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.
I’m learning the hard way about the hidden costs of buying empty land. Unless utilities are already there, it can be VERY expensive to run them from the street to the building site. For example, one parcel we looked at was about 1000′ feet off the main road where utilities are located. To run city water, gas, electricity, and cable could run anywhere from $10-100 per foot! Multiply that by 1000 and I better understand why developers say that they spend the same on running utilities as they do on the land. It may cause us to reevaluate our goals and possibly shift to buying a property that already has a rundown home on it.
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Thanks Seth. Great ideas! Going after investors if you have a property that could be an attractive buy for them is something most people wouldn’t think of. Chances are, that if an investor isn’t in the market, he/she probably knows others who are. Forums are also a good idea as people will actually look at and read posts as opposed to other platforms where people scroll through without a car.
Very informative articles, and exchanges. I have a general question about subdivisions. I am looking to sell a 5 acre parcel, that would accommodate about 45 lots. The lots would be sold, with houses built, for a minimum of $750,000 each. Would you say there a rough guide, as to what percentage the cost of land should be for each lot sold? Obviously, the lower the cost of the acquired land, the better for the developer, but I’m just wondering if there is a ‘rule of thumb’ in the business. For example, no more than 25% of a lot’s sale price should go towards the cost of the land? I am not looking to push the buyer to their break-even point, but I want to get a fair price too.
In addition to online listings that target lot and land buyers, effective property signs always should be part of your marketing plan. Don’t just use a standard “For Sale” sign; we suggest that you have a sign custom-made for selling your lot or land (which can be done relatively inexpensively these days). You can help tell the story with your custom signs by including a few key points like acreage and property features. The sign(s) should be located for visibility, look professional and be kept clean and upright.
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 need to find a buyer fast, our company is in the land buying business. If you've got time to wait for a few months, then get it posted on your standard online sites (don't underestimate Craigslist!) and consider hiring an agent. If that doesn't work out or you don't feel like waiting, we've got a network of buyers at Landmark Property Buyers.
You always have the option of selling your land through a professional which is your real estate agent. There are some significant benefits to doing this when you are looking for a quick sale. These experts have the training and expertise for selling property. They also have a large database of potential buyers. Then they have ready access to many more forms of marketing that you as a private seller may not have. This includes selling through the internet. Most have high profile sites set up that draws traffic from interested buyers. If you are attempting to sell your property online you probably don’t have this same outreach.
Hi, I found your blog via searching for help for a decision. I have two 10 Acre parcels with views of the Stanislaus Mountains in Northern California that are part of an 8 parcel development back in 2006 for $160k each (ouch) with the intention of building a home on one and the other as an investment. One has a well the other does not. There were two owners of the development that built right before the financial crises but no one has built since. I wanted to lower the property tax so I listed them each for $60k, not thinking I’d ever get an offer and since dirt is not selling in that area well, but low and behold within two weeks I received two offers on the parcel with the water well (one from a real estate agent/2nd from a neighbor behind the property). I’m not sure but I think both have different intentions for purchasing which doesn’t matter (you are able to grow marijuana in that county). Now I’m uncertain about selling since it was not my intention and I’d really like to recover my investment. Should I wait to see if land values rise to what I paid back then or should I take the money and run!? They both asked for owner financing. There is access to power and the development’s access is through a gated community. Any comments would be welcomed and appreciated. Thank you!
If a property doesn't pass this test, you could have a very difficult time building any type of dwelling on the property, so unless you're able to tap into the municipal sewer system (which will negate this issue altogether), be sure to give the county health department a call and ask them what is required to install a septic system (or connect to the local sewer) in your area. For a detailed overview of how a perc test works and how to verify the status of this issue, check out this blog post.
I have an opportunity to buy 53 acres of recreational land. 9 of the acres is a pond and another 16 acres is CRP land. I was thinking about sub dividing these lots for a private campground. I currently own a single lot in a private campground about 70 acres and most lots are .18 ac that sells for $4000 each. I am looking to do the same as the owner did years ago, but with possibly my own piece of land. Without tipping off the owner on this opportunity, land for sale, what problems may I encounter, or unforseen costs will I run into?
