Thanks so much for this article! I’ve run into a unique situation, where we found an amazing historic house that we’d like to restore, but it is currently listed as a vacant lot for sell with a shell house on it, rather than the house itself being listed. We know it’s not in a flood plain, the deed is unrestricted, and the home appears to have been lived in within the last 30 years so there is electric, heating, and plumbing. Any suggestions on potential issues we should be asking about before we jump in? We’ve never looked at land before, so we’re a bit overwhelmed by how much more complicated it appears to be vs buying a house.
Grace Chang is amazing. I had to sell a land contract and was very concerned that our buyer would be happy with the new arrangements. Grace's helpful and caring attitude made all the difference. She walked me through every stage of this difficult process and everything turned out perfect. She was very professional, knowledgeable, and focused on the task to be done. Thank you Grace!read more
Great article. This is actually the first time I am learning about all of this. I bought my first property (that I currently live in) in 2012 and I am interested in investing in more property and generating passive income. My question is, once the property is purchased how do you ensure that it sells? I’m assuming that the only way to generate income from vacant land is for someone to build property on your land. If there is no interest in that land it could possibly turn into a loss.
Contact the owners of surrounding parcels of land to determine if they want to buy it. Sometimes, a land owner will want to increase the size of her holdings. If your land has access to a road, water or another valuable feature, it can be particularly valuable to a neighbor whose land doesn't have that attribute. Your neighbors are also familiar with your land, the area and its prospects, so they should be able to decide more quickly than someone who comes into the area cold.
To appeal to the widest range of buyers, you might want to make some updates, freshen up the yard and stage a few of the rooms. But you’ve seen properties in your neighborhood bought up by builders and demolished for new houses to be built. Maybe selling your home as a teardown would save you the effort of fixing it up, while getting you into your next house sooner.
We found a really great 2 acre property zoned rural residential in the area of town that we really want to live in Oregon. It is the only lot left in the older established subdivision, so it has city water but would need a septic (which everyone in the neighborhood has of course). One big issue is that it is basically a forest. The whole lot is full of trees, huge and small.

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
Hi Aracely – great question. You might want to contact the local planning and zoning department – ask them if you’re allowed to camp on the property and/or build whatever type of structure you’re planning to build. You’re right – most townships and cities (not the county necessarily) have different restrictions that come into play in different areas. You’ll probably find that the more rural areas have less and less restrictions, but generally speaking – you should always investigate, because some rules will most likely apply.
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.

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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.
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.

I should have asked about the other improvements as a different, side question. The property, just under 2 hours from where we live, is close to a large lake, that I wouldn’t mind going to more often for fishing and boating. The thoughts were to, until the property is sold, provide a spot for our rv on long weekends, so having a access, water, electric, and even some type of a septic field would be ideal. A better question would be which of these improvements could we reasonably expect to recover when sold, keeping in mind the exact placement might not be where a new owner would want them.


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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.
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.
We currently own 10 acres of land with a lot of road front footage. A very large nice development is underway adjacent to our property; the developer also recently had some type of auction and sold 92 lots. It has been brought to the attention of my husband and I that no homeowner construction can begin until development access issues are resolved. Presently, they have issues with line of sight entering into and out of the development; the development has a small privately paved 2 lane road entering onto the public highway system. Our property sits high on a small hill, it is large enough to occlude site to the left when pulling onto the highway. Our home also sits on a curve. We also have fencing – similar to what you might call pasture fence – that also occludes a drivers site pulling out as well. The developer has sent a neighbor (also his friend, may even be a partner) – who lives in the only house built in the development – although how they built that with restrictions in play – I do not know… Maybe because it was a single dwelling??? It was there before the current developer purchased it from the previous developer (who built the home in there as a “spec house”. First, this representative showed up saying they would like for us to move our fence and they would pay for us to move it (how kind). We just listened… And told him we like our fence just where it is – we know that even with the fence moved the line of site is still occluded – the hill would have to come down or be graded somewhat for it to work. 92 homes would also generate a lot of traffic. A turn lane was mentioned but no details were given – in fact no plan was presented at all. We think he was just feeling us out. My real question is how much should or could we ask for the property if we agreed to whatever their plan is – of course, we would see the plan proposals and bring in a lawyer. I don’t know how to begin to calculate it! I have considered 92 lots multiplied by something! Maybe 20,000 each? My husband spoke with a member of the NCDOT who was out here doing some surveying – he stated that the DOT really had no interest in the property – I want to take that to mean they would not force access for the developer – but I do not know – my knowledge is very limited on this subject. Bottom line is they are in “a real pickle” if we decide not to accommodate/sell them the needed frontage. No money has been offered – it was just stated that we would be compensated. It seems we are in the position of power as far as a selling price – as they cannot develop without meeting those requirements. What would/do you advise and what resources should I use to educate myself. I have found the Policy on Street and Driveway Access to North Carolina Highways and been reading over it. I really do not want us taken advantage of either as far as the construction phase and the end result to our remaining front yard.
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.
Your responses is truly encouraging. I am Construction Manager, starting out in development. I could really use your insight or how to begin. I want to build an resort, a place where families can come with all the amenities that you have to pay leaving the state of NY. With Executive suites for out of state executives. some rooms, some kitchenettes and E. Suites. Anyway, I found this great location, went to the town to see who owns the land. It is in a commercial area. I have a broker who will reach out to the owner for the sale. What would you suggest my next steps should be; get the property, get it survey, have a design prepared. I want to get investors on board. What would you suggest, I have for pitching my proposal to investors. I currently work with Architects, Engineers and they are willing to support me in this project. Just not sure what my next step should be. Any recommendations.

