When you are buying and selling lots and land, working directly is often the best way to go. Agents don’t typically put in the time or energy that they’d put into a selling a house. Comparatively, the commissions are low, and the land market is slow. When a parcel is listed on the MLS, the price is often inflated to cover commissions and other fees that will offset the seller’s profit. Typically there is less money and less effort put into marketing a piece of land, so it ends up sitting there, with the price being slashed time and time again.
Especially when I'm buying vacant land out-of-state, my first line of business is to understand the topography of the property. There are many, many places around the world that have very unpredictable elevations, cliffs, mountains, valleys, ravines and more. In many cases, the topography of the land can have a huge impact on the build-ability of a property. For the same reasons you can't build a house on 90-degree cliff, you should be doing some preliminary research to find out where your property is located, and what the lay of the land is.
This whole subject always fascinates me, because it’s a pretty difficult question to answer. Even most appraisers don’t really know what they’re talking about when it comes to valuing land… a vacant lot’s true value is usually a very elusive number to nail down. You may want to see this blog post for more details on how I look at it: https://retipster.com/valueofland

i am very confused on what to do. i have 2 lots in the 100yr floodplain with up todate septics and electrical poles. i have rented 2 spaces in the pass for 250 each. However i am allowed to put 2 mobile homes per the permit office. i can rent each home for appox 800 a month. the land is paid for and very low taxes. or i can sell the propery on owner finance for 55,ooo, the property does have a creek behind it and the creek is a floodway. the total land is approx 1.63 acreas. should i sale the property since. its in a floodzone or put the mobile homes and have a good rental income. what would u do. would u even rent in a flood zone. thank you, please respone for 2 months i have been undecided on what o do.
If you have created a land contract, you’ll 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 you’ve 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.
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.
These can include a requirement that you dedicate part of “your” land that is in the road right-of-way to the local government, causing you now to be working with a smaller parcel. Other rules may require you to build or improve roads, sidewalks, curb and gutter and even to plant trees. In addition, you also may be required to install water and sewer connections and meters for the lots, or to pay capacity fees, impact fees and other assessments when adding the new homesites.
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.
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If you’re providing seller financing, you’ll still need to draft a deed, but this deed will be held in escrow until the final payment is made. Once that payment is made, the deed will be filed with its respective government agency, typically the county clerk. You can have an attorney, title agency, or a financial institution hold the median in escrow for you until the buyer makes the final payment.
When you are buying and selling lots and land, working directly is often the best way to go. Agents don’t typically put in the time or energy that they’d put into a selling a house. Comparatively, the commissions are low, and the land market is slow. When a parcel is listed on the MLS, the price is often inflated to cover commissions and other fees that will offset the seller’s profit. Typically there is less money and less effort put into marketing a piece of land, so it ends up sitting there, with the price being slashed time and time again.
Especially when I'm buying vacant land out-of-state, my first line of business is to understand the topography of the property. There are many, many places around the world that have very unpredictable elevations, cliffs, mountains, valleys, ravines and more. In many cases, the topography of the land can have a huge impact on the build-ability of a property. For the same reasons you can't build a house on 90-degree cliff, you should be doing some preliminary research to find out where your property is located, and what the lay of the land is.
As for whether the seller will accept a lower offer – you’ll never know until you make the offer and wait for his response. It could obviously go either way, but my philosophy is usually to err on the lower side – because unless he’s got other buyers waiting in line (which I doubt he does), you can always come back with a higher offer later if you really want it that badly.
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.

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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.
Even if you’ve confirmed that there are no restrictions that forbid subdividing the land (or make it unfeasible), you and your experts also should research the local zoning, subdivision and development laws so that you can understand the layout and size limitations for your planned lots. Each county, city or other authority will have its own regulations that describe important items like current zoning requirements, minimum lot widths, setbacks (front, rear and side), buffers, building heights, required open space and other significant details that affect the size and layout of your lots.
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.
I really appreciate your posting this blog subject. I would ask the neighbors and previous owners what they know. If applicable, go to the Planning and/or Building Department and find out what permits have been issued for that parcel in the past. You might get an indication of what waste products might be on the property. You should also contact your state’s department of the interior or forestry department to see if there are any endangered species, plant or animal, located on the property. Contact the Sheriff’s department to see if there have been any reports of drug manufacturing on the property. If they don’t know, they may be able to direct you to the correct authority. Not all drug manufacturers use stick built houses to do their business (trailers and vans). Also, if there is a stream or creek on the property, you should investigate what is up stream from your property; like a turkey or hog farm or dairy. These may affect the water in the creek upstream, but they may also smell bad coming from the prevailing wind direction. Ask the neighbors.

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Hi Eric – that’s a good question. I haven’t done much work in that part of the country, but I know that (as you mentioned) there are workarounds for both water and power IF you’re willing to pay for it. I guess it’s just a matter of understanding which one would be more expensive to sustain over the long term, and then you’ll have your answer as to which utility is more important.
First, you need to understand the exact dimensions of the parcel of land you are evaluating. Next, call the local zoning department and ask them what the designated building setbacks are for the property in question (building setback requirements are very common, and are imposed as a way of giving order and consistency to the buildings in any given area). When you take these setbacks and regulations into account (relative to the size of this parcel of land), is there still enough room to build something worthwhile – or does it render the property useless? I've come across several properties that were designed (albeit, unintentionally) to be too small and after factoring in the setbacks – you can't build anything on them at all, leaving them virtually worthless!
Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News. Since joining the Consumer Advice team in 2015, she has focused on breaking down the homebuying and selling process, as well as reporting on trends in the real estate industry and their effect on the public. Thorsby previously worked in research and communications for commercial real estate information company CoStar Group, and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where she worked for the student-run newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at dthorsby@usnews.com.
These can include a requirement that you dedicate part of “your” land that is in the road right-of-way to the local government, causing you now to be working with a smaller parcel. Other rules may require you to build or improve roads, sidewalks, curb and gutter and even to plant trees. In addition, you also may be required to install water and sewer connections and meters for the lots, or to pay capacity fees, impact fees and other assessments when adding the new homesites.
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.
Facebook is a website that needs no introduction. In addition to being the dominant player in social media today, it has also grown into a very active and effective place to buy and sell real estate. Whether you choose to post properties for sale in the Facebook Marketplace or in one or more a local “For Sale” Facebook Groups in your area – this social platform offers a TON of opportunity to get more exposure.
These can include a requirement that you dedicate part of “your” land that is in the road right-of-way to the local government, causing you now to be working with a smaller parcel. Other rules may require you to build or improve roads, sidewalks, curb and gutter and even to plant trees. In addition, you also may be required to install water and sewer connections and meters for the lots, or to pay capacity fees, impact fees and other assessments when adding the new homesites.

A type of local council zoning covers every home in a suburb. This is a planning instruction that tells developers and planners what can be built on different parcels of land. For most houses, the zoning is low-density residential – this means that only houses can be built on this land. But in some areas, high-density zonings are more common, or even mixed-use zonings. And zoning can change, if the plans for your suburb change. When a piece of land moves from low-density to high-density zoning, it has increased in value for a developer.


Market for Land is Less Active – The market for existing homes is almost always more vibrant than the land market. There simply are fewer numbers of buyers for vacant land than consumers looking for homes. Start marketing a new home listing and a new lot listing when both are desirable and priced well, and you generally can expect fewer contacts about the new lot listing.
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