Gerard Coutts is a project management and development strategist who brings together landowners, developers, investors and industry professionals to maximise the potential of a subdivision opportunity. He says the first step for the vendor is to determine whether their property lies within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) – those areas designated for higher density living.
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.
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.

Remember, the goal is to get your listing in front of as many potential buyers as possible, and the buyers who browse on Website A may never think of browsing on Website B (or C, or D, or E). Since we can never know precisely where our next buyer will come from, it may be worth your consideration to look at what each of these options can bring to the table (and since none of these cost a dime, the only thing you stand to lose is your time).
Hi Noam – I don’t check them all, every time. Many of the issues can be immediately ignored based on where the property is located, it’s size, and what it would most likely be used for, etc. For example – if a property is in a mountainous region, flooding will almost never be an issue. If the property isn’t ideally suited for building, then utilities and septic don’t matter. You get the idea.
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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.
Double check ad data for any property you’re considering; they’re often full of mistakes – not necessarily misleading information, but it comes from laziness. What doesn’t help is that when a listing first gets posted, apparently nearly all real estate websites post it as their own without checking it for accuracy. For example, we’re considering a property that has multiple issues:
Undeveloped land without significant zoning limitations is open to a variety of uses. Reach out to all types of buyers who might find the land appealing. This may include home builders, private individuals looking for land to build on, park or camp developers and environmental groups that want to keep the land undeveloped. Reach out to the owners of adjacent land to see if they want to add to their property. Advertise in different publications and websites, not just in local real estate magazines targeted at people looking for new homes.
Selling land is usually a more complicated process than selling improved property. When you sell a property with a building, its use and value is established by the building on it. Before buying unimproved land, most buyers want to investigate what they can do with it to determine what it's worth. At the same time, the buyer pool for land is usually smaller than the buyer pool for improved property. With this in mind, selling land quickly requires unique strategies.
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.
“I visited the property on Sunday and most of the lot was inundated with water. It is apparent that the soil is saturated for significant periods. Based on my observations, which are consistent with the available online data, it is my opinion that the lot is unbuildable since it does not meet the minimum New York State Dept. of Health (NYSDOH) requirements for the design of an onsite septic system. NYSDOH requires at least 12 inches of native useable soil above the high groundwater level and the septic system cannot be situated in a wetland. While NYSDOH has many other requirements to comply with, these two deficiencies cannot be addressed by any approvable design.
Since land is often a unique commodity, it can often be a pain for you or an agent to try and sell it.  Land is often hard to value, and most buyers lack vision for what it could become.  And that’s not to mention the fact that you have to be available to show it and explain the same land package over and over again to lots of potentially interested buyers.
Thanks so much for this article! I’ve run into a unique situation, where we found an amazing historic house that we’d like to restore, but it is currently listed as a vacant lot for sell with a shell house on it, rather than the house itself being listed. We know it’s not in a flood plain, the deed is unrestricted, and the home appears to have been lived in within the last 30 years so there is electric, heating, and plumbing. Any suggestions on potential issues we should be asking about before we jump in? We’ve never looked at land before, so we’re a bit overwhelmed by how much more complicated it appears to be vs buying a house.
Contact the owners of surrounding parcels of land to determine if they want to buy it. Sometimes, a land owner will want to increase the size of her holdings. If your land has access to a road, water or another valuable feature, it can be particularly valuable to a neighbor whose land doesn't have that attribute. Your neighbors are also familiar with your land, the area and its prospects, so they should be able to decide more quickly than someone who comes into the area cold.
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.
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.”
All properties are sold for cash or hard money. Buyers responsibility to do your own due diligence and verify all information. Prices are NET to seller with buyer paying all closing costs. Opinions of value / rents are given as a courtesy and no guarantees are expressed or implied. Our properties move fast so contact us quickly if there is a property you want to purchase.

