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.
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If you find items during your review that may be problematic, you and your attorney should evaluate them carefully to find a solution, or see if you are able to get title insurance that provides specific coverage to protect you and ultimately your buyers. But never ignore a tricky restriction or convince yourself that it won’t be a problem. Beware, even the pros can get into trouble if they become too wedded to their grand plans. You may get away with bypassing restrictions for a while, but doing so can cost you down the road – especially when trying to sell or finance the property. We’ll describe more of these real-world risks in the second article.
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9,861 Alabama Lots 599 Alaska Lots 15,879 Arizona Lots 12,474 Arkansas Lots 17,947 California Lots 6,629 Colorado Lots 1,098 Connecticut Lots 1,059 Delaware Lots 35 District of Columbia Lots 42,342 Florida Lots 20,650 Georgia Lots 1,170 Hawaii Lots 6,845 Idaho Lots 8,857 Illinois Lots 7,403 Indiana Lots 3,585 Iowa Lots 2,069 Kansas Lots 7,648 Kentucky Lots 3,134 Louisiana Lots 6,129 Maine Lots 4,865 Maryland Lots 1,028 Massachusetts Lots 18,665 Michigan Lots 7,325 Minnesota Lots 7,407 Mississippi Lots 9,713 Missouri Lots 5,797 Montana Lots 1,442 Nebraska Lots 3,893 Nevada Lots 2,588 New Hampshire Lots 3,388 New Jersey Lots 7,359 New Mexico Lots 9,287 New York Lots 32,804 North Carolina Lots 65 North Dakota Lots 4,955 Ohio Lots 3,952 Oklahoma Lots 6,483 Oregon Lots 7,911 Pennsylvania Lots 455 Rhode Island Lots 14,443 South Carolina Lots 1,157 South Dakota Lots 23,677 Tennessee Lots 26,203 Texas Lots 3,179 Utah Lots 1,689 Vermont Lots 16,457 Virginia Lots 2,789 Washington Lots 4,319 West Virginia Lots 16,390 Wisconsin Lots 1,832 Wyoming Lots
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 Eric – that’s a good question. I haven’t done much work in that part of the country, but I know that (as you mentioned) there are workarounds for both water and power IF you’re willing to pay for it. I guess it’s just a matter of understanding which one would be more expensive to sustain over the long term, and then you’ll have your answer as to which utility is more important.
Hi Rainie, if it were me, I’d be most concerned about the septic system (making sure the property passes the perc test, if it’s not located near a sewer system), making sure it’s not in a flood zone, and making sure the property is zoned properly for the type of house I want to build. Judging by the fact that there was a house on the property before, you probably won’t find many surprises here… but it’s always good to verify.
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).
Mortgagee’s consent. If your land is subject to a legal charge you will require the lender’s consent to the sale. If you are selling off part of a larger parcel of charged land you will need to obtain a release. This might mean the renegotiation of your financial arrangements, which again, is sensibly addressed early in the transaction. Speak to your relationship manager and your solicitor.
As for what type of land can be used for horses – you’d probably have to call your county or municipality planning & zoning office and ask them what the zoning would have to be for this particular use. Once you know the answer, it’s pretty easy to generate a list of these land owners with a service like AgentPro247 (as I describe in this blog post). You could then send out a direct mail campaign and try to find deals on this type of property (at least, that’s why I would try to do if it were me).
There are a lot of properties in the world that don’t have access to a municipal water supply (i.e. – city water). This isn't necessarily a problem, but it does mean you'll have to drill a well in order to access a clean water source beneath the surface. There are a few ways to determine whether or not you'll be able to do this but in most cases, if there are other buildings in the near vicinity (e.g. – homes or other dwellings built next door), this is usually a good indication that you won’t have any problems accessing water either.
Even though Craigslist is clearly the winner in terms of traffic, it's not necessarily the most versatile medium. There are plenty of restrictions in place (like the inability to link to third-party websites and embed videos), however with the tools that are available – it's more than enough to inform buyers about what the property has to offer and drum up enough interest to generate some legitimate leads and sales.
Thanks for the article Seth. Very informative. Vacant land is one of those types of property I’m coming across in my search for good deals on houses. I’ve been a little brave offering people a cash offer for their lot. Only to find out later the parcel has a myriad of challenges. (Most of which could be dealt with-time and money, but still not worth it). Thankfully nobody took the deals yet. I have learned a lot and gained more understanding. I am closer to getting raw land at a great price that is build-able! Articles like yours, helps guys like me, stay focused and saved from troubles! As we know the bigger the challenges and unknowns the higher the risk-and the payday. Tread carefully.
