When most people think about what can be done with vacant land, they have a surprisingly small imagination. Go ahead and tell anyone you're a “vacant land investor” and you'll probably see what I'm talking about.
Many people struggle to see the practical applications and benefits of raw land, but with a little bit of creative thinking, there is a VAST world of opportunity for those who are interested in becoming land owners.
In this blog post, we're going to cover 50 solid examples of how versatile, useful, profitable and enjoyable land can be. My hope is that once you see all the ways raw land can be put to use, your eyes will be opened to the kind of potential that lives inside every vacant land opportunity.
When you understand what can be done with a property in accordance with your local zoning and planning administration, you'll start to realize that there are A LOT of potential options on the table. Let's explore some ideas!
1. Build a Spec House
In times when the demand for housing is strong and real estate markets are booming, building a single family house, duplex or multi-family dwelling could be the best use for your vacant parcel of land.
New construction can make sense for all kinds of reasons, and whether you're looking to build a new dwelling for yourself or sell your completed house directly to an end buyer – this could be precisely the kind of use that many buyers are in the market for.
The great thing about this option is that most vacant lots are already zoned precisely for this purpose, and whether the dimensions of a parcel of vacant land are large or small – building a new home may be a valid option worth considering.
2. Community Garden
If you own a plot of land that is smaller in scale, but still too big for you to manage on your own, it could be the perfect size for a community garden. This can also work for some vacant lots in the city. Get in touch with government officials to get the OK and then contact friends and neighbors to see if they’re interested in joining the movement!
This is also a great way to increase the sense of “community” in your area. You can even pool funds from your neighbors and have everyone chip in to buy seeds and plants. If you grow more food than you can eat, there are always food banks that would be very grateful for the fresh donations.
3. Wildlife Preservation
One of the simplest things to do with your property is to simply preserve it. It’s your land after all, and you have the right to protect it. You can designate an area to be free from hunting, camping, logging and even fishing. Some land owners are happy to simply buy land and allow it to return to its natural habitat. They can even farm a small area of it and leave the rest of the land to the wild, with plenty of trails for kids and dogs to explore!
4. Tiny Houses
Have you heard about the tiny house movement? What was once a small hobbyist niche a decade ago has now exploded into an extremely popular lifestyle design choice while garnering a great deal of interest from the mainstream media and people from all walks of life.
The great thing about tiny houses is that they're almost always built on a trailer (not permanent affixed to the ground). Tiny houses are built this way because they rarely conform with any municipality's zoning requirements (which typically require any legal residence to be 600 square feet in size or larger).
The typical tiny house ranges in size from 69 square feet to a few hundred square feet and is extremely mobile. These houses can be placed anywhere there is land – whether it's in a densely populated urban scene, or a remote setting far away from civilization.
Depending on the size of a property, type of soil, climate, demand for farming in the area and a host of other factors, some vacant parcels of land can be very well-suited for farming. Whether the property is currently being used to grow crops or if it could potentially be developed for that purpose – this may be one avenue worth exploring.
Farmland in some areas of the world can be leased or sold for an extremely high rate per acre. Depending on the characteristics of your property, this could be a potential use worth inquiring about. If you're not sure what to look for, try contacting an agricultural real estate broker to see if your property might be a good fit.
If you've got a property that is large enough, four-wheeling, snowmobiling, dirt biking, mountain biking, paintball tournaments and other recreational activities – it could be in your best interests to simply use the property for various recreational activities. These types of properties require very little (if any) development and virtually no ongoing maintenance… and not to mention, they can be a lot of fun!
Alternatively, if you're looking for more of a laid back recreational use, you can simply take your family and friends out for an evening to eat and have a bonfire. Not a bad way to have a night of good, clean (and inexpensive) fun!
Do you know how to live off the land? It may be possible to get a few clearances and use your land to teach kids and adults valuable life skills. It could be as simple as teaching individuals how to collect dry firewood, or as complex as building a small shelter entirely from natural resources.
If you contact local Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops, you may also be able to offer your land to them for annual camping trips. Any kind of knowledge like that can be a valuable skill set to pass on to others, especially younger generations could be fair game. It could even be a profitable venture if you decide to charge a bit and run it regularly.
