If you're planning to build a “dwelling” of any kind on your parcel of land, there is one issue that may seem insignificant at first glance, but it has the potential to make or break a land deal. It's called a “Perc Test” – and if you're dropping some serious coin on land in a rural area, this is an issue you'll want to be sure about before you sink your money into it.
Before getting started, check out a few sample ads for houses and you'll notice that they are emphasizing the benefits and amenities of the house. Don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle. Raw land is no different. Take a good look at what makes your land compelling. Mountain views? Water? Hunting? Recreational area? Good access? In the path of development? Trees? Then get out the thesaurus and use some colorful adjectives to describe the area and land. Of course, you will need a section for just the facts such as: elevation, access, terrain, deed conveyance, taxes, driving directions, GPS coordinates, sewer, water, utilities, mineral rights, etc. I like to use a simple table outlining all of the basic attributes and facts about the land. It is essential that the potential buyer have easy access to this basic information but it won't help sell the land. Your language and conviction about the area need to be conveyed to a potential buyer and that is what will sell the property. More information is always better than less. Once you have your content well laid out then you need to add images.
My question is how does the land being full of trees affect the value? We received an estimate of clearing 1 acre of land of trees (logging plus stump removal & grinding) of $17K with a potential timber profit of $11k. It seems that my realtor is under the impression that the land is worth more because off all of the timber. In our opinion, it is worth less with all of the work plus out of pocket costs to clear for building.

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LandSaleListings is a great site to know about if you're trying to list and sell vacant land specifically. The site offers a few paid listing options, but it also allows users to post listings for free (with only one picture). It's not necessarily the most versatile or beautifully designed site on this list, but it's another valid option that doesn't cost anything and can potentially get your ad seen by a new audience.
 Overage. Put simply this is a right to receive future payments in respect of land which has been sold. It is sometimes known as a clawback. The right is triggered by the happening of a certain event, in this scenario often the grant of planning consent for development. There are many issues to consider here, beyond the scope of this note, but landowners need to think about what will constitute the trigger event, how long the overage agreement should last for, what the obligations of each of the parties should be, how the payment should be calculated and how this payment should be secured.
If you have created a land contract, you’ll also need a memorandum of land contract. This is, essentially, an abbreviated legal document that references the main contract created. This simply serves as a public notice that the buyer is interested in the property without you and the buyer having to disclose and record the entire land contract. Because the deed of the property will not be filed until you’ve received full payment on the purchase price indicated in the contract, this memorandum will be filed with the county and the city to serve as a record that the buyer is interested in the property.
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.

Hi, Jane. Some of your situation will depend on local regulations (as always), but I would think you could handle this scenario by subdividing the 2 acres off as a building site but your son still keeps the land in his name. In other words, there likely is no need to transfer the property to you at all (unless you just wanted to do it that way). If he keeps title you also may avoid incurring unnecessary taxes, transfer fees and other transaction costs. Check with a local real estate attorney, and good luck!

I am looking at 95 acre property for hunting and camping listed at $132k in southerm PA, property will be timbered before sold and closest electric pole is approx 1/3 mile away from where i would build small cabin. I could use a generator since cost to run power would not be feasible. I am still interested but think the asking price is to much since this is not really a buildable property and has limited market value. typical buildable property with electric access is approx $2k an acre in the area. What should I offer? I was thinking possibly 95K?


Even though you hope to sell that land fast or to sell that land online you will still want to ensure that you have a sign or two made and placed in a prominent spot on the land in question. This way anyone driving past the land will be able to see that the property is for sale and can get a hold of you in the easiest way possible. This especially true when you want to sell land by owner as you may not have to ability to reach as many potential buyers as a property listed in the Real Estate databases, you need to in effect create your own marketing and having a sign will help to advertise when you want to sell land fast.
Hey Seth, great info in this article, a couple things I didn’t take into consideration. I’m looking into purchasing approx ten acres which has federal land to one side and state land on the other two sides. This seems to be a good deal as far as no one building around the property and being a secluded tract. Just wondering if there is any specific things I should be paying attention to, do to the bordering of state and federal land.
And consider that the developer may not really “need” your property, and may just be looking into options for improving the entrance to the community. It’s worth noting that a more beautifully landscaped or designed community entrance adjacent to your 10 acre property could increase your property’s value. Also, building a friendly relationship with the developer may lead to a buyer for your property in the future.
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 either of these things are inhibited, it wouldn’t be highly unlikely that the land can be secured in the way you describe. In a free market, the seller can (and usually will) sell to whoever is offering the best deal at the right time – so if the developer can’t be competitive in this way, it boils down to the old saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers”.


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.
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On those notes, pay attention to who you’re likely buyer will be, and seek out those people. If the land is zoned for commercial businesses, make entrepreneurs and existing business owners your target audience. A real estate agent who is selling a flat property that gets a lot of sunshine may want to reach out to energy companies who are looking to build solar arrays.

Another benefit of subdividing for homeowners who would like to liquidate some of their real estate without having to sell the farm (literally), is that they may be able to both cash in on a portion of vacant land and stay put on the rest. Holding onto some of their land can give that property time to increase in value as the surrounding subdivided land becomes developed.


Like most free listing sites, the format isn't necessarily optimized for vacant land properties (like the kinds I typically sell), but it's certainly possible to work within the parameters they give you (Pro Tip: On the first step when they ask for an address… you can also enter in the GPS coordinates of your property, in case it doesn't have a registered address yet).

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Honestly, since you’re the buyer, there’s no real reason not to use a realtor (because they’ll take their money from the seller, not you). I’d just be sure to get one who knows their stuff (i.e. – make sure they have some level of experience dealing with vacant land, as it’s a whole different animal than what most realtors are used to dealing with).
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On those notes, pay attention to who you’re likely buyer will be, and seek out those people. If the land is zoned for commercial businesses, make entrepreneurs and existing business owners your target audience. A real estate agent who is selling a flat property that gets a lot of sunshine may want to reach out to energy companies who are looking to build solar arrays.
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