What Is Land Conversion? | askBAMLand

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Classifying different land types is generally determined by their intended use, but land classifications can change if they go through a conversion process.

Land conversion is the process of changing one land classification to another. This is commonly done when raw land is converted to vacant land or when vacant land is altered by some form of development. The development that occurs on the property determines the overall land conversion.

Land conversions within the United States occur all of the time and can be handled in a number of different ways depending on the overall goals of the property owner. The reason for this is that land can often be quite dynamic and is capable of being repurposed, if necessary. The potential for converting a property is assessed on a case-by-case basis, as some lands are more suitable for some functions than others. To understand what land conversion is better, let’s take a look at some examples of lands that are commonly converted.

Land conversion is a process that a private property owner or government organization approves of when the land that they own is deemed worthy of transformation. These conversions are approved by your local county’s building and zoning department or are regulated by the United States Federal Government.

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Converting Land

Converting land is popular among real estate, investors, government organizations, and even private property owners. Given that any given parcel of land can be used or utilized in many different ways, converting land can often be a very viable investment opportunity.

With that being said, you should always be aware of the qualities of your land before you begin a conversion process. The reason for this is that not all lands are worthy of being converted if they happen to have unsuitable qualities for the transformation. The most common way to determine whether a property is worthy of conversion is to assess the value of the land and all of its potential assets.

This can be done in a handful of ways. To start you should always consider what type of land classification you are starting out with. This will serve as the foundation for your conversion so that you can determine which direction to take your land. If you are not able to accurately evaluate the condition of your property, you should always hire an appraiser or surveyor to come to give you some professional guidance.

A real estate professional will be able to analyze the specs of your property and will help you what the best approach would be for converting your property. This will help point you in the right direction to ensure that you making a wise decision with your land conversion.

Raw Land Conversion

The most basic and primitive land type that exists is called raw land. A property with this classification has been left completely untouched in its natural state.

Raw land can be quite dynamic and at the same time have a lot of limitations for conversions. The reason for this is that although raw lands are very much a clean slate for property conversions, they can often lack a lot of the property characteristics that make them worthy of transformation. This is generally the case with raw lands that have a poor or desolate location that lacks environmental qualities, business potential, or is uninhabitable.

With that being said, if raw lands are suitable for some form of conversion, they are generally first converted into a vacant plot of land. Unless the conversion is taking place to preserve environmental qualities, typically, raw lands need to first be converted to vacant lands so that some type of development can take place.

Once the raw land begins to have any type of modification or maintenance done to it, the conversion process has begun and the property will officially become vacant land, which makes it suitable for further land conversions.

Conservation Easements (Raw Land)

However, there are instances where raw land is converted into conservation land with the intention of being preserved for environmental protection. In this situation, the raw land would not be converted into a vacant land parcel and instead stay in its untouched, natural state.

This occurs when a private property owner goes through an appraisal process, which involves a professional evaluation of their land. During this process, the appraiser will determine the dollar value of the raw land, as well as the overall worth of the environmental qualities attached to the property.

If the appraiser finds that the land is worthy of environmental protection, the property will go through an official conversion and be certified as conservation land. You should note that through this process the rightful landowner has given up certain rights to develop their land, which is based on an agreement made between the appraiser and the owner.

Alternatively, this conversion process is also conducted by various land trusts that acquire raw lands to establish them as conservation easements. Please note, that this conversion process can also be achieved with vacant lands, so long as the property meets the requirements for environmental significance.

Vacant Land Conversion

If a property has undergone any kind of minor development or upkeep - without major alteration or structural building - it will be considered vacant land. Vacant land is essentially a property that has not been officially declared for some type of development and is a clean slate for almost any type of conversion.

However, the conversion process for vacant lands can vary greatly depending on what the land’s qualities are. One of the most essential and key elements of converting vacant land is its location. As with any real estate acquisition, the location of the property will generally define its use, worth, and potential.

With that being said, property conversions need to be conducted carefully so that the most logical and beneficial approach can be taken. The great thing about converting vacant land parcels is that they come with a lot of freedom and may have a lot of potential for being dynamic.

Converting vacant land offers the property owner a clean slate to pursue just about whatever development idea they may have for their land. This is also one of the easiest land types to convert, as it is likely that there does not need to be any deconstruction taking place to initiate the conversion process. Let’s explore vacant land conversions.

Urban Vacant Lands

Vacant land parcels located in urbanized environments can often be a bit more challenging to convert. The reason for this is that cities and townships tend to have restrictions on what kind of conversions are allowed to take place.

As mentioned above, location is everything for land developments and conversions. And given that cities are suitable for specific types of developments, you will find that your conversion will likely be limited to traditional types of developments that are found in cities.

With that being said, if your vacant land is located in an urban environment that is relatively small, such as a small town, and in a less regulated state, you may be able to get creative with your land conversion. Here are some of the vacant land conversions that will commonly occur in urban areas.

Residential Conversion

One of the most common vacant land conversions within city environments is a residential conversion.

This is especially the case for vacant plots of land that are already situated within a residential neighborhood. If that is the case, then your city will likely have zoning restrictions that limit land conversions in these neighborhoods to be specifically for residential use.