8. Harvest Timber
The vast majority of land buyers tend to look at land for what they can do on it, but they often fail to look at the abundant natural resources than can be harvested from the property itself. One such example is timber – and the funny thing is, this value of this timber (which can be substantial) is completely ignored in most standard real estate appraisals.
In some cases, it's quite possible to buy a property with trees that are worth far more than the property itself. There's a whole unseen layer of value here! You can read more about it in this blog post – where I've covered the topic in great detail.
Along the same lines as using land for farming – another potential use would be to use the property as an orchard. Whether it's used for growing apples, oranges, pears, grapefruit, lemons, nuts, or any of the dozens of other options available to choose from. Food production is a big deal in many parts of the world, and there is usually a high demand for this kind of produce in most areas. If your property is situated in an area with an ideal climate for this kind of purpose, why not take advantage of it?
10. Raise Livestock
If your property is situated in (or anywhere near) a farming community – there's a good chance it could be used for raising livestock.
Cows, pigs, horses, chickens, sheep, horses, goats… they all need a place to call home, and in some markets – grazing land can be easy money for land owners. If you've got a large tract of land that isn't being used for anything else, why not lease it to a farmer in the area?
11. Tent or Hammock Camping
For some rustic camping enthusiasts, owning a parcel of vacant land in a secluded place surrounded by nature is a dream come true (even if it only gets used once or twice each year). There are a lot people who love the outdoors and feel the same way, but have no idea how to find an affordable parcel of land that will allow them to spend their time doing what they love.
If you've got property that could be used as a private getaway, why not sell it to a rustic camping enthusiast? Especially if it's a property in the less expensive range (as many rural lots are), this kind of property could be a dream come true for the right person. You could make someone's day by giving them the deal of a lifetime on the exact type of property they've always wanted!
12. Off-the-Grid Living
Similar to the tiny house movement, there is another (very similar) sub-culture of people who are passionate about living “off-the-grid”.
People who go “off-grid” are those who want to reduce their carbon footprint, assert their independence and avoid reliance on fossil fuels. Many of these folks live away from society, and as the name implies – they aren't connected to any public utilities. No electricity. No natural gas. No water. No sewer. Complete disconnect.
People who choose this lifestyle typically have their own wells, septic tanks, solar and/or wind power and alternative sources of fuel. As a result, they can assert their independence and live without being tethered to expensive utility companies that run the show and determine the cost of living for most of society. If you've got a property without access to any public utilities, it could be a perfect fit for someone who wants to live off-the-grid!
13. Easement Access
It might sound strange, but there are all kind of people and/or companies that may want to use your property simply for the purpose of access. Even if your property isn't what they want to use – there may be another property on the other side of yours – and they need to use a small portion of your land as a thoroughfare to get from one place to another.
It never ceases to amaze me – but I see it all the time. There are tens of thousands of vacant land properties all over the world that are completely landlocked with no road access.
What if one of the neighboring property owners wanted to build a road or a path through your property in order to reach the nearest road? What if the local power company wanted cut through a corner of your property in order to connect the utility lines? What if a giant oil company wants to use your property as an access point for their drilling operation?
The possibilities aren't necessarily obvious – but there all kinds of ways in which outside parties may be willing to pay you for the use of your land.If you own a property that is directly in an area where other people need to go, you could easily sell easement access, lease out a portion of it, or sell your property altogether.
14. Wind Energy
As this article explains and as this site illustrates, there are several areas in the United States (and many more around the world) that are in an ideal path for a wind turbine. Wind energy is renewable, and the use of this medium is only expected to grow in coming years.
In most cases, land can simply be leased out the one of the big power companies, who will then place their turbine on the property and handle all the maintenance (so the land owner can simply collect the lease revenue, rather than hassling with the actual generation of power for the electric grid). In many cases, it can be a perfect fit for the property and it's uses.
15. Solar Energy
With the continually emergency technology of solar energy, solar panels can be rigged to power one house, or create an extensive power plant. If you're interested in off-the-grid living, a few solar panels could be enough to power a house, and if you're looking to start a larger operation, consider leasing or selling your land to a power company.
The use of renewable energy will only increase in the years to come, so if you want to get into this business on the ground floor, it could pay to be an early adopter!
