One of the best ways to do this is by using Google Earth (which is free) and the topography map from Earth Point (which is also free). With Google Earth, you can search for your property (using the address or coordinates) and zoom in using your mouse buttons and the control/command and shift keys on your keyboard. This will allow you to tilt the earth so you can see precisely where all the hills and valleys are in your area.
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.
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.
Another surprise to landowners attempting to subdivide their land is that the act of subdividing can raise any number of additional requirements and costs on your land. While your existing parcel may have been grandfathered so that it does not have to comply with some newer laws and regulations, undertaking a subdivision can trigger a new set of impacts and requirements.
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Selling lots is not like Field of Dreams, where “if you build it they will come.” You need to make sure there is a market for lots in your area and at a price that makes sense. Determine the size, layout and other requirements that are expected for new lots to be marketable. A good real estate agent with expertise in land can help you with this. You also may be able to get some advice from builders – reach out to the ones who are active in your geographic area and in the price range for new homes that would likely be built on your lots. Getting their input could be the key to successfully subdividing marketable lots.
First and foremost, it is vitally important to understand what a property can be used for, and what the highest and best use of the property is. With a simple phone call to your local planning & zoning department, most offices can give you the answer to this question in a matter of seconds. Once you know the zoning classification (e.g. – residential, mixed-use, commercial, industrial, agricultural, etc.), ask them to give you some examples of what type of property would be allowed under each of these particular zoning classifications. They may even give you some ideas that you hadn't previously thought of. Once you understand the most ideal use of the property – you can quickly determine whether it will fit your needs (or the needs of those you intend to market the property to).
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.
Undeveloped land without significant zoning limitations is open to a variety of uses. Reach out to all types of buyers who might find the land appealing. This may include home builders, private individuals looking for land to build on, park or camp developers and environmental groups that want to keep the land undeveloped. Reach out to the owners of adjacent land to see if they want to add to their property. Advertise in different publications and websites, not just in local real estate magazines targeted at people looking for new homes.
Your buyer profile can depend on what type of property you are selling, whether the land has been developed already, its location and market conditions, among other criteria. Is your likely buyer an individual looking for a lot for a new home? Or is your buyer going to be a builder or developer looking for land for their next project? Or is your buyer some combination of those, or someone different altogether? There may be different buyers for finished lots, rural acreage or a parcel of suburban land in a thriving new home market.