The Truth About Land Investing: 15 Warning Signs To Look For When Buying Vacant Land

truth about land investing

Vacant Land is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood real estate investments in the world.

Most real estate investors completely fail to recognize the superior benefits that come with owning land in its raw form.

It's unfortunate because the simplicity and stability that comes with owning the right piece of land (purchased at the right price) can far outweigh the myriad of problems that are certain to come up with any other type of real estate.

While I firmly believe that vacant land is one of the best places you can put your money, there is another side of the story that needs to be carefully considered. 

As an experienced land investor, I've learned (sometimes the hard way) that there are a number of things that need to be evaluated before purchasing a parcel of vacant land.

Land Can Be Deceptively Complicated

On the surface, it seems like such a simple creature – but there can be A LOT of potential problems lurking beneath the surface of any piece of land. I wouldn't necessarily say all these issues are common, but the fact is – any one of these things could potentially be a deal killer if not addressed properly. When you take it all into consideration, it adds up to a sizable list of things that ought to be investigated as part of your due diligence process.

Don't get me wrong, land is a rock-solid investment. It's just a matter of knowing what to watch out for, and under what circumstances you should re-adjust your offer price (or walk away from the deal altogether).

RELATED: The Land Flipping Lifecycle

 

1. What is the Zoning on the Property?

First and foremost, it is vitally important to understand what a property can be used for, and what the highest and best use of the property is. With a simple phone call to your local planning  & zoning department, most offices can give you the answer to this question in a matter of seconds. Once you know the zoning classification (e.g. – residential, mixed-use, commercial, industrial, agricultural, etc.), ask them to give you some examples of what type of property would be allowed under each of these particular zoning classifications. They may even give you some ideas that you hadn't previously thought of. Once you understand the most ideal use of the property – you can quickly determine whether it will fit your needs (or the needs of those you intend to market the property to).

 

2. What is the Topography of the Property?

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.

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. 

As you can see, this combination of software can give you a crucial perspective on what type of property you're considering. And if you want even more clarity on where the parcel lines of your property are, be sure to check out Parlay as another helpful resource.

 

3. What is the Annual Tax Obligation?

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.

 

4. What Public Utilities are Available? (Water, Sewer, Electric, Gas, Phone)

If a property doesn't have access to one or more of these staples of reasonable living, the property (for all intents and purposes) may not be considered build-able. After all, who would want to build a house where they can't flush the toilet or get access to clean water? If a property isn't build-able, you will lose a massive portion of the property’s usability, marketability and value. Since most people buy land with the intent building on it, you will definitely want to be aware of anything that could become an obstacle to that objective.

 

5. What are the Required Building Setbacks?

b3ed8fdfFirst, 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!

 

6. Does the Property Have Any Usage Restrictions?

Most of the vacant land you'll encounter will have some kind of zoning requirements and/or usage restrictions in place (there's a reason you'll never see a 100 acre pig farm next to a 100 story skyscraper, or a massive shopping mall next to a landfill… it just doesn't make sense).

TallaLandUseEvery municipality in America has a plan (even if it's a vague one) for how they want different sections of their land to be used, regardless of who owns it. As such, you should always expect your property to come with some reasonable limitations on what it can be used for.

If the property is part of a Home Owner's Association (HOA) it will most likely have even more stringent restrictions in place to help maintain the “quality” and formality of their neighborhood. The idea is to keep any bizarre behavior OUT of the neighborhood (e.g. – cars in the front yard, lawns nobody takes care of, houses that look out-of-place or aren't built to code). 

Usage restrictions aren't necessarily a bad thing – they almost always make sense on some level. They're designed to help maintain order and support the value of each property in the subdivision. On the same coin… if you aren't aware of these restrictions before you purchase, they can also create some conflict with the plans you had in mind for the property. This isn't common for most land investors (because most people have no intention of using their property for purposes that don't jive with their surroundings), but even so – you should always make sure you understand what the rules are BEFORE you buy a parcel of vacant land. This will help you avoid owning a property that requires maintenance you don't want to do, or that can't be used for your intended purpose.

 

7. Is the Property Located in a Flood Zone?

In some parts of the country, parcels of land are vacant because they are literally under water. In other areas, there may be properties near bodies of water that are prone to flooding.

In either case, if a property is at risk of flooding – you'll want to know about this BEFORE you buy because when a property is in a flood zone, it can be extremely expensive to insure.

Land located near a body of water can be extremely valuable, but this close proximity can also create a number of potential issues… so be sure you understand the ramifications of your particular location.

Want to check and see if your property is located in a flood zone? One quick way to verify is to check the FEMA flood maps in your area. You can do this by visiting FEMA.gov and following the instructions in the video above. You can also try FloodTools.com for another user-friendly way to find the same information.

 

8. Does the Soil Percolate (aka – “Perk”) or have Access to a Nearby Sewer System?

Septic SystemIf you're planning to build a “dwelling” of any kind on your parcel of land, there is one issue that may seem insignificant at first glance, but it has the potential to make or break a land deal. It's called a “Perc Test” – and if you're dropping some serious coin on land in a rural area, this is an issue you'll want to be sure about before you sink your money into it.

A Perc Test (also known as “Perk Test”, and more formally known as a “Percolation Test“), is a soil evaluation that tests the rate at which water drains through the soil. If a property doesn't have easy access to the local sewer system, a perc test is required to determine whether a septic system (the alternative to a sewer) can be installed on the property.

If a property doesn't pass this test, you could have a very difficult time building any type of dwelling on the property, so unless you're able to tap into the municipal sewer system (which will negate this issue altogether), be sure to give the county health department a call and ask them what is required to install a septic system (or connect to the local sewer) in your area. For a detailed overview of how a perc test works and how to verify the status of this issue, check out this blog post.

 

9. Is the Property Landlocked (Are there any Easements or Access Roads to the Property)?

It’s an odd phenomenon, but believe it or not – there are thousands of properties all over the country that have no road access. They are surrounded on all sides by other private property – which (according to some) deems the land virtually useless. In a sense, these properties might as well be on the moon – because nobody can legally access the property.

This issue can be overcome if you can establish a legal, recorded easement to the property. This can be done if one of the neighbors is willing to allow you access through their property – to yours. In many cases, a neighbor shouldn't be expected to do this for free, you'll have to give them a reason to help you (usually in the form of money). Again, this isn't an impossible issue to overcome, but it is definitely something you'll want to be aware of before you purchase.

 

10. What is the Size and Shape of the Parcel?

I've seen a number of properties that are virtually useless due to their size and shape. I remember on one occasion, I came across a parcel of land that was 5 feet wide and 900 feet long. I've also seen properties that were 10 feet by 10 feet. If you see a parcel of land with an odd shape, use your common sense. If you can't think of a legitimate use for a property with its given dimensions – you'll probably want to think twice before buying it.

11. Does the Property Have Access to a Municipal Water Supply? If Not, Can You Drill a Well or Have Water Trucked In (and if so, at what cost)?

There are a lot of properties in the world that don’t have access to a municipal water supply (i.e. – city water). This isn't necessarily a problem, but it does mean you'll have to drill a well in order to access a clean water source beneath the surface. There are a few ways to determine whether or not you'll be able to do this but in most cases, if there are other buildings in the near vicinity (e.g. – homes or other dwellings built next door), this is usually a good indication that you won’t have any problems accessing water either.

If you’re looking at a vacant lot in the middle of the desert or near the top of a mountain with nothing around for miles, you will probably want to verify with a professional that water will be accessible if/when you need it (and if your only option is to have it hauled in by truck, you'll want to get an idea for how much this will cost on an ongoing basis).

 

12. Are there Wetlands on the Property?

Wetlands can present some tricky situations for landowners.

Throughout most of the U.S., there are federal and state laws that prohibit landowners from developing or using their land in any way that will adversely affect wetland areas (which renders most wetland areas unusable). This is why it's important to identify the presence of wetlands BEFORE closing the deal.

Ultimately – the only way to be 100% confident about the presence of wetlands is to enlist the help of a wetlands consultant and/or have the appropriate government agents conduct a wetland identification and delineation on-site.

The problem is, this is a lot to ask – especially when the transaction needs to close quickly.

If you want to identify any obvious red flags without leaving your computer, it is possible to do some reconnaissance-level research and get a more educated look at the wetland situation on your subject property. I'll explain one method in this video…

You can get started with the Wetlands Mapper, or you can download the KML file and view this same Wetlands Data on Google Earth.

Now, since the wetlands mapper doesn't always provide most accurate measurement in all areas, another tool you can use to assess the situation is the NRCS Web Soil Survey, which is compiled by the UC Davis Soil Resource Lab. I'll show you how it works in this video…

You can download this SoilWeb KML file by visiting the Google Earth Library.