16. Park an RV or Travel Trailer
If you're into a less-rustic version of camping, you could just as well use a vacant parcel of land to park and RV or trailer. I've found that most municipalities have some fairly loose restrictions on when campers can be parked on a property, and other municipalities have no restrictions at all. Depending on where your property is located and what the rules are in your area – it could be the perfect place to use your RV or Travel Trailer temporarily, or to simply park it year-round.
17. Build a Self-Storage Facility
When I was working in the commercial banking industry as an underwriter, I came across a number of self-storage facility projects, and I was always shocked at how much money they made. Especially considering that it was a fairly simple business model without a lot of complexity that comes with most businesses – these things can be cash cows.
If you own a parcel of land that is more than a few acres in size and zoned commercial, it could very well be an ideal fit for a self storage facility. These types of projects aren't cheap to build (most of them will easily exceed a million dollars construct from the ground up), but if it's located in an area where there are no other storage facilities in the near vicinity – it could absolutely be a worthwhile investment.
18. Build an Outdoor Storage Facility
If you've got land near civilization, but perhaps not in the best location to build a multi-million dollar development, you could potentially use the property just as it is, and charge people a monthly or annual fee to park their RV, boat, trailer or other massive machinery in an outdoor setting.
In most of these situations, you'll have to build a reasonably large fence or wall (enough to obstruct the view from the road and keep trespassers out) and keep a locked gate – but other than these standard aspects of any storage facility, there isn't a great deal of development required to start making money.
19. Establish a Dog Park
There are many neighborhoods that are in desperate need of a simple dog park. With nothing more than a fence (and the approval from your local neighborhood planning commission), you could easily serve this need by establishing a safe place where dogs can roam freely in a designated area – with monitoring from each respective dog owner.
This option isn't necessarily a “money-maker”, but if you own a property in one of these areas that doesn't have any other obvious desirable use, it could be a great fit and worth exploring further!
20. Outdoor Photography Studio
One of the best places to get great photographs is in the outdoors. Lighting is an extremely important component of great photographs, and when the lighting is just right outside, it's hard to beat the kind of quality it can produce.
Most photographers are always on the lookout for good locations to shoot in the outdoors, so if you've got a parcel of land with good scenery, a good backdrop or other features that give it an interesting landscape – considering leasing it out or using it yourself for the purpose of an outdoor photography studio!
21. Drill for Oil or Gas
In states like Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Dakota, Alaska and California – oil and gas production is a big deal.
In many situations, if you own the mineral rights to the land, and if you're part of a 640 acre tract of land that is being drilled by a large oil company, you could automatically be paid royalties simply for being part of that 640 acre section of land (even if they're not drilling on your property)!
Some areas of the country will obviously have more potential for this use than others – but if your property is located anywhere in the hotbed of American oil production, it could be worth your while to do your research in this area.
22. Outdoor Advertising
Did you know that the U.S. interstate highway system is 46,876 miles long? That's almost long enough to drive around the earth twice (and that doesn't even include the regularly traveled, non-highway roads). With all of the people who pass through this space each day, there A LOT of potential opportunities to use vacant land for the purpose of building an outdoor advertising billboard, or smarter yet – lease it out to a larger outdoor advertising company (so they can cover all the construction costs, maintenance and ongoing sales expenses).
In most cases, using your property for this purpose will hinge on the local municipality allowing it – but generally speaking, if you own a property that is zoned commercial and in range of a well-traveled road (even if it's not vacant), it could be a great candidate for outdoor advertising!
23. Install a Mobile Home
If you're looking for a cheaper way to make your vacant lot livable – consider investing in a mobile home! There are many, MANY parcels of land around the world that are a perfect fit for this type of residence. The zoning is already in place, the utilities are already in the area, and there is very little “development” needed in order to make it ready for use as a mobile home lot.
In many cases, the only real “prep work” for installing a mobile home is in constructing a cement slab and/or a driveway (which falls more into the category of “nice to have” rather than “required”) along with connecting the mobile home to any utilities. Otherwise – it is surprisingly inexpensive to place a dwelling on a vacant lot when compared with the typical construction of a site built home.
24. Pave a Biking or Walking Path
Do you own a parcel of land large enough to contain a path (perhaps one that makes a loop or connects one notable location to another)?
