Once you get over about an acre in size and two or three lots, the complexity of the subdivision process can rise dramatically. The level of difficulty – and expertise needed — can be compounded if you have a site where lots will not front on an existing public road or where utilities and infrastructure must be built. This likely will require you to undergo municipal oversight (possibly even state or federal, for some situations) for the subdivision’s site design and layout, as well as construction of roads, utilities and other infrastructure. In this scenario, you basically are stretching the activity from simply subdividing a parcel to full-scale community and land development.
There may be some back and forth with the seller. You may offer a lower amount than the asking price and the seller in turn will counter with an offer higher than yours. The key is to head to the negotiations table with your well conducted research in hand. Don’t waste time playing games or questioning the seller’s integrity, warns King. "If you educate yourself about the market, you can determine if an offer is a good deal or not. You won’t get taken for a ride."
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Use a title company if you are not familiar with deeds, deed conveyance and closing of real estate. I prefer First American Title and you can find them anywhere. They will handle the monies, title search, title policy, deed, recording of the deed and pro-rated taxes, etc. Fees will vary and you can certainly negotiate. Typically the seller pays for the title policy and the buyer pays for half of the escrow fees. You can always charge an extra recording fee to offset these expenses.
The trick with vacant land is to understand why it's vacant in the first place. I've run across quite a few vacant lots that seemed attractive at first glance, but eventually, I discovered the reason nobody was using them was that you CAN'T use them. If one (or more) of the issues above are prohibiting someone from putting a property to good use, believe me – you don't want to find out after you already own it.
Curry encourages sellers not to position their home as a teardown because it narrows the market only to those looking to build new, when there might be other buyers who would be happy to renovate it. No need to touch an outdated kitchen or bathroom, since a renovating buyer will likely target those rooms for first projects, but a broken stair rail or damaged window should be fixed.
Thanks Seth. Great ideas! Going after investors if you have a property that could be an attractive buy for them is something most people wouldn’t think of. Chances are, that if an investor isn’t in the market, he/she probably knows others who are. Forums are also a good idea as people will actually look at and read posts as opposed to other platforms where people scroll through without a car.
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.
I am considering buying a quarter acre, to build a house for my retirement in a few years. I have never bought land before but it is in an area that will definitely increase in value over the next few years so I want to lock it down now and build the house I want later, rather than purchase a home and make payments in addition to my current home. Thanks for the tips on how to assess, my question is whether I should use a realtor and/or get a property appraisal. I will probably pay cash for the land. Thanks much!
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!
That's tricky. It is not as easy to find a buyer for land as it is for a residence. Not all buyers have the resources or the vision to do a project like that. I would say try marketing to a builder that will put something on it, or try marketing to those that would like to build. First, and most important is location. What is in the area. Is it a highly sought after residential area, is it a commercial area. Know what your zoning is, and who this piece of property would appeal to. You have to have some kind of a vision for who it would suit in order to know who and where to market it.
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In most cases, rural land owners should enlist the help of a professional land agent in selling their properties. Unless they have a lot of experience or it is a slam-dunk deal, the seller will benefit from having an agent on their team. In fact, most serious land investors have at least one agent that they go to for finding deals or making sales. Take a cue from sophisticated land investors and enlist the help of a true land sales professional to market and sell your rural land. You will be glad you did.
Ideally, you should employ a realtor and real estate attorney that know what restrictive covenants there are and what you can and can’t build on that piece of property, says Veissi. "But you still may need to do some grunt work. Find out how the property is zoned." Zoning ordinances and regulations are laws that define how you can use the property. Depending on your needs, will you have to change the zoning? For instance, if the property is zoned for an industrial warehouse or office building and you want to build a retail outlet. Also, zoning ordinances will typically limit the total height of a building or require a certain number of parking spaces for a commercial building. Opposition to zoning changes by local residents or other invested parties can be fierce—time consuming and costly.
As for whether the seller will accept a lower offer – you’ll never know until you make the offer and wait for his response. It could obviously go either way, but my philosophy is usually to err on the lower side – because unless he’s got other buyers waiting in line (which I doubt he does), you can always come back with a higher offer later if you really want it that badly.
If your property and those around it have recently been rezoned, this could be a sign you can sell your property to a developer for a good profit. But nothing is set in stone. The next best step is to speak to your real estate agent, who will know what has recently sold and whether any developers are actively looking in your area. They can then assess your home to see whether it would be able to sell and some estimated figures.
Very interesting read. I am looking at some desert land in both NV and AZ. They are between 40-80 acres each. My budget seems to afford places that either have an old well, or power at the lot line, but not both. Which utility do you feel is initially more critical to have of the two? I know adding a solar system or having power brought in is very cost prohibitive, so my thought was to go with the power on the lot. I figured I could always have water trucked in and stored in a tank since the properties are easily 2WD road accessible. I figure that buying property with an old well may be worthless and not worth the price increase of the property. And I have been reading that drilling a well is a gamble. Thanks in advance for some insight.
great article and timely. I have several undeveloped lots located in urban and well rural settings., from quarter acre to 120 acres. I am also thinking of developing the lots my self but need a step by step process including spread sheet showing cost of development and potential roi. what type if assistance should I expect from local gov’t in this process for environmental goals, building green, workforce housing etc. thanks