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.
As for pricing, your suggestion of $20,000 x 98 seems high for a sliver of road frontage to add a turn lane. Granted, you have the right to try to sell your property for whatever you think it is worth (unless it is a government taking for market value, or if you just don’t own the property in the first place), but that does not mean someone will buy it if it is overpriced. The developer likely has other options. Usually valuations in a situation like this are based on an appraised (or negotiated) value per acre or square foot, and then a survey determines the precise size of the sliver of land that is being conveyed at that rate.
I’m so happy that you mentioned to send out letters to your neighbors that say you are planning on selling your place. My sister had the worse time trying to sell her place. She put ads online and in the newspaper, talked to real estate agents, and tried other methods. It wasn’t until she sent letters out to her neighbors that she got a response. All in all, don’t give up! You’ll find someone to buy your place one way or another!
Calculate all of the costs to bring the land up to the condition you would like. What is it going to cost you to build out the property? That is the cost of acquiring the land, the entitlement, the cost of construction of the land, the cost of marketing to people to build it up if it is a retail space, plus the cost it takes to secure any money (i.e., loans)? You also have to factor in a reserve for costs associated with things such as air conditioners, wall coverings, and so on, says Veissi. "Those things have a shelf life, so, they are going to take x amount of time before they need to be replaced."
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to use Craigslist, another option is Facebook. Mark said, “right now, people are selling all day long on buy/sell groups on Facebook.” However, these are not the typical real estate buy/sell groups. “They’re going to Craigslist buy/sell groups, recreational vehicles buy/sell groups, hunting buy/sell groups, or fishing buy/sell groups.”
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.
This is one of many reasons why people buy title insurance when they purchase a property, because it ensures that the title is clear and that the buyer is actually getting all of the rights they’re expecting to get (unless otherwise noted in the title insurance commitment). If you’re concerned about this and you haven’t already ordered a title commitment, you might want to consider doing this.
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.
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!
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.

Double check ad data for any property you’re considering; they’re often full of mistakes – not necessarily misleading information, but it comes from laziness. What doesn’t help is that when a listing first gets posted, apparently nearly all real estate websites post it as their own without checking it for accuracy. For example, we’re considering a property that has multiple issues:
If a property doesn't pass this test, you could have a very difficult time building any type of dwelling on the property, so unless you're able to tap into the municipal sewer system (which will negate this issue altogether), be sure to give the county health department a call and ask them what is required to install a septic system (or connect to the local sewer) in your area. For a detailed overview of how a perc test works and how to verify the status of this issue, check out this blog post.
Hi Chris, thanks for the comment. That’s a pretty subjective question (there are a lot of variables to consider), but I don’t see how it could hurt the value of your overall estate. The question is – what is the land actually worth? Is it worth more or less than $25K? One way to find out would be to follow the ideas in this blog post. As long as the property is worth substantially more than $25K (and assuming you actually want the additional land), it’s probably a worthwhile investment… but again – it’s impossible for me to tell you anything concrete without looking at everything (which I can’t really do).
Once we have come to an agreement on the sale of your property, we will prepare a basic purchase agreement. Our typical process uses a very simple and easy to use digital-signature platform to save both the time and hassle of having to send mail back and forth. Agreements will gladly be mailed to you upon request, however most people prefer the speed and simplicity of our standard process..
If you find items during your review that may be problematic, you and your attorney should evaluate them carefully to find a solution, or see if you are able to get title insurance that provides specific coverage to protect you and ultimately your buyers. But never ignore a tricky restriction or convince yourself that it won’t be a problem. Beware, even the pros can get into trouble if they become too wedded to their grand plans. You may get away with bypassing restrictions for a while, but doing so can cost you down the road – especially when trying to sell or finance the property. We’ll describe more of these real-world risks in the second article.

I’m so happy that you mentioned to send out letters to your neighbors that say you are planning on selling your place. My sister had the worse time trying to sell her place. She put ads online and in the newspaper, talked to real estate agents, and tried other methods. It wasn’t until she sent letters out to her neighbors that she got a response. All in all, don’t give up! You’ll find someone to buy your place one way or another!
Amazing and brilliant ideas and really thanks for sharing them, I will join a new property management company next month as sales manager and they have around 790 units for sale from villas to an Appartments and this field is so new to me and I know it will be a big challenge since the market is down and economic situation is not that much good, your ideas helps me a lot and would appreciate if you or any other would share another smart ideas of how to reach buyers and how to manage my team in my first month so I will take the lead
An open listing generally brings the same result to a landowner. If you engage several agents to help you sell your property, then no one is responsible for marketing and selling your property. By making it open to everyone, you essentially make it for no one. Why would an agent spend money advertising a property that they have no reasonable guarantee that will produce a return on their investment? When they do, sellers often get the impression that the agent has nothing to offer and is not effective. Good agents will not do that as a standard practice.
1. I never use loans when I buy vacant land, because I’m able to get my properties very, very cheap (and I’m only able to do this because I know where/how to find motivated sellers). Most banks won’t lend directly on land UNLESS you have an immediate plan to build on it – and this is why seller financing can be such a helpful tool when selling land (because most buyers will need it in order to do the transaction).
I just purchased 5 acres in a rural setting for half the assessed value (the assessment seems a bit high) as an investment. The advice I’ve received to increase the value is have it surveyed, sub-divided into 2 lots, and get a perk test done for both lots. Does this make sense to you? What about others ways to increase the value, such as putting in a gravel drive, running electric, or wells? It has good road frontage, and utilities are at least at the corner of the property.
As for what type of land can be used for horses – you’d probably have to call your county or municipality planning & zoning office and ask them what the zoning would have to be for this particular use. Once you know the answer, it’s pretty easy to generate a list of these land owners with a service like AgentPro247 (as I describe in this blog post). You could then send out a direct mail campaign and try to find deals on this type of property (at least, that’s why I would try to do if it were me).
If the buyer has secured financing or is planning on paying with cash, a contract for sale will be necessary. This contract will specify the terms of the sale and may also specify other documents required before transferring the deed. This may include the financial documents that are necessary to secure financing. The contract may also indicate that title insurance will be provided. In this case, the title company may be involved in the transaction.

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
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