It was a very simple process. Even though everything was done remotely, it was just as good as if I was standing in front of the person doing the deal. Paperwork was received really shortly after I spoke with Jake. We got it all signed, sent it back, and shortly thereafter we received the money. Everything was done very simply and it was very easy to do.
Unfortunately, I owe $4000 in back taxes on the 2 acres. Most of the $4,000 owed is mostly penalty fees, since the annual tax on the 2 acres is $300 yr. My home on the 5 acres is valued at $500,000 and the 2 acres is valued at $14,000. If I pay the past due tax fees and penalties on the 2 acres, and have both properties joined, will the value of my home increase since it will be on 7 acres instead of 5 acres. And if so, will my homes value only increase by the value of the 2 acres ($14,000) for a total of $514,000? Also, the 2 acres is land locked and on a steep hill. Thank you in advance for your help.
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.
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).
There is swampy/nonbuildable property next to me that is landlocked by 5 residential properties. We are interested in purchasing it – yes, we want landlocked swampland. We spoke to the owner who said he wants to sell it at whatever the going rate is for vacant land. Prior to offering him a very lowball offer, we’d like to gather resources that show the property’s true “potential” so that we don’t offend him. Other than a printout of a map, is there something more official we can acquire that shows he is landlocked? Also, the tax record shows the property’s assessed tax value is 100k, which is definitely inaccurate. Is there a way to have that reassessed to reflect its true tax value? We heard through a neighbor that it is recorded as nonbuildable and he doesn’t have to pay taxes, but I have not been able to find anywhere to verifiy that. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!!!
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?
Your first point of contact will be your local council, They can tell you whether a precinct structure plan has been drawn up for the area, and advise of the process and timeframe of any existing masterplan. “It’s important to establish a rapport with local government,” Coutts advises. “They will be either your blocker or saviour. There’s no use having an adversarial relationship.”
Jonathan is passionate about helping people buy and sell land. He is an associate broker with Southeastern Land Group, LLC (SELG) and is the Responsible Broker for the company in Mississippi. Jonathan is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC), working with Southeastern Land Group (AlaLandCo) since 2008, serving Alabama and Mississippi. He is a member of the Alabama and Mississippi chapters of the Realtor’s Land Institute (RLI), and is currently serving as Vice President of the Alabama Chapter. Jonathan specializes in marketing rural properties online, and is a contributor for LANDTHINK.com, writing articles focused on helping people buying and selling rural land.
Showing: Once a prospective buyer becomes interested in your property, they need a way to see it. Land professionals can do that in several different ways: by walking over it, using an ATV or UTV, or by SUV or truck. A potential buyer must see the property and all of its key features to truly decide if they want to purchase it or not. I find 90% of the time, if a property is well-priced that its location and features are generally what convinces the buyer to make the purchase. But to become convinced they must see it, all of it. Last week a residential agent asked to show one of my tracts that is nearly 300 acres. I told the agent I would be happy to show the property and that you have to be equipped to show the property. They asked, ”Do you mean, I would need a big truck?” This agent drives a Toyota Camry, and there are water bars on the property bigger than this car. You do not want to hire an agent that is unwilling or unequipped to effectively show your property.
The main problem you will be faced with when you go to sell land online is that you have to create an imaginary future for that land that the potential buyer will see and buy into. It is simply not enough to say “hey, I want to sell my land fast” you need to work with the buyer to create that vision of what the land can do for that potential new owner.
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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.
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When you are buying and selling lots and land, working directly is often the best way to go. Agents don’t typically put in the time or energy that they’d put into a selling a house. Comparatively, the commissions are low, and the land market is slow. When a parcel is listed on the MLS, the price is often inflated to cover commissions and other fees that will offset the seller’s profit. Typically there is less money and less effort put into marketing a piece of land, so it ends up sitting there, with the price being slashed time and time again.
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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.
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!
My husband and I have a lot of land that we don’t need, so we have decided that we should sell it. We are very busy with work and our family, so I like the idea of selling it in a way that won’t take a lot of time. I like the idea you give of auctioning off the land because we will be able to find people that are wanting to buy real estate quickly. I imagine that it would be a good idea to look for a real estate company to help us do this so that it all goes smoothly. Thanks for the idea!
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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.
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.
Market for Land is Less Active – The market for existing homes is almost always more vibrant than the land market. There simply are fewer numbers of buyers for vacant land than consumers looking for homes. Start marketing a new home listing and a new lot listing when both are desirable and priced well, and you generally can expect fewer contacts about the new lot listing.