Raw land can be a great investment, but only if you buy it at a good price. Knowing how to find deals for raw land is essential for investors.
The single best way to find deals for raw land to is find land that isn’t for sale. Owners who aren’t planning to sale, but aren’t interested in keeping the land either, will sell at a lower price, and there won’t be other buyers driving the price up.
You can easily find out who owns any given parcel of land in your area. That’s all public information, but you do have to know how to access it. County courthouses keep those records, and there are online databases you can use as well. Once you know who owns the land and how to contact them, you can reach out to them with your offer for the land. It’s as simple as that. There are, of course, other methods of getting great deals on raw land, but this is the most reliable. Read on to see just how to do it.
We’ve done a lot of research on buying raw land, and the one thing experts recommend over and over again is to find land that isn’t for sale, and make an offer. Here’s everything you need to know about finding great deals on raw land.
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How Can I Buy Raw Land?
The easiest way to open up your browser, type in “land for sale near me” or near wherever you want your land to be, and follow the links. There are entire real estate agencies dedicated to this stuff, and if you don’t see any listings that you like, you can simply contact them and tell them what you’re looking for, and they’ll be happy to help you.
Of course, this may not be the best way to do it. You’ll probably end up paying a premium for whatever land they sell you, and of course, they’re finding land that’s being sold by people who realize how valuable their land is. They know it’s an asset, and they want to make as much money as they can from the sale.
If you want to save money, you can always look for foreclosures and tax sales. Essentially, this is going to be land auctioned off cheaply when the owner can no longer afford to keep it. However, there are some problems with this approach.
First, if the previous owner couldn’t afford the property taxes, there’s a chance you won’t be able to, either. You’ll want to know how much the property taxes are before you buy.
Second, the land itself may not be all that valuable. It could be in a terrible location, or with no deeded access. You have no control over which land comes up for sale in these things, and there’s a high probability that the only land available isn’t land that you’d really want.
There is a better way to find deals on raw land, though.
County Ownership Plat Books
One of the best, most underrated tools to help you find high quality raw land for sale at a great price are the plat books for the county you want to buy in. You can buy these at the county courthouse, and in many places all of this data is available online. They list all of the real estate ownership data for the county, including who owns what, and display this on a map. Here’s an example of what this might look like:
You can see the acreage of the selected parcel of land, and, if you create an account (it’s rarely free, but it’s usually inexpensive) you can see the name of the owner. The advantage of the digital databases is that they’re updated far more frequently than the physical books.
You can also use Google Earth in conjunction with these plat books to get an idea of the topographical features of the land.
Once you know what land you’re interested in, you can go to the local County Tax Assessors office and get the addresses of the owners. For a good deal on raw land, you’re looking for owners who don’t live on that parcel of land. Basically, you’re trying to find land owned by people who live out of town.
This is more common than you think; a lot of people own large parcels of cheap, raw land that they don’t use, and don’t really think about anymore.
Your next step is to contact those land owners and offer to buy their property. Be sure to name your price when you contact them. Your goal here is actually not to negotiate, it’s to find someone willing to sell to you for what you’re willing to pay.
Often you’ll find the owners are thrilled to get rid of that land, and will happily take the cash. This is one of the best ways to get a great deal on raw land, because you’re dealing with people who aren’t necessarily motivated to get a ton of money in the sale. They’re just happy someone wants to buy the land from them
Of course, this isn’t a foolproof method. Some owners will refuse to sell no matter what. Others will demand a higher price. That’s fine; ideally you’ll be contacting several landowners in the area, and there’s a good chance at least one or two of them will take your offer.
Of course, this method requires a lot of work and research on your part. It’s typically worth it, since it can save you a lot of money and you’ll probably find some true gems when you start looking through the parcels of land in the area. Still, it’s not for everybody.
Find People Who Are Motivated To Sell
If you’re buying raw land near where you live, and you know the community fairly well, one of the easiest ways to find good deals on raw land (or any property, for that matter), is to wait until the owners are highly motivated to sell, and sell fast.
That may seem like obvious advice, but what we’re talking about are specific circumstances that cause people to sell their property quickly, without worrying about getting the best possible price for it.
One unfortunate, common cause for such sales is a divorce. Couple getting divorced have a lot of legal stuff to deal with, and it’s almost always easier to sell the property and divide the profits than to try and decide who gets the property. Divorcing couples will usually want to sell as quickly as possible to get it over with and to get out from under the mortgage or property taxes. So, you can almost certainly buy the land from them at a great price.
Deaths are another sad but common cause of sales where you can expect the seller to be very motivated and agreeable. Picture this: Mom and dad buy a huge lot of rural land, intending to build on it and retire in a peaceful, isolated setting. But things never go as planned, they pass away before they can build on their land, or their golden years are simply spent in assisted living as their health declines. When they’re gone, the children are left with a chunk of land that none of them want, and they are stuck paying the taxes on it until they can get rid of it. You now have the opportunity to buy that land for a great price. After all, it’s probably paid off so they aren’t worried about covering the mortgage loan, and since none of them paid for it they aren’t trying to recoup their own investment.
The downside of this approach is that you have to wait for the right circumstances to buy. It can pay off for some, but it’s not an ideal approach for most.
It may sound a bit pedestrian, but online real estate listings can actually be a fantastic way to find excellent deals on raw land. Websites like Zillow and Realtor.com do have raw land listings, and you can set your search parameters to exclude any listings that are outside of your price range.
The downside to using this sites is that everyone else uses them, too. If there’s a really great deal on there, you’ll have to act fast before someone else buys it.
Use Websites Dedicated to Land
While almost all real estate sites include listings for undeveloped land, there are some that are dedicated to these kind of sales. LandWatch and Lands of America are two of the most popular. You can search your listings buy the type of land use you’re planning (farmland, hunting, etc), which helps improve the quality of the listings you find.
Because these websites are specifically for land sales, it’s often easier to find what you’re looking for. However, just like with places like Zillow, you’re going to have to act quickly once you find land that you want.
The Best Way To Find Deals Is To Shop For Land That Isn’t For Sale
Whether you’re using county plat books or online databases of parcel ownership, the best way to find deals on raw land is always going to be to shop for land that isn’t for sale. If an owner decides to sell, that’s because they need the money.
Moreover, if they decide to sell, they’ve had the land appraised, they’ve been told what they can likely get for it, and they’re not going to go below they’re asking price unless they get desperate.
However, an owner who isn’t thinking about selling hasn’t had it appraised and they aren’t desperate for the money. Especially for owners who don’t live on the land, they aren’t in need of the money, but they could certainly be tempted by a sudden influx of cash.
Plus, if the land isn’t for sale, you won’t be competing with other buyers, which is a guaranteed way of driving the price up.
Out of town landowners who aren’t actually listing their land for sale can usually be convinced to sell the land for a low price, and the negotiations are usually easier because you have no other buyers to compete with. It’s an unexpected offer of cash, and that makes it hard to turn down.
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