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After 10 years in the rental business industry, my husband and I opted to sell off our properties. We sold two through land contracts and another through a traditional mortgage sale. Though the steady monthly income was reliable, we opted to sell our larger note to pay down debt and free up our monthly budget. After testing the waters with 5 different firms across the nation, we selected to use First National Acceptance Company. Our agent was Richard Nzokou. Richard provided the best information with the most clarity on the process of selling our note. The offer and closing value were very fair. Richard kept a close eye on our sale through the approval process and kept me informed every day. I highly recommend this company and encourage you to work with Richard.read more
But do not — and I repeat — do not try selling directly to a developer/builder. These folks, when dealing directly with a property seller, will base their typically lowball offers on a “fair market value” determined by appraisers they hire, who are typically agenda-led cronies. Such offers will almost certainly not take into account the recent increase in land values that all this upscale multi-tenant development is creating.
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).
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.
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).
Rule #18: Before traveling to view a promising parcel, check the county assessor’s website using the parcel number. Some are VERY helpful, containing all sorts of information such as what areas are known for landslides, flooding, wetland/buffer areas, contamination, noxious weeds, etc. The sites also give past purchase pricing and tax information, and sometimes even if there’s been “issues” with the land (such as a previous owner building unapproved structures which they may have had to tear down, leaving a foundation for you to deal with).
In order to determine the right buyer for your land, look at the highest and best use to determine where to start placing ads. If it is country land that is perfect for hunting, look for local outdoor forums and clubs to advertise your land. If it is a good home site, a land broker or traditional real estate agent may be best. You can also contact the neighbors, who may be interested in extending their property.
Whether you are working with a real estate agent or not, we absolutely encourage you or your agent to target your marketing to the right types of buyers. Adding a development parcel or lots to a general real estate listing site, or even MLS, just doesn’t get your property the exposure you would want to builders, developers, investors that are actually looking to buy this type of property.

My only real complaint with Zillow is with their video feature. While I'm certainly glad they provide ANY options to add video (unlike most of the free listing sites I've come across), I'm not a huge fan of their 2-minute self-shot video option. It's not easy to show a property in it's best light in under 2 minutes and/or by only using the camera in your pocket. It's unfortunate that they don't offer the ability to upload or embed a higher-quality, better-produced video. If they added this option, it would be a MAJOR improvement to their FSBO listing platform.
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I agree with Ellen Chung, finding the right type of buyer to target is very important. Also, you should consider the amount of time you have to sell the land. If you are short on time due to back taxes owed or other financial obligations, your best bet may be to talk to a vacant land investor. You will not get the full market price for your property, but the typically can pay cash and close quickly.
But do not — and I repeat — do not try selling directly to a developer/builder. These folks, when dealing directly with a property seller, will base their typically lowball offers on a “fair market value” determined by appraisers they hire, who are typically agenda-led cronies. Such offers will almost certainly not take into account the recent increase in land values that all this upscale multi-tenant development is creating.
If the neighbor isn’t interested, the next best option is to go to your buyer’s list. “What I like to do every single day,” said Mark, “is [to] do something to create some value or educate people on the benefits of owning raw land.” Then, he will end the content with a call-to-action. Two example of calls-to-action would be, “If you want to learn more, just opt-in here” or “Get $250 off your first land purchase.”
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.”
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.
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.
Hi Aracely – great question. You might want to contact the local planning and zoning department – ask them if you’re allowed to camp on the property and/or build whatever type of structure you’re planning to build. You’re right – most townships and cities (not the county necessarily) have different restrictions that come into play in different areas. You’ll probably find that the more rural areas have less and less restrictions, but generally speaking – you should always investigate, because some rules will most likely apply.

Your buyer profile can depend on what type of property you are selling, whether the land has been developed already, its location and market conditions, among other criteria.  Is your likely buyer an individual looking for a lot for a new home? Or is your buyer going to be a builder or developer looking for land for their next project?  Or is your buyer some combination of those, or someone different altogether? There may be different buyers for finished lots, rural acreage or a parcel of suburban land in a thriving new home market.
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