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.
MLS usually is a first step for real estate agents when they get a new home listing, and it certainly should be part of any real estate marketing plan. But keep in mind that MLS is focused on marketing existing built homes, and should not be the only online marketing tool used for your lot or land listings.  LotNetwork.com was specifically designed for selling residential lots and land, and attracts targeted lot and land buyers like potential homeowners, builders, developers and investors, among others.
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.
Something I appreciate about the property listing platform on this site is that you can enter in A LOT of deal-specific details that real estate investors are going to care about, as explained in this video (e.g. – costs associated with owning the property, cash flow details, zoning and uses, etc.). I also really liked the ticking time clock at the top of each listing, as it helps instill a sense of urgency/scarcity for anyone who wants to take advantage of the deal.
Very informative articles, and exchanges. I have a general question about subdivisions. I am looking to sell a 5 acre parcel, that would accommodate about 45 lots. The lots would be sold, with houses built, for a minimum of $750,000 each. Would you say there a rough guide, as to what percentage the cost of land should be for each lot sold? Obviously, the lower the cost of the acquired land, the better for the developer, but I’m just wondering if there is a ‘rule of thumb’ in the business. For example, no more than 25% of a lot’s sale price should go towards the cost of the land? I am not looking to push the buyer to their break-even point, but I want to get a fair price too.

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.
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.
In the very least, your land contract should include the address of the property and a full legal description of the land. It should also include the down payment amount, purchase price, the number of payments that will be made, the monthly payment amounts, and any balloon payments that may be required. You may also consider creating and attaching an amortization schedule.
Another benefit of subdividing for homeowners who would like to liquidate some of their real estate without having to sell the farm (literally), is that they may be able to both cash in on a portion of vacant land and stay put on the rest. Holding onto some of their land can give that property time to increase in value as the surrounding subdivided land becomes developed.
You always have the option of selling your land through a professional which is your real estate agent. There are some significant benefits to doing this when you are looking for a quick sale. These experts have the training and expertise for selling property. They also have a large database of potential buyers. Then they have ready access to many more forms of marketing that you as a private seller may not have. This includes selling through the internet. Most have high profile sites set up that draws traffic from interested buyers. If you are attempting to sell your property online you probably don’t have this same outreach.
There are many reasons people decide that their vacant land has become a burden and they need to sell land fast. For some, they no longer have a need for it, and they would rather cash out of the property. For others it is the cost associated with paying the property taxes on the vacant land. Finally, some will sell because it wouldn’t be cost effective to keep it, and the value has dropped significantly when the bubble burst in 2008.

Unfortunately, I owe $4000 in back taxes on the 2 acres. Most of the $4,000 owed is mostly penalty fees, since the annual tax on the 2 acres is $300 yr. My home on the 5 acres is valued at $500,000 and the 2 acres is valued at $14,000. If I pay the past due tax fees and penalties on the 2 acres, and have both properties joined, will the value of my home increase since it will be on 7 acres instead of 5 acres. And if so, will my homes value only increase by the value of the 2 acres ($14,000) for a total of $514,000? Also, the 2 acres is land locked and on a steep hill. Thank you in advance for your help.


While often unpopular with locals, people who wish to cash in on their gardens get a lot of help from planning laws. According to Craig Noel of Strutt & Parker, it is becoming very difficult for planning authorities to resist applications to build houses in back gardens, thanks to one of the new planning guidelines, PPG3, which obliges houses to be built at higher densities in future.

Hi Cassie, sounds like an exciting opportunity! I might suggest that you call your local planning and zoning department. Tell them about the property and what you’re interested in doing with it. Ask them if they know of any particular issues you should be aware of. They should be able to help you check at least a few of these things off your list from the get go.
Know what the land is zoned for. From the beginning, you need to have a clear understanding of what this land is zoned for. You don’t want to discourage buyers by keeping them waiting until you have the answer, and you definitely don’t want to mislead a buyer with incorrect information. It’s better to be honest and then refer the buyer to information about changing land classifications and zoning exemptions.
In order to determine the right buyer for your land, look at the highest and best use to determine where to start placing ads. If it is country land that is perfect for hunting, look for local outdoor forums and clubs to advertise your land. If it is a good home site, a land broker or traditional real estate agent may be best. You can also contact the neighbors, who may be interested in extending their property.
I make a commitment to my clients when I become their exclusive agent. I never list a property I do not intend to sell. Until a property sells I spend all of my own money in marketing and showing a tract. Agents cannot stay in business if we do not make money. I tell people that my children like to eat every single day, so I give my best effort to selling their property. That is an arrangement that benefits both the seller and the agent.
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.
You can also look to certain companies and organizations that have a concentration of people that may fall in the above mentioned roles such as investment companies (i.e. Charles Schwab, Fidelity), financial advising companies (i.e. Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch). There may be a higher concentration of people who can both afford and want to build their own custom homes or to build income-producing properties. Try linking yourself to financial advisors who may already know of people who have these types of dreams. This isn't a comprehensive answer of all the possibilities but just some thoughts. Good luck!
A Perc Test (also known as “Perk Test”, and more formally known as a “Percolation Test“), is a soil evaluation that tests the rate at which water drains through the soil. If a property doesn't have easy access to the local sewer system, a perc test is required to determine whether a septic system (the alternative to a sewer) can be installed on the property.
Once you provide us with a few basic pieces of information, using our simple and easy to use Sell My Land Form, we will automatically receive a copy of that information and begin our review process. Using a mixture of county assessment information, recent local sales data, and research on comparable land properties in the area, we will determine what we’d be able to offer you for your land.
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