A major issue that we see when people try to sell property to their friends is that theyll cut breaks for their friends. Perhaps their friend doesnt have the money, so theyll allow for later payment while transferring the property to their friend. Always ensure that you are engaging in a business deal that is within your best interests. If your friend does not have the money to buy the land, have a contract written up with payment details and guidelines. Never trust someone blindly - this is a business deal and should be treated as one despite your friendship.
You also have to bear in mind that you cannot be exactly sure how the development will change the landscape of your street, or impinge on your privacy, or cause other problems, until it is actually built. David Henry of FPD Savills cites one case in which the owners of several large Victorian houses clubbed together and sold part of their gardens for development, only to find that their baths would no longer drain properly at certain times of day. The existing drainage systems could not cope with the extra load.
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.
Hi Tracy – have you considered looking for properties that aren’t currently listed for sale? That’s how I find all of my properties (and this is something most Realtors won’t be able to help you with, because most of them are only looking at the properties currently listed on the MLS). I find these properties by sending out a direct mail campaign to the delinquent tax list in counties that are RURAL.
If either of these things are inhibited, it wouldn’t be highly unlikely that the land can be secured in the way you describe. In a free market, the seller can (and usually will) sell to whoever is offering the best deal at the right time – so if the developer can’t be competitive in this way, it boils down to the old saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers”.
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.
And I know what you mean about the assessed value – this number means almost nothing in my mind, because the county will usually peg this number as high as possible, because it allows them to charge more in tax revenue for the property. I think you can get it reassessed in many cases, but there usually aren’t any guarantees that your request will get traction, and the process isn’t necessarily fast or easy. It may be worth your while to call the local tax collector and just ask them how much the annual tax bill is – that should tell you pretty quickly what the obligation would be.
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!
Very interesting read. I am looking at some desert land in both NV and AZ. They are between 40-80 acres each. My budget seems to afford places that either have an old well, or power at the lot line, but not both. Which utility do you feel is initially more critical to have of the two? I know adding a solar system or having power brought in is very cost prohibitive, so my thought was to go with the power on the lot. I figured I could always have water trucked in and stored in a tank since the properties are easily 2WD road accessible. I figure that buying property with an old well may be worthless and not worth the price increase of the property. And I have been reading that drilling a well is a gamble. Thanks in advance for some insight.
We found a really great 2 acre property zoned rural residential in the area of town that we really want to live in Oregon. It is the only lot left in the older established subdivision, so it has city water but would need a septic (which everyone in the neighborhood has of course). One big issue is that it is basically a forest. The whole lot is full of trees, huge and small.
Know what the land is zoned for. From the beginning, you need to have a clear understanding of what this land is zoned for. You don’t want to discourage buyers by keeping them waiting until you have the answer, and you definitely don’t want to mislead a buyer with incorrect information. It’s better to be honest and then refer the buyer to information about changing land classifications and zoning exemptions.
Any ‘extraordinary’ costs relating to the development of your site. For instance, because of geological conditions the site – or part of it – may need more expensive foundations. If part of your land contains a site inhabited by rare animals, such as newts, the developer may be required to create a new habitat for them on a different part of the site and even provide ‘newt crossings’ to encourage them move to their new home. This is expensive and time consuming work and developers will ask for additional deductions, based on their view of the costs of this work. You need to be able to understand the calculations they are making and be reassured that they are fair and reasonable
Since land is often a unique commodity, it can often be a pain for you or an agent to try and sell it. Land is often hard to value, and most buyers lack vision for what it could become. And that’s not to mention the fact that you have to be available to show it and explain the same land package over and over again to lots of potentially interested buyers.
Even though Craigslist is clearly the winner in terms of traffic, it's not necessarily the most versatile medium. There are plenty of restrictions in place (like the inability to link to third-party websites and embed videos), however with the tools that are available – it's more than enough to inform buyers about what the property has to offer and drum up enough interest to generate some legitimate leads and sales.
