Rezoning isn’t a quick process, and there are no guarantees. “Sometimes councils won’t rezone because the land is too fragmented and needs consolidation,” Coutts says. “It can easily take four to five years. Some landowners don’t have that time, so it can be a very daunting and upsetting process. You can see why they say ‘just sell it and let’s get out of here’. But if you can wait and manage the process effectively, the rewards can be considerable.”
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.

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Even though you hope to sell that land fast or to sell that land online you will still want to ensure that you have a sign or two made and placed in a prominent spot on the land in question. This way anyone driving past the land will be able to see that the property is for sale and can get a hold of you in the easiest way possible. This especially true when you want to sell land by owner as you may not have to ability to reach as many potential buyers as a property listed in the Real Estate databases, you need to in effect create your own marketing and having a sign will help to advertise when you want to sell land fast.
You have to be careful, however, that the access road you create cannot also be used for subsequent developments in neighbours' gardens. Otherwise the developer, having bought your garden, will knock on your neighbours' doors and buy several back gardens. If this happens, Mr Noel said: "The access road beside your house, which you thought was only going to be used by a couple with one invalid carriage suddenly becomes the way into a development of 30 homes."
Maurice "Moe" Veissi, president elect of the National Association of Realtors says that the first step in negotiating a fair land deal is to make sure that it’s a clinical, not an emotional purchase. When it comes to a land purchase it is not unlike buying a car, he says. For example, would you purchase a new car without knowing what it is you want, what price are you willing to pay, and what the average purchase price is for the car you are eyeing?

I might add that in some development-friendly communities, the city and developer might try to play the eminent domain (condemnation) card. Ostensibly, eminent domain should be used only in the exercise of public good such as a new highway or road widening, though some cities get away with it in dubious circumstances. Your agent should know whether this could be an issue. Such a scenario, as unlikely as it is, would probably force you to hire a lawyer to get a decent price.


Hi Noam – I don’t check them all, every time. Many of the issues can be immediately ignored based on where the property is located, it’s size, and what it would most likely be used for, etc. For example – if a property is in a mountainous region, flooding will almost never be an issue. If the property isn’t ideally suited for building, then utilities and septic don’t matter. You get the idea.


I just ran across this post from over a year ago. Great general info! There are also local websites, specific to certain cities or regions that will advertise your property for free. In my current area of Utah, the best site is KSL.com, associated with a local newspaper. When I advertised in Southern California, Craigslist was the best free site. In some areas, nothing beats a small flyer on a physical bulletin board at the local convenient store. The best advice in this article is the CONTENT and the PHOTOS. Nobody will find your property without the right search terms, including proximity to local landmarks and features by name! - Don't just say "near lake." Put "easy walk to Fish Lake." Once a potential buyer finds your ad, the photos can reel them in. A photo of dirt and a few trees is nice but perhaps you can include a pic of you in a hammock between 2 trees or by a campfire or fishing in the nearby stream. Buying land is often much more about emotion than a list of cost vs. benefits. If it is a rural building lot, show photos of nice, nearby cabins or homes that help a buyer visualize the potential. Also remember to list other components that might make your deal stand out like owner financing or lease with option to purchase.
I’m sure it could be done. I actually live in a subdivision that started exactly like how you’re describing back in the 70’s. I think it can be a pretty big speculative gamble unless you’re absolutely certain that there’s a huge demand for what you’re creating… but if you end up being right, you could easily make millions (depending on how big of a project you’re looking at).
Hey Seth, as always great article! I found the free online marketing ideas (like posting on Craigslist) especially creative and helpful. Thanks so much for helping me through the stressful process of selling my home. Since you asked what other creative tips I’ve found–I read this eBook in my research and found it so helpful that I thought I’d post it here in the chance that it could help someone else. Here it is: https://www.homelight.com/sell-your-house-online-ebook
Another surprise to landowners attempting to subdivide their land is that the act of subdividing can raise any number of additional requirements and costs on your land. While your existing parcel may have been grandfathered so that it does not have to comply with some newer laws and regulations, undertaking a subdivision can trigger a new set of impacts and requirements.
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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 David, I think it has everything to do with the zoning of the property, and what the local municipality will allow you to do with it (given the size, shape, location, and what exactly you’re hoping to do with it). Once you have a specific property in mind, you could find out pretty easily by calling the local planning & zoning department. Just ask them what can be done with the property, and they should be able to give you your answer!
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.
Planning Consent. This will be needed before development is begun, but who obtains it is a question for landowners. Embarking on the planning process at your own risk can pay off, but it is a gamble and we recommend that you speak to either a surveyor, a planning consultant or a planning officer at your local authority to get an idea as to whether or not an application for consent for development would be successful. Many such applications will go to appeal. Is the planning consent you obtain going to be the one developers need? This is why many landowners enter into promotion agreements or conditional contracts which oblige others to apply for planning, as they often have a greater chance of success on the right terms. Be aware though, that extensive price negotiations can take place once planning consent is obtained, and the actual net development area can be calculated. This will take into account any ‘extra’ costs such as wildlife surveys or ground investigations that are required as a result of the planning conditions.
After identifying your likely buyers, try to think like them so you can focus your message to convey what they need to know about your property. Have information ready about schools, shopping and other nearby amenities. For developable land you can be prepared with zoning information and insight from local authorities about the location and capacity of water and sewer service. Each property is different, so customize your information for your situation and your targeted buyers.
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