Keep in mind, using the Wetlands Mapper and/or the Web Soil Survey is NOT the same thing as hiring a wetlands consultant and/or having the USACE do a delineation on your property (so realize, there are no guarantees with this approach). However, if you're just looking for an educated guess, both of these online tools can be used as a starting point.

 

13. What About Junk, Tires, Rubble, Gas, Oil, or Other Contaminants on the Property?

On a few occasions, I've discovered that what I thought was a piece of vacant land, was actually a makeshift landfill. If you’re going to buy a piece of land, make sure that all you’re getting is LAND (and if anything else is coming along with the deal, make sure it’s something you actually want).

These kinds of messes can be very expensive to clean up, and as a way to avoid any unwanted surprises on this front, it's always a good idea to actually see the property you're purchasing.

If you're purchasing the property from a long distance and it simply isn't feasible to see the property yourself, there are a few ways you can find a local set of eyes to find the property and get some pictures for you.

Option A

Contact a company like WeGoLook, which offers some very convenient and cost-effective ways to verify what the property looks like BEFORE you buy.

If you're interested in learning more about how WeGoLook works, be sure to check out the full review I did on their service in this blog post.

Note: In the months and years since I recorded this video, I've learned that WeGoLook tends to have trouble finding properties that aren't clearly marked and don't have a physical mailing address. As such, they aren't always the best fit for vacant land inspections… but they could be a helpful resource in some cases.

Option B

Find a local photographer (i.e. – anyone with a cell phone camera) who can travel to the property and get pictures for you. You can do this by posting a job ad on Craigslist under the nearest city name > gigs > creative gigs.

Depending on how far they have to drive, and how many pictures you need, usually $50 – $100 is sufficient for this kind of work.

Option C

You can also try to contact a few local real estate agents in the area and ask them if they wouldn't mind driving by the property and snapping a few pictures when they have a chance. Most agents are regularly in the field anyway, and it isn't a huge ask for them to swing by your property and get some pictures (especially if you show an interest in using them for your future listings and/or paying them a few bucks for their trouble).

However you decide to get a look at the property – make sure you are 100% clear about where the property is located, and communicate this thoroughly to the person getting pictures (send them parcel maps, directions, even a video if you need to).

 

14. What Were the Previous Uses of the Property?

Most states have environmental laws that pertain to commercially zoned property (i.e. – properties zoned “Residential” generally aren't held to these standards). If you’re considering a vacant lot zoned for commercial development, make sure you're not inheriting any environmental contamination with the property.

For most commercial properties, the best way to do this is by ordering a “Phase I Environmental Report” (many banks will automatically require this because it affects their collateral). This report will identify if there are any “Recognized Environmental Concerns” (RECs) on the property that you need to worry about. If you neglect to do any environmental due diligence, the liability for any existing environmental contamination on the property could ultimately fall on your shoulders – making it very difficult and expensive to sell the property in the future.

Another way to get a quick look at what has been going on (and around) the property in question is to look at the historical satellite imagery of the property with a tool like Google Earth.

Here's a quick look at how it works…

As you can see, it's not necessarily the most comprehensive or scientific way to review a property's history – but it's quick, easy, and it doesn't cost anything – which makes it a pretty good place to start.

 

15. What Do the Surrounding Properties Look Like?

The properties next door can have some MAJOR implications for the value and “sale-ability” of a parcel of land (e.g. – Think about it, would you rather live next to Yosemite National Park or a Landfill?). For understandable reasons, most people care a great deal about who and what they live next to, so be sure to get a good idea for what the surrounding properties look like (hint: this is another potential area where a service like WeGoLook can help).

Is this a desirable area? Is it the type of place where you (or anyone else) would want to live? If the surrounding properties have any obvious issues that are beyond your control, you'll want to think very carefully about what this means for the property's value and whether or not you want to own it.

For a quick tutorial on how to very quickly find out what the adjoining properties look like next to the parcel you're researching, this video explains one way to do it:

These are the questions I ask myself before I buy any piece of vacant land. This isn't intended to be an all-inclusive list of EVERY possible issue you could ever encounter, but I’d say it covers about 95% of the potential concerns you ought to be aware of. Most of these issues come up very infrequently, but they are very important things to consider nonetheless. Remember, you don't need to be afraid of buying vacant land. You just need to be informed.

Don't Be The “Greater Fool”

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.

When some people look at the prospect of owning land, they get wrapped up in the dream of property ownership. The idea of owning a large tract of property can seem very appealing, even if it is of no practical use to them. This kind of trap is especially easy for people to fall into with land because it's a low maintenance property and doesn't seem complicated (even though there are a lot of factors to consider).

MANY people buy into the dream of property ownership – even if the investment makes absolutely no sense from a financial standpoint. If you don't believe me, check out this guy who sells land on the moon:

Unfortunately, many parcels of land are sold to “the greater fool”. When people don't do their homework and think things through, they can get hurt.

Don't be the greater fool. Always be sure you have done a reasonable amount of research and don't take on a property until you thoroughly understand what you are getting into.

Want to Learn More About Land Investing?

The truth about land investing is that most people have no idea how powerful it really is. Land is a massive opportunity that most investors aren't paying attention to – and for the few land investors who know how to pursue this business with the right acquisition strategy, it's an extremely lucrative way to build wealth and financial freedom with real estate.

If you want to get the inside scoop on how to start and run you own land investing business, come and check out the REtipster Club – where you'll get access to a full 12-week course, videos, bonuses, downloads and a members-only forum (where I spend time answering questions every week). There is no better place to learn this business from the inside out.

About the author

Seth Williams

Seth Williams is a land investor and residential income property owner, with hundreds of closed transactions and nearly a decade of experience in the commercial real estate banking industry. He is also the Founder of REtipster.com - a real estate investing blog that offers real world guidance for part-time real estate investors.

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  • Brandon Richards says:

    Great Blog, you really have to consider a lot when buying a land, I totally liked the tip about going through the land whether it is a flood prone area.

  • Sonali Patel says:

    The article is truly good and helpful to know about the factor to take care before investing in land

  • Sarah James says:

    Great article !!! I appreciate the help in choosing a home! Me and my husband are finally going to buy our first home this year, and we want to make sure we choose the right place. I like that you mentioned what are the crucial points that need to consider while buying a new home.

  • silvia mirabella says:

    just discovered your blog and must say i love it!

  • Giselle says:

    Hi, Seth. Thanks for the helpful information! Have you had any personal experience with private land owners doing owner financing land deals? I’m just wondering if this could be an avenue to get into land investing without taking private or hard money loans.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Giselle – all of the properties I’ve bought have been SUPER cheap, so I’ve always just paid with cash. I have done plenty of seller financing when I’ve sold properties, but not so much when I’m buying. However, what you’re saying could certainly be a feasible way to get properties without taking out a hard money loan – you’d just have to find a seller who is willing to work with this kind of arrangement and then hold their hand to make sure they understand the process and that everything is being done correctly (paperwork, recording, processing of payments). There are a lot of additional moving pieces when seller financing enters the picture, but for the right deal, it could absolutely be worth all extra effort.

  • Denise says:

    Hi Seth,
    I am currently listing a 10 acre piece of vacant land, which is zoned R-1, in Hesperia, California. The seller states the property can be zoned commercial. I spoke to the planning department and they stated it is zoned residential. My client is totally convinced they are wrong and it can be switched if someone pitches a commercial rezoning presentation. What is your take on this?
    Thanks,
    Denise

    • Seth Williams says:

      I’ve found that many sellers tend to oversimplify the picture as a way of making their property look and sound like a better deal. If the seller is telling the truth – I would have THEM work out the details and get it zoned commercial (if it’s so easy, it shouldn’t be too much to ask of them – right?) – once that’s done, then you can close on it.

      Alternatively, you could negotiate for a much lower price if you’re willing to take on all the extra work (and the additional risk that it won’t work out the way you need it to). Whatever you do – just make sure the cards have nowhere to fall but in your favor.

  • Charlie Evans says:

    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.

    Would certainly welcome any thoughts you have.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Charlie – that’s an interesting situation, thanks for sharing here! Do you think the new 6 acres land (when combined with your existing 3 acres) would make the both properties worth more as a whole… or would joining them make each individual lot worth less? Would it expand the property’s potential uses, or would it diminish them?

      In terms of an investment – I only buy land when I’m getting it for FAR below market value (which basically guarantees that I’ll be able to sell it some day for more than I paid for it)… and it doesn’t sound like that’s necessarily what’s happening here. If you think you’d be able to use it for something that would increase the overall value of your current property, then it may make sense… but if not, then it may not make the most sense from an investment standpoint.

