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?
Very good question, Trevor. We plan to do a blog article on this subject soon. You are pretty much on the mark with your example of 25% of the final to-be-built home’s value as a rough guide to a lot’s value. You’ll see that some markets use different valuations (even within the same city or region), but in many markets an estimation of the value of the lot generally can range from around 20% of the home value (for more rural or lower price point homes) up to around 30% or more (often for higher end communities or for urban/infill areas with less lot supply and higher home prices). Of course for some lots/properties these rules simply don’t apply, like oceanfront lots or land with other unique characteristics.
Especially when I'm buying vacant land out-of-state, my first line of business is to understand the topography of the property. There are many, many places around the world that have very unpredictable elevations, cliffs, mountains, valleys, ravines and more. In many cases, the topography of the land can have a huge impact on the build-ability of a property. For the same reasons you can't build a house on 90-degree cliff, you should be doing some preliminary research to find out where your property is located, and what the lay of the land is.

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.
I’ve been reading your tips on a couple of sites. Very informative. I got burned on county denying a septic permit. Redemption. The illegal lake keeping the water table to high on my two tax lots mysteriously got drained. I live 80 miles away and my neighbor called me and said when it quits the winter rains your property will perc. My coastal property in Oregon just increased $60,000.00 a lot. I’ll deal. Cleared and level
In the very least, your land contract should include the address of the property and a full legal description of the land. It should also include the down payment amount, purchase price, the number of payments that will be made, the monthly payment amounts, and any balloon payments that may be required. You may also consider creating and attaching an amortization schedule.
If you intend to hold onto a property for any length of time, beware of a super high tax bill relative to the actual value of the property itself. I haven't run across this issue very often, but for various reasons, there are some properties that have some ridiculously high taxes in proportion to the property’s actual value (for example, if a $10,000 property has an annual tax bill of $2,000, THIS IS TOO HIGH). In my experience, I've found that a reasonable annual tax bill usually falls in the range of 1% – 4% of the property’s full market value.
Hey Seth, as always great article! I found the free online marketing ideas (like posting on Craigslist) especially creative and helpful. Thanks so much for helping me through the stressful process of selling my home. Since you asked what other creative tips I’ve found–I read this eBook in my research and found it so helpful that I thought I’d post it here in the chance that it could help someone else. Here it is: https://www.homelight.com/sell-your-house-online-ebook
Salespider.com is a free social network designed to help small to midsize businesses expand their networks, connect with contracting and supplier opportunities, post free classified ads and gain free access to sales leads and business opportunities. It's supposedly one of the largest free social network for business owners and includes free sales leads and prospect lists, free classified ads, free business directory, and free business forums.
4. eBay.com – Once our top selling venue, eBay is still a great place to advertise and gather buyers and drive them to your dedicated selling website. Cost to post property for a 30-day auction style sale, is a $50 insertion fee with a $35 notice fee when the auction ends. Other sale types are “buy-it-now”, which is a fixed price type with same fee structure. Think of eBay as; $50 per month worth of advertising to reach potential sellers.
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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.
Market for Land is Less Active – The market for existing homes is almost always more vibrant than the land market. There simply are fewer numbers of buyers for vacant land than consumers looking for homes. Start marketing a new home listing and a new lot listing when both are desirable and priced well, and you generally can expect fewer contacts about the new lot listing.
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