Hi Rainie, if it were me, I’d be most concerned about the septic system (making sure the property passes the perc test, if it’s not located near a sewer system), making sure it’s not in a flood zone, and making sure the property is zoned properly for the type of house I want to build. Judging by the fact that there was a house on the property before, you probably won’t find many surprises here… but it’s always good to verify.
I might add that in some development-friendly communities, the city and developer might try to play the eminent domain (condemnation) card. Ostensibly, eminent domain should be used only in the exercise of public good such as a new highway or road widening, though some cities get away with it in dubious circumstances. Your agent should know whether this could be an issue. Such a scenario, as unlikely as it is, would probably force you to hire a lawyer to get a decent price.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Hi Seth – very helpful blog indeed. I have recently been given the opportunity to buy the 6-acre wooded lot, zoned residential, that adjoins my already-owned 3-acre lot for $64k. I know the terrain of the 6-acres quite well as I’ve had to chase my dogs all through it when they get loose. On the back end is a power line right-of-way, so certainly nothing will be built behind it. It does have a site cleared for up to a 4-bedroom home, a “proposed” well location, and although the site will not perk, the seller has an off-site discharge permit issued from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for a sewage disposal system. The owner will finance, with $998 down payment and $688/mo for 10 years, but that comes out to a LOT of money for 6 acres so I would likely come up with 40 percent down on my own, and pay off the rest with a personal, lower-interest loan. My concerns when it comes to land, especially as an investment: would the monthly payment for the land not be better spent to pay down my existing mortgage? Or, would the monthly payment for the land not be better invested in something with a higher rate of return? Of course, from a diversification standpoint the land may make perfect sense. I live (and the land is located) in an area mid-way between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA – – – an area that is growing like mad. I have a tough time believing that in the 15 years I have left until I retire I would LOSE money on the investment. And unlike a 401k or an IRA, which can disappear overnight should an economy tank, land will never be totally worthless. I would not actually DO anything with the land (aside from perhaps harvesting some firewood) other than to HOLD it for 15 years until I retire and leave this area.
Maurice "Moe" Veissi, president elect of the National Association of Realtors says that the first step in negotiating a fair land deal is to make sure that it’s a clinical, not an emotional purchase. When it comes to a land purchase it is not unlike buying a car, he says. For example, would you purchase a new car without knowing what it is you want, what price are you willing to pay, and what the average purchase price is for the car you are eyeing?
There may be some back and forth with the seller. You may offer a lower amount than the asking price and the seller in turn will counter with an offer higher than yours. The key is to head to the negotiations table with your well conducted research in hand. Don’t waste time playing games or questioning the seller’s integrity, warns King. "If you educate yourself about the market, you can determine if an offer is a good deal or not. You won’t get taken for a ride."
The truth about land investing is that most people have no idea how powerful it really is. Land is a massive opportunity that most investors aren't paying attention to – and for the few land investors who know how to pursue this business with the right acquisition strategy, it's an extremely lucrative way to build wealth and financial freedom with real estate.
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.
I used BHW to draft up legal contracts for my business. They were highly professional and provided me with exactly what I needed and offered excellent advice throughout. The work was completed promptly and I was kept updated throughout the whole process. I would like to thank Michael Lam for being so approachable and accommodating. I would definitely recommend this firm and will be more than happy to use their services in the future!
Thanks for the article Seth. Very informative. Vacant land is one of those types of property I’m coming across in my search for good deals on houses. I’ve been a little brave offering people a cash offer for their lot. Only to find out later the parcel has a myriad of challenges. (Most of which could be dealt with-time and money, but still not worth it). Thankfully nobody took the deals yet. I have learned a lot and gained more understanding. I am closer to getting raw land at a great price that is build-able! Articles like yours, helps guys like me, stay focused and saved from troubles! As we know the bigger the challenges and unknowns the higher the risk-and the payday. Tread carefully.
Hello Elizabeth, thanks for posting. LandInvestors is a great place for you to start. It is an incredibly valuable tool for newcomers (and old-timers alike) to bounce ideas off other (like-minded) investors, ask questions, share concepts, etc. It’s a remarkably symbiotic community that everyone gets a lot out of. This forum-based site should be the first place you go with questions, and Jack, Jill, myself, and the rest of our staff are on there often helping in addition to our whole community. There is a wealth of free information about selling properties on the site. The Cash Flow from Land Program is also a place that fully covers selling your property. Feel free to email us if you have any questions.
