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.
One of the best ways to do this is by using Google Earth (which is free) and the topography map from Earth Point (which is also free). With Google Earth, you can search for your property (using the address or coordinates) and zoom in using your mouse buttons and the control/command and shift keys on your keyboard. This will allow you to tilt the earth so you can see precisely where all the hills and valleys are in your area. 
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!

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I would appreciate your opinion about my situation. When I purchased my home on 5 acres twelve years ago, the builder included two acres at no additional charge. Both the 2 acre and 5 acre parcels are adjacent to each other. So, I have two properties with two tax bills. In the future, I plan to obtain a reverse mortgage, so I would like to maximize the value of my home by combining both parcels into one larger 7 acre parcel.


Calculate all of the costs to bring the land up to the condition you would like. What is it going to cost you to build out the property? That is the cost of acquiring the land, the entitlement, the cost of construction of the land, the cost of marketing to people to build it up if it is a retail space, plus the cost it takes to secure any money (i.e., loans)? You also have to factor in a reserve for costs associated with things such as air conditioners, wall coverings, and so on, says Veissi. "Those things have a shelf life, so, they are going to take x amount of time before they need to be replaced."


In most cases, rural land owners should enlist the help of a professional land agent in selling their properties. Unless they have a lot of experience or it is a slam-dunk deal, the seller will benefit from having an agent on their team. In fact, most serious land investors have at least one agent that they go to for finding deals or making sales. Take a cue from sophisticated land investors and enlist the help of a true land sales professional to market and sell your rural land. You will be glad you did.

I worked with Grace Chang in liquidating a mortgage I held on property my late husband and I had owned. It was probably the easiest land related business deal I have ever been involved with. Grace was knowledgeable, informed and available. She was in contact with me and I never had a question she was unable to answer. I was amazed at how quickly the transaction happened; which was far quicker than estimated at the onset. It is refreshing to do business with an organization that has such wonderful customer service and professional business associates. I would highly recommend First National and specifically Grace to everyone.read more
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.

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.
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Can you tell me how does the developer acquire and secure several acres surrounding the 1 acre he owns to expand his development. The problem is that the developer lacks financing and cant afford to acquire the adjacent land, yet he wants to prevent other parties from building on the adjacent land so as to ensure there is enough space to expand his development.
If Mark has more than one piece of land to sell per week, or if he has exhausted his buyer’s list, he posts to Craigslist. “Craigslist is the 10th most trafficked website in the US,” he said. “We use a program called Posting Domination. I’m able to automate 124 postings a day, all at the click of a button. It’s unbelievable. So we sell everyday on Craigslist and we are building our buyer’s list everyday on Craigslist.”
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.
I worked with Grace Chang in liquidating a mortgage I held on property my late husband and I had owned. It was probably the easiest land related business deal I have ever been involved with. Grace was knowledgeable, informed and available. She was in contact with me and I never had a question she was unable to answer. I was amazed at how quickly the transaction happened; which was far quicker than estimated at the onset. It is refreshing to do business with an organization that has such wonderful customer service and professional business associates. I would highly recommend First National and specifically Grace to everyone.read more
Thanks so much for this article! I’ve run into a unique situation, where we found an amazing historic house that we’d like to restore, but it is currently listed as a vacant lot for sell with a shell house on it, rather than the house itself being listed. We know it’s not in a flood plain, the deed is unrestricted, and the home appears to have been lived in within the last 30 years so there is electric, heating, and plumbing. Any suggestions on potential issues we should be asking about before we jump in? We’ve never looked at land before, so we’re a bit overwhelmed by how much more complicated it appears to be vs buying a house.
We worked with Terrell Wade at First National Acceptance and things couldn't have been easier. He was great. They are a no pressure, high efficiency organization. The entire transaction was painless on our part and we were surprised at how quickly we received payment. These days where customer service is almost a distant memory it's refreshing to work with a company that excels at it. I wouldn't hesitate to work with Terrell and First National again.read more
Thank you very much for the write-up. I learnt quite a great deal, being a novice in real estate business. As a matter of fact I stumbled on your article while searching for information about possible investment opportunities on a piece of land. One of our client conferred a nine-hectar piece of land to us and we’re considering what investment would be appropriate on it. That’s what pushed me to start searching for things to do before investing on a piece of land, and I must confess that your article provided 95% of the answers. Thank you again. I guess I know how to go about it now, who to talk to and what to look for. In case you’d like to know where I’m writing from, I’m based in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon (Central Africa), a country so geographycally blessed with a long history of political stability and an accomodating business environment. If you happen to think of an investment opportunity in Africa put Cameroon on your priority list. Let’s keep in touch.

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.


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.
Once we’ve received your signed agreement, we will begin our title examination on the property. We have a large network of established title companies, real estate attorneys, and real estate title professionals that will research the title to your property and help to arrange closing. All that is required is a few signatures on your end. There is no need to travel to complete the sale. Best of all, we pay for all the costs involved and arrange everything for you! It doesn’t get much easier than that.
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