This option – while only ideal in certain, unique situations – could be a great way to create a pleasant atmosphere where you can spend your time and get exercise, or a generous way to give back to the local community. And on the subject of giving, that brings us to our next option…
25. Donate Your Land
Did you know that in many situations, a land donation could crate a massive tax write off for you and your business? Especially if you were fortunate enough to acquire your property for pennies on the dollar (like I always do), this is a great way to create an instant tax savings – which can go a long way for those who are high earners in desperate need of ways to shelter their income from a crippling tax burden.
You might be surprised at the power of a simple donation! To learn more, you can read all about how it works in this blog post.
26. Mine for Minerals
Along the same lines of harvesting timber, it's not always about what can be done ON the property, but what can be found UNDERNEATH the property. Depending on the size of your raw land and what minerals may be available (which varies widely depending on what part of the world your property is in), there could be an incredible amount of untapped value sitting right beneath your feet!
Think about it – literally every substance known to man can be found somewhere underground. If you own land in an area that is known for minerals like coal, gypsum, gravel, limestone (just a few of the hundreds of possibilities), it could be worth exploring the potential for mining some of those minerals out of the ground.
27. Parking Lots
I know, this one doesn't sound exciting – but if you own a vacant lot anywhere within walking distance of a major attraction, this could be a great opportunity to make thousands of dollars within just a few hours.
Many examples of this can be found in cities like Detroit, where there are hundreds of vacant lots not far from Comerica Park and Ford Field. On the night of a big event when parking is scarce, it's easy for the owners of these vacant properties to collect hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars in parking fares simply by giving attendees an easy place to park. Think about it – do you own land anywhere in the vicinity of where people are desperate for an easy parking lot?
28. Build a Pole Barn for Animal or Equipment Storage
Do you know anybody who needs a place to store their car, boat, or some other heavy equipment? Alternatively, perhaps you know of a local farmer of animal lover who needs a place to house their horses, cows, goats, sheep, chickens or other animals?
The beauty of a simple pole barn is that it can be used for all sorts of things – and if you're in an area with people who have either equipment or animals that need a place to call home in the off-season, building a simple pole barn could go a long way in meeting (and monetizing) that need.
29. Plant a Vineyard
You might be surprised to know how many areas around the world are excellent locations for grape and wine production. States like California, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia are all growing wine regions in the U.S. Likewise, many other countries around the world like France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Australia, Germany, South Africa and others offer similar climates and soil types that are very ideal for vineyards.
30. Drill a Well
Depending on where your property is located and what kind of demand there is for water in the area – you could be in a prime location to drill a well. Some areas of the world are extremely impoverished and/or are lacking a convenient water supply. Did you know that 663 million people in the world lack access to safe water?
Whether your intent is to monetize this resource or simply provide a critical resource for those in need, drilling a well on your land could be a great way to use your real estate for the benefit of those in the area.
31. Build a Golf Course
Developing raw land into a new golf course isn't a cheap venture (when I was a commercial banker, most of the golf course projects I heard about came in at around a million bucks per hole), but if you're looking for a potential business opportunity in an area that has a clear demand for more recreational activities (all while maintaining as much green space as possible) – a golf course could be a great way to to create and grow a profitable business. If your property is large enough and you have access to the funding needed to jump into this game, it could be worth a shot!
32. Build an Underground Fallout Shelter
You might think I'm joking – but there are tens of thousands of survivalists in the world who love making plans for the impending end of the world. Likewise, there are companies out there working hard to meet the demand for ready-made, turn-key fallout shelters… and they're actually pretty cool!
Whether it's just a person's fun hobby or if they're legitimately concerned about an inevitable zombie apocalypse, some properties could be exactly what an overly-prepared survivalist is looking for.
33. Wetland Preserve
Some properties can be useless for most purposes because they're located right in the middle of a wetland area. These properties are difficult to use because they can't be built on, and they usually don't have much (if any) dry ground.
At the same time, it's important to recognize that wetlands are very important to many of the ecological systems in nature. By not using these types of properties for any other purpose than simply allowing nature to take its course – you could play an important role in helping the environmental to stay clean and offer a refuge for many of the plants and animals that thrive in this kind of environment.
