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 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 might add that in some development-friendly communities, the city and developer might try to play the eminent domain (condemnation) card. Ostensibly, eminent domain should be used only in the exercise of public good such as a new highway or road widening, though some cities get away with it in dubious circumstances. Your agent should know whether this could be an issue. Such a scenario, as unlikely as it is, would probably force you to hire a lawyer to get a decent price.


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!
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?
It is not unknown for restrictive covenants to ban, for example, the keeping of dogs at a property, though the more restrictive covenants you put on a plot, the more they affects the price you will receive. As a rule of thumb, developers expect to pay one third of the value of the finished development for the plot. So, if a £150,000 house can be squeezed into your back garden, you should think in terms of receiving £50,000.
There may be some back and forth with the seller. You may offer a lower amount than the asking price and the seller in turn will counter with an offer higher than yours. The key is to head to the negotiations table with your well conducted research in hand. Don’t waste time playing games or questioning the seller’s integrity, warns King. "If you educate yourself about the market, you can determine if an offer is a good deal or not. You won’t get taken for a ride." 

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).
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.
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
Once you provide us with a few basic pieces of information, using our simple and easy to use Sell My Land Form, we will automatically receive a copy of that information and begin our review process. Using a mixture of county assessment information, recent local sales data, and research on comparable land properties in the area, we will determine what we’d be able to offer you for your land.
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.
Additionally, the land contract should indicate how many payments will be made, their due dates, grace periods (if applicable), fees for late payments, and how the buyer should deliver each payment. Under a land contract, buyers are usually treated just like a property owner, and will be responsible for paying property taxes, insurance, and any utility bills associated with the land use.
The main problem you will be faced with when you go to sell land online is that you have to create an imaginary future for that land that the potential buyer will see and buy into. It is simply not enough to say “hey, I want to sell my land fast” you need to work with the buyer to create that vision of what the land can do for that potential new owner.
Hi Rainie, if it were me, I’d be most concerned about the septic system (making sure the property passes the perc test, if it’s not located near a sewer system), making sure it’s not in a flood zone, and making sure the property is zoned properly for the type of house I want to build. Judging by the fact that there was a house on the property before, you probably won’t find many surprises here… but it’s always good to verify.
As for whether the seller will accept a lower offer – you’ll never know until you make the offer and wait for his response. It could obviously go either way, but my philosophy is usually to err on the lower side – because unless he’s got other buyers waiting in line (which I doubt he does), you can always come back with a higher offer later if you really want it that badly.
In terms of an investment – I only buy land when I’m getting it for FAR below market value (which basically guarantees that I’ll be able to sell it some day for more than I paid for it)… and it doesn’t sound like that’s necessarily what’s happening here. If you think you’d be able to use it for something that would increase the overall value of your current property, then it may make sense… but if not, then it may not make the most sense from an investment standpoint.

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.

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.
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.
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