Learn to evaluate the risks and rewards of subdividing land into residential lots. In this first of three articles on the subject, a developer and real estate lawyer provides landowners specific items to evaluate when considering whether or not to subdivide land. Come back for the next articles in this series that provide insights for landowners based on the author’s real world experiences with the subdivision process, as well as a hands-on description of the steps landowners should take when subdividing land.
MLS usually is a first step for real estate agents when they get a new home listing, and it certainly should be part of any real estate marketing plan. But keep in mind that MLS is focused on marketing existing built homes, and should not be the only online marketing tool used for your lot or land listings. LotNetwork.com was specifically designed for selling residential lots and land, and attracts targeted lot and land buyers like potential homeowners, builders, developers and investors, among others.
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).
I really appreciate your posting this blog subject. I would ask the neighbors and previous owners what they know. If applicable, go to the Planning and/or Building Department and find out what permits have been issued for that parcel in the past. You might get an indication of what waste products might be on the property. You should also contact your state’s department of the interior or forestry department to see if there are any endangered species, plant or animal, located on the property. Contact the Sheriff’s department to see if there have been any reports of drug manufacturing on the property. If they don’t know, they may be able to direct you to the correct authority. Not all drug manufacturers use stick built houses to do their business (trailers and vans). Also, if there is a stream or creek on the property, you should investigate what is up stream from your property; like a turkey or hog farm or dairy. These may affect the water in the creek upstream, but they may also smell bad coming from the prevailing wind direction. Ask the neighbors.
Environmental issues. Contaminated land is what springs to mind when environmental issues are mentioned, but in this scenario, what is most likely are potential flooding or drainage problems. A history of flooding or waterlogging is clearly not going to be welcome news for a developer, but equally if the land has been used for potentially contaminative uses in the past or is near to sources of contamination, remember that remedying any actual contamination is costly and will significantly affect the value of the land. Any past surveys or reports that have been carried out should be to hand if required.
The trick with vacant land is to understand why it's vacant in the first place. I've run across quite a few vacant lots that seemed attractive at first glance, but eventually, I discovered the reason nobody was using them was that you CAN'T use them. If one (or more) of the issues above are prohibiting someone from putting a property to good use, believe me – you don't want to find out after you already own it.
We currently own 10 acres of land with a lot of road front footage. A very large nice development is underway adjacent to our property; the developer also recently had some type of auction and sold 92 lots. It has been brought to the attention of my husband and I that no homeowner construction can begin until development access issues are resolved. Presently, they have issues with line of sight entering into and out of the development; the development has a small privately paved 2 lane road entering onto the public highway system. Our property sits high on a small hill, it is large enough to occlude site to the left when pulling onto the highway. Our home also sits on a curve. We also have fencing – similar to what you might call pasture fence – that also occludes a drivers site pulling out as well. The developer has sent a neighbor (also his friend, may even be a partner) – who lives in the only house built in the development – although how they built that with restrictions in play – I do not know… Maybe because it was a single dwelling??? It was there before the current developer purchased it from the previous developer (who built the home in there as a “spec house”. First, this representative showed up saying they would like for us to move our fence and they would pay for us to move it (how kind). We just listened… And told him we like our fence just where it is – we know that even with the fence moved the line of site is still occluded – the hill would have to come down or be graded somewhat for it to work. 92 homes would also generate a lot of traffic. A turn lane was mentioned but no details were given – in fact no plan was presented at all. We think he was just feeling us out. My real question is how much should or could we ask for the property if we agreed to whatever their plan is – of course, we would see the plan proposals and bring in a lawyer. I don’t know how to begin to calculate it! I have considered 92 lots multiplied by something! Maybe 20,000 each? My husband spoke with a member of the NCDOT who was out here doing some surveying – he stated that the DOT really had no interest in the property – I want to take that to mean they would not force access for the developer – but I do not know – my knowledge is very limited on this subject. Bottom line is they are in “a real pickle” if we decide not to accommodate/sell them the needed frontage. No money has been offered – it was just stated that we would be compensated. It seems we are in the position of power as far as a selling price – as they cannot develop without meeting those requirements. What would/do you advise and what resources should I use to educate myself. I have found the Policy on Street and Driveway Access to North Carolina Highways and been reading over it. I really do not want us taken advantage of either as far as the construction phase and the end result to our remaining front yard.
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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.
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!
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.