If you have chosen to sell your land privately, then you need to know that there are several ways that you can advertise your property. The absolute easiest way is to put out a ‘For Sale By Owner’ sign. This might give you better results than you expect. Many people searching for land simply get in their cars and drive around looking for a for sale sign. Make sure that you have some contact information on your sign.
Land Agents have Expertise: True land professionals know how to price and market properties effectively. Any agent you are hiring should be able to clearly articulate their strategy for selling your property. A good agent will employ multiple prongs for engaging prospective buyers, including advertising in print media (when appropriate), on the internet in key places people look for your type of property, and other avenues such as signage or word-of-mouth. Good agents have a proven formula for attracting the attention of quality buyers. I have my own multi-point system that I use for each listing that generates results.
My wife and I are thinking about selling our home and have been looking for tips to get it off the market quickly. I like that you suggest talking to building inspectors because they deal with large volumes of buyers on the market. Having connections is really important to get the word out so we might try talking to a few different real estate agents and contractors. Thanks for the help!
It’s an odd phenomenon, but believe it or not – there are thousands of properties all over the country that have no road access. They are surrounded on all sides by other private property – which (according to some) deems the land virtually useless. In a sense, these properties might as well be on the moon – because nobody can legally access the property.
Comparables for land can be trickier than for home sales in your area. Although the assessor's valuation on your taxes can provide a starting point, consider factors like whether your property has utilities to the property line, views, zoning and any preapproved building plans to determine its worth. Location is always one of the most critical factors. In San Francisco's Pacific Heights area, for example, a buildable cul-de-sac lot of less than 4,000 square feet can sell for more than $9 million.
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.
Double check ad data for any property you’re considering; they’re often full of mistakes – not necessarily misleading information, but it comes from laziness. What doesn’t help is that when a listing first gets posted, apparently nearly all real estate websites post it as their own without checking it for accuracy. For example, we’re considering a property that has multiple issues:
Buyers of undeveloped land will have fewer and less attractive financing options through banks than other real estate buyers will. Banks ask for large down payments on undeveloped land and don't offer interest rates as low as those available for new homes. As a result, finding a buyer for your land will be more difficult. If you can afford to offer your own financing, you will open the door to a larger pool of prospective buyers. Hire a lawyer or real estate agent with experience in seller-financed deals to lay out the terms for this type of sale.
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.
To appeal to the widest range of buyers, you might want to make some updates, freshen up the yard and stage a few of the rooms. But you’ve seen properties in your neighborhood bought up by builders and demolished for new houses to be built. Maybe selling your home as a teardown would save you the effort of fixing it up, while getting you into your next house sooner.
The properties next door can have some MAJOR implications for the value and “sale-ability” of a parcel of land (e.g. – Think about it, would you rather live next to Yosemite National Park or a Landfill?). For understandable reasons, most people care a great deal about who and what they live next to, so be sure to get a good idea for what the surrounding properties look like (hint: this is another potential area where a service like WeGoLook can help).
Here are reasons why I believe an Exclusive Listing Agreement is better for the seller when it comes to selling land. (Let me preface all of these reasons with the assumption that you have researched prospective listing agents with experience in selling land and you are only going to deal with ones that appear to be qualified and have good reviews. For more explanation read, “Not All Agents are Competent About Land.”
Something I appreciate about the property listing platform on this site is that you can enter in A LOT of deal-specific details that real estate investors are going to care about, as explained in this video (e.g. – costs associated with owning the property, cash flow details, zoning and uses, etc.). I also really liked the ticking time clock at the top of each listing, as it helps instill a sense of urgency/scarcity for anyone who wants to take advantage of the deal.
First impressions are lasting in real estate. When selling a home you would never leave out your dirty laundry for potential buyers to see, and you should also clean up your lot before it is shown and marketed. Cut the grass (or weeds), remove trash and take marketing photos of your property when it is looking its best. Some sellers even plant wildflowers to make their vacant land look beautiful. It’s like staging a home, but you’re just working with raw land instead.