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.
The asking price may not always be the agreed-upon purchase price. You may try to negotiate a lower price upon review of the current title of land for sale. In reviewing the property, look at the vesting deed (available from the county clerk's office) and the appraisal, advises Veissi. Real estate property interests are usually conveyed by a deed. Sometimes people sell or transfer partial interests in a property. Check the deed to see if there are any easements or rights that have been granted for use of the property without having to own the property. Either the seller or buyer (even both) may order an appraisal. Ask the appraiser for a like property analysis, Veissi suggests. Meaning, request to see a list of like properties that have sold in the area and compare those prices to see if the asking price for the property you seek is reasonable.

Comparables for land can be trickier than for home sales in your area. Although the assessor's valuation on your taxes can provide a starting point, consider factors like whether your property has utilities to the property line, views, zoning and any preapproved building plans to determine its worth. Location is always one of the most critical factors. In San Francisco's Pacific Heights area, for example, a buildable cul-de-sac lot of less than 4,000 square feet can sell for more than $9 million.

“I visited the property on Sunday and most of the lot was inundated with water. It is apparent that the soil is saturated for significant periods. Based on my observations, which are consistent with the available online data, it is my opinion that the lot is unbuildable since it does not meet the minimum New York State Dept. of Health (NYSDOH) requirements for the design of an onsite septic system. NYSDOH requires at least 12 inches of native useable soil above the high groundwater level and the septic system cannot be situated in a wetland. While NYSDOH has many other requirements to comply with, these two deficiencies cannot be addressed by any approvable design.
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We hope this helps provide valuable insight for landowners about the pros, cons and items to evaluate when considering subdividing your land. Check back soon for our second article in this series about Subdividing Land: Tips for Landowners from a Developer, where we will describe some real world issues that we have seen in subdivision attempts. Plus, the third article in the series will provide hands-on details about the steps to take if you decide to subdivide your land into lots.
Land Requires Different Sales Techniques – A home has a kitchen, bathrooms and a façade that can be visual and photogenic. You can hold an Open House for a home and walk a buyer through each room to help make the sale. Buyers can easily visualize themselves in – and fall in love with – the built home. It’s just not the same for vacant residential lots and land.
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