You’ve driven past a plot of land for years dreaming about how you would love to own it, but it isn’t for sale. It is possible to buy land that isn’t for sale.
To buy property that isn’t for sale, you need to find out who owns the vacant land and contact them. Make sure you have a reasonable offer in mind when you contact them. If they accept, ensure you find out any environmental concerns or restrictions on the property before finalizing the sale.
Using the knowledge of real estate attorneys, lenders, and personal experience, we have put together this guide to help you purchase the land of your dreams, even if it isn’t for sale. We will also help you get prepared to avoid any pitfalls that happen while buying your dream property.
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How to Buy Land That Is Not For Sale
Whether you already have a plot of land in mind, or you just know you want to move to a certain area, don’t let a lack of real estate listings deter you from making that a reality.
There are many reasons to buy undeveloped land. You could want it for investment reasons, to build a house on, or to farm. Even if that plot you want isn’t for sale, it is still possible to buy the raw land or a vacant lot you’ve been eyeing.
First, we are going to look at the pros and cons of buying undeveloped land. Then we will go over everything you need to do before and during the sale.
What Are the Pros of Buying Undeveloped Land
There are several pros to buying land. Some of these are obvious, but some aren’t common knowledge. Let’s look at these now.
If you are just looking for an investment, vacant land is the way to go. As the saying goes, they aren’t making anymore, so it will only increase in value.
With a parcel of land, there is less upkeep and maintenance than other real estate investments. Depending on restrictions in the area, the most you would have to do is keep it mowed and keep squatters from living on it.
A Blank Slate for Your Dream Home
If you are looking for a place to build your dream home, then undeveloped land could be the perfect choice for you. You can choose where to put anything you want.
Since there is no plumbing, electricity, or other infrastructure, you can put anything anywhere. You get to decide what trees you want to keep and which you want to cut down. You can decide where to put a pond, a garden, or a pool.
Less Competition for Land
In some areas, the housing market is fierce. You may end up in a bidding war with three other people which drives the cost of home ownership up.
Many people find vacant land too daunting to develop. If you are up to the challenge and can afford to wait, then buying land may be an easier way to go.
What Are the Cons of Buying Undeveloped Land
Making a land purchase isn’t all sunshine and roses. If it were easy, then everyone would be doing it. Let’s look at some of the cons of a land purchase.
Land Requires a Larger Down Payment
Since there isn’t as much competition for raw land, lenders require a higher down payment since it is a larger risk for them. The folks at Rocket Mortgage say you could pay as much as a 50% down payment on a land only purchase.
Extra Cost for Permits and Utilities
When you buy undeveloped land, everything you do to develop will require a permit. Plus, it will have no utility connections. You will be responsible for having water and electric lines run. If you don’t have access to sewer lines, you will need to install your own mechanical septic system.
More Time Spent to Get Started
When purchasing land that is not for sale, you have to research who the owner is. If the owner is willing to sell, you have to research any zoning restrictions, environmental concerns, and easement issues.
How to Find Out Who Owns a Property
If you have your heart set on a piece of land that isn’t for sale, the first thing you need to do is find out who owns the land and if they would even be willing to sell it. Retired real estate attorney, Jedediah Mannis, says that you should start with your local government.
If the land you want is in the city, start with the city tax assessor's office. If the property is outside the city limits, then you can start with your county or parish tax assessor's office. Many of these assessors have online portals you can use to find out more about a piece of land.
How to Find Out How Much Raw Land Is Worth
Before you contact the owner, it is best to have an idea of what the land is worth. Don’t go into a phone call or interaction totally unprepared. A local real estate agent can help you with this if you want to hire out their services.
If you don’t want to get a real estate agent involved, then you can figure out what the value is on your own. To do this, look at other equivalent properties that just sold and properties that are for sale right now. You should be able to get an average value per acre or square foot.
How to Contact Land Owner for Land That Isn’t for Sale
Sometimes the only information you will get from your local government is the name and address of the land owner. You can use this information to try to find a phone number, but if you can’t, you will need to write a letter.
Contacting by Letter
When contacting the property owner by mail, make sure your envelope is handwritten. You don’t want it to look like spam or junk mail.
Make your letter personal. Let them know why you love the property and what your plans are. Make sure to include your name, address, and phone number.
Contacting by Phone
If you can, it is better to contact your potential seller by phone. That way you can address any questions or concerns they have immediately. Always be polite. Remember you are trying to convince them to do something for you.
If you are a salesperson, you can try to convince them why it is a great idea to sell their undeveloped land now. Also, keep it personal. Sellers often want to know that their land is going to be taken care of.
If You Can’t Find the Who Owns the Land
Sometimes, it is tricky to find the person or corporation owning the land that you want. In these cases, you can try talking to neighbors or other locals in the area. You can also try to do a land search at your local library. If you are still having trouble, you can go to a local title company and hire them to do a title search.
Do I Need a Real Estate Agent to Buy Property
Since real estate agents charge a commission, you may be trying to determine if you need one for your land purchase. While you don’t need to have a real estate agent to buy property, it may be a better choice for you if you are not prepared to do everything yourself.
Land purchases aren’t just about finding property and making a deal. When buying land, you need to find out about any restrictions, environmental concerns, easement issues, and zoning issues on your own.
A real estate agent can quickly find out everything you need to know about your property from road access to environmental tests needed. If you find an experienced real estate agent, the time and money they save you may be worth the cost of their commission.
If you feel confident in your knowledge and abilities, then you can do everything yourself. Make sure you use a title company to ensure that property lines are correct and that ownership titles are clear.
Find Out Any Restrictions and Concerns Before Buying
As a prospective buyer, it is up to you to make sure you do your due diligence to make sure your investment is sound. You can’t depend on the seller to provide you with accurate information about the property line, zoning restrictions, road access, and environmental studies needed.
If the property is completely undeveloped, and the owner doesn’t live nearby, they may not know everything you will need to know to develop the land. It is up to you to contact any state or local offices needed to find out any restrictions that may come up.
This is where real estate agents and title companies can come in handy if you are not experienced in this type of research. If you decide to go it alone, then city hall or county records should be your first stop.
About THE AUTHOR
Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.Read More About Brittany Melling