However, residential land conversions from vacant properties can also prove to be dynamic if they happen to be located in or near a centralized urban area. These residential land conversions offer more freedom to pursue developments that could range from:

  • Apartment Buildings
  • Housing Complexes
  • Gated Communities
  • Condominiums

A vacant land conversion for these types of properties is generally less limited by location but may be more limited by space. The reason for this is that these vacant land conversions require a considerable amount of space to begin development, which may be more challenging to find in urban environments.

Commercial Business Conversion

Much like with residential land conversions, commercial businesses are also developed from vacant lands in urban areas. Commercial businesses are often converted from vacant land parcels, as they provide the business owner with a clean slate to build their business from scratch.

With that being said, converting a vacant parcel of land into a commercial business will come with its fair share of limitations. Commercial businesses generally have even more development restrictions in urban areas than residential properties, which may involve quite a few obstacles. Here are some of the land conversions you can find for commercial businesses in urban areas:

  • Gyms
  • Restaurants
  • Car Dealerships
  • Cinemas

Commercial land conversions in urban areas will likely be limited to the centralized areas of a city or towards its outskirts. You will have a very hard time finding a vacant plot of land in a residential neighborhood that is suitable for a commercial business.

Rural Vacant Lands

Vacant lands located in rural environments offer a lot of contrasting qualities for property conversions. While converting a vacant land parcel into a residence or commercial business is not as common, it is very much a possibility.

What is far more common for vacant land conversions in rural areas is to develop the vacant land into some form of industrial use. The reason that this type of conversion is more suitable for industrialization is that there is far less oversight and regulation in regards to how the land can be used, which makes rural lands much more dynamic for conversions.

The most common land conversions that generally take place are located in rural areas for this very reason. In addition, rural lands are much easier to convert multiple times into different land classifications. This generally occurs once a land parcel has served its initial purpose and is now deemed more valuable serving another.

In addition, vacant land parcels often provide new investment opportunities if certain qualities of the land become valuable or are discovered after the first conversion. Let’s take a look at some of the ways we convert vacant rural lands.


The United States has millions of acres of land that are designated specifically for farming and all of them underwent a conversion process from vacant to farmland.

This is one of the most common reasons that vacant land parcels are converted, as the process of taking the property and turning it into a farm is relatively straightforward and can be approached with less risk than larger development projects.

In addition, converting vacant land into farmland is one of the most common ways to transform a useless land parcel into an investment opportunity. The reason this is so common is that there is a lot of land within the United States that is suitable for farming and it is rarely limited to location, as food can be grown in just about every state.

Farmland conversions are also popular due to the versatility of choosing what to produce on the farm. If a vacant land parcel is not suitable for growing a certain crop, then the farmer is able to plant another. Alternatively, many farmers convert vacant land parcels to produce cattle, which does not require the same environmental conditions as other farms.

Resource Harvesting

Converting vacant land parcels for resource harvesting is very common in rural areas. Finding a valuable resource worth harvesting on vacant land can prove to be a goldmine and is a major incentive for property owners to convert their vacant lands.

Resource harvesting is next to impossible to do in - or even near an urban environment, which is why it is highly unlikely you will see this kind of conversion take place near a city. With that being said, some small towns are dependent on harvesting a local resource in their area, which may lead to some exceptions for potential property conversions. Some of the most common resources harvested on converted lands are:

  • Oil
  • Natural Gas
  • Coal
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Gold & Other Valuable Metals

With that being said, these types of property conversions become much more dynamic as far as the location so long as the resource being harvested does not negatively impact the environment or any surrounding communities. The most common type of resources harvested in these types of conversions would be renewable energy such as:

  • Solar
  • Wind

Vacant land conversions for the purpose of harvesting renewable energy can be found nearby cities and even within them - in addition to rural areas.

Additional Factors To Consider

While the most common types of land conversions tend to take place with vacant lands, it is also possible to convert a developed plot of land into another type of land classification.

This process generally involves a bit more work, as you are often faced with deconstructing or reconstructing an established development. In addition, you may be limited with what kind of conversion you are legally allowed to pursue, as your location will determine what sort of developments you can build.

This can especially be the case in urban areas, as you are likely to face much more limitations with any kind of conversions you had in mind. With that being said the most common conversions that take place will be in rural areas. Here are some examples of common land conversions in rural areas:

  • Agricultural Land - to - Resource Harvesting
  • Agricultural Land - to - Residential Use
  • Agricultural Land - to - Commercial Business Use
  • Agricultural Land - to - Environmental Land

While these are some of the most common land conversions that occur, you will find that most of them change greatly depending on the land itself. The reason for this is that each land type will be more suitable for specific purposes and may be completely useless for others. Agricultural land tends to be a solid base for initial land conversions after being transformed from a vacant land parcel, as farmland is generally easy to convert, manipulate, and develop on.

Urban environments do experience these types of conversions from time to time, but far less frequently and with much less versatility. Large-scale urban conversions generally occur when parcels of land are acquired which surpass the size of an average home or commercial business.


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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