      Of course, if you just want more land – that’s something to consider too (your personal enjoyment is something to think about too), but if your primary concern is simply increasing your overall equity, then you’d have to look long and hard at this to see if it really makes sense.

      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

      • Dana says:

        Hello 🙂
        We found a really great 2 acre property zoned rural residential in the area of town that we really want to live in Oregon. It is the only lot left in the older established subdivision, so it has city water but would need a septic (which everyone in the neighborhood has of course). One big issue is that it is basically a forest. The whole lot is full of trees, huge and small.
        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).
        My question is how does the land being full of trees affect the value? We received an estimate of clearing 1 acre of land of trees (logging plus stump removal & grinding) of $17K with a potential timber profit of $11k. It seems that my realtor is under the impression that the land is worth more because off all of the timber. In our opinion, it is worth less with all of the work plus out of pocket costs to clear for building.
        We are nervous that he won’t accept anything less than the appraised value and we are on a tight budget. With very little options in this area, this is really our only option if we want to build anytime soon. What is your opinion on our situation? Thanks in advance!
        Dana in Oregon

        • Seth Williams says:

          Hi Dana – that’s pretty cool that the guy is actually willing to sell! Nice job on reaching out and starting the conversation with him.

          As for the math behind the deal – I think you are correct. Most realtors are not specialists in this kind of thing, so I would definitely go with your gut (and what the numbers say) on this.

          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.

  • Noam Ofan says:

    Hey, Seth.

    Do you check all these things every time you buy any type of vacant land, or do you only check all these things when you purchase a more expensive parcel? For example, if you buy a parcel for $500 which of the things you listed do you not bother to check?
    For what type of land $$-wise do you go ahead and research all the things you listed in this article?

    Thank you!
    Noam.

    • Seth Williams says:

      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.

      The price range can play a part too… but it’s just a matter of asking yourself, “Could this issue ever be important to me or my future buyer?” and if the answer is a pretty clear “no”, I wouldn’t bother doing any investigation.

  • David Pena says:

    Hi Seth,
    How do I go about purchasing land ?
    The main purpose I want it for is for horses…
    One agent told me I have to pay cash the other told me I have to put down 50% of the value.
    How do I know what land is for horses?
    Is there a specific website you use to look at land for sale?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi David – it would depend on what financing you can get for the land… and since most banks don’t finance land without an immediate plan for development, chances are, you’d either have to pay cash or find your financing from a separate source (like if the seller is willing to finance it, or if you’re able to obtain a loan with some other collateral).

      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).

      Good luck!

  • Joe says:

    Hey Seth,

    I enjoyed your blog. I have a couple of questions.

    #1. What is the best and easiest way to secure funds to purchase vacant property? I’m sure most banks would want collateral before loaning money to buy vacant land?

    #2. If buying land with standing timber how much of the purchase price can be recouped by sale of the timber?

    Thank you.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Joe, thanks for those questions!

      1. I never use loans when I buy vacant land, because I’m able to get my properties very, very cheap (and I’m only able to do this because I know where/how to find motivated sellers). Most banks won’t lend directly on land UNLESS you have an immediate plan to build on it – and this is why seller financing can be such a helpful tool when selling land (because most buyers will need it in order to do the transaction).

      2. The answer to this question depends entirely on the property, how much timber is on it, and how much money you can get from the sale of the timber. If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to sell the timber for more than you paid for the property itself (however, I would say this is more the exception than the rule). You might want to check out this article for some more insights if you haven’t already.

      Good luck!

  • Andrew Eiji says:

    Hey Seth, amazing blog!
    I have 0 experience whatsoever when it comes to investing in land, but your work is huge help.
    A handful of my friends and I want to invest in land.
    We’re still 50/50 to whether we simply want to flip land or actually build something on the land itself and generate passive income as well as preserve wildlife in the process. (or both)

    I haven’t read the full blog yet, im reading bit by bit and researching each and every topic you put out there, (been so busy!! >_<) but I scrolled down and realized the comment section.

    So I was just wondering, what's the best way to contact you directly?
    Must I go through here, or is there a way I can email you or contact you through social media?

    It's mainly for future reference (soon to be) once i feel confident enough to really start and would have specific questions.

    Thanks a bunch Seth!!

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Andrew, thanks for reaching out! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog!

      These days, my schedule is pretty hectic, so if you need to get a hold of me directly, one of the more reliable ways would be to join the REtipster Club (where you can contact me through the forum, or attend an “Office Hours” webinar), or check out one of the mentoring options I have available from time to time.

      Of course, you can always contact me through this site too… but it may take me longer to respond – as I’ve got a lot of people reaching out to me through the site these days.

      I hope that helps!

  • Stephen jarvela says:

    Locatio, location,location…
    Due diligence, do not trust the sites like zillow as they do not do a good job of checking the location provided by the seller. Get the lot and block info and check with the local records clerk.

    Btw… Thanks for a lot of very useful references.

  • Debbie says:

    What about property down, topographically, from three small country graveyards? We are concerned about the groundwater being contaminated by formaldehyde and other fluids. Is there a general rule about how far from a graveyard is safe or somewhere we can get more info on that?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Debbie – that’s an interesting question… I’ve never heard of that one, but I suppose I can see why you might wonder. I’d have to imagine any harmful chemicals from a cemetery would be in extremely trace amounts (nothing like you’d expect from a gas station), but at the same time… I’m not an environmental professional, so I’m really not qualified to give my opinion on it.

      If you want to investigate the situation on your property, you could always order an environmental report. They can either do a high-level look at it (without doing any soil sampling), or they can drill soil borings to verify if there are any chemicals in the soil (which of course, will cost more). I’m guessing you could find out more on whether or not it’s an issue to be concerned about with a quick phone conversation.

  • Pat says:

    Hey Seth, great info in this article, a couple things I didn’t take into consideration. I’m looking into purchasing approx ten acres which has federal land to one side and state land on the other two sides. This seems to be a good deal as far as no one building around the property and being a secluded tract. Just wondering if there is any specific things I should be paying attention to, do to the bordering of state and federal land.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Pat – that sounds like a great property. I love land that’s surrounded by government-owned property! As long as there aren’t any zoning restrictions or issues that would prohibit you from doing what you want to do with the property, I’m usually fine moving forward with these types of transactions. Good luck!

  • Mike says:

    I am looking at 95 acre property for hunting and camping listed at $132k in southerm PA, property will be timbered before sold and closest electric pole is approx 1/3 mile away from where i would build small cabin. I could use a generator since cost to run power would not be feasible. I am still interested but think the asking price is to much since this is not really a buildable property and has limited market value. typical buildable property with electric access is approx $2k an acre in the area. What should I offer? I was thinking possibly 95K?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Mike – have you spend much time evaluating what the property is worth based on the local comps, and what it’s highest and best use is? That may help give you a better idea for what it’s really worth. Check out this blog post for some more ideas on how to do this (if you haven’t already).

  • Zephyr Egbuonu says:

    Thanks a lot.

  • Ann says:

    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.

    Thanks,
    Ann.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Thanks Ann! I’m so glad you got some good value out of it. I think you’re probably on the right track in getting outside help with the zoning details – that can be quite a confusing area if you don’t have any prior experience with it. If you have a builder in mind, you may want to get them involved on the front end too – as they will be able to point out most of the important details you’ll want to evaluate before they’re able to start building (even if you don’t plan to build for a while, they’re still great for some free consulting if they’re expecting to help you at some future date).

      Best of luck!
      Seth

  • Andrew says:

    Seth-
    I left a comment a few minutes ago but wanted to clarify.
    The lot I am looking at does not seem to spark any of the 15 “warning signs” that you listed, except the topography one. The lot I see is on a high erosion risk area where the front receeds about 2-3 ft per year. The state DEQ says that there will be a certain setback requirement because of this.
    Fortunately the lot is over 500 feet deep. The price reflects the known fact that the front erodes due to natural occurrence. I really love this lot but am scared that it might be too many loopholes and fees to deal with DEQ regulation because of the topography. Do you recommend walking away from this lot? It’s only $25000 and is less than 1/4 the cost of almost any other lot half its size anywhere else in the state.
    Please contact me individually if you want to know the exact location.

    • Seth Williams says:

      If your goal is to build on the property, you may want to talk with a local builder to figure out what they would need to investigate prior to starting construction. They could help you figure out what due diligence you’ll need to do in order to feel comfortable moving forward.

