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
If you’re looking at a vacant lot in the middle of the desert or near the top of a mountain with nothing around for miles, you will probably want to verify with a professional that water will be accessible if/when you need it (and if your only option is to have it hauled in by truck, you'll want to get an idea for how much this will cost on an ongoing basis).

Hi Dave, thanks for stopping by. You’re right – it’s very hard for me to give you any concrete opinion on this (because there are a lot of factors to weigh with any piece of vacant land). I’d say if you’ve looked at all the potential downsides and established that there won’t be any issues from that end… and if you’ve got a fairly decent idea as to what the property is currently worth (and you’re buying it for a price that is significantly BELOW that number), then sure – there probably is a fair chance that you can make money on it.
LoopNet operates the most heavily trafficked commercial real estate listing service online, with more than $425 billion of commercial real estate for sale and 5.1 billion sq. ft. of commercial real estate space for lease. LoopNet also attracts the largest community of commercial real estate professionals looking for Land with more than 7 million members comprised of brokers, corporate executives, service providers, and more than 3 million buyers, tenants and other principals.
Seth, I can definitely see how internet marketing would be extremely useful when selling your property. My wife and I have been planning on selling our house in order to move to a much more family friendly neighborhood. I think that we should consider finding finding a real estate agent that could help us to sell it exactly according to our desired asking price.

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.
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You also have to bear in mind that you cannot be exactly sure how the development will change the landscape of your street, or impinge on your privacy, or cause other problems, until it is actually built. David Henry of FPD Savills cites one case in which the owners of several large Victorian houses clubbed together and sold part of their gardens for development, only to find that their baths would no longer drain properly at certain times of day. The existing drainage systems could not cope with the extra load.
Here are reasons why I believe an Exclusive Listing Agreement is better for the seller when it comes to selling land. (Let me preface all of these reasons with the assumption that you have researched prospective listing agents with experience in selling land and you are only going to deal with ones that appear to be qualified and have good reviews. For more explanation read, “Not All Agents are Competent About Land.”

In the right location, today’s seller’s market makes it so you could put your home on the market as-is and likely still receive interest. But if there’s a possibility you’re misdiagnosing your home as a desirable purchase for a teardown, you should think about preparing the home properly for the market, as minor updates and cleaning can go a long way. You could have your property appraised to see how it would likely fare compared to similar homes in your neighborhood, or consult a real estate agent to see if they expect more builder versus homebuyer interest.

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.

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. 
Can you tell me how does the developer acquire and secure several acres surrounding the 1 acre he owns to expand his development. The problem is that the developer lacks financing and cant afford to acquire the adjacent land, yet he wants to prevent other parties from building on the adjacent land so as to ensure there is enough space to expand his development.
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.

Just like you'd stage a home, you want the vacant land to show at its best. A lot overgrown with weeds is going to look less desirable in the eyes of a potential buyer than a lot that's apparently cared-for. Professionally trim trees, mow grass, remove weeds and perhaps plant wildflowers to show the property at its best. Visit the property weekly – or hire someone to do so – to remove windblown trash, beer cans, fire rings or anything else that might detract from its curb appeal.


I am currently listing a 10 acre piece of vacant land, which is zoned R-1, in Hesperia, California. The seller states the property can be zoned commercial. I spoke to the planning department and they stated it is zoned residential. My client is totally convinced they are wrong and it can be switched if someone pitches a commercial rezoning presentation. What is your take on this?
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.

For most commercial properties, the best way to do this is by ordering a “Phase I Environmental Report” (many banks will automatically require this because it affects their collateral). This report will identify if there are any “Recognized Environmental Concerns” (RECs) on the property that you need to worry about. If you neglect to do any environmental due diligence, the liability for any existing environmental contamination on the property could ultimately fall on your shoulders – making it very difficult and expensive to sell the property in the future.
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Settle on a price that is acceptable to both parties. But don’t exceed the price you initially set as your maximum amount to pay. No property is worth paying more than you can afford. "Decide what a transaction is worth to you. A property may be worth more in value to you than the actual appraisal. Take the emotion out of it and deal with it in terms of dollars and sense," confers King. And, "don't be afraid to walk away from a deal, just do so with a handshake and a smile and do not burn that bridge."
Seek a veteran agent who is experienced in land valuation and who understands the implications of location, zoning regulations and parcel size. These are more prevalent at larger brokerage houses. You’ll want the agent to determine what the other neighborhood homes that have been scooped up by developers are fetching and what type of development is planned for your tract. These little nuggets will help you establish a price baseline.
To a shrewd investor, any asset of value is for sale, for the right price. Undeveloped land, also known as raw land, represents a real estate investment that is different from more traditional house and land deals. While undeveloped land sells for less than land that is ready to build on, or already includes viable structures, it can still turn a profit if you put care and thought into the sale process.
Overall, I like how Oodle makes it pretty quick and simple to compile a listing, and the syndication with Redfin is another huge selling point for the site. Assuming you can get the site to keep your listing active without flagging and removing them (which was unfortunately a big obstacle for me), it's a nice little outlet to get some additional exposure for your listings.
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!

Do you know if the developer had a local brokerage do the sales for the project you mention? You might want to contact the developer, but I'd also suggest you speak with a Realtor first to get a market analysis for the value of your property. Then decide if you want to put your property on the market or if you want to explore contacting either the developer or the owners of properties adjoining yours to see if there is interest.
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.
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.

Although the process of selling land is less complex than selling a piece of property with a home, this is still a process that requires the help of a professional. Real estate laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to work with an experienced real estate attorney when selling your land. The help of a professional becomes even more important if you’re creating a land contract.

Once we’ve received your signed agreement, we will begin our title examination on the property. We have a large network of established title companies, real estate attorneys, and real estate title professionals that will research the title to your property and help to arrange closing. All that is required is a few signatures on your end. There is no need to travel to complete the sale. Best of all, we pay for all the costs involved and arrange everything for you! It doesn’t get much easier than that.
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