34. Spiritual Sanctuary
Have you ever wanted a place where you can go to unplug from the world and recharge? Do you know anyone else who needs to build (or rebuild) their spiritual life and develop a stronger connection with their creator?
There are a lot of people who desperately need this kind of spiritual calm in order to maintain a healthy, more balanced life. Surprisingly, it's not always easy to find a place where this kind of spiritual growth is fostered and encouraged. If you have a property with the kinds of attributes that can help people concentrate, think, breathe deep, see the beauty around them and build a stronger spiritual foundation, why not put your land to good use by using it as a sanctuary for spiritual development?
35. Boat Launch
If you've got a property on a body of water – one obvious use is to build your dream home (and this is what most people do), but perhaps a smarter use is to offer your land as a boat launch for those in the area who might not have direct access to this body of water – especially if there are no other boat launches in the area. Rather than keeping the property for your own personal use, you could give your community a gift that everyone can use!
I realize this one won't be a popular choice for the environmentalist land owners out there – but the reality is, sometimes the best use of a property simply comes down to supply and demand.
Everyone creates trash and it has to go somewhere. As long as someone is being paid millions to dump the local waste in the ground – why couldn't that person be YOU?
If you've got a large enough property to develop and landfill and you can get the necessary permits and allowances from the authorities to move forward, it could be a great way to turn your property into a money machine.
37. Hiking and Cross Country Skiing Trails
With the right property in the right area, you could have a fantastic way to give yourself (and anyone else in the community) the exercise and adventure you're looking for.
Hiking trails are easy to create, and if they're being used regularly – they require very little ongoing maintenance. If you've got rolling hills or beautiful scenery on your property, it could be a fun way to make your land more useful!
38. Build a Tree House
Did you ever dream of having an awesome tree house as a kid? Are there any large, mature hardwood trees on your property? You may already have the natural infrastructure you need to make your childhood dream come to life!
Tree houses can be rustic or surprisingly high-end, and however you decide to build it – they're a great way to have fun and make your dreams come to life!
39. Outdoor Shooting Range
If you've got a passion for firearms and things that go BOOM – one way to scratch that itch is to turn your vacant lot into an outdoor shooting range.
Properties best suited for this activity are those with a natural hill or even an excavated pile of dirt or sand that can act as a backdrop to catch-all the stray bullets.
These properties can also function well for archery or paintball target practice. Whether it's just for yourself, a group of friends or whoever wants to pay the price of admission – it's a great way to have fun!
40. Athletic Fields
Whether you're into baseball, football, soccer, volleyball, cricket, rugby, lacrosse or even frisbee golf – if your parcel of land is more than a few acres in size and relatively flat, it could be a great way to bring friends together for a game of your favorite outdoor sporting event (whatever that happens to be).
If you've got money to spend, you can develop the property to fit the exact dimensions and standards the field should be, but even if you want to keep it low-budget, you might be surprised at what's possible without spending tons of money!
41. Community Park
Some properties are so beautiful, it would be a shame for just one person to have all the fun. If you've got a property that could be used and enjoyed by many, or perhaps if you're in the planning phases of developing a new subdivision – it might be worth your consideration to set aside a small portion of that land as a community park.
Outdoor community spaces can have a lot of value, because their existence brings up the value of every other property in the area. When all of the nearby residents can have shared access to a portion of land that benefits all – it makes the community stronger, and makes the neighborhood more appealing for all future property owners.
42. Drive-In Movie Theater
Drive-In Movie Theaters are hard to come by, but where they do exist – they can be extremely popular – if for no other reason, because of the simple novelty of it. It's not every day most of us can drive somewhere and watch a full length movie at the theater without leaving our car.
Drive-In Theaters of this type are certainly seasonal in nature, so if your property is situated in the northern half of the continent (where business will be dead for half the year), it's probably worth weighing the cost of that. Nevertheless, this kind of theater is relatively inexpensive to develop, because attendees can get their sound through the radios in their cars – as long as you've got a screen big and bright enough, and room to hold as many cars as possible – you could be in business before you know it!
If you like the idea of earning income from a hotel, but you don't want to spend millions to build one – another potential option could be a campground. While the earning potential of most campground certainly pales in comparison to most hotel operations, they also require a fraction of the development cost and ongoing maintenance and upkeep that hotels do.
