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.

Very informative articles, and exchanges. I have a general question about subdivisions. I am looking to sell a 5 acre parcel, that would accommodate about 45 lots. The lots would be sold, with houses built, for a minimum of $750,000 each. Would you say there a rough guide, as to what percentage the cost of land should be for each lot sold? Obviously, the lower the cost of the acquired land, the better for the developer, but I’m just wondering if there is a ‘rule of thumb’ in the business. For example, no more than 25% of a lot’s sale price should go towards the cost of the land? I am not looking to push the buyer to their break-even point, but I want to get a fair price too.
Get Proper Tax Advice. This is an absolute, and again must be done early on in the procedure. Professional advice is needed to structure the transaction in the most tax efficient way, making the most of any reliefs and exemptions that may be available. Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance Tax, Value Added Tax and Stamp Duty Land Tax are all taxes which may need to be considered and planned. Many developers will want to certain that the seller has obtained professional tax advice before exchanging contracts.
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Always offer to ‘show’ the property to prospective buyers. It’s an obvious step for home sales, but some people neglect it for land sales because they believe there isn’t a lot to really show. That’s the difference between a strong seller and a poor one. To be a successful salesperson, you’re always selling. You want to show the buyer the property lines, and then, lead them out to see the neighborhood, local businesses and other aspects that could seal the deal.
If an application is turned down, it is usually because access to the site is difficult or it adjoins a main road. The ideal building site has frontage on an existing road. As little as 30 ft to the side of your house can provide enough land for a new house, although permission is more likely to be given on tight plots if existing houses in the street are closely packed.
We hope this helps provide valuable insight for landowners about the pros, cons and items to evaluate when considering subdividing your land. Check back soon for our second article in this series about Subdividing Land: Tips for Landowners from a Developer, where we will describe some real world issues that we have seen in subdivision attempts. Plus, the third article in the series will provide hands-on details about the steps to take if you decide to subdivide your land into lots.
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’m learning the hard way about the hidden costs of buying empty land. Unless utilities are already there, it can be VERY expensive to run them from the street to the building site. For example, one parcel we looked at was about 1000′ feet off the main road where utilities are located. To run city water, gas, electricity, and cable could run anywhere from $10-100 per foot! Multiply that by 1000 and I better understand why developers say that they spend the same on running utilities as they do on the land. It may cause us to reevaluate our goals and possibly shift to buying a property that already has a rundown home on it.
If you really are looking for that sell my land fast solution you need to be prepared to also work the contacts that you have made yourself over the years. Make sure that you tell all those who you come in contact with both on a social or business level, that you have land for sale. They, in turn, may pass the word along. Networking is everything in this technological age and selling land online in no different.
Hello Elizabeth, thanks for posting. LandInvestors is a great place for you to start. It is an incredibly valuable tool for newcomers (and old-timers alike) to bounce ideas off other (like-minded) investors, ask questions, share concepts, etc. It’s a remarkably symbiotic community that everyone gets a lot out of. This forum-based site should be the first place you go with questions, and Jack, Jill, myself, and the rest of our staff are on there often helping in addition to our whole community. There is a wealth of free information about selling properties on the site. The Cash Flow from Land Program is also a place that fully covers selling your property. Feel free to email us if you have any questions.
Hi Victoria – you’d probably want to check with your local municipality to see who owns these parcels that surround the house (or you could also check out this tutorial or this tutorial to figure it out yourself). You generally don’t want to touch any trees that aren’t on the parcel that you own… but in terms of whether those surrounding parcels are “preserved woodlands” – that’s an answer you could probably get from someone with the local government office. Just Google the township or county clerk, give them a call and see what you can find out.
"I've seen both buyers and sellers do this to try and gain some type of advantage in negotiations," says Robert King, a land agent with AlaLandCo; a native of Clay County, Alabama, he has over 10 years experience in marketing and selling property. "It rarely, if ever, works, and absolutely serves to drive the parties further apart." Also, don’t make a laundry list of everything that is wrong with a property you are trying to buy, cautions King. "You must like the property, or you would not have spent all that time figuring out everything that is wrong with it. That just puts the seller on guard and creates a personal barrier." When you impart your wealth of knowledge of all of the property's shortcomings to the other party, you are not likely to make a friend of the seller, says King. You want to be on friendly not adversarial terms with anyone you are negotiating with for the land deal.
We found a really great 2 acre property zoned rural residential in the area of town that we really want to live in Oregon. It is the only lot left in the older established subdivision, so it has city water but would need a septic (which everyone in the neighborhood has of course). One big issue is that it is basically a forest. The whole lot is full of trees, huge and small.
The last option is to call a company like mine and field an offer. We will do all the research and make an offer (typically below market value so we can make money) and pay all the fees. If you are looking for quick and easy this option might work for you. Try it on your own first though as it's a fun process and you'll exercise a bunch of brain muscles in new ways. Good luck and feel free to contact me with your questions for a free 20-minute land coaching consultation.
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!
Instruct sto ask any potential developer/builder buyers to render written offers. Unless one of the early ones floats your boat, I suggest you respond that you aren’t interested in selling for that sum at this time. Refrain from making a counteroffer if you can. Just let the developer(s) keep coming back with increasingly larger offers. If and when you accept, don’t be afraid to ask for a moving allowance as well.
A farmer may want to expand his or her land, and your 3-acre lot is perfect for grazing. If you have land that is in a residential area, your neighbor may want the opportunity to have a bigger property and will buy your land for premium since it is adjacent to their land. And these are people you probably know and trust, which makes the entire sales process more pleasant.
I’ve been reading your tips on a couple of sites. Very informative. I got burned on county denying a septic permit. Redemption. The illegal lake keeping the water table to high on my two tax lots mysteriously got drained. I live 80 miles away and my neighbor called me and said when it quits the winter rains your property will perc. My coastal property in Oregon just increased $60,000.00 a lot. I’ll deal. Cleared and level
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1. I never use loans when I buy vacant land, because I’m able to get my properties very, very cheap (and I’m only able to do this because I know where/how to find motivated sellers). Most banks won’t lend directly on land UNLESS you have an immediate plan to build on it – and this is why seller financing can be such a helpful tool when selling land (because most buyers will need it in order to do the transaction).
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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!