  • Marie says:

    Hi Seth,

    Great article. This is actually the first time I am learning about all of this. I bought my first property (that I currently live in) in 2012 and I am interested in investing in more property and generating passive income. My question is, once the property is purchased how do you ensure that it sells? I’m assuming that the only way to generate income from vacant land is for someone to build property on your land. If there is no interest in that land it could possibly turn into a loss.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Marie – I think it depends almost entirely on how much you paid when you bought it, and how much you can sell it for (with or without any improvements on it). Improvements will often improve a property’s value, but not always. You need to understand what the highest and best use of the property is and THEN you’ll be able to zero in on what the property may be able to sell for based on how it will be used.

      You may want to check out this article for some more insights on valuation: https://retipster.com/valueofland

  • Mahesh vidiyala says:

    Hey Seth,

    Great post and very informative, I am very new to this investing world, I am planning to buy a land for investment purposes and it is mentioned as Out Parcel land Should i consider buying out parcel land. Lot size, price and area looks good to me but why no one has bought from very long time. Not sure if i am doing a mistake. Please help me …

  • Mario Rodriguez says:

    Just wanted to thank you for the help you provide to everyone here.I live in Europe and would like to buy a 2 acre to retired on a mobile or prefab cabin on it ,using the land as a small homestead but would you buy when you are not even in the states?I would use golook to check the property but Im scared or doing such a move.I found a 1acre owner finance and Im tempted.
    Thanks again and Happy Halloween 2016!

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Mario – I think there’s always some risk when you don’t see the property in-person, but there are a lot of things you can do (like using WeGoLook, for example – and doing all the other normal due diligence) to greatly minimize that risk.

      I’ve taken this route plenty of times, but I was always making my decision from the perspective of an investor (to buy and re-sell the property quickly)… not necessarily as the end-user (i.e. – buying a property that I would actually live on), so if there are some specifics that YOU would want to see, then it may be worth your while to get over here are see it.

      Again, definitely not required… but something to think about.

      Best of luck to you!

  • Colin says:

    Hello!

    In regards to checking the status of a title, are there any online resources you can use (I’m expecting at least some sort of fee)?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Colin – I haven’t had much first-hand experience with these guys (yet), but I’ve heard good things about ProTitleUSA. There’s definitely a fee involved – but they seem like one of the more user-friendly options out there.

      Good luck!

  • Pete says:

    Hey Seth! Thanks for the tips. How does buying property out of state work? Are there additional steps involved? I am in Illinois. What if I wanted to browse in Michigan, for example?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Pete! That’s a great question. I’d say with land, it’s totally feasible, because most of the information you’ll need for inspection purposes can be done without visiting the property in-person. In many cases, solutions like this and this can be used to get much of the information you’ll need, regardless of where it is.

      In terms of closing, you’ll want to be aware that some states require the use of an attorney (and honestly, when you hire a professional, it costs more – but it can make the process much simpler too).

      If you wanted to start looking in another state, I’d say the first step is to understand which counties to look in (more on that here), get a delinquent tax list from the county and then start a direct mail campaign there.

      Also, check out this blog post for some ideas on what tools you can use to make the process easier.

  • Shimshon says:

    Seth,
    Great post, I have purchase an acre land from a tax lien sale (Tax assessor values at $12,288) I was thinking of building or selling it at a profit. I have reached out to a local engineer to look at the property to see if I can build on it an this was his response.

    “I visited the property on Sunday and most of the lot was inundated with water. It is apparent that the soil is saturated for significant periods. Based on my observations, which are consistent with the available online data, it is my opinion that the lot is unbuildable since it does not meet the minimum New York State Dept. of Health (NYSDOH) requirements for the design of an onsite septic system. NYSDOH requires at least 12 inches of native useable soil above the high groundwater level and the septic system cannot be situated in a wetland. While NYSDOH has many other requirements to comply with, these two deficiencies cannot be addressed by any approvable design.

    The adjoining 2 acre lot is very similar in character and is also unbuildable.”

    If this is the case I think it close to worthless as it’s not buildable. What should I do now? Should I stop paying the taxes? If I do would it effect my credit rating. Is there anyone who would take the property off me so I don’t need to pay taxes anymore and I can take a tax write-off? Should I list it on ebay? your input would be appreciated.

    GPS coordinates
    41.7494800036591,-74.7861762997967

  • Colt says:

    Hello,
    There is swampy/nonbuildable property next to me that is landlocked by 5 residential properties. We are interested in purchasing it – yes, we want landlocked swampland. We spoke to the owner who said he wants to sell it at whatever the going rate is for vacant land. Prior to offering him a very lowball offer, we’d like to gather resources that show the property’s true “potential” so that we don’t offend him. Other than a printout of a map, is there something more official we can acquire that shows he is landlocked? Also, the tax record shows the property’s assessed tax value is 100k, which is definitely inaccurate. Is there a way to have that reassessed to reflect its true tax value? We heard through a neighbor that it is recorded as nonbuildable and he doesn’t have to pay taxes, but I have not been able to find anywhere to verifiy that. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!!!

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Colt, whenever I buy landlocked parcels, my offer is VERY low (because practically speaking, if nobody can access it, it might as well be on the moon – which isn’t all that useful UNLESS someone can obtain legal access). One way to prove that it’s landlocked would be to find a parcel map of the property – and I explain how to do that in this blog post: https://retipster.com/property-pictures

      If the seller is offended by your offer, just explain the reason why it’s so low (because their property is basically unusable without an easement or road access).

      And I know what you mean about the assessed value – this number means almost nothing in my mind, because the county will usually peg this number as high as possible, because it allows them to charge more in tax revenue for the property. I think you can get it reassessed in many cases, but there usually aren’t any guarantees that your request will get traction, and the process isn’t necessarily fast or easy. It may be worth your while to call the local tax collector and just ask them how much the annual tax bill is – that should tell you pretty quickly what the obligation would be.

      Good luck!

  • Annie Huston says:

    # 7 pertains to your data. Question suppose there is no address, then what?

    • Seth Williams says:

      You could find the address of the nearest property with a building on it – that would at least get you close to the subject property you’re looking at.

      This is fairly easy to do with a tool like AgentPro247, or with the county’s GIS mapping system.

  • Aracely says:

    Seth,

    Great article. I’m having trouble finding information, as most of it is about buying and constructing right away. I’m looking for information on how to buy a rural piece of land 2-10 acres where I can camp on it for a couple of seasons to get the best site to build a little summer/fall shack to get away on the weekends. So I won’t be building right away, just ‘squatting’ on my own land for surveying purposes, see where the hottest/sunniest spots might be, etc. Do you have any advice on what regulations/restrictions I might come across? Is this a “depends on” on kind of thing, meaning, different counties/townships all might have different rules? Thanks again.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Aracely – great question. You might want to contact the local planning and zoning department – ask them if you’re allowed to camp on the property and/or build whatever type of structure you’re planning to build. You’re right – most townships and cities (not the county necessarily) have different restrictions that come into play in different areas. You’ll probably find that the more rural areas have less and less restrictions, but generally speaking – you should always investigate, because some rules will most likely apply.

      Good luck!

  • Alexa says:

    Hi Seth,
    I think I’m in trouble….because I signed a contract for a 1.23 acre land and I haven’t ordered a perc test…the land couldn’t perc about 8 yrs ago according to the owner…. the piece of land is near other homes, that are build on an acre of land or more…. it is near a state park as well…. There is a stream called gunpowder that is near this area…. I am scared to death right now…. my contract doesn’t have a contingency to a perc test passing…it is full of trees too. So I know the land needs to be cleared… in your experience is there a way to cancel a contract or a way out….the contract has already been sent to a title company….. I need help asap…. thanks

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Alexa – did you put any kind of earnest money deposit down when you signed the initial purchase agreement? If not, there isn’t much standing in your way – you can walk away from the deal if no funds have changed hands yet. If so, you could still feasibly walk away from the deal, but you’d lose whatever money you’ve put down.

      Alternatively, you could talk to the county health department about doing another perc test – just because it failed once doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible (though it is a fair indication that you won’t have much luck). You could also try investigating some alternative septic options, like building a mound septic system. I don’t have any experience with these, but it could be worth your while to investigate it further.

  • Danny Wilson says:

    Hello seth,

    My grandmother is thinking of selling me her lakefront parcel that has been sitting for 40 years. My wife and I have recently began to look into real-estate investment homes but think we might want to go this rout instead. My question is how you generally attract people out to land that is rural ( no airport within an hour rural)? And do you recommend any websites, companies, or law firms that can help us build a house on the site from scratch purchase laws. We are also looking into premade cabin homes.
    P.S. made my check list off of your website and I’m meeting with the county official next week. Great site!

    • Seth Williams says:

      Thanks Danny! There’s always a market for rural land – it’s just a matter of advertising in the right places – you can get some ideas from my Resources page at http://REtipster.com/resources

      As for pre-made cabins, I’m sure these are available out there, but I’ve never investigated it myself, so I probably can’t be of much help here. Sorry!

  • Ben says:

    Hi Seth,

    With the Arizona housing prices climbing up to pre-crash levels and single family homes being snatched up by investors to flip or rent back to millennials, do you think buying raw land now is the best strategy ? In my opinion, the fact that its hard to generate income off of raw desert land many investors pass because there in no rate of return. Million dollar homes are within a few miles of these parcels I’m looking at and i can buy a 2.5-5 acre parcel below 250k. I want to park my money in land because i know this area is up and coming vs risking it in the stock market. I would sit on the land for 10-20 years before building. Am i crazy or just see something a lot of other investors are missing out on? Also, small washes on parcels are not a huge issue right? I avoid anything that falls in a flood plane

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Ben – I think it could be, but it’s pretty critical to get those vacant land properties at a VERY low price.

      As for the income generation aspect of it – vacant land is actually GREAT for this… but only if you buy it cheap enough and utilize seller financing on the selling end. This can be a very lucrative strategy if you know how to find the most motivated sellers, buy at the right price and offer the best terms on the selling end.

      Check out this blog post when you have a second, you might find it helpful.

  • Lukkas says:

    I thought I’d add one note. In some cases [such as the 5 foot wide by 900 foot long] the land could possibly be acquired at a steal to couple with an adjacent property for combined use.

    For example, 5 feet wide is plenty of width for use as a shrub [possibly edible shrubs like blueberries and currants and elderberries] lined exercise track either for walking or running. It’s worthless alone but could seriously jack up the value of a connected property.

  • Sebastian B. says:

    Hey Seth, I happened upon this article while doing a little research on this topic. I am looking to purchase property and build my personal home. I’m really looking for some advice on how to purchase and build. Can I bundle the cost together? What route would make the most sense? Thanks.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Sebastian – thanks for checking out the article! I’m not sure what you mean by “bundle the cost together” – what do you mean by this? Can you rephrase and/or elaborate on this?

  • Jennifer Wirz says:

    Great blog, very informative. You are very knowledgeable and savvy. Keep it up!!

  • Sandy says:

    We are looking at a pice of land 22 acres. Gas line across in the land and there is power line project along the one side of the land. Owner is asking cash. Price per acre is cheaper than nearby lands. What do we have to prepare before buying. Your advice is greatly appreciated.

  • Bruce says:

    Great Blog!
    I’m considering a 5.5 acre vacant lot in the forest to place my RV once in a while. But only about a 10th of it is flat, the rest is steep rocky mtn unsuitable for anything. However, it already has elect, well, and septic. They’re asking $43K, I’ve offered $25K and they countered w/ $40K. It seems like we’re a long way off.
    I’m trying to weigh the ( )s and (-)s. Having utilities already in place sounds great to me, but there’s so little usable land, I feel that I shouldn’t offer much more.
    Just curious if you’d weigh in w/ your thoughts… THANKS!

    • Mary says:

      Hi Bruce,

      I am searching for land also. I would like it to have a septic and well. I have been using zillow and landwatch.com. I have tried reaching out to real estate agents for help but they haven’t been very helpful. I was wondering would you be able to share how you find this property with elec, well and septic? Was it posted online or through a real estate agent, etc?

      • Lily says:

        I have 20 acres in Kern County, Califonia for sale if anyone is interested.

      • Bruce says:

        I just lucked out and found it in a newspaper real estate supplement. It’s also on the listing realtor’s website. It’s rare to find vacant land w/ utilities in place.

        Good luck with your search!

        • Mary says:

          Thank you for sharing how you came across the property! It is rare to find vacant land with utilities in place. I hadn’t thought of real estate supplements. Looks like I will be expanding and considering additional resources in my search.

          Thanks again and good luck with the property!

  • Bob Reimer says:

    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
    Now I was reading about the 1450 sq ft build. A baby house maybe. I’d be more inclined toward a squad tent, (i have one 16X32 with a woodstove and 5000 kw generator and string of lights for sale. $3500.00 plus shipping and handling.), or a plains INDIAN Teepee which I also have for $2500.00 plus shipping and handling. Real Buffalo Robes, very soft and heavy, for $3500.00 a piece plus shipping and handling.
    Hey it’s been great
    Bob

  • Eric says:

    Very interesting read. I am looking at some desert land in both NV and AZ. They are between 40-80 acres each. My budget seems to afford places that either have an old well, or power at the lot line, but not both. Which utility do you feel is initially more critical to have of the two? I know adding a solar system or having power brought in is very cost prohibitive, so my thought was to go with the power on the lot. I figured I could always have water trucked in and stored in a tank since the properties are easily 2WD road accessible. I figure that buying property with an old well may be worthless and not worth the price increase of the property. And I have been reading that drilling a well is a gamble. Thanks in advance for some insight.

    • Seth Williams says:

      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.

      Best of luck!

  • John says:

    Wow, it was a very good read indeed. I like how this article provided so much good information when it comes to real estate investment. I have my own real estate agency myself and I really like reading the sorts of these, here is another good read before buying a housee. I have learned a few tricks from it and anyone who’s interested in real estate will have a great time with it, too.

  • Rainie says:

    Hello Seth,
    I happened to find a land which is about 0.21 acres. There was a house on it before, but the owner took away a house. They are selling the land now. If you were me, which information would you look for? I plan to build a house later.

    Thank you for taking your time.

    • Seth Williams says:

      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.

  • mark hoy says:

    Another thing to imagine is unforeseen usages for land.
    In the future there could be uses for land we haven’t yet even thought about.
    Solar farms and wind farms are something we never heard about in my youth!
    I have railroad frontage running about 1 mile along southern boundary my farmland.
    The farmland is rented to a good farmer . But someday it would make good Ag industrial.
    LAND is the best asset you can ever own. Go for it !!! and thanks the great website !!

    • Seth Williams says:

      Interesting way to look at land Mark – I agree! It’s hard to imagine all the potential uses for some properties.

      Have you seen this article? Might be worth checking out – I bet you’d like it.

  • Mary says:

    Hello Seth,

    I am currently searching for land to build a self sustaining home. I read your article and it is very helpful and informative. Thank you! I have a few questions. What kind of professional would I need to hire to verify if water will be accessible? Would you be able to provide an estimate of the cost involved to obtain this information?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Mary, I couldn’t give you any kind of estimate, but if you’re looking for answers on this – you might want to contact a groundwater consultant in your area. You can find them all over the country from this website. Good luck!

  • Ulysses says:

    I my 32 year old and i was thing about buy a property, and building a home. But reading your blog made help me understand what to look for. I want to start but lots are to high should i wait into they lower the price down.

  • Vicki Cambridge says:

    Hi Seth,
    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.

    Unfortunately, I owe $4000 in back taxes on the 2 acres. Most of the $4,000 owed is mostly penalty fees, since the annual tax on the 2 acres is $300 yr. My home on the 5 acres is valued at $500,000 and the 2 acres is valued at $14,000. If I pay the past due tax fees and penalties on the 2 acres, and have both properties joined, will the value of my home increase since it will be on 7 acres instead of 5 acres. And if so, will my homes value only increase by the value of the 2 acres ($14,000) for a total of $514,000? Also, the 2 acres is land locked and on a steep hill. Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Vicki – it’s tough to say for sure, but since the 2 acres are currently landlocked, I can’t see how it would hurt anything to adjoin to two. It’s more of a question for an appraiser (as they would be able to comb through everything and give you a more accurate idea). Sorry I can’t be of more help here!

  • CJ says:

    Great blog, very helpful… Do you have any recommended Lenders for Land Purchases?
    Specifically in Colorado.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi CJ, thanks for stopping by! Most of my properties are bought for just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars with the cash in my bank account – so I haven’t had much of a need for lenders. Sorry about that!

  • adi says:

    Please enroll/subscribe me to REtipster club

  • Tracy says:

    I have been looking a piece of months for months and can not find anything suitable. Everything, these days are in subdivision. I want to be away from neighbors as much as I can. Yes, I have a Realtor. Any suggestion on finding what I am looking. I live near Raleigh in NC.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Tracy – have you considered looking for properties that aren’t currently listed for sale? That’s how I find all of my properties (and this is something most Realtors won’t be able to help you with, because most of them are only looking at the properties currently listed on the MLS). I find these properties by sending out a direct mail campaign to the delinquent tax list in counties that are RURAL.

  • Merci says:

    WOW! This is a great read! Very informative. This really helps us now that we want to put a conditional offer on a property that owned by a paper company (tree farm).

  • Vince says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this incredibly informative piece!

  • Taylor Wilson says:

    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.

  • Kimberley says:

    I am looking at a property in Spanish Fort, Alabama. The neighborhood development began prior to the 2008 crash and sat for years. A house has started being built on a lot in 2013. A crack formed in the foundation of the house, and a stop work was ordered by the city. At this point my thought was to buy the property, scrap the house (its still sitting in the beginning stages after 3 years) and start over. The property now has made a mess in the neighbors yard for a over two years. 1) can the run off problem be fixed (its a huge mess) 2) how can a person get copies of photos (topography) of the property before the development started by the builders? These copies would have been from around 2006. I heard seeing the natural lay of the land could be very important when deciding if this run off problem is fixable. Thanks you for any help you can offer. I am just fearful of purchasing a huge nightmare that can’t be fixed.
    Kimberley

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Kimberly – in terms of the historical topography – probably the best way would be to contact someone at the county (or maybe even a local surveyor) to see if they have any suggestions on where you could find this. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere, it’s just a question of where to find the most accurate historical information.

      Another (less scientific) way would be to check out what you can find in Google Earth (like this). Try using the historical imagery button to see if the elevations were any different at this site back in 2006. It may or may not be helpful, but it’s a free option, and it might be better than nothing.

      Good luck!

  • Chris Maxwell says:

    We own about 4 acres with a house on it and a land locked property adjacent to ours is for sale. The owner came by to offer it to us for that reason. It is a 17 acre raw piece of land with a creek and cliffs really is a beautiful property. The town values it at 18K with annual taxes of about $600. He wants 25K for it and has owned it for about 50 years. The value to us is as a private wild life refuge which we could hike and camp. It’s in the Hudson Valley and close to transportation to NYC. We plan to be in our home for at least another 15 to 20 years. Would this add any value to our home or be an asset at the time we sell our home?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Chris, thanks for the comment. That’s a pretty subjective question (there are a lot of variables to consider), but I don’t see how it could hurt the value of your overall estate. The question is – what is the land actually worth? Is it worth more or less than $25K? One way to find out would be to follow the ideas in this blog post. As long as the property is worth substantially more than $25K (and assuming you actually want the additional land), it’s probably a worthwhile investment… but again – it’s impossible for me to tell you anything concrete without looking at everything (which I can’t really do).

  • Jake says:

    Hi Seth, as a fellow who is very interested in the land biz, what tips do you have to those who are just starting out? Also what site would be best to purchase parcels of land?
    I really enjoy the website by the way! Totally helpful!

    • Seth Williams says:

      Thanks for the kind words Jake! That’s a bit of a loaded question, but if you’re looking for a step-by-step guide on how to get started, you could always check out the 12 week course on my membership website at REtipster.Club. This will show you all the basics on how to get started.

      As for the best site – I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Are you looking for a website with vacant land listings (like land watch.com), or are you trying to buy directly from private owners?

  • mihir says:

    hi i am looking one land . Its has c-4 zoing and muilty family zoning on it. right now nothing standing on the land but there was house before and they torn down.is there any problem with it? can you tell me what kind of inspection do i have to do before buying.

    Right now i don’t want to built anything on it.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Mihir, try calling the local planning/zoning department and see if they have any insights about it. They may be able to tell you the history of the property and/or if there are any issues you should be aware of. Good luck!

  • Matthew Heaton says:

    Thank you for sharing your tools, and experience!

    What would you suggest for someone ( myself ) that is just starting to look into potentially buying land. Lets say I’m doing my research before getting into anything over my head! 😀 Any books, articles , people, to read / watch ?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Matthew, no problem! Thanks for your nice comment.

      In your situation, I guess it would depend on what your intended use for the property is. Are you looking to build a house? Use it for farming? Camping? Hunting? Drilling?

      There are all kinds of various uses for vacant land. Whatever your intended use is, this should give you a good indication of what items to focus your efforts on in the list above.

  • Gerald Harris says:

    Great Article Once again Seth

    Tell me this. Is it true that in some States in the country that when you buy vacant land and get the deed recorded, the county can remove the back taxes? or would I still be obligated to pay them. I currently reside in Atlanta

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Gerald! When you’re buying a property with delinquent taxes, someone always has to pay the tax man (the bill doesn’t just get wiped clear because you’re the new owner). When I’m dealing with tax delinquent owners, I almost always pay these off (and I factor the extra cost into my offer price).

      I hope that helps!

  • René Maimo says:

    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.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi René – thanks for your comment! I’m glad you got some answers out of this article.

      My father was actually born in Central African Republic back in 1954 (his parents were missionaries there for several years). I hear it’s a beautiful place – I’d love to visit some day!

  • Dean says:

    Great tips listed here. All need to be taken into consideration before purchasing. My favorite tip from above is: “What is the Topography of the Property?” I think this often goes overlooked and should be an area of focus. Thanks for sharing this great resource!

    • Seth Williams says:

      Thanks for checking out the post and sharing your thoughts Dean! I agree, especially depending on what area of the country you’re in, topography can be a HUGE issue to watch out for.

  • Ronnie says:

    Hi Seth,
    Your responses is truly encouraging. I am Construction Manager, starting out in development. I could really use your insight or how to begin. I want to build an resort, a place where families can come with all the amenities that you have to pay leaving the state of NY. With Executive suites for out of state executives. some rooms, some kitchenettes and E. Suites. Anyway, I found this great location, went to the town to see who owns the land. It is in a commercial area. I have a broker who will reach out to the owner for the sale. What would you suggest my next steps should be; get the property, get it survey, have a design prepared. I want to get investors on board. What would you suggest, I have for pitching my proposal to investors. I currently work with Architects, Engineers and they are willing to support me in this project. Just not sure what my next step should be. Any recommendations.

    Thanks,
    Ronnie

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Ronnie, thanks for your comment. It sounds like this project is WAY beyond the scope of anything I’ve ever had direct experience with, so I’m not sure how much help I can be.

      Have you thought about contacting your local SBDC? Given what you’re looking to do, they would probably have the best advice to share with you (and it’s all free – which is hard to beat).

      Good luck!

  • Bob says:

    I just purchased 5 acres in a rural setting for half the assessed value (the assessment seems a bit high) as an investment. The advice I’ve received to increase the value is have it surveyed, sub-divided into 2 lots, and get a perk test done for both lots. Does this make sense to you? What about others ways to increase the value, such as putting in a gravel drive, running electric, or wells? It has good road frontage, and utilities are at least at the corner of the property.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Bob, I can’t say for sure without seeing all the specifics of the property – but generally speaking, that sounds like a reasonable plan (though it will cost some money, and that’s another thing to consider in the grand scheme).

      I probably wouldn’t go so far as to put down a gravel drive or anything else yet – simply because you don’t know what your buyers will have in mind, and they may want to go in a different direction with the property altogether… but something as basic as a perc test and survey will apply to most potential buyers (and it’s not terribly expensive to do).

      Does that make sense?

      • Bob says:

        Makes perfect sense, and I’ve ordered the perc test, which will determine if we can subdivide into 2 lots or not.
        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.
        I’m sure the correct answer is to either focus on selling, or keeping it and making the improvements for ourselves, but I thought I’d ask anyway, holding out hope for both!

  • Jon says:

    Thanks for the article Seth. Very informative. Vacant land is one of those types of property I’m coming across in my search for good deals on houses. I’ve been a little brave offering people a cash offer for their lot. Only to find out later the parcel has a myriad of challenges. (Most of which could be dealt with-time and money, but still not worth it). Thankfully nobody took the deals yet. I have learned a lot and gained more understanding. I am closer to getting raw land at a great price that is build-able! Articles like yours, helps guys like me, stay focused and saved from troubles! As we know the bigger the challenges and unknowns the higher the risk-and the payday. Tread carefully.

  • zel says:

    What about old quarry land for sale and land that has old mine shaft’s on it???

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Zel, that’s an interesting one. For anything out-of-the-ordinary like this, it’s not a bad idea to call your local planning/zoning department. Tell them the situation, specify the property and ask them if there’s anything you need to worry about or be aware of. Chances are, they’ll be able to tell you.

      Good luck!

  • Athan says:

    Hi,

    Is it okay to buy Land Rights? The seller has had sold land a few times and he’s getting paid for it, so I am thinking, so that is legit. He’s selling me a piece of land, he has the rights on the land and he’s selling it to me, once I paid the price, I can have the land registered for title in my name. Is this OK?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Athan – when a property is sold from one person to another, it typically comes with all of the standard rights to use the property UNLESS the deed specifically specifies that certain rights are being withheld.

      This is one of many reasons why people buy title insurance when they purchase a property, because it ensures that the title is clear and that the buyer is actually getting all of the rights they’re expecting to get (unless otherwise noted in the title insurance commitment). If you’re concerned about this and you haven’t already ordered a title commitment, you might want to consider doing this.

  • Herman says:

    Hello

    Am looking for people that are looking to buy vacated land in a Developing country.
    please contact me for more information
    thank you

  • kat perkins says:

    thank you
    valuable and concise informaton

  • Laureen says:

    Hi, I found your blog via searching for help for a decision. I have two 10 Acre parcels with views of the Stanislaus Mountains in Northern California that are part of an 8 parcel development back in 2006 for $160k each (ouch) with the intention of building a home on one and the other as an investment. One has a well the other does not. There were two owners of the development that built right before the financial crises but no one has built since. I wanted to lower the property tax so I listed them each for $60k, not thinking I’d ever get an offer and since dirt is not selling in that area well, but low and behold within two weeks I received two offers on the parcel with the water well (one from a real estate agent/2nd from a neighbor behind the property). I’m not sure but I think both have different intentions for purchasing which doesn’t matter (you are able to grow marijuana in that county). Now I’m uncertain about selling since it was not my intention and I’d really like to recover my investment. Should I wait to see if land values rise to what I paid back then or should I take the money and run!? They both asked for owner financing. There is access to power and the development’s access is through a gated community. Any comments would be welcomed and appreciated. Thank you!

  • Kurt says:

    Rule #19: Beware the costs of running utilities.
    I’m learning the hard way about the hidden costs of buying empty land. Unless utilities are already there, it can be VERY expensive to run them from the street to the building site. For example, one parcel we looked at was about 1000′ feet off the main road where utilities are located. To run city water, gas, electricity, and cable could run anywhere from $10-100 per foot! Multiply that by 1000 and I better understand why developers say that they spend the same on running utilities as they do on the land. It may cause us to reevaluate our goals and possibly shift to buying a property that already has a rundown home on it.

    Rule 20: Beware of sharing water from a well.
    This is fraught with problems due to human fallibility. As long as you and your neighbor(s) get along great, everything’s fine, but there are about a million ways for it to go wrong. If he get’s pissed off at you, your water goes off. If he dies and stops paying the electric (pump) bill, your water goes off. If he decides to fill his private lake and uses up all the water, your water goes off. What if it was originally his well, you move in, then a month later says the well has to be redone – are you paying for half of his expenses enough though you just got there? If you refuse, your water goes off. The possibilities go on and on… so keep it in mind.

  • Sam says:

    Hi, Great blog ! Is there anything to do with worthless land I purchased. Too small to build or a Swamp? How can I get it off my hands? Is there any value holding and paying taxes for it.

  • Kurt says:

    Rule #18: Before traveling to view a promising parcel, check the county assessor’s website using the parcel number. Some are VERY helpful, containing all sorts of information such as what areas are known for landslides, flooding, wetland/buffer areas, contamination, noxious weeds, etc. The sites also give past purchase pricing and tax information, and sometimes even if there’s been “issues” with the land (such as a previous owner building unapproved structures which they may have had to tear down, leaving a foundation for you to deal with).

  • Earl says:

    This is a great article! I agree that there is a lot to take into consideration when investing in land. Most people fail to realize as well that investing in land is most time, if you find the right deal even better than buying properties already constructed on a piece of land. People also forget that there are many expenses involved in developing vacant land to be “usable”. All of the points made here are extremely important to consider and one should do extensive research before purchasing any property and ask yourself these 15 questions mentioned above before purchasing. I have done lots of research and have bought properties in the past, the best company/website in my opinion is http://www.cheaplands.com I have never seen deals like theirs in my real estate career.

  • Kurt says:

    I’d like to suggest Rule #16 for your list:
    Double check ad data for any property you’re considering; they’re often full of mistakes – not necessarily misleading information, but it comes from laziness. What doesn’t help is that when a listing first gets posted, apparently nearly all real estate websites post it as their own without checking it for accuracy. For example, we’re considering a property that has multiple issues:
    1.The pictures don’t match what’s seen on Google Earth.
    2. The map doesn’t show the parcel boundaries.
    3. The description text seems to be describing a different parcel.
    4. The parcel number is of a lot that’s a good mile away, yet the description doesn’t match that lot either.

    In short: you may have to call a realtor to get to the bottom of it, but don’t expect a quick answer; as they’re likely using the same flawed data as you are.

    We haven’t quite lost hope with this particular property, because if it’s actually the parcel listed as the parcel number, it’s pretty nice. Plus, due to the errors, it’s likely dissuaded other potential buyers from digging deeper, which works to our advantage.

    PS: Oh… Rule #17: Always zoom out a bit in Google Earth to have a look around. Several times I found a “nice” parcel was near railroad tracks, an airport, a rock quarry (think: dust), or an industrial park…

  • David says:

    Hello great blog ! I wanted to ask you a question Do you think I will have a hard time buying a peace of land let’s say 10 to 20 acres. Just to build a large pond or small lake & cabin only for my use for fishing and camping out ? Do you think it will have a lot of red tape ?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi David, I think it has everything to do with the zoning of the property, and what the local municipality will allow you to do with it (given the size, shape, location, and what exactly you’re hoping to do with it). Once you have a specific property in mind, you could find out pretty easily by calling the local planning & zoning department. Just ask them what can be done with the property, and they should be able to give you your answer!

  • Dave says:

    Hi Seth – My brother-in-law and I are looking to get into real estate investing and have our eye on a piece of land (we want to start small, FYI). It is 1 of 8 lots, all of them are only 1,742 sq ft, for commercial use only, and the lot we are looking at is the end lot…My thought is, buy now and hold on to it for a length of time until a developer comes along and wants to buy all 8 lots. This would obviously need all sellers to agree to sell which I am not sure how tricky that would be. My question is, do you see any chance for money to be made here? The lot is in a great location and I honestly can’t believe nothing has been built there yet. More details: $16,500 for the lot, taxes are $1,087 / year which I know is a little high based on what you stated above but even so, after negotiations, I think we could get taxes down to 4%. I know it might be hard to say, ‘yes you will make money’ or ‘no, you won’t’ but just wanted any insight you could give.

    Thanks

    • Seth Williams says:

      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.

  • Cassie says:

    Hi Seth!

    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.

    Thanks,
    Cassie

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Cassie, sounds like an exciting opportunity! I might suggest that you call your local planning and zoning department. Tell them about the property and what you’re interested in doing with it. Ask them if they know of any particular issues you should be aware of. They should be able to help you check at least a few of these things off your list from the get go.

  • Victoria says:

    Hi Seth,
    My questions are:
    My husband and I are planning to buy a home on 3. 3 acres, surrounded on 3 sides of “preserved woodlands”.
    Could there be any issues in the future as the state cutting the trees down? Or something else?
    I always understood ( perhaps erronously) that ” preserved woodlands” cannot be cut down.
    Thank you so much for your generosity in helping people.
    Regards,
    Victoria

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Victoria – you’d probably want to check with your local municipality to see who owns these parcels that surround the house (or you could also check out this tutorial or this tutorial to figure it out yourself). You generally don’t want to touch any trees that aren’t on the parcel that you own… but in terms of whether those surrounding parcels are “preserved woodlands” – that’s an answer you could probably get from someone with the local government office. Just Google the township or county clerk, give them a call and see what you can find out.

      Good luck!

  • A J says:

    Hi Seth,
    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!

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi AJ – good question, thanks for asking!

      Honestly, since you’re the buyer, there’s no real reason not to use a realtor (because they’ll take their money from the seller, not you). I’d just be sure to get one who knows their stuff (i.e. – make sure they have some level of experience dealing with vacant land, as it’s a whole different animal than what most realtors are used to dealing with).

      Regarding the appraisal, it might not be a bad idea. On the same coin, land appraisals aren’t always the most reliable. If you want to try your hand at appraising it yourself, you can always check out this article: https://retipster.com/valueofland – you might find it helpful.

      Best of luck to you!

  • Rod says:

    Seth, thank you for being you and having taken the time to write these very useful words that I believe will help many amateurs looking for some direction, like myself, avoid the unforeseen pitfalls of life.

    Rod

    • Seth Williams says:

      Absolutely Rob – thanks for checking out the post! I’m really glad you got some good use out of it!

