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.
Curry encourages sellers not to position their home as a teardown because it narrows the market only to those looking to build new, when there might be other buyers who would be happy to renovate it. No need to touch an outdated kitchen or bathroom, since a renovating buyer will likely target those rooms for first projects, but a broken stair rail or damaged window should be fixed.
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.
Thank you very much for the write-up. I learnt quite a great deal, being a novice in real estate business. As a matter of fact I stumbled on your article while searching for information about possible investment opportunities on a piece of land. One of our client conferred a nine-hectar piece of land to us and we’re considering what investment would be appropriate on it. That’s what pushed me to start searching for things to do before investing on a piece of land, and I must confess that your article provided 95% of the answers. Thank you again. I guess I know how to go about it now, who to talk to and what to look for. In case you’d like to know where I’m writing from, I’m based in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon (Central Africa), a country so geographycally blessed with a long history of political stability and an accomodating business environment. If you happen to think of an investment opportunity in Africa put Cameroon on your priority list. Let’s keep in touch.
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.
Selling lots is not like Field of Dreams, where “if you build it they will come.” You need to make sure there is a market for lots in your area and at a price that makes sense. Determine the size, layout and other requirements that are expected for new lots to be marketable. A good real estate agent with expertise in land can help you with this. You also may be able to get some advice from builders – reach out to the ones who are active in your geographic area and in the price range for new homes that would likely be built on your lots. Getting their input could be the key to successfully subdividing marketable lots.
These can include a requirement that you dedicate part of “your” land that is in the road right-of-way to the local government, causing you now to be working with a smaller parcel. Other rules may require you to build or improve roads, sidewalks, curb and gutter and even to plant trees. In addition, you also may be required to install water and sewer connections and meters for the lots, or to pay capacity fees, impact fees and other assessments when adding the new homesites.
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).
Advice: One of the added benefits of hiring this agent is that they can advise you on much more than just the price of your land. A true professional will have a network of individuals that can help you with anything from tax planning to pond building. An experienced agent can tell you what is possible. They may know many things that can save or make you money during your transaction. Most of the time a good agent will help you net more money from selling your property than you can get on your own.
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).
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).
Alternatively, you could talk to the county health department about doing another perc test – just because it failed once doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible (though it is a fair indication that you won’t have much luck). You could also try investigating some alternative septic options, like building a mound septic system. I don’t have any experience with these, but it could be worth your while to investigate it further.
I’ve taken this route plenty of times, but I was always making my decision from the perspective of an investor (to buy and re-sell the property quickly)… not necessarily as the end-user (i.e. – buying a property that I would actually live on), so if there are some specifics that YOU would want to see, then it may be worth your while to get over here are see it.
Very good question, Trevor. We plan to do a blog article on this subject soon. You are pretty much on the mark with your example of 25% of the final to-be-built home’s value as a rough guide to a lot’s value. You’ll see that some markets use different valuations (even within the same city or region), but in many markets an estimation of the value of the lot generally can range from around 20% of the home value (for more rural or lower price point homes) up to around 30% or more (often for higher end communities or for urban/infill areas with less lot supply and higher home prices). Of course for some lots/properties these rules simply don’t apply, like oceanfront lots or land with other unique characteristics.
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.
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.
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?
I am looking at a property in Spanish Fort, Alabama. The neighborhood development began prior to the 2008 crash and sat for years. A house has started being built on a lot in 2013. A crack formed in the foundation of the house, and a stop work was ordered by the city. At this point my thought was to buy the property, scrap the house (its still sitting in the beginning stages after 3 years) and start over. The property now has made a mess in the neighbors yard for a over two years. 1) can the run off problem be fixed (its a huge mess) 2) how can a person get copies of photos (topography) of the property before the development started by the builders? These copies would have been from around 2006. I heard seeing the natural lay of the land could be very important when deciding if this run off problem is fixable. Thanks you for any help you can offer. I am just fearful of purchasing a huge nightmare that can’t be fixed.
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.
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).
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.
After identifying your likely buyers, try to think like them so you can focus your message to convey what they need to know about your property. Have information ready about schools, shopping and other nearby amenities. For developable land you can be prepared with zoning information and insight from local authorities about the location and capacity of water and sewer service. Each property is different, so customize your information for your situation and your targeted buyers.