The best place to list free classified ads these days is craigslist.org and backpage.com These are simple no-nonsense interface sites where you can list the property price, description and add images. The big drawback is you have to continue to edit and update your listing to stay on top of the listing system otherwise it will be more difficult for buyers to find you. You can learn more about how to do this through basic Google searches.
My question is how does the land being full of trees affect the value? We received an estimate of clearing 1 acre of land of trees (logging plus stump removal & grinding) of $17K with a potential timber profit of $11k. It seems that my realtor is under the impression that the land is worth more because off all of the timber. In our opinion, it is worth less with all of the work plus out of pocket costs to clear for building.
There are many reasons people decide that their vacant land has become a burden and they need to sell land fast. For some, they no longer have a need for it, and they would rather cash out of the property. For others it is the cost associated with paying the property taxes on the vacant land. Finally, some will sell because it wouldn’t be cost effective to keep it, and the value has dropped significantly when the bubble burst in 2008.
I’m sure it could be done. I actually live in a subdivision that started exactly like how you’re describing back in the 70’s. I think it can be a pretty big speculative gamble unless you’re absolutely certain that there’s a huge demand for what you’re creating… but if you end up being right, you could easily make millions (depending on how big of a project you’re looking at).
Although the process of selling land is less complex than selling a piece of property with a home, this is still a process that requires the help of a professional. Real estate laws vary from state to state, so its important to work with an experienced real estate attorney when selling your land. The help of a professional becomes even more important if youre creating a land contract.
I should have asked about the other improvements as a different, side question. The property, just under 2 hours from where we live, is close to a large lake, that I wouldn’t mind going to more often for fishing and boating. The thoughts were to, until the property is sold, provide a spot for our rv on long weekends, so having a access, water, electric, and even some type of a septic field would be ideal. A better question would be which of these improvements could we reasonably expect to recover when sold, keeping in mind the exact placement might not be where a new owner would want them.
I have lived on this property for 20yrs. Its in Harrison county in WV, I have been trying to buy it for 20yrs. I have a doublewide on a permanent foundation, a 16×16 permanent building, a pool with a 40×60 deck around it, all underground utilities, septic tank with fields, and $10,000 road and parking to the house, THIS IS ALL INVESTED BY ME,, this was all on a verbal family deal , (a hand shake like in the old days, when your word actually meant something) and we were supposed to be the first option to purchase if sold , now they have put it up for sale, we have offered them $1,000 over asking, they have not accepted our offer, they have continued to keep advertising the property for sale, what are my rights as a buyer when this situation occurs as a buyer that has a dwelling on this property for 20yrs.
If you have created a land contract, youll also need a memorandum of land contract. This is, essentially, an abbreviated legal document that references the main contract created. This simply serves as a public notice that the buyer is interested in the property without you and the buyer having to disclose and record the entire land contract. Because the deed of the property will not be filed until youve received full payment on the purchase price indicated in the contract, this memorandum will be filed with the county and the city to serve as a record that the buyer is interested in the property.
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.
Selling lots is not like Field of Dreams, where “if you build it they will come.” You need to make sure there is a market for lots in your area and at a price that makes sense. Determine the size, layout and other requirements that are expected for new lots to be marketable. A good real estate agent with expertise in land can help you with this. You also may be able to get some advice from builders – reach out to the ones who are active in your geographic area and in the price range for new homes that would likely be built on your lots. Getting their input could be the key to successfully subdividing marketable lots.
A large piece of undeveloped land may get you the greatest return if you subdivide it and sell each parcel separately. Have the land surveyed to determine which parcels are suitable for home building, which have other uses and which are likely to remain undeveloped. Keep one or more parcels for yourself if you still want an investment stake in the land, in case its value rises in the future.
Usage restrictions aren't necessarily a bad thing – they almost always make sense on some level. They're designed to help maintain order and support the value of each property in the subdivision. On the same coin… if you aren't aware of these restrictions before you purchase, they can also create some conflict with the plans you had in mind for the property. This isn't common for most land investors (because most people have no intention of using their property for purposes that don't jive with their surroundings), but even so – you should always make sure you understand what the rules are BEFORE you buy a parcel of vacant land. This will help you avoid owning a property that requires maintenance you don't want to do, or that can't be used for your intended purpose.
Sell your land to a speculative investor. Many areas have investors that will buy just about anything as long as it is cheap enough. These investors can close quickly, but will frequently offer you a very low price for your land. That's how they're able to move so fast -- they're getting a great deal. Investors usually won't require you to finance the land for them.