Hi Steve…great article! In my village there is a 1.4 acre lot that is of interest to me, but I don’t want the whole thing. I am only looking at about a third of that. Problem is…the entire 1.4 lot is owned by our local school district and the administration building sits on the front part of it. The backside of the lot (the part I am interested in) is totally unused and mostly wooded. There is a very distinct treeline to where the lot could be divided. How difficult would it be acquire that piece of land behind the building…given it’s owned by the school district?
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If you have plenty of time and are not in a hurry to sell the property, and would like to do very little work I would suggest listing it with a broker. They will be able to create a listing for the property, answer phone call and emails, and handle the closing. The downside of this approach is comes at a price and you typically only get local exposure and most real estate agents who deal with both land and homes will most likely put more effort into selling their homes as the commissions are greater.
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Successfully subdividing your land into residential lots can have many benefits, including providing a landowner both increased profits and flexibility. If you are buying or already have a large parcel of land for sale, or even a home lot that has “extra” land area, you may wish to consider whether subdividing your land can help you maximize your real estate resources, something that many landowners are evaluating in the current market conditions.

This is fraught with problems due to human fallibility. As long as you and your neighbor(s) get along great, everything’s fine, but there are about a million ways for it to go wrong. If he get’s pissed off at you, your water goes off. If he dies and stops paying the electric (pump) bill, your water goes off. If he decides to fill his private lake and uses up all the water, your water goes off. What if it was originally his well, you move in, then a month later says the well has to be redone – are you paying for half of his expenses enough though you just got there? If you refuse, your water goes off. The possibilities go on and on… so keep it in mind.
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.

Rule #18: Before traveling to view a promising parcel, check the county assessor’s website using the parcel number. Some are VERY helpful, containing all sorts of information such as what areas are known for landslides, flooding, wetland/buffer areas, contamination, noxious weeds, etc. The sites also give past purchase pricing and tax information, and sometimes even if there’s been “issues” with the land (such as a previous owner building unapproved structures which they may have had to tear down, leaving a foundation for you to deal with).
I am considering buying a quarter acre, to build a house for my retirement in a few years. I have never bought land before but it is in an area that will definitely increase in value over the next few years so I want to lock it down now and build the house I want later, rather than purchase a home and make payments in addition to my current home. Thanks for the tips on how to assess, my question is whether I should use a realtor and/or get a property appraisal. I will probably pay cash for the land. Thanks much!
The gross value figure per acre that the land is worth once it has planning consent in your locality.  This is normally referred to as ‘the headline price.’  Developers generally make deductions of up to 10-15% to the headline price to cover the costs of their efforts to secure consent.  It’s very rare indeed for a developer to offer a landowner 100% of the headline price!
Just like you'd stage a home, you want the vacant land to show at its best. A lot overgrown with weeds is going to look less desirable in the eyes of a potential buyer than a lot that's apparently cared-for. Professionally trim trees, mow grass, remove weeds and perhaps plant wildflowers to show the property at its best. Visit the property weekly – or hire someone to do so – to remove windblown trash, beer cans, fire rings or anything else that might detract from its curb appeal.
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).
Once you get over about an acre in size and two or three lots, the complexity of the subdivision process can rise dramatically. The level of difficulty – and expertise needed — can be compounded if you have a site where lots will not front on an existing public road or where utilities and infrastructure must be built. This likely will require you to undergo municipal oversight (possibly even state or federal, for some situations) for the subdivision’s site design and layout, as well as construction of roads, utilities and other infrastructure. In this scenario, you basically are stretching the activity from simply subdividing a parcel to full-scale community and land development.
Do you know if the developer had a local brokerage do the sales for the project you mention? You might want to contact the developer, but I'd also suggest you speak with a Realtor first to get a market analysis for the value of your property. Then decide if you want to put your property on the market or if you want to explore contacting either the developer or the owners of properties adjoining yours to see if there is interest.
Instruct sto ask any potential developer/builder buyers to render written offers. Unless one of the early ones floats your boat, I suggest you respond that you aren’t interested in selling for that sum at this time. Refrain from making a counteroffer if you can. Just let the developer(s) keep coming back with increasingly larger offers. If and when you accept, don’t be afraid to ask for a moving allowance as well.
I’ve taken this route plenty of times, but I was always making my decision from the perspective of an investor (to buy and re-sell the property quickly)… not necessarily as the end-user (i.e. – buying a property that I would actually live on), so if there are some specifics that YOU would want to see, then it may be worth your while to get over here are see it.
When you are buying and selling lots and land, working directly is often the best way to go. Agents don’t typically put in the time or energy that they’d put into a selling a house. Comparatively, the commissions are low, and the land market is slow. When a parcel is listed on the MLS, the price is often inflated to cover commissions and other fees that will offset the seller’s profit. Typically there is less money and less effort put into marketing a piece of land, so it ends up sitting there, with the price being slashed time and time again.

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.

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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