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.
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.

I have lived on this property for 20yrs. Its in Harrison county in WV, I have been trying to buy it for 20yrs. I have a doublewide on a permanent foundation, a 16×16 permanent building, a pool with a 40×60 deck around it, all underground utilities, septic tank with fields, and $10,000 road and parking to the house, THIS IS ALL INVESTED BY ME,, this was all on a verbal family deal , (a hand shake like in the old days, when your word actually meant something) and we were supposed to be the first option to purchase if sold , now they have put it up for sale, we have offered them $1,000 over asking, they have not accepted our offer, they have continued to keep advertising the property for sale, what are my rights as a buyer when this situation occurs as a buyer that has a dwelling on this property for 20yrs.
Especially when I'm buying vacant land out-of-state, my first line of business is to understand the topography of the property. There are many, many places around the world that have very unpredictable elevations, cliffs, mountains, valleys, ravines and more. In many cases, the topography of the land can have a huge impact on the build-ability of a property. For the same reasons you can't build a house on 90-degree cliff, you should be doing some preliminary research to find out where your property is located, and what the lay of the land is.
Hi Seth – very helpful blog indeed. I have recently been given the opportunity to buy the 6-acre wooded lot, zoned residential, that adjoins my already-owned 3-acre lot for $64k. I know the terrain of the 6-acres quite well as I’ve had to chase my dogs all through it when they get loose. On the back end is a power line right-of-way, so certainly nothing will be built behind it. It does have a site cleared for up to a 4-bedroom home, a “proposed” well location, and although the site will not perk, the seller has an off-site discharge permit issued from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for a sewage disposal system. The owner will finance, with $998 down payment and $688/mo for 10 years, but that comes out to a LOT of money for 6 acres so I would likely come up with 40 percent down on my own, and pay off the rest with a personal, lower-interest loan. My concerns when it comes to land, especially as an investment: would the monthly payment for the land not be better spent to pay down my existing mortgage? Or, would the monthly payment for the land not be better invested in something with a higher rate of return? Of course, from a diversification standpoint the land may make perfect sense. I live (and the land is located) in an area mid-way between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA – – – an area that is growing like mad. I have a tough time believing that in the 15 years I have left until I retire I would LOSE money on the investment. And unlike a 401k or an IRA, which can disappear overnight should an economy tank, land will never be totally worthless. I would not actually DO anything with the land (aside from perhaps harvesting some firewood) other than to HOLD it for 15 years until I retire and leave this area.
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.
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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.
You’ll want as much money as you can make as quickly as you can get it – but developers play a longer and broader game.  Land you sell may become one small part of their land bank in your locality and, if you’ve signed the wrong deal, you may find they never get planning permission for your land because they choose to promote one of their other local sites which looks an easier consent to win.
Hi Seth – very helpful blog indeed. I have recently been given the opportunity to buy the 6-acre wooded lot, zoned residential, that adjoins my already-owned 3-acre lot for $64k. I know the terrain of the 6-acres quite well as I’ve had to chase my dogs all through it when they get loose. On the back end is a power line right-of-way, so certainly nothing will be built behind it. It does have a site cleared for up to a 4-bedroom home, a “proposed” well location, and although the site will not perk, the seller has an off-site discharge permit issued from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for a sewage disposal system. The owner will finance, with $998 down payment and $688/mo for 10 years, but that comes out to a LOT of money for 6 acres so I would likely come up with 40 percent down on my own, and pay off the rest with a personal, lower-interest loan. My concerns when it comes to land, especially as an investment: would the monthly payment for the land not be better spent to pay down my existing mortgage? Or, would the monthly payment for the land not be better invested in something with a higher rate of return? Of course, from a diversification standpoint the land may make perfect sense. I live (and the land is located) in an area mid-way between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA – – – an area that is growing like mad. I have a tough time believing that in the 15 years I have left until I retire I would LOSE money on the investment. And unlike a 401k or an IRA, which can disappear overnight should an economy tank, land will never be totally worthless. I would not actually DO anything with the land (aside from perhaps harvesting some firewood) other than to HOLD it for 15 years until I retire and leave this area.
You have to be careful, however, that the access road you create cannot also be used for subsequent developments in neighbours' gardens. Otherwise the developer, having bought your garden, will knock on your neighbours' doors and buy several back gardens. If this happens, Mr Noel said: "The access road beside your house, which you thought was only going to be used by a couple with one invalid carriage suddenly becomes the way into a development of 30 homes."
But do not — and I repeat — do not try selling directly to a developer/builder. These folks, when dealing directly with a property seller, will base their typically lowball offers on a “fair market value” determined by appraisers they hire, who are typically agenda-led cronies. Such offers will almost certainly not take into account the recent increase in land values that all this upscale multi-tenant development is creating.
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.
It is not unknown for restrictive covenants to ban, for example, the keeping of dogs at a property, though the more restrictive covenants you put on a plot, the more they affects the price you will receive. As a rule of thumb, developers expect to pay one third of the value of the finished development for the plot. So, if a £150,000 house can be squeezed into your back garden, you should think in terms of receiving £50,000.

