What Is Vacant Land? | askBAMLand

If you want to understand real estate, then you are going to need to know what vacant land is, as these parcels are very common in the industry.

When researching vacant land, it is easy to confuse it with raw land, as these two land classifications do have some similarities but also some stark differences. To conduct real estate acquisitions correctly, you are going to want to be well-versed in what vacant land truly is.

Vacant land is essentially any parcel of land that does not have any kind of development, permanent structures, and is not being utilized by the owner. However, vacant land can vary depending on how it’s been classified with residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural being most common.

The real estate industry is an incredibly popular business to get into, as it is one of the most opportunistic ways of earning an income in the United States. The reason for this is that the cost of land continues to grow, which makes property acquisitions a safe bet for investors, as well as private homeowners. A lot of people tend to look at developments when wanting to acquire real estate, however, you will find that there are a lot of advantages to owning vacant land. When purchasing vacant land, you are essentially given a clean slate to approach your land goals from scratch, which comes with more responsibility, but also more possibilities to approach the parcel the way you see fit. However, vacant land parcels can vary across the board, which is why you want to know exactly what you are getting into before you commit to a property. To help you understand this better, we are going to take a closer look at what vacant land is in more detail.

After extensively researching vacant land, I have been able to gather enough information to determine what it is. My experience has taught me that vacant land can vary depending on how it has been classified by the government or local building authority.

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Vacant Land

If you have ever driven past an empty lot in the city or an improved parcel out in the countryside, then you have definitely seen vacant land before. Vacant land is defined as any property that does not have any permanent development or structures in place on it. This means that any land that has a house, building, or is even being utilized for resources is no longer considered to be vacant land. However, you should note that vacant land is defined by how it is being used presently. This implies that a vacant property may have had a home or other kind of development in the past, which has then been torn down, left empty, and unused.

A common mistake is confusing vacant land with raw land - given that both types of properties appear to have some similarities. Some key aspects that differentiate the two are that vacant land has been established or classified to serve a kind of purpose. Whereas raw land will be real estate that is completely untouched and has not been influenced by people in any way shape or form. Depending on the type of vacant land that you are looking at, it can be easy to understand why some people have a hard time seeing the difference, as vacant parcels can vary in how much human impact they have had.

Buying vacant land is very common and there is more demand to acquire it than ever before. As we watch the price of real estate skyrocket in so many parts of the country, buying up vacant land can prove to be a very wise investment for the future. There are a lot of advantages of doing this, as vacant land is considerably cheaper than buying a developed property. This enables real estate developers, business enthusiasts, and even aspiring homeowners the ability to lay claim to a property without the pressure of committing to the costs and long-term commitments of a specific type of development.

However, it is important that you understand exactly what kind of vacant land you are buying before you begin handing over your cash. Vacant land parcels can greatly vary depending on how they have been classified by your state or local government. The building authority responsible for the area that a vacant land parcel is located in will have classified the property for a specific type of use such as residential, agricultural, commercial, or industrial. Once classified in this way, the vacant land is essentially locked in to be used in this way, which can be a major issue if the classification is not in alignment with the long-term goals that you have for the piece of real estate. Keep reading to learn more about what vacant land is.

Residential Vacant Land

One of the most common types of vacant land that you will find is going to be classified as residential. Any property that is left vacant and is defined as residential land will be restricted to development projects that can only be for residential living. This is something that you will often see in neighborhoods where there is an empty lot in between developed homes. A residential vacant property may have had a home built on it in the past, but it was then removed or destroyed either for being condemned, abandoned, or revisioned for a new project.

There are a number of reasons that building authorities classify real estate that is vacant for residential use. When you consider the layout of living spaces, they generally have a certain kind of order and structure to them to make the area more habitable for residences, which is why we tend to see houses neatly packed together in neighborhoods. You will find that there are a lot of perks to buying residential vacant land as opposed to a developed home. A pre-build house has been locked into a certain kind of design and aesthetic that has likely been cookie cut in the same way as the home next to it, which can lack having a unique quality.

A lot of people like to have a more creative vision over their living space, which is exactly why you find many people buying residential vacant land. By buying vacant land to develop your home, you can build your house the way that you want to - down to the finest details. This will enable you to have a stylistic home in which you were involved in the process of designing and building. However, some people prefer to buy vacant land for residential use because it is also considerably cheaper.

A lot of people do not have the money to buy their home right away but like the location of a neighborhood and have fully committed to the space. A vacant land parcel is generally a fraction of the price of a developed property and owning it gives the individual an edge on claiming a location. In addition, the individual can then design a home not only based on their taste but also their budget. With that being said, vacant residential land can vary depending on where it is located, as these kinds of parcels can be found in either urban or rural areas.

