On the surface, it seems like such a simple creature – but there can be A LOT of potential problems lurking beneath the surface of any piece of land. I wouldn't necessarily say all these issues are common, but the fact is – any one of these things could potentially be a deal killer if not addressed properly. When you take it all into consideration, it adds up to a sizable list of things that ought to be investigated as part of your due diligence process.
This whole subject always fascinates me, because it’s a pretty difficult question to answer. Even most appraisers don’t really know what they’re talking about when it comes to valuing land… a vacant lot’s true value is usually a very elusive number to nail down. You may want to see this blog post for more details on how I look at it: https://retipster.com/valueofland
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.
First, you need to understand the exact dimensions of the parcel of land you are evaluating. Next, call the local zoning department and ask them what the designated building setbacks are for the property in question (building setback requirements are very common, and are imposed as a way of giving order and consistency to the buildings in any given area). When you take these setbacks and regulations into account (relative to the size of this parcel of land), is there still enough room to build something worthwhile – or does it render the property useless? I've come across several properties that were designed (albeit, unintentionally) to be too small and after factoring in the setbacks – you can't build anything on them at all, leaving them virtually worthless!
9,861 Alabama Lots 599 Alaska Lots 15,879 Arizona Lots 12,474 Arkansas Lots 17,947 California Lots 6,629 Colorado Lots 1,098 Connecticut Lots 1,059 Delaware Lots 35 District of Columbia Lots 42,342 Florida Lots 20,650 Georgia Lots 1,170 Hawaii Lots 6,845 Idaho Lots 8,857 Illinois Lots 7,403 Indiana Lots 3,585 Iowa Lots 2,069 Kansas Lots 7,648 Kentucky Lots 3,134 Louisiana Lots 6,129 Maine Lots 4,865 Maryland Lots 1,028 Massachusetts Lots 18,665 Michigan Lots 7,325 Minnesota Lots 7,407 Mississippi Lots 9,713 Missouri Lots 5,797 Montana Lots 1,442 Nebraska Lots 3,893 Nevada Lots 2,588 New Hampshire Lots 3,388 New Jersey Lots 7,359 New Mexico Lots 9,287 New York Lots 32,804 North Carolina Lots 65 North Dakota Lots 4,955 Ohio Lots 3,952 Oklahoma Lots 6,483 Oregon Lots 7,911 Pennsylvania Lots 455 Rhode Island Lots 14,443 South Carolina Lots 1,157 South Dakota Lots 23,677 Tennessee Lots 26,203 Texas Lots 3,179 Utah Lots 1,689 Vermont Lots 16,457 Virginia Lots 2,789 Washington Lots 4,319 West Virginia Lots 16,390 Wisconsin Lots 1,832 Wyoming Lots
Thanks Ann! I’m so glad you got some good value out of it. I think you’re probably on the right track in getting outside help with the zoning details – that can be quite a confusing area if you don’t have any prior experience with it. If you have a builder in mind, you may want to get them involved on the front end too – as they will be able to point out most of the important details you’ll want to evaluate before they’re able to start building (even if you don’t plan to build for a while, they’re still great for some free consulting if they’re expecting to help you at some future date).
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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.

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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