Here is an example of the kind of sites that I prefer: landandfarm.com Although these sites are not free, they charge no more than $40 a month for a basic listing package which is actually cheaper than eBay and tends to fetch higher prices as eBay buyers are typically deal hunters. These sites have easy to fill out forms requesting all the basic information a buyer will want to know prior to acquiring the land. They have easy features for uploading pictures and inputting maps. Don't expect the property to sell within the first month. However you should get some inquiries that first month and if you don't you will want to edit and adjust your advertisement or switch aggregator sites. Once you have a link to the property you can start sharing it on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. You just never know if a friend of a friend might be in the market for your property.


Great article. I’m having trouble finding information, as most of it is about buying and constructing right away. I’m looking for information on how to buy a rural piece of land 2-10 acres where I can camp on it for a couple of seasons to get the best site to build a little summer/fall shack to get away on the weekends. So I won’t be building right away, just ‘squatting’ on my own land for surveying purposes, see where the hottest/sunniest spots might be, etc. Do you have any advice on what regulations/restrictions I might come across? Is this a “depends on” on kind of thing, meaning, different counties/townships all might have different rules? Thanks again.
Hello and thank you for this great topic. I have about 4 acres of land in on my residential property. My home is on the river with a dock etc and has about 1.5 acres itself. I have these 4 parcels of land that can be developed into residential properties yet I have no idea how to approach a developer. There is easy access to the main road and I have been told I could subdivide these plots and also provide river access via a trail running along the side of my house, that wouldn’t actually interfere with my main home at all. Should I simply put a sign up advertising these available lots or should I contact private home builders in the area. The home is in a highly sought after area where many would like to build homes. The previous owners told me they had been offered well over $1.6m for the lots but turned them down.(They were elderly and didn’t want to sell just the land). Any suggestions would be greatly welcomed! Thank you!
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!
I would appreciate your opinion about my situation. When I purchased my home on 5 acres twelve years ago, the builder included two acres at no additional charge. Both the 2 acre and 5 acre parcels are adjacent to each other. So, I have two properties with two tax bills. In the future, I plan to obtain a reverse mortgage, so I would like to maximize the value of my home by combining both parcels into one larger 7 acre parcel.
Particularly in popular neighborhoods and areas where undeveloped space is limited, purchasing existing property for the sole purpose of building a new structure on the land is fairly common. In many cases, developers and building companies will redevelop multiple properties in a neighborhood, knowing buyers will eat up new, bigger homes where midcentury ranch houses once stood.
Once we have completed our title examination and have established that there is clear title to the property, we will coordinate with you to set up closing. A title professional will prepare the necessary documents for you to sign, notarize, and return to them. Once the signed and notarized documents are received, the agreed upon funds are distributed and you get paid! Our process is simple, straightforward, and typically takes about 2-4 weeks to complete.
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