What Is The Difference Between Developed And Undeveloped Land? | askBAMLand

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Land ownership and construction have some terms, including developed land and undeveloped land. What is the difference between developed and undeveloped land?

There is a big difference between developed and undeveloped land – and the differences go beyond what the eye sees right away.

The difference between developed and undeveloped land most often involves the presence of utilities to make the land habitable for humans. This includes running water, electricity, buildings, and otherwise making land accessible to people.

We'll go into more detail about the differences between undeveloped land and developed land, as well as the process for developing land. How is the government involved? How about banks and money?

We've done plenty of research on the process of land ownership. We are excited to share some of the basics of land ownership and land development with you.

Table of Contents

What is undeveloped land?

While there are a few ways to find undeveloped land, one of the most commonly used methods of defining it are a plot of land without development to build a home or building. Visually, this is most often characterized by a lack of flat land, or the presence of trees, or anything that might get in the way of a building.

Another important feature – or lack of feature for undeveloped land is a lack of utilities. A flow of electricity, water, and plumbing can be pretty important to most modern American homes businesses. Land that doesn't have ready access to overhead or underground power lines, running water, or sewage, is considered undeveloped because in most cases, a government authority – and most people in general, won't want to live there.

Undeveloped land could be a vacant lot, or even a pasture with a field of grass. In another sense undeveloped land can also be a lot of land that was used commercially or for a residence, but is now abandoned but potentially harmful. A former manufacturing facility that has potentially toxic hazards could be considered undeveloped land simply because no one can use it in the current form. This kind of undeveloped land can be rather difficult to make developed, but it can also bring serious value once it is complete.

What is developed land?

Given that we have two distinct options here, some of the differences should already be pretty clear. To start, you'll have the presence of utilities. In some areas you can tell if electricity is available from the presence of overhead power lines. Water can be tougher to spot because it is most often undelivered underground, though not far enough down to freeze.

In most cases, developed land needs the presence of electricity and water to keep lights on – and water is rather essential to humans for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and eating. Once these are in place (nearly all American homes have running water and electricity as it's often required to build them), a home or building most often needs flat land. This can involve tearing up the land to remove trees, then using machinery like bulldozers and other equipment to create a flat surface for a foundation.

You might not think about one of the more important features of developed land because your workplace probably already has one, and cooperation between a city and neighborhood or business made one: Access. Transportation in most parts of America favors cars or bikes – though some walking is involved too. A road to get to a place is generally helpful unless the new owner prefers the peace and quiet – and solitude of a difficult to get to the location.

How do you get from undeveloped to developed?

One part of an easy answer is to say that when land over wants to develop the land, it depends on what they want to build. In some situations, you might be able to live on land with a home if you drill into the ground for a well, or use a generator for electricity. While this isn't especially common, it is a way for people to live in a home without utilities.

Developing land generally requires a fair amount of paperwork. Why? Because the local government will want some say in what is required to go on land, and you'll have to have the land evalulated by a professional to see what the land needs to make your idea work. Local environmental agencies might also want to test the soil and underlying earth for any chemicals and to make sure the ground is OK to build a building on. There are many things a local government will want to test the land for – just be prepared to shell out some time and money for a large variety of tests.

While developing undeveloped land is not cheap, it certainly carries some benefits. You can make things pretty close to the way you want – as most newly development land happens outside of subdivisions with any association attached to them. For the most part, the only thing standing in your way of building a home or driveway in the way you desire is specific local government rules. The best bet to ensure you can build what you actually want is to ask the local city hall for codes and rules that you'll have to follow to avoid conflicts in the future. A plot of land in a more rural, not as often seen location, will often have fewer rules to follow.

Having undeveloped land can also be a fun process for people with extensive knowledge of construction and building – or those who can afford to hire a builder and are organized to do it for them.


One of the biggest differences that we haven't talked about yet is value. Typically, an undeveloped plot of land has some market value, but not as much as well developed land. Why? Because land development is expensive, and building the right home or business in the right place can adds lots of value to land if you are willing to invest.

Undeveloped land can be cheap, especially if the area is actively seeking growth. If you do a search for land on a realty website, you can see plots of land available in rural and sometimes suburban cities where homes have either never been built, or have been knocked down. These often sell for significantly less than land with a home – even with a home in poor shape.


Brittany Melling

Brittany Melling

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.

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