Offer owner financing. Land is usually hard to finance and if you're willing to take back a mortgage for the buyer, you'll expand the number of people who can buy your land. On the other hand, you're also taking the risk that the buyer won't make his payments and will default. To protect yourself, work with an attorney to draft strong legal documents that follow your state's laws and get as much money up front as is reasonably possible.
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).
My grandmother is thinking of selling me her lakefront parcel that has been sitting for 40 years. My wife and I have recently began to look into real-estate investment homes but think we might want to go this rout instead. My question is how you generally attract people out to land that is rural ( no airport within an hour rural)? And do you recommend any websites, companies, or law firms that can help us build a house on the site from scratch purchase laws. We are also looking into premade cabin homes.
Hi Seth – My brother-in-law and I are looking to get into real estate investing and have our eye on a piece of land (we want to start small, FYI). It is 1 of 8 lots, all of them are only 1,742 sq ft, for commercial use only, and the lot we are looking at is the end lot…My thought is, buy now and hold on to it for a length of time until a developer comes along and wants to buy all 8 lots. This would obviously need all sellers to agree to sell which I am not sure how tricky that would be. My question is, do you see any chance for money to be made here? The lot is in a great location and I honestly can’t believe nothing has been built there yet. More details: $16,500 for the lot, taxes are $1,087 / year which I know is a little high based on what you stated above but even so, after negotiations, I think we could get taxes down to 4%. I know it might be hard to say, ‘yes you will make money’ or ‘no, you won’t’ but just wanted any insight you could give.
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.
Hi Colt, whenever I buy landlocked parcels, my offer is VERY low (because practically speaking, if nobody can access it, it might as well be on the moon – which isn’t all that useful UNLESS someone can obtain legal access). One way to prove that it’s landlocked would be to find a parcel map of the property – and I explain how to do that in this blog post: https://retipster.com/property-pictures
We hope this helps provide valuable insight for landowners about the pros, cons and items to evaluate when considering subdividing your land. Check back soon for our second article in this series about Subdividing Land: Tips for Landowners from a Developer, where we will describe some real world issues that we have seen in subdivision attempts. Plus, the third article in the series will provide hands-on details about the steps to take if you decide to subdivide your land into lots.
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.
Seth, I can definitely see how internet marketing would be extremely useful when selling your property. My wife and I have been planning on selling our house in order to move to a much more family friendly neighborhood. I think that we should consider finding finding a real estate agent that could help us to sell it exactly according to our desired asking price.
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.
You can also look to certain companies and organizations that have a concentration of people that may fall in the above mentioned roles such as investment companies (i.e. Charles Schwab, Fidelity), financial advising companies (i.e. Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch). There may be a higher concentration of people who can both afford and want to build their own custom homes or to build income-producing properties. Try linking yourself to financial advisors who may already know of people who have these types of dreams. This isn't a comprehensive answer of all the possibilities but just some thoughts. Good luck!
Investors look for future potential. A priority would be to look at a municipal developmeant plan to see if the property is within a plan area. Personally, I would never invest in land that is not already under a municipal area structure plan. If you want to take a risk, you could look for land that was in the obvious path of development and be prepared to hold the land for a very long period of time.
Do you have land that you would like to sell and are unsure of how to progress? We welcome your call, whether it's to sell or buy land. You can be sure of a helpful and professional approach. We utilise the latest software and systems to source and sell land, enabling us to assess land parcels quickly and appraise the planning potential for most sites, saving you time and money.
This whole subject always fascinates me, because it’s a pretty difficult question to answer. Even most appraisers don’t really know what they’re talking about when it comes to valuing land… a vacant lot’s true value is usually a very elusive number to nail down. You may want to see this blog post for more details on how I look at it: https://retipster.com/valueofland
Your responses is truly encouraging. I am Construction Manager, starting out in development. I could really use your insight or how to begin. I want to build an resort, a place where families can come with all the amenities that you have to pay leaving the state of NY. With Executive suites for out of state executives. some rooms, some kitchenettes and E. Suites. Anyway, I found this great location, went to the town to see who owns the land. It is in a commercial area. I have a broker who will reach out to the owner for the sale. What would you suggest my next steps should be; get the property, get it survey, have a design prepared. I want to get investors on board. What would you suggest, I have for pitching my proposal to investors. I currently work with Architects, Engineers and they are willing to support me in this project. Just not sure what my next step should be. Any recommendations.
