So take action and find a way to reach past the home buyers and get to that pool of active lot and land buyers.
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