Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News. Since joining the Consumer Advice team in 2015, she has focused on breaking down the homebuying and selling process, as well as reporting on trends in the real estate industry and their effect on the public. Thorsby previously worked in research and communications for commercial real estate information company CoStar Group, and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where she worked for the student-run newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

I am considering buying a quarter acre, to build a house for my retirement in a few years. I have never bought land before but it is in an area that will definitely increase in value over the next few years so I want to lock it down now and build the house I want later, rather than purchase a home and make payments in addition to my current home. Thanks for the tips on how to assess, my question is whether I should use a realtor and/or get a property appraisal. I will probably pay cash for the land. Thanks much!


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.
If you truly are in a hot area, which it sounds, your land has already been researched and investigated and deemed not to be desirable to the surrounding developers. A one acre parcel in the realm of larger subdivisions going in is only desirable if it's IN THE WAY, or if your house is an eyesore that will affect the marketing of the bigger development (which I'm guessing your house is not an eyesore).
Steve, my son in-law has 10 acres of land. About 13 miles from a town & we have talked about me living on a small part of the land he would need to subdivide about 2 acres to me. But if he does sell me these aces. I want to make sure that he gets the land back can the land be in both our like a car title. & being I am getting older it would be nice to live close to one of my family members. & I love to out country. Jane
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
Thanks Ann! I’m so glad you got some good value out of it. I think you’re probably on the right track in getting outside help with the zoning details – that can be quite a confusing area if you don’t have any prior experience with it. If you have a builder in mind, you may want to get them involved on the front end too – as they will be able to point out most of the important details you’ll want to evaluate before they’re able to start building (even if you don’t plan to build for a while, they’re still great for some free consulting if they’re expecting to help you at some future date).
The way that we found it was by checking our local county tax assessor site and seeing that it was vacant and owned by a gentleman who lives out of state. It wasn’t on the market, but I asked our realtor to contact him and low and behold he is willing to sell (it was inherited). As soon as we were ready to make an offer, he stated that he wants to go forward with an independent appraisal to see what the value is since he does not live in the area, which I understand (he is also a realtor in CA).
Hi Marie – I think it depends almost entirely on how much you paid when you bought it, and how much you can sell it for (with or without any improvements on it). Improvements will often improve a property’s value, but not always. You need to understand what the highest and best use of the property is and THEN you’ll be able to zero in on what the property may be able to sell for based on how it will be used.
If Mark has more than one piece of land to sell per week, or if he has exhausted his buyer’s list, he posts to Craigslist. “Craigslist is the 10th most trafficked website in the US,” he said. “We use a program called Posting Domination. I’m able to automate 124 postings a day, all at the click of a button. It’s unbelievable. So we sell everyday on Craigslist and we are building our buyer’s list everyday on Craigslist.”
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.
A really rough guideline that alot of spot-lot developers use is that the land should be somewhere between 10 and 15% of the sales price of the home. So, if the homes on ten acres were selling for $1 million, the developers were likely paying $100-150k for the lots. The home on your lot would likely sell for substantially less given the smaller lot size, so expect less for the land sale.
My wife and I are thinking about selling our home and have been looking for tips to get it off the market quickly. I like that you suggest talking to building inspectors because they deal with large volumes of buyers on the market. Having connections is really important to get the word out so we might try talking to a few different real estate agents and contractors. Thanks for the help!
I just ran across this post from over a year ago. Great general info! There are also local websites, specific to certain cities or regions that will advertise your property for free. In my current area of Utah, the best site is KSL.com, associated with a local newspaper. When I advertised in Southern California, Craigslist was the best free site. In some areas, nothing beats a small flyer on a physical bulletin board at the local convenient store. The best advice in this article is the CONTENT and the PHOTOS. Nobody will find your property without the right search terms, including proximity to local landmarks and features by name! - Don't just say "near lake." Put "easy walk to Fish Lake." Once a potential buyer finds your ad, the photos can reel them in. A photo of dirt and a few trees is nice but perhaps you can include a pic of you in a hammock between 2 trees or by a campfire or fishing in the nearby stream. Buying land is often much more about emotion than a list of cost vs. benefits. If it is a rural building lot, show photos of nice, nearby cabins or homes that help a buyer visualize the potential. Also remember to list other components that might make your deal stand out like owner financing or lease with option to purchase.
To cut to the chase, selling a rehab home can be very challenging as you are trying to sell a drab of a house, a house that was once tattered and yet you transformed it into something that is undeniably gorgeous and make sure it is marketable and profitable. This is the goal when you want to venture into selling rehab homes as a real estate investor.
LANDFLIP is doing a superb job for my clients. I am a land broker in Alabama and I have been very impressed with the response I have gotten from advertising with LANDFLIP. The format of the property display is concise and informative...just what customers are looking for. I make sure all of my clients properties are displayed on LANDFLIP. A great product from great people.
If Mark has more than one piece of land to sell per week, or if he has exhausted his buyer’s list, he posts to Craigslist. “Craigslist is the 10th most trafficked website in the US,” he said. “We use a program called Posting Domination. I’m able to automate 124 postings a day, all at the click of a button. It’s unbelievable. So we sell everyday on Craigslist and we are building our buyer’s list everyday on Craigslist.”

