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.
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.
If you intend to hold onto a property for any length of time, beware of a super high tax bill relative to the actual value of the property itself. I haven't run across this issue very often, but for various reasons, there are some properties that have some ridiculously high taxes in proportion to the property’s actual value (for example, if a $10,000 property has an annual tax bill of $2,000, THIS IS TOO HIGH). In my experience, I've found that a reasonable annual tax bill usually falls in the range of 1% – 4% of the property’s full market value.
Your potential buyer needs to see more than just the words you use to describe the land. They also need to visually connect with the property via high quality maps and pictures of the parcel and surrounding area. You don't need to have 50 pictures but you do need at least five or so to give the buyer an idea of the terrain, soil and views as well as the road of where they would access the land. You should include a plat map (call the county for a copy), general area map (I like to use Google Earth for maps) and a topographic map is always helpful as well. You can always contact a local surveyor if you need help preparing the maps and getting the GPS coordinates.
The way that we found it was by checking our local county tax assessor site and seeing that it was vacant and owned by a gentleman who lives out of state. It wasn’t on the market, but I asked our realtor to contact him and low and behold he is willing to sell (it was inherited). As soon as we were ready to make an offer, he stated that he wants to go forward with an independent appraisal to see what the value is since he does not live in the area, which I understand (he is also a realtor in CA).
It is not unknown for restrictive covenants to ban, for example, the keeping of dogs at a property, though the more restrictive covenants you put on a plot, the more they affects the price you will receive. As a rule of thumb, developers expect to pay one third of the value of the finished development for the plot. So, if a £150,000 house can be squeezed into your back garden, you should think in terms of receiving £50,000.
Another benefit of subdividing for homeowners who would like to liquidate some of their real estate without having to sell the farm (literally), is that they may be able to both cash in on a portion of vacant land and stay put on the rest. Holding onto some of their land can give that property time to increase in value as the surrounding subdivided land becomes developed.
I have a home on a lot that is large enough to be subdivided. I met with the city to discuss subdividing and they said that each lot needs a 20′ street frontage (currently I only have a 20′ street frontage. They said that I can subdivide if I put in a drive tract to the subdivided section. However, they would consider the drive tract a road and as a result I would need to remove an attached carport because the rules indicate that a house needs to be 20′ from a road. The only reason that I need the drive tract instead of a typical driveway was to create the 20′ street frontage.
As for what type of land can be used for horses – you’d probably have to call your county or municipality planning & zoning office and ask them what the zoning would have to be for this particular use. Once you know the answer, it’s pretty easy to generate a list of these land owners with a service like AgentPro247 (as I describe in this blog post). You could then send out a direct mail campaign and try to find deals on this type of property (at least, that’s why I would try to do if it were me).
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.
And last but not least, you can advertise it for sale online. Three sites that I recommend, especially if you need to sell your land fast, are Bid4Assets.com, eBay, and Craigslist.org. The internet should be your medium of choice for those of you who are selling land that is located in very secluded and isolated areas of the country, far removed from civilization, since there won’t be any people nearby to see your “for sale” sign.
Your first point of contact will be your local council, They can tell you whether a precinct structure plan has been drawn up for the area, and advise of the process and timeframe of any existing masterplan. “It’s important to establish a rapport with local government,” Coutts advises. “They will be either your blocker or saviour. There’s no use having an adversarial relationship.”
In addition to online listings that target lot and land buyers, effective property signs always should be part of your marketing plan. Don’t just use a standard “For Sale” sign; we suggest that you have a sign custom-made for selling your lot or land (which can be done relatively inexpensively these days). You can help tell the story with your custom signs by including a few key points like acreage and property features. The sign(s) should be located for visibility, look professional and be kept clean and upright.