Since it is near the New Year, please allow me to use this illustration. Many people make a resolution to diet and exercise to lose weight in the New Year. They may buy a new piece of equipment and some new workout clothes. They go hard for a couple of weeks, and slowly excuses begin to interrupt the routine and eventually there is no real progress. Then the person can say, “I tried the Bowflex for a while, but it didn’t really work for me.” The truth is, they didn’t do what Bowflex recommends and therefore they did not achieve the desired result.
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.

Hi Cassie, sounds like an exciting opportunity! I might suggest that you call your local planning and zoning department. Tell them about the property and what you’re interested in doing with it. Ask them if they know of any particular issues you should be aware of. They should be able to help you check at least a few of these things off your list from the get go.

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.
I have a home on a lot that is large enough to be subdivided. I met with the city to discuss subdividing and they said that each lot needs a 20′ street frontage (currently I only have a 20′ street frontage. They said that I can subdivide if I put in a drive tract to the subdivided section. However, they would consider the drive tract a road and as a result I would need to remove an attached carport because the rules indicate that a house needs to be 20′ from a road. The only reason that I need the drive tract instead of a typical driveway was to create the 20′ street frontage.

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.


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).
Other options to consider are selling your land with owner financing which makes it easier for people to afford. Trying to find cash buyers can be difficult depending on your asking price and banks don't typically want to lend on vacant land. Also, if you have land you want to sell in a hurry and you'd like to get cash for it there are a number of wholesale land buyers that make be interested in making you a cash offer for your land.
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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.
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).

I make a commitment to my clients when I become their exclusive agent. I never list a property I do not intend to sell. Until a property sells I spend all of my own money in marketing and showing a tract. Agents cannot stay in business if we do not make money. I tell people that my children like to eat every single day, so I give my best effort to selling their property. That is an arrangement that benefits both the seller and the agent.


When you sell land by yourself, this is called a private sale. So, you will need to find a private buyer. It may help you to talk with local farmers if you are looking to sell raw land; farmers have all kinds of experience in purchasing land for their crops. If you are selling your land on your own without the aid of a real estate agent, this next section is for you.
One of the most important first steps before subdividing your land or land you wish to buy is to make sure there are no restrictions that will block your plans. Everything from ordinances, neighborhood covenants to deed restrictions may prohibit – or fatally complicate – your plans. Review these items carefully, plus order a professional title review (typically through a real estate attorney) so that you can understand whether there are any deal killing issues that apply to the property and prevent subdividing.
Keep in mind, using the Wetlands Mapper and/or the Web Soil Survey is NOT the same thing as hiring a wetlands consultant and/or having the USACE do a delineation on your property (so realize, there are no guarantees with this approach). However, if you're just looking for an educated guess, both of these online tools can be used as a starting point.
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.

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