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.
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.
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!
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?
I have an opportunity to buy 53 acres of recreational land. 9 of the acres is a pond and another 16 acres is CRP land. I was thinking about sub dividing these lots for a private campground. I currently own a single lot in a private campground about 70 acres and most lots are .18 ac that sells for $4000 each. I am looking to do the same as the owner did years ago, but with possibly my own piece of land. Without tipping off the owner on this opportunity, land for sale, what problems may I encounter, or unforseen costs will I run into?
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 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!
The trick with vacant land is to understand why it's vacant in the first place. I've run across quite a few vacant lots that seemed attractive at first glance, but eventually, I discovered the reason nobody was using them was that you CAN'T use them. If one (or more) of the issues above are prohibiting someone from putting a property to good use, believe me – you don't want to find out after you already own it.
I have an opportunity to buy 53 acres of recreational land. 9 of the acres is a pond and another 16 acres is CRP land. I was thinking about sub dividing these lots for a private campground. I currently own a single lot in a private campground about 70 acres and most lots are .18 ac that sells for $4000 each. I am looking to do the same as the owner did years ago, but with possibly my own piece of land. Without tipping off the owner on this opportunity, land for sale, what problems may I encounter, or unforseen costs will I run into?
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!
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. 
The modern real estate housing market fluctuates on a daily basis. While houses typically sell quickly, most vacant land parcels are stagnant and can be difficult to sell. Land owners can find it nearly impossible to sell their land. You will more than likely have possession of your property for a long time and continue to pay the real estate taxes while you own it.

I’ve been reading your tips on a couple of sites. Very informative. I got burned on county denying a septic permit. Redemption. The illegal lake keeping the water table to high on my two tax lots mysteriously got drained. I live 80 miles away and my neighbor called me and said when it quits the winter rains your property will perc. My coastal property in Oregon just increased $60,000.00 a lot. I’ll deal. Cleared and level
Hi Dave, thanks for stopping by. You’re right – it’s very hard for me to give you any concrete opinion on this (because there are a lot of factors to weigh with any piece of vacant land). I’d say if you’ve looked at all the potential downsides and established that there won’t be any issues from that end… and if you’ve got a fairly decent idea as to what the property is currently worth (and you’re buying it for a price that is significantly BELOW that number), then sure – there probably is a fair chance that you can make money on it.
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.
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.
Thanks Seth. Great ideas! Going after investors if you have a property that could be an attractive buy for them is something most people wouldn’t think of. Chances are, that if an investor isn’t in the market, he/she probably knows others who are. Forums are also a good idea as people will actually look at and read posts as opposed to other platforms where people scroll through without a car.
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.
"I've seen both buyers and sellers do this to try and gain some type of advantage in negotiations," says Robert King, a land agent with AlaLandCo; a native of Clay County, Alabama, he has over 10 years experience in marketing and selling property. "It rarely, if ever, works, and absolutely serves to drive the parties further apart." Also, don’t make a laundry list of everything that is wrong with a property you are trying to buy, cautions King. "You must like the property, or you would not have spent all that time figuring out everything that is wrong with it. That just puts the seller on guard and creates a personal barrier." When you impart your wealth of knowledge of all of the property's shortcomings to the other party, you are not likely to make a friend of the seller, says King. You want to be on friendly not adversarial terms with anyone you are negotiating with for the land deal.
It was a very simple process. Even though everything was done remotely, it was just as good as if I was standing in front of the person doing the deal. Paperwork was received really shortly after I spoke with Jake. We got it all signed, sent it back, and shortly thereafter we received the money. Everything was done very simply and it was very easy to do.
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