This all boils down to how badly the developer needs your home, how much money he stands to gain by moving quickly and how robust the multi-unit housing market is. If the final offer falls a bit short of where you’d like it to be, factor in the negatives of staying: more construction noise, additional traffic and all the dough you’ll have to fork out to comfortably remain there. Realize, too, that condo prices, in particular, can be mercurial and turn on a dime if the greater housing market starts going south, which might give your buyer cold feet.

Great article. This is actually the first time I am learning about all of this. I bought my first property (that I currently live in) in 2012 and I am interested in investing in more property and generating passive income. My question is, once the property is purchased how do you ensure that it sells? I’m assuming that the only way to generate income from vacant land is for someone to build property on your land. If there is no interest in that land it could possibly turn into a loss.
If you are dealing with a single lot being subdivided into two or three residential lots, you may be able to handle this by working with a few real estate professionals that will help you in the process. Be thorough during your due diligence and planning so you can evaluate whether subdividing is feasible and makes financial sense. (More on this in a minute.)
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.
Hire an appraiser to determine the value of your land if you don't have the market knowledge to do it yourself. Without knowing what your land is worth, it will be hard for you to assess the strength of the offers that you receive. The appraisal will also determine the highest and best use of the land, and you can use that information to target your marketing activities.
Use a title company if you are not familiar with deeds, deed conveyance and closing of real estate. I prefer First American Title and you can find them anywhere. They will handle the monies, title search, title policy, deed, recording of the deed and pro-rated taxes, etc. Fees will vary and you can certainly negotiate. Typically the seller pays for the title policy and the buyer pays for half of the escrow fees. You can always charge an extra recording fee to offset these expenses.
Once we have completed our title examination and have established that there is clear title to the property, we will coordinate with you to set up closing. A title professional will prepare the necessary documents for you to sign, notarize, and return to them. Once the signed and notarized documents are received, the agreed upon funds are distributed and you get paid! Our process is simple, straightforward, and typically takes about 2-4 weeks to complete.

You also have to bear in mind that you cannot be exactly sure how the development will change the landscape of your street, or impinge on your privacy, or cause other problems, until it is actually built. David Henry of FPD Savills cites one case in which the owners of several large Victorian houses clubbed together and sold part of their gardens for development, only to find that their baths would no longer drain properly at certain times of day. The existing drainage systems could not cope with the extra load.


If you are dealing with a single lot being subdivided into two or three residential lots, you may be able to handle this by working with a few real estate professionals that will help you in the process. Be thorough during your due diligence and planning so you can evaluate whether subdividing is feasible and makes financial sense. (More on this in a minute.)
While often unpopular with locals, people who wish to cash in on their gardens get a lot of help from planning laws. According to Craig Noel of Strutt & Parker, it is becoming very difficult for planning authorities to resist applications to build houses in back gardens, thanks to one of the new planning guidelines, PPG3, which obliges houses to be built at higher densities in future.
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.
Use a title company if you are not familiar with deeds, deed conveyance and closing of real estate. I prefer First American Title and you can find them anywhere. They will handle the monies, title search, title policy, deed, recording of the deed and pro-rated taxes, etc. Fees will vary and you can certainly negotiate. Typically the seller pays for the title policy and the buyer pays for half of the escrow fees. You can always charge an extra recording fee to offset these expenses.
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.

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These are the questions I ask myself before I buy any piece of vacant land. This isn't intended to be an all-inclusive list of EVERY possible issue you could ever encounter, but I’d say it covers about 95% of the potential concerns you ought to be aware of. Most of these issues come up very infrequently, but they are very important things to consider nonetheless. Remember, you don't need to be afraid of buying vacant land. You just need to be informed.
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.
We own about 4 acres with a house on it and a land locked property adjacent to ours is for sale. The owner came by to offer it to us for that reason. It is a 17 acre raw piece of land with a creek and cliffs really is a beautiful property. The town values it at 18K with annual taxes of about $600. He wants 25K for it and has owned it for about 50 years. The value to us is as a private wild life refuge which we could hike and camp. It’s in the Hudson Valley and close to transportation to NYC. We plan to be in our home for at least another 15 to 20 years. Would this add any value to our home or be an asset at the time we sell our home?
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.
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.
“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.
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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.
2. The answer to this question depends entirely on the property, how much timber is on it, and how much money you can get from the sale of the timber. If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to sell the timber for more than you paid for the property itself (however, I would say this is more the exception than the rule). You might want to check out this article for some more insights if you haven’t already.

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.

Even if you’ve confirmed that there are no restrictions that forbid subdividing the land (or make it unfeasible), you and your experts also should research the local zoning, subdivision and development laws so that you can understand the layout and size limitations for your planned lots. Each county, city or other authority will have its own regulations that describe important items like current zoning requirements, minimum lot widths, setbacks (front, rear and side), buffers, building heights, required open space and other significant details that affect the size and layout of your lots.
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).
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to use Craigslist, another option is Facebook. Mark said, “right now, people are selling all day long on buy/sell groups on Facebook.” However, these are not the typical real estate buy/sell groups. “They’re going to Craigslist buy/sell groups, recreational vehicles buy/sell groups, hunting buy/sell groups, or fishing buy/sell groups.”
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
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.
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Very interesting read. I am looking at some desert land in both NV and AZ. They are between 40-80 acres each. My budget seems to afford places that either have an old well, or power at the lot line, but not both. Which utility do you feel is initially more critical to have of the two? I know adding a solar system or having power brought in is very cost prohibitive, so my thought was to go with the power on the lot. I figured I could always have water trucked in and stored in a tank since the properties are easily 2WD road accessible. I figure that buying property with an old well may be worthless and not worth the price increase of the property. And I have been reading that drilling a well is a gamble. Thanks in advance for some insight.
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.
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.
My wife and I are thinking about selling our home and have been looking for tips to get it off the market quickly. I like that you suggest talking to building inspectors because they deal with large volumes of buyers on the market. Having connections is really important to get the word out so we might try talking to a few different real estate agents and contractors. Thanks for the help!
Having a knowledgeable professional on your side always helps when selling your lots and land. There are many benefits from having specialized expertise on board, so we encourage you to work with a real estate agent who specializes in lot and land sales. They will help you understand the market, set a price and market your land to the right buyers.
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