These are the questions I ask myself before I buy any piece of vacant land. This isn't intended to be an all-inclusive list of EVERY possible issue you could ever encounter, but I’d say it covers about 95% of the potential concerns you ought to be aware of. Most of these issues come up very infrequently, but they are very important things to consider nonetheless. Remember, you don't need to be afraid of buying vacant land. You just need to be informed.
This is fraught with problems due to human fallibility. As long as you and your neighbor(s) get along great, everything’s fine, but there are about a million ways for it to go wrong. If he get’s pissed off at you, your water goes off. If he dies and stops paying the electric (pump) bill, your water goes off. If he decides to fill his private lake and uses up all the water, your water goes off. What if it was originally his well, you move in, then a month later says the well has to be redone – are you paying for half of his expenses enough though you just got there? If you refuse, your water goes off. The possibilities go on and on… so keep it in mind.
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Hi Victoria – you’d probably want to check with your local municipality to see who owns these parcels that surround the house (or you could also check out this tutorial or this tutorial to figure it out yourself). You generally don’t want to touch any trees that aren’t on the parcel that you own… but in terms of whether those surrounding parcels are “preserved woodlands” – that’s an answer you could probably get from someone with the local government office. Just Google the township or county clerk, give them a call and see what you can find out.
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.
2. The answer to this question depends entirely on the property, how much timber is on it, and how much money you can get from the sale of the timber. If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to sell the timber for more than you paid for the property itself (however, I would say this is more the exception than the rule). You might want to check out this article for some more insights if you haven’t already.
The best place to list free classified ads these days is craigslist.org and backpage.com These are simple no-nonsense interface sites where you can list the property price, description and add images. The big drawback is you have to continue to edit and update your listing to stay on top of the listing system otherwise it will be more difficult for buyers to find you. You can learn more about how to do this through basic Google searches.
I have done business with landcentury for 5 years now. I am very pleased with the experience I have had with them, and have always found them to operate with honesty, integrity, and dedication. They are committed to offering the best price while making sure they are selling a property that they believe a real estate buyer will be happy with. They are available, quick to answer calls or return messages, and always cooperative and accommodating. I would very strongly recommend landcentury.com to anyone.
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.
4. eBay.com – Once our top selling venue, eBay is still a great place to advertise and gather buyers and drive them to your dedicated selling website. Cost to post property for a 30-day auction style sale, is a $50 insertion fee with a $35 notice fee when the auction ends. Other sale types are “buy-it-now”, which is a fixed price type with same fee structure. Think of eBay as; $50 per month worth of advertising to reach potential sellers.
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?
Usage restrictions aren't necessarily a bad thing – they almost always make sense on some level. They're designed to help maintain order and support the value of each property in the subdivision. On the same coin… if you aren't aware of these restrictions before you purchase, they can also create some conflict with the plans you had in mind for the property. This isn't common for most land investors (because most people have no intention of using their property for purposes that don't jive with their surroundings), but even so – you should always make sure you understand what the rules are BEFORE you buy a parcel of vacant land. This will help you avoid owning a property that requires maintenance you don't want to do, or that can't be used for your intended purpose.
Hi Dave, thanks for stopping by. You’re right – it’s very hard for me to give you any concrete opinion on this (because there are a lot of factors to weigh with any piece of vacant land). I’d say if you’ve looked at all the potential downsides and established that there won’t be any issues from that end… and if you’ve got a fairly decent idea as to what the property is currently worth (and you’re buying it for a price that is significantly BELOW that number), then sure – there probably is a fair chance that you can make money on it.
This all boils down to how badly the developer needs your home, how much money he stands to gain by moving quickly and how robust the multi-unit housing market is. If the final offer falls a bit short of where you’d like it to be, factor in the negatives of staying: more construction noise, additional traffic and all the dough you’ll have to fork out to comfortably remain there. Realize, too, that condo prices, in particular, can be mercurial and turn on a dime if the greater housing market starts going south, which might give your buyer cold feet.
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 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.
The properties next door can have some MAJOR implications for the value and “sale-ability” of a parcel of land (e.g. – Think about it, would you rather live next to Yosemite National Park or a Landfill?). For understandable reasons, most people care a great deal about who and what they live next to, so be sure to get a good idea for what the surrounding properties look like (hint: this is another potential area where a service like WeGoLook can help).
Hi Prakash, the best way out to sell your property is to advertise your property through different media including online property portals like 99acres.com since online media is faster and quicker. You can also go for offline media options like magazines and newspaper in which you can easily give your advertisements in the classified sections and specific real estate supplements. Apart from this, you may also purchase a paid package service provided by various online portals in which they will charge you on a monthly basis and in return they will give prominence to your ad over non-paid ads. For paid package services, you may refer to 99acres.com and choose option buy our services: http://www.99acres.com/do/buyourservices
 Overage. Put simply this is a right to receive future payments in respect of land which has been sold. It is sometimes known as a clawback. The right is triggered by the happening of a certain event, in this scenario often the grant of planning consent for development. There are many issues to consider here, beyond the scope of this note, but landowners need to think about what will constitute the trigger event, how long the overage agreement should last for, what the obligations of each of the parties should be, how the payment should be calculated and how this payment should be secured.
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). 
You can also try to contact a few local real estate agents in the area and ask them if they wouldn't mind driving by the property and snapping a few pictures when they have a chance. Most agents are regularly in the field anyway, and it isn't a huge ask for them to swing by your property and get some pictures (especially if you show an interest in using them for your future listings and/or paying them a few bucks for their trouble).
I was contacted by FNAC about acquiring the note on the house that I have been owner financing. The representative I dealt with was Terrell Wade. He explained everything to me and assured me there would be no cost to me for their company to get all the paperwork they needed to close this transaction. I was very pleased with his professionalism and courteous manner as he explained things to me and answered all my questions.read more
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.
Hotpads is a unique one on this list, because it's only intended for listing properties (houses, apartments, condos, etc) for rent, not for sale. Nevertheless, this still fills a major need for many property owners, and since it's one of the bigger players in the space, with a very well-designed layout and interface, it's definitely worth mentioning on this list.