If you're looking for a simpler type of property from which to earn a source of income, a simple campground could be a great choice!
44. Landscape Supply Storage
There are a lot of landscaping companies that have plenty of worked lined up, but nowhere to store their raw inventory (materials like wood chips, bark, stones, sand, soil, etc). If you've got a property that isn't being used – consider working with some local landscaping companies. They could easily lease your land and use it for no other purpose than to store their unused landscaping supplies while they're waiting to be sold to their end customers. Easy money!
45. Concert and Festival Grounds
Some of the largest, most well-known and widely attended concerts and festivals happen on giant parcels of land in the middle of nowhere. If you've got a massive parcel of land that could fit thousands of concert goers or festival freaks – it could be a great opportunity to make your mark on the world of entertainment and host the next big event at your place!
46. Horse Stable
If you're a horse lover, you know the importance of giving your animal a great place to live. If you're a land owner, you could very own the exact type of property that a horse needs to live a great life. By building a horse stable and/or some simple fencing around the perimeter of your property, you could create the ideal environment where horse owners from around the area want to store their horses. If you have a passion for horses, this could be a great fit for you!
47. Outdoor Obstacle Course
Some of the best workouts you can get happen entirely outdoors. Ask anybody who has been through a military training program and they'll probably agree. That being said – you don't have to be in the military to get in great shape. Simply by using your property as an obstacle course, or even buying some equipment for an adult playground, you could great a great resource for people who are looking for a healthy, cost-effective way to stay fit.
48. Community Playground
Do the kids in your area need a safe place to have fun? Maybe it's time to invest in a local playground! This can be a great way to attract young families to an area and to keep you neighborhood as a desirable place where people want to be.
Playground equipment can range widely in expense – but most respectable playgrounds can be constructed for no more than a few thousand dollars of investment from someone who wants to improve their local community.
49. Build an Earth Bermed House
Have you ever heard of an earth bermed house? Perhaps the most well-known examples are from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films… but don't be fooled by the unique design – these houses aren't just for the Shire.
These dwellings are designed with a unique look that offers all kinds of hidden benefits. An earth bermed house is essentially built halfway underground and as a result, they benefit from significant energy savings. When a house is surrounded by earth on 2 or more sides, it won't get nearly as hot in the summer and the building will require much less fuel for heating in the winter – because they benefit from the natural temperature regulation of the earth around it. These houses can are usually designed with aesthetic look that flows with the natural landscape – so if you want a house that blends in with what's already there and doesn't distract from the natural beauty around it, this could be an ideal residence for you.
50. Establish a Scenic Overlook
Do you own land with a great scenic view? Depending on how abundant “scenic overlooks” are in your area, and how spectacular the scenery is – you could use this as a way to simply give to those in your community, or even as a way to monetize your property. Not all properties warrant a monetary fee (especially if you're in an area like California or Colorado, where gorgeous scenery is everywhere you look), but if you're in an area without a lot of hills or valleys – but you own the property that provides the best view in the area… you might just have something that people are willing to pay for.
Now keep in mind, as I was thinking through this topic, these were simply the first 50 ideas that came into my head.
As an experienced land investor, I've looked at thousands of investment opportunities and thought through a lot of the potential ways that raw land can be put to good use. This list is just scratching the surface and is NOT meant to be exhaustive list by any means (I had to draw the line somewhere – at over 6,000 words, this article was turning into a novel).
There are MANY other ways you can put your vacant land to good use, and if you’re willing to think outside the box and look at all the options (even the ones that might not be obvious or apparent), you might be surprised what can be done with a simple plot of dirt that would have otherwise been overlooked by the masses.
Keep an open mind and keep your eyes open! You never know what the possibilities might hold.
This past December, Megan Wild from Your Wild Home came up with the original concept for this article with her guest post entitled 5 Surprisingly Creative Uses For Vacant Land. I thought the topic was a good idea that could be expanded upon – so while most of the content from this article was created after her original blog post, her idea was the original inspiration for this work. Thanks Megan!
Images: Flickr, Wikipedia, PublicDomainPictures, Flickr, Wikipedia, Flickr, Geograph.org.uk, PublicDomainPictures, Wikipedia, Atlas Survival Shelters, Flickr, Pixabay, Flickr, Wikimedia, Flickr, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikimedia