Learn to evaluate the risks and rewards of subdividing land into residential lots. In this first of three articles on the subject, a developer and real estate lawyer provides landowners specific items to evaluate when considering whether or not to subdivide land. Come back for the next articles in this series that provide insights for landowners based on the author’s real world experiences with the subdivision process, as well as a hands-on description of the steps landowners should take when subdividing land.
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.
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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!

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). 
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?
After 10 years in the rental business industry, my husband and I opted to sell off our properties. We sold two through land contracts and another through a traditional mortgage sale. Though the steady monthly income was reliable, we opted to sell our larger note to pay down debt and free up our monthly budget. After testing the waters with 5 different firms across the nation, we selected to use First National Acceptance Company. Our agent was Richard Nzokou. Richard provided the best information with the most clarity on the process of selling our note. The offer and closing value were very fair. Richard kept a close eye on our sale through the approval process and kept me informed every day. I highly recommend this company and encourage you to work with Richard.read more
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.
I worked with Grace Chang in liquidating a mortgage I held on property my late husband and I had owned. It was probably the easiest land related business deal I have ever been involved with. Grace was knowledgeable, informed and available. She was in contact with me and I never had a question she was unable to answer. I was amazed at how quickly the transaction happened; which was far quicker than estimated at the onset. It is refreshing to do business with an organization that has such wonderful customer service and professional business associates. I would highly recommend First National and specifically Grace to everyone.read more
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?

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, Viz. That really is going to depend on your local laws and any possible restrictions related to the land, as well as the best size to make the new lots appealing to builders and home owners in your local market. You should get in touch with local real estate experts in your market, like a surveyor, attorney or real estate agent with lot and land expertise to help you better understand the local regulations and the most marketable lot sizes for your subdivision plans. Good luck!

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.

Hi Chris, thanks for the comment. That’s a pretty subjective question (there are a lot of variables to consider), but I don’t see how it could hurt the value of your overall estate. The question is – what is the land actually worth? Is it worth more or less than $25K? One way to find out would be to follow the ideas in this blog post. As long as the property is worth substantially more than $25K (and assuming you actually want the additional land), it’s probably a worthwhile investment… but again – it’s impossible for me to tell you anything concrete without looking at everything (which I can’t really do).
LandSaleListings is a great site to know about if you're trying to list and sell vacant land specifically. The site offers a few paid listing options, but it also allows users to post listings for free (with only one picture). It's not necessarily the most versatile or beautifully designed site on this list, but it's another valid option that doesn't cost anything and can potentially get your ad seen by a new audience.
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.
You also have to bear in mind that you cannot be exactly sure how the development will change the landscape of your street, or impinge on your privacy, or cause other problems, until it is actually built. David Henry of FPD Savills cites one case in which the owners of several large Victorian houses clubbed together and sold part of their gardens for development, only to find that their baths would no longer drain properly at certain times of day. The existing drainage systems could not cope with the extra load.
If you’re providing seller financing, you’ll still need to draft a deed, but this deed will be held in escrow until the final payment is made. Once that payment is made, the deed will be filed with its respective government agency, typically the county clerk. You can have an attorney, title agency, or a financial institution hold the median in escrow for you until the buyer makes the final payment.
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.
First impressions are lasting in real estate. When selling a home you would never leave out your dirty laundry for potential buyers to see, and you should also clean up your lot before it is shown and marketed.  Cut the grass (or weeds), remove trash and take marketing photos of your property when it is looking its best. Some sellers even plant wildflowers to make their vacant land look beautiful. It’s like staging a home, but you’re just working with raw land instead.
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