And I know what you mean about the assessed value – this number means almost nothing in my mind, because the county will usually peg this number as high as possible, because it allows them to charge more in tax revenue for the property. I think you can get it reassessed in many cases, but there usually aren’t any guarantees that your request will get traction, and the process isn’t necessarily fast or easy. It may be worth your while to call the local tax collector and just ask them how much the annual tax bill is – that should tell you pretty quickly what the obligation would be.


Even if you’ve confirmed that there are no restrictions that forbid subdividing the land (or make it unfeasible), you and your experts also should research the local zoning, subdivision and development laws so that you can understand the layout and size limitations for your planned lots. Each county, city or other authority will have its own regulations that describe important items like current zoning requirements, minimum lot widths, setbacks (front, rear and side), buffers, building heights, required open space and other significant details that affect the size and layout of your lots.
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.
Another benefit of subdividing for homeowners who would like to liquidate some of their real estate without having to sell the farm (literally), is that they may be able to both cash in on a portion of vacant land and stay put on the rest. Holding onto some of their land can give that property time to increase in value as the surrounding subdivided land becomes developed.
Very good question, Trevor. We plan to do a blog article on this subject soon. You are pretty much on the mark with your example of 25% of the final to-be-built home’s value as a rough guide to a lot’s value. You’ll see that some markets use different valuations (even within the same city or region), but in many markets an estimation of the value of the lot generally can range from around 20% of the home value (for more rural or lower price point homes) up to around 30% or more (often for higher end communities or for urban/infill areas with less lot supply and higher home prices). Of course for some lots/properties these rules simply don’t apply, like oceanfront lots or land with other unique characteristics.
One of the most important first steps before subdividing your land or land you wish to buy is to make sure there are no restrictions that will block your plans. Everything from ordinances, neighborhood covenants to deed restrictions may prohibit – or fatally complicate – your plans. Review these items carefully, plus order a professional title review (typically through a real estate attorney) so that you can understand whether there are any deal killing issues that apply to the property and prevent subdividing.
I am searching for land also. I would like it to have a septic and well. I have been using zillow and landwatch.com. I have tried reaching out to real estate agents for help but they haven’t been very helpful. I was wondering would you be able to share how you find this property with elec, well and septic? Was it posted online or through a real estate agent, etc?
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.

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).
Hotpads is a unique one on this list, because it's only intended for listing properties (houses, apartments, condos, etc) for rent, not for sale. Nevertheless, this still fills a major need for many property owners, and since it's one of the bigger players in the space, with a very well-designed layout and interface, it's definitely worth mentioning on this list.
Hi, I found your blog via searching for help for a decision. I have two 10 Acre parcels with views of the Stanislaus Mountains in Northern California that are part of an 8 parcel development back in 2006 for $160k each (ouch) with the intention of building a home on one and the other as an investment. One has a well the other does not. There were two owners of the development that built right before the financial crises but no one has built since. I wanted to lower the property tax so I listed them each for $60k, not thinking I’d ever get an offer and since dirt is not selling in that area well, but low and behold within two weeks I received two offers on the parcel with the water well (one from a real estate agent/2nd from a neighbor behind the property). I’m not sure but I think both have different intentions for purchasing which doesn’t matter (you are able to grow marijuana in that county). Now I’m uncertain about selling since it was not my intention and I’d really like to recover my investment. Should I wait to see if land values rise to what I paid back then or should I take the money and run!? They both asked for owner financing. There is access to power and the development’s access is through a gated community. Any comments would be welcomed and appreciated. Thank you!
This is one of many reasons why people buy title insurance when they purchase a property, because it ensures that the title is clear and that the buyer is actually getting all of the rights they’re expecting to get (unless otherwise noted in the title insurance commitment). If you’re concerned about this and you haven’t already ordered a title commitment, you might want to consider doing this.
Thank you very much for the write-up. I learnt quite a great deal, being a novice in real estate business. As a matter of fact I stumbled on your article while searching for information about possible investment opportunities on a piece of land. One of our client conferred a nine-hectar piece of land to us and we’re considering what investment would be appropriate on it. That’s what pushed me to start searching for things to do before investing on a piece of land, and I must confess that your article provided 95% of the answers. Thank you again. I guess I know how to go about it now, who to talk to and what to look for. In case you’d like to know where I’m writing from, I’m based in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon (Central Africa), a country so geographycally blessed with a long history of political stability and an accomodating business environment. If you happen to think of an investment opportunity in Africa put Cameroon on your priority list. Let’s keep in touch.

I've seen a number of properties that are virtually useless due to their size and shape. I remember on one occasion, I came across a parcel of land that was 5 feet wide and 900 feet long. I've also seen properties that were 10 feet by 10 feet. If you see a parcel of land with an odd shape, use your common sense. If you can't think of a legitimate use for a property with its given dimensions – you'll probably want to think twice before buying it.

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.
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