For most commercial properties, the best way to do this is by ordering a “Phase I Environmental Report” (many banks will automatically require this because it affects their collateral). This report will identify if there are any “Recognized Environmental Concerns” (RECs) on the property that you need to worry about. If you neglect to do any environmental due diligence, the liability for any existing environmental contamination on the property could ultimately fall on your shoulders – making it very difficult and expensive to sell the property in the future.
Hi Dave, thanks for stopping by. You’re right – it’s very hard for me to give you any concrete opinion on this (because there are a lot of factors to weigh with any piece of vacant land). I’d say if you’ve looked at all the potential downsides and established that there won’t be any issues from that end… and if you’ve got a fairly decent idea as to what the property is currently worth (and you’re buying it for a price that is significantly BELOW that number), then sure – there probably is a fair chance that you can make money on it.

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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
Planning Consent. This will be needed before development is begun, but who obtains it is a question for landowners. Embarking on the planning process at your own risk can pay off, but it is a gamble and we recommend that you speak to either a surveyor, a planning consultant or a planning officer at your local authority to get an idea as to whether or not an application for consent for development would be successful. Many such applications will go to appeal. Is the planning consent you obtain going to be the one developers need? This is why many landowners enter into promotion agreements or conditional contracts which oblige others to apply for planning, as they often have a greater chance of success on the right terms. Be aware though, that extensive price negotiations can take place once planning consent is obtained, and the actual net development area can be calculated. This will take into account any ‘extra’ costs such as wildlife surveys or ground investigations that are required as a result of the planning conditions.
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?
"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.
A major issue that we see when people try to sell property to their friends is that they’ll cut breaks for their friends. Perhaps their friend doesn’t have the money, so they’ll allow for later payment while transferring the property to their friend. Always ensure that you are engaging in a business deal that is within your best interests. If your friend does not have the money to buy the land, have a contract written up with payment details and guidelines. Never trust someone blindly - this is a business deal and should be treated as one despite your friendship.
And I know what you mean about the assessed value – this number means almost nothing in my mind, because the county will usually peg this number as high as possible, because it allows them to charge more in tax revenue for the property. I think you can get it reassessed in many cases, but there usually aren’t any guarantees that your request will get traction, and the process isn’t necessarily fast or easy. It may be worth your while to call the local tax collector and just ask them how much the annual tax bill is – that should tell you pretty quickly what the obligation would be.

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 the buyer has secured financing or is planning on paying with cash, a contract for sale will be necessary. This contract will specify the terms of the sale and may also specify other documents required before transferring the deed. This may include the financial documents that are necessary to secure financing. The contract may also indicate that title insurance will be provided. In this case, the title company may be involved in the transaction.
great article and timely. I have several undeveloped lots located in urban and well rural settings., from quarter acre to 120 acres. I am also thinking of developing the lots my self but need a step by step process including spread sheet showing cost of development and potential roi. what type if assistance should I expect from local gov’t in this process for environmental goals, building green, workforce housing etc. thanks
Land Requires Different Sales Techniques – A home has a kitchen, bathrooms and a façade that can be visual and photogenic. You can hold an Open House for a home and walk a buyer through each room to help make the sale. Buyers can easily visualize themselves in – and fall in love with – the built home. It’s just not the same for vacant residential lots and land.
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