  • Kristen Owsley says:

    Thanks so much for the great info! Really appreciate you taking the time! 🙂

  • Kristy says:

    Hi Seth – We have 50 acres of farm property in Ohio that we had to buy off our grandparents back in 2009. We are thinking of separating the property so the farm house is by itself and then look to find a developer that would be interested in buying the other property to develop it. How do we go about finding developers to buy the property?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Kristy – are there any developers in your area? It might be worth a simple Google search and a phone call. Just tell them about your potential opportunity and see if they have any interest in working with you!

  • joyce says:

    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.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Joyce, I guess it depends on how much money you have sunk into this property (and/or how much money you’re paying for it per month). If you feel you can make a profit but renting it out, that would be a solid option (as long as you disclose that the property is within the 100 year flood plain).

      Alternatively, if you’re tired of dealing with the property (for whatever reason), you could just as well sell it, get the money and get it out of your life.

      It sounds like either option is feasible, it just depends on whether you want a big payout now, or a couple smaller streams of income to last you indefinitely.

  • Edwin says:

    Hey Seth! I’m looking to buy a small piece of property for a cargo container home. What type of zoning, if any,should I look for? Would no zoning be better for this type of home? Thanks for your time.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Edwin – good question. I’ve never even thought about that particular use – but the best way to find out would be to call your local county/city/township zoning & planning department and just ask them:

      a. What is the zoning on this property (tell them whichever property you’re looking at)
      b. Can I use this property for a cargo container home?

      They should be able to tell you in a flash.

  • Alvira Nicholas says:

    Great article, thank you for sharing this valuable information. I’m waiting for your future post.

  • carrie says:

    How do i come up with a offer for a piece of property to you go by the appraised value?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Carrie – I’m not sure I entirely understand your question, but it starts with YOU establishing an approximate market value for the property (see here). Once you have this, you need to factor in all of your expenses and make an offer based on the profit margin you want to have in the deal (this is how I do it).

      Hope that helps!

  • PSantos says:

    If you have been suckered into purchasing a vacant lot in a gated community due to pressure selling, is there a way out? I’ve had the property in PA for 7 years now and I need to use the funds that I pay for the property (mortgage and taxes) for the needs of my children. I am hoping you can help me. Thanks.

    • Seth Williams says:

      I’d say the first thing would be to try and list it for sale – at the very least, this will let the world know that you’re trying to get it sold (a lot better than NOT having it listed). There’s always a way to sell a property – it’s just a matter of how much you’re willing to sell it for (and how long you’re willing to wait).

      Good luck!

  • Ray says:

    Hey Seth,
    Great post, I have a couple questions.
    1. Are you still currently investing in land today?
    2. Are there any other warning signs you look for besides the ones listed when doing your research?
    3. Would you be interested in the purchase of Pluto? The U.N. never responded to the email I sent them so it’s totally legit 🙂

    • FT says:

      The UN can burn in hell, they own nothing and they will all burn in hell, the satanic marxists, you are clearly their puppet for thinking they have some right to earth or moon ownership that you need to bow down to their satanic group and ask them permission for anything.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Ray,

      Thanks for the questions!

      1. Yes, I am.
      2. There is always the potential for some odd-ball issues to arise (things that nobody could ever pridict until you actually assess the specific situation that you’re in. It’s also worth keeping in mind – every state has a different set of rules and regulations to abide by, so it’s important to understand the implications of where you’re working.
      3. No thanks – I don’t plan on visiting Pluto anytime soon (nor do I know any human being who has ever been there).

      Thanks!
      Seth

  • Sam says:

    Good day
    Found your article interesting and had the following question.
    Lets say a developer owns 1 acre in an area surrounded by 100’s of acres of vacant land. The vacant land is owned by several parties including the government.
    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.
    What are some of the things that a developer in this scenario can do.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Sam, thanks for the question (and glad you liked the article)!

      If a developer wants to secure the land around their property, a couple of things (at a bare minimum) need to happen:

      1. The respective owner(s) of these properties need to be willing to sell to the developer (there is no guarantee that this will ever happen, but usually the higher the offer price, the higher the likelihood someone will sell).
      2. The developer needs to have the means necessary to buy (access to cash or financing).

      If either of these things are inhibited, it wouldn’t be highly unlikely that the land can be secured in the way you describe. In a free market, the seller can (and usually will) sell to whoever is offering the best deal at the right time – so if the developer can’t be competitive in this way, it boils down to the old saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers”.

      Does that make sense?

  • Dpakk says:

    is 1450 land is enough to built home ??

    • Seth Williams says:

      If by “1450” you mean SQUARE MILES, then yes – that’s plenty.
      If by “1450” you mean SQUARE INCHES, then no – that’s probably not.
      Since you didn’t specify… I can’t really give you a definitive answer.

  • Steve Johnson says:

    The guy who sells property on the moon. Thats good. I enjoy that one.

    Great article by the way. I’m doing more research into the valuation of land so I’ve been paging through a number of your articles with land as the topic.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Seth Williams says:

      Thanks Steve! Valuing land can be a tough nut to crack – I know from experience. If you need any insights on this, just let me know. Good luck!

      • Michele says:

        Seth, on another side of the coin…I have vacant property that I am trying to sell. I had realtors who just listed property, no action, how do I find potential investors wanting to buy vacant land (over 100 acres, has all utilities)?

        • Katherine says:

          Just out of curiosity where is your property as we are looking

        • Seth Williams says:

          Hi Michele,

          I know what you mean – I’ve found that most realtors aren’t that effective at selling land (just my personal experience). If I were you, I’d try to follow some of the ideas mentioned here, here or here.

  • Virginia says:

    Regarding the possibility of the property being used as a makeshift junkyard or landfill, how would you find out if that is the case?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Virginia – good question. The only way I’ve been able to do this is either:

      a. Drive to the property and visit it myself.
      b. Call a local realtor and offer them $50 (or the possibility of doing business in the future) to drive to the property, take some pictures, and email them to me.

      Neither of them are as quick & easy as looking at a satellite image via Google Earth or Bing Maps – but it’s the only way I know to be 100% certain of what I’m buying.

      • Wanetta Woodard says:

        I want land so I can have a home and agriculture built

      • Gregory D Lake says:

        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.

      • Virginia says:

        Thanks for the clarification Seth. I was really curious about how to do that.

  • Kathy says:

    Great blog
    Thanks for sharing!
    I don’t know if I’m disgusted or impressed with the moon guy.

  • Margaretta Jacobson says:

    You’ve got a great blog there keep it up. I’ll be watching out for most posts.

    • Eddie valencia says:

      Can you inherit leins or property taxes when buing a property vacant land

      • Seth Williams says:

        If the property taxes or liens aren’t paid off, those lien holders will still have a claim to the property – so effectively, yes. Someone needs to make sure those things are paid off in order to keep the title clear.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Thanks Margaretta – glad you’re enjoying it!

      • Mike says:

        Seth,

        What would be youre opinion of buying some vacant land , creating a lake or pond ,and making sellable lots all the way around to create a sweet real estate deal

        • Seth Williams says:

          I’m sure it could be done. I actually live in a subdivision that started exactly like how you’re describing back in the 70’s. I think it can be a pretty big speculative gamble unless you’re absolutely certain that there’s a huge demand for what you’re creating… but if you end up being right, you could easily make millions (depending on how big of a project you’re looking at).

      • Ray says:

        I have lived on this property for 20yrs. Its in Harrison county in WV, I have been trying to buy it for 20yrs. I have a doublewide on a permanent foundation, a 16×16 permanent building, a pool with a 40×60 deck around it, all underground utilities, septic tank with fields, and $10,000 road and parking to the house, THIS IS ALL INVESTED BY ME,, this was all on a verbal family deal , (a hand shake like in the old days, when your word actually meant something) and we were supposed to be the first option to purchase if sold , now they have put it up for sale, we have offered them $1,000 over asking, they have not accepted our offer, they have continued to keep advertising the property for sale, what are my rights as a buyer when this situation occurs as a buyer that has a dwelling on this property for 20yrs.

        • Seth Williams says:

          Hi Ray, sorry to hear about that – sounds like a major hassle.

          I’m not the best person to answer that, because I’m not a lawyer and I know very little about what your rights are – but I imagine it could be difficult to prove much without a signed contract. That being said, I’ve heard that there are potential claims on the grounds of “squatters rights“. If you’ve lived at the property for 20 years, there may be something worth exploring here.

          • Angela Briggs says:

            I think in some states, if you make repairs to the property, you have the right to put a lien of some kind against the owner to have them pay you for the work you have done. I know it’s possible in some states but not sure how or which ones.

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