Urban Residential

A vacant land parcel that has been established for residential use located in an urban environment is going to be found exclusively in cities.

These types of vacant properties generally have restrictions that are quite strenuous and can often limit the developer in some ways. Urban environments are known for having more zoning laws that are created to keep order and logic when city planning.

Vacant parcels found in urban residential neighborhoods will be restricted to specific types of living spaces. For example, if the vacant land is in the middle of a neighborhood with a lot of small homes, then one of the restrictions will certainly be that you cannot build a skyscraper for apartments on it.

You will find that these properties will have terms that you must adhere to which will dictate the size and dimensions of the residence that will be built on it. Another common feature of a vacant property in an urban residential neighborhood is that it may be connected to - or have access to - certain kinds of utilities.

Rural Residential

A vacant land parcel classified for residential land in a rural area will generally be much looser with restrictions and zoning laws. These are vacant properties that are either in small towns or in the middle of nowhere.

Rural residential land is some of the most affordable real estates that you can buy. These properties lack a lot of the attractive qualities that urban vacant land has, which can make for a great bargain for aspiring homeowners and real estate investors.

The great thing about rural residential land is that you are given a lot more freedom when it comes to pursuing your development. Given that the vacant land parcel is typically not in close proximity to other properties, people are given the ability to build with less government oversight.

With that being said, the vacant land must still be utilized for residential use primarily. A key aspect of rural land, however, is that you can at times use it for alternative things such as raising live stock or having somewhat of a farming operation on your property. This implies that some vacant rural properties can be seen as a bridge between residential and agricultural land. More on this later.

Commercial Vacant Land

A lot of vacant properties that are typically located in urban areas have been established as commercial land. Commercial vacant land is a piece of real estate that can exclusively be used for a commercial business.

Whereas residential vacant land is usually found in neighborhood and living districts, commercial vacant land is more commonly found in city centers and in working districts. The reason for this is to create a separation between residential life and work for people.

The local building authority of the area will have classified the commercial vacant land to be used for business purposes and often times even specific types of businesses. This is to keep a logical system in place for urban planning - so that businesses are structured and located in areas that make sense to the general public.

An example of this would be a vacant land parcel that is located in the financial district of town that may be locked into being used for similar types of commercial businesses such as office buildings.

A lot of aspiring business owners prefer to buy commercial vacant land instead of developed real estate, as they are able to build their business from the ground up - literally. Instead of having a pre-planned layout of your business, you can structure it in a way that makes sense for what your business ideas are. This can be a particularly popular approach among people that have very specific kinds of business goals that require a custom touch.

Industrial Vacant Land

A piece of real estate that has been classified as industrial vacant land is a property that is intended to be used for some kind of industry - or already has been used for such a purpose in the past.

Any property that has this kind of classification will often have pretty strict zoning laws attached to it - especially if the business poses any kind of invasive threat to the local area. This can be to prevent industrial businesses from taking over neighborhoods and city centers, as they are known for having a less attractive aesthetic and can be responsible for various kinds of pollutants such as noise, air, and water pollution.

With that being said, most vacant land parcels classified as industrial will generally be situated in very specific locations. It is very common to find industrial vacant land on the outskirts of urban areas or even somewhere that is completely desolate.

In order for an industrial development to take place on many vacant pieces of real estate, the project must first be approved to meet the guidelines of the area. This will include things like health and safety, as well as an Environmental Impact Report.

Agricultural Vacant Land

A very common type of vacant land is agricultural. There are plenty of vacant land parcels out in the countryside classified in this way so that the area can be specifically be used for growing crops, raising cattle, or other agricultural work.

Some agricultural land has been utilized in the past and was then vacated. Whereas other properties out there may not have had any kind of agricultural development prior but they have still been classified this way.

The main reason that this happens is to reserve a certain amount of land for food production. Vacant rural land is often some of the cheapest real estates in the entire country and some real estate tycoons will take advantage of this by buying up large sums of it for financial gains.

To prevent too much land from being bought up, state and local governments will often reserve the land for farming by classifying it as agricultural vacant land. This is particularly common if the vacant land has qualities that make it suitable for farming such as healthy soil or access to resources like water. Depending on the environmental state of the vacant land, there may be terms as to what kind of agricultural use can take place on the property.

With that being said vacant land that is classified as agricultural can be quite flexible as far as developments go. Farmers are often given the right to pursue additional kinds of developments on their property such as building a private residence. In addition, they may also have the right to establish a commercial business on the property.

Agricultural vacant land is also so vast in the United States that it is not uncommon for this land classification to change over time. Developers may seek permission to build things that are outside of agriculture such as an industrial business, which may be granted depending on the condition of the land and its qualities.


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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