I’ve never heard the tip to create your own website when you have a home for sale. I also have never heard the tip to keep an eye out for “For Rent” signs to in order to look for more homes for sale. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to find homes for sale that have been on the market for a while because there’s more room for negotiation, thanks for the tips!


If either of these things are inhibited, it wouldn’t be highly unlikely that the land can be secured in the way you describe. In a free market, the seller can (and usually will) sell to whoever is offering the best deal at the right time – so if the developer can’t be competitive in this way, it boils down to the old saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers”.
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.
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.
Hi Seth – My brother-in-law and I are looking to get into real estate investing and have our eye on a piece of land (we want to start small, FYI). It is 1 of 8 lots, all of them are only 1,742 sq ft, for commercial use only, and the lot we are looking at is the end lot…My thought is, buy now and hold on to it for a length of time until a developer comes along and wants to buy all 8 lots. This would obviously need all sellers to agree to sell which I am not sure how tricky that would be. My question is, do you see any chance for money to be made here? The lot is in a great location and I honestly can’t believe nothing has been built there yet. More details: $16,500 for the lot, taxes are $1,087 / year which I know is a little high based on what you stated above but even so, after negotiations, I think we could get taxes down to 4%. I know it might be hard to say, ‘yes you will make money’ or ‘no, you won’t’ but just wanted any insight you could give.
I have a brokerage in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee that focuses specifically in land, so what I have done is created a nationwide advertising service to attract more buyers. I advertise on several investor channels like CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business and then also channels watched by people interested in land and the outdoors like the Outdoor Channel.
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, 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!
If you have created a land contract, you’ll also need a memorandum of land contract. This is, essentially, an abbreviated legal document that references the main contract created. This simply serves as a public notice that the buyer is interested in the property without you and the buyer having to disclose and record the entire land contract. Because the deed of the property will not be filed until you’ve received full payment on the purchase price indicated in the contract, this memorandum will be filed with the county and the city to serve as a record that the buyer is interested in the property.
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.
If you want to get the inside scoop on how to start and run you own land investing business, come and check out the REtipster Club – where you'll get access to a full 12-week course, videos, bonuses, downloads and a members-only forum (where I spend time answering questions every week). There is no better place to learn this business from the inside out.
Like most free listing sites, the format isn't necessarily optimized for vacant land properties (like the kinds I typically sell), but it's certainly possible to work within the parameters they give you (Pro Tip: On the first step when they ask for an address… you can also enter in the GPS coordinates of your property, in case it doesn't have a registered address yet).
If an application is turned down, it is usually because access to the site is difficult or it adjoins a main road. The ideal building site has frontage on an existing road. As little as 30 ft to the side of your house can provide enough land for a new house, although permission is more likely to be given on tight plots if existing houses in the street are closely packed.
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.

If six stars were possible, Terrell Wade and the team at FNAC would deserve that high of a rating. Terrell worked with me on purchasing a deed of trust that was part of my parent's estate. The transaction was tricky because of paperwork complications, that the house was now a rental, and that the owners spoke no English. Terrell patiently guided the owners through the process, had to reassure them at several times, and successfully closed the deal even though it took nearly 6 months. The price we received was fair and I cannot speak highly enough of the work and end result that was accomplished by FNAC. S,T,White, Manager RCR, LLCread more
If you're planning to build a “dwelling” of any kind on your parcel of land, there is one issue that may seem insignificant at first glance, but it has the potential to make or break a land deal. It's called a “Perc Test” – and if you're dropping some serious coin on land in a rural area, this is an issue you'll want to be sure about before you sink your money into it.

This issue can be overcome if you can establish a legal, recorded easement to the property. This can be done if one of the neighbors is willing to allow you access through their property – to yours. In many cases, a neighbor shouldn't be expected to do this for free, you'll have to give them a reason to help you (usually in the form of money). Again, this isn't an impossible issue to overcome, but it is definitely something you'll want to be aware of before you purchase.

Grace Chang is amazing. I had to sell a land contract and was very concerned that our buyer would be happy with the new arrangements. Grace's helpful and caring attitude made all the difference. She walked me through every stage of this difficult process and everything turned out perfect. She was very professional, knowledgeable, and focused on the task to be done. Thank you Grace!read more
I requested a quote 13 days ago & I accept the fact that you are back logged & it could take up to 14 days to get a written response. I just hope that you seriously consider our property for purchase. It really is a great lot. We had plans 13yrs ago to build a house with a walkout basement & even add a pole barn to the property. Times change, situations change & we've been trying to sell this since 2008. I'll keep my fingers crossed & hope that I hear a response with an offer very soon. I appreciate that you look at every property & realize it might take a little longer than 2 weeks to hear something. Thank you very much for your consideration. Amy
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In addition, landowners may more readily find buyers for smaller subdivided parcels that are more affordable than one larger piece of land. Try to understand the market’s needs. Completing the lot subdivision up front saves the purchaser the time, effort and risk of doing it themselves, increasing the salability – and often the value – of the overall property.
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.
Environmental issues. Contaminated land is what springs to mind when environmental issues are mentioned, but in this scenario, what is most likely are potential flooding or drainage problems. A history of flooding or waterlogging is clearly not going to be welcome news for a developer, but equally if the land has been used for potentially contaminative uses in the past or is near to sources of contamination, remember that remedying any actual contamination is costly and will significantly affect the value of the land. Any past surveys or reports that have been carried out should be to hand if required.
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.
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