If a property doesn't have access to one or more of these staples of reasonable living, the property (for all intents and purposes) may not be considered build-able. After all, who would want to build a house where they can't flush the toilet or get access to clean water? If a property isn't build-able, you will lose a massive portion of the property’s usability, marketability and value. Since most people buy land with the intent building on it, you will definitely want to be aware of anything that could become an obstacle to that objective.
I’ve never heard the tip to create your own website when you have a home for sale. I also have never heard the tip to keep an eye out for “For Rent” signs to in order to look for more homes for sale. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to find homes for sale that have been on the market for a while because there’s more room for negotiation, thanks for the tips!
The asking price may not always be the agreed-upon purchase price. You may try to negotiate a lower price upon review of the current title of land for sale. In reviewing the property, look at the vesting deed (available from the county clerk's office) and the appraisal, advises Veissi. Real estate property interests are usually conveyed by a deed. Sometimes people sell or transfer partial interests in a property. Check the deed to see if there are any easements or rights that have been granted for use of the property without having to own the property. Either the seller or buyer (even both) may order an appraisal. Ask the appraiser for a like property analysis, Veissi suggests. Meaning, request to see a list of like properties that have sold in the area and compare those prices to see if the asking price for the property you seek is reasonable.
You’ll want as much money as you can make as quickly as you can get it – but developers play a longer and broader game. Land you sell may become one small part of their land bank in your locality and, if you’ve signed the wrong deal, you may find they never get planning permission for your land because they choose to promote one of their other local sites which looks an easier consent to win.
When some people look at the prospect of owning land, they get wrapped up in the dream of property ownership. The idea of owning a large tract of property can seem very appealing, even if it is of no practical use to them. This kind of trap is especially easy for people to fall into with land because it's a low maintenance property and doesn't seem complicated (even though there are a lot of factors to consider).
Selling land is usually a more complicated process than selling improved property. When you sell a property with a building, its use and value is established by the building on it. Before buying unimproved land, most buyers want to investigate what they can do with it to determine what it's worth. At the same time, the buyer pool for land is usually smaller than the buyer pool for improved property. With this in mind, selling land quickly requires unique strategies.
Your first point of contact will be your local council, They can tell you whether a precinct structure plan has been drawn up for the area, and advise of the process and timeframe of any existing masterplan. “It’s important to establish a rapport with local government,” Coutts advises. “They will be either your blocker or saviour. There’s no use having an adversarial relationship.”
Ideally, you should employ a realtor and real estate attorney that know what restrictive covenants there are and what you can and can’t build on that piece of property, says Veissi. "But you still may need to do some grunt work. Find out how the property is zoned." Zoning ordinances and regulations are laws that define how you can use the property. Depending on your needs, will you have to change the zoning? For instance, if the property is zoned for an industrial warehouse or office building and you want to build a retail outlet. Also, zoning ordinances will typically limit the total height of a building or require a certain number of parking spaces for a commercial building. Opposition to zoning changes by local residents or other invested parties can be fierce—time consuming and costly.
i am very confused on what to do. i have 2 lots in the 100yr floodplain with up todate septics and electrical poles. i have rented 2 spaces in the pass for 250 each. However i am allowed to put 2 mobile homes per the permit office. i can rent each home for appox 800 a month. the land is paid for and very low taxes. or i can sell the propery on owner finance for 55,ooo, the property does have a creek behind it and the creek is a floodway. the total land is approx 1.63 acreas. should i sale the property since. its in a floodzone or put the mobile homes and have a good rental income. what would u do. would u even rent in a flood zone. thank you, please respone for 2 months i have been undecided on what o do.
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.