When some people look at the prospect of owning land, they get wrapped up in the dream of property ownership. The idea of owning a large tract of property can seem very appealing, even if it is of no practical use to them. This kind of trap is especially easy for people to fall into with land because it's a low maintenance property and doesn't seem complicated (even though there are a lot of factors to consider).
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This issue can be overcome if you can establish a legal, recorded easement to the property. This can be done if one of the neighbors is willing to allow you access through their property – to yours. In many cases, a neighbor shouldn't be expected to do this for free, you'll have to give them a reason to help you (usually in the form of money). Again, this isn't an impossible issue to overcome, but it is definitely something you'll want to be aware of before you purchase.
If you have plenty of time and are not in a hurry to sell the property, and would like to do very little work I would suggest listing it with a broker. They will be able to create a listing for the property, answer phone call and emails, and handle the closing. The downside of this approach is comes at a price and you typically only get local exposure and most real estate agents who deal with both land and homes will most likely put more effort into selling their homes as the commissions are greater.
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I suggest you go to your local real estate clubs and get more buyers there! You know, its like if you wanted to find a job really quick. You can go to several head hunters, several temp to hire agency, and you can put all these people to work for you - for not a dime of your money. Thats what I call people leveraging. When your at home, you are going to have several people calling you back to tell you about offers they have for you and you can then cherry pick the offers and take the one that best fits you. Real estate clubs are full of people who want to find you buyers - these people are called wholesalers. And guess what, you can have as many as you need. I say, work smart not hard!
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).
Investors look for future potential. A priority would be to look at a municipal developmeant plan to see if the property is within a plan area. Personally, I would never invest in land that is not already under a municipal area structure plan. If you want to take a risk, you could look for land that was in the obvious path of development and be prepared to hold the land for a very long period of time.

The properties next door can have some MAJOR implications for the value and “sale-ability” of a parcel of land (e.g. – Think about it, would you rather live next to Yosemite National Park or a Landfill?). For understandable reasons, most people care a great deal about who and what they live next to, so be sure to get a good idea for what the surrounding properties look like (hint: this is another potential area where a service like WeGoLook can help).
There may be some back and forth with the seller. You may offer a lower amount than the asking price and the seller in turn will counter with an offer higher than yours. The key is to head to the negotiations table with your well conducted research in hand. Don’t waste time playing games or questioning the seller’s integrity, warns King. "If you educate yourself about the market, you can determine if an offer is a good deal or not. You won’t get taken for a ride."
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.
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).

I have an opportunity to buy 53 acres of recreational land. 9 of the acres is a pond and another 16 acres is CRP land. I was thinking about sub dividing these lots for a private campground. I currently own a single lot in a private campground about 70 acres and most lots are .18 ac that sells for $4000 each. I am looking to do the same as the owner did years ago, but with possibly my own piece of land. Without tipping off the owner on this opportunity, land for sale, what problems may I encounter, or unforseen costs will I run into?
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

Sell your land to a speculative investor. Many areas have investors that will buy just about anything as long as it is cheap enough. These investors can close quickly, but will frequently offer you a very low price for your land. That's how they're able to move so fast -- they're getting a great deal. Investors usually won't require you to finance the land for them.
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!
If you intend to hold onto a property for any length of time, beware of a super high tax bill relative to the actual value of the property itself. I haven't run across this issue very often, but for various reasons, there are some properties that have some ridiculously high taxes in proportion to the property’s actual value (for example, if a $10,000 property has an annual tax bill of $2,000, THIS IS TOO HIGH). In my experience, I've found that a reasonable annual tax bill usually falls in the range of 1% – 4% of the property’s full market value.

I am searching for land also. I would like it to have a septic and well. I have been using zillow and landwatch.com. I have tried reaching out to real estate agents for help but they haven’t been very helpful. I was wondering would you be able to share how you find this property with elec, well and septic? Was it posted online or through a real estate agent, etc?


Great Job John Cooper! I recommend that you do your research, talk with your accountant and if it’s the right process for you this is a great company to work with. You will help each other in the process to make it happen. When all the work is finished the funds are immediate! John Cooper was the Loan Acquisition Officer I worked with and I certainly would again. Perfect!read more


I’m sure it could be done. I actually live in a subdivision that started exactly like how you’re describing back in the 70’s. I think it can be a pretty big speculative gamble unless you’re absolutely certain that there’s a huge demand for what you’re creating… but if you end up being right, you could easily make millions (depending on how big of a project you’re looking at).
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
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