On the surface, it seems like such a simple creature – but there can be A LOT of potential problems lurking beneath the surface of any piece of land. I wouldn't necessarily say all these issues are common, but the fact is – any one of these things could potentially be a deal killer if not addressed properly. When you take it all into consideration, it adds up to a sizable list of things that ought to be investigated as part of your due diligence process.
Also note that many landowners think they “own” all of the land along the roadway in front of their property, but often that land along the existing pavement is owned by the local government or DOT as part of the public right-of-way. Mailboxes, landscaping, fences and walls often are built in the right-of-way, but will need to be removed or relocated for road improvements. Confirm with a survey where your property line actually ends along the right-of-way.
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.
Hi Aracely – great question. You might want to contact the local planning and zoning department – ask them if you’re allowed to camp on the property and/or build whatever type of structure you’re planning to build. You’re right – most townships and cities (not the county necessarily) have different restrictions that come into play in different areas. You’ll probably find that the more rural areas have less and less restrictions, but generally speaking – you should always investigate, because some rules will most likely apply.
Whether you are working with a real estate agent or not, we absolutely encourage you or your agent to target your marketing to the right types of buyers. Adding a development parcel or lots to a general real estate listing site, or even MLS, just doesn’t get your property the exposure you would want to builders, developers, investors that are actually looking to buy this type of property.
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).
ClassifiedAds is another free listing website with a similar look and feel to Craigslist. You aren't required to maintain an account here, and the ads on this site also come with a nice little inquiry form at the bottom of each listing – so it's one less step for an interested party to contact the seller for more information. The listings also allow sellers to link to third-party websites, which is a nice little extra feature you can use to send extra traffic to your selling website.
First, you need to understand the exact dimensions of the parcel of land you are evaluating. Next, call the local zoning department and ask them what the designated building setbacks are for the property in question (building setback requirements are very common, and are imposed as a way of giving order and consistency to the buildings in any given area). When you take these setbacks and regulations into account (relative to the size of this parcel of land), is there still enough room to build something worthwhile – or does it render the property useless? I've come across several properties that were designed (albeit, unintentionally) to be too small and after factoring in the setbacks – you can't build anything on them at all, leaving them virtually worthless!
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?
Here is an example of the kind of sites that I prefer: landandfarm.com Although these sites are not free, they charge no more than $40 a month for a basic listing package which is actually cheaper than eBay and tends to fetch higher prices as eBay buyers are typically deal hunters. These sites have easy to fill out forms requesting all the basic information a buyer will want to know prior to acquiring the land. They have easy features for uploading pictures and inputting maps. Don't expect the property to sell within the first month. However you should get some inquiries that first month and if you don't you will want to edit and adjust your advertisement or switch aggregator sites. Once you have a link to the property you can start sharing it on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. You just never know if a friend of a friend might be in the market for your property.
This has got to be one of best articles out there about land investment. Thank you so much for the advises. I live in San Jose, CA and I am also looking into buying land myself to build a residential home on. I’m somewhat skeptical about it as i’m very new to this whole process and afraid i might be stuck on a parcel that is not build-able or would cost too much to develop. The parcel i’m looking at is currently zoned “commercial”, however, the surrounding area is heavily residential so i wonder if this was a city’s mistake. To avoid troubles down the road, I plan to hire a professional for all the permitting and developing advises/estimate (if you know anyone in the Bay Area that provides this type of service, could you please refer?) but I just don’t know how much i can completely close my eyes and just sign wherever i was told by the professional. Any advise will be much appreciated.
You mentioned that the adjacent development already is “underway” and that the developer recently sold 92 lots. This makes me wonder why the developer would be coming to you now about roadway frontage for a turn lane. Usually the road improvement plan is in place prior to the subdivision being formally approved and recorded and the developer secures rights to all of the land it needs for turn lanes in advance. The existence of lots in this development suggests that the road plans already should be approved. Get information from your local planning or subdivision department (as applicable, or possibly the DOT) and see if you can find the plans for offsite road improvements for this subdivision. It’s possible that there was a lapse in the planning process — or that the original roadway improvement plans have expired if the project was abandoned during the downturn — and the need for land for a turn lane has recently come to light. Do your research to understand the facts.
Hi Giselle – all of the properties I’ve bought have been SUPER cheap, so I’ve always just paid with cash. I have done plenty of seller financing when I’ve sold properties, but not so much when I’m buying. However, what you’re saying could certainly be a feasible way to get properties without taking out a hard money loan – you’d just have to find a seller who is willing to work with this kind of arrangement and then hold their hand to make sure they understand the process and that everything is being done correctly (paperwork, recording, processing of payments). There are a lot of additional moving pieces when seller financing enters the picture, but for the right deal, it could absolutely be worth all extra effort.
In addition, landowners may more readily find buyers for smaller subdivided parcels that are more affordable than one larger piece of land. Try to understand the market’s needs. Completing the lot subdivision up front saves the purchaser the time, effort and risk of doing it themselves, increasing the salability – and often the value – of the overall property.