‘What to do with vacant land’ is a valid question for anyone who wants to put their unused land to productive use.
Unfortunately, people tend to have very small imaginations with regards to the uses and applications of raw, vacant land.
The truth is that vacant land can be used in a number of unique ways. Some of those uses include: building a spec home, starting a community garden, preserving wildlife, creating tiny houses, farming, recreation, education, harvesting timber, using the land as an orchard, and raising livestock.
Once you understand your local planning and zoning laws, you will realize that there is so much that you can do with a seemingly-useless piece of land.
We will be covering a number of vacant land uses, many of which will help you realize the true potential that your unused land possesses.
Table of Contents
40 Vacant Land Uses
1) Spec House
In times of a booming real-estate market and high home demand, building a multi-family, duplex, or single-family dwelling might well be the best utilization for your vacant land. New construction is sensible from so many different perspectives. You could always keep the completed house for yourself. However, even if you want to sell it off, you will be pleased to know that there is really high demand for such houses.
What makes this option even better is that almost all pieces of land have already been zoned for the very purpose of building spec houses. Regardless of how small or large the dimensions are, building a new house is certainly an option worth considering.
2) Community Garden
This is a good choice for plots that, although on the smaller side, are too large for the owner to manage solely. You could reach out to the relevant government authorities to get the all-clear. Once that is done, contact your neighbors and friends, and see if they would like to join hands with you.
A community garden is a great way to unite and solidify the community. It is also possible to obtain funds from the neighbors for the plants and seeds. If there is any surplus of food, you can always reach out to one of the many food banks in your locality, which are bound to welcome such donations.
3) Wildlife Preservation
Preserving is one of the simplest options with regards to vacant land lots. Of course, you own this land, and you are free to preserve it if you want. You could consider making your land a restricted area for fishing, hunting, logging, and camping. There are owners who purchase land for the sole purpose of giving it back to those who inhabit it. Alternatively, you could farm a smaller section of the land, while leaving the rest for the wildlife. If you want to play a role in protecting the environment, wildlife preservation can certainly feel fulfilling.
4) Tiny Houses
If you did not know, the tiny house movement is an actual thing. This movement started off as little more than a tiny hobbyist niche around ten years ago. However, recently, it has evolved into a very popular choice of lifestyle design. It has lured interest from people belonging to different backgrounds, and has even managed to make the mainstream media sit up and take notice.
The good thing about a tiny house is that it is likely to be constructed using a trailer; this means that it will not be permanently fixed. The reason for building a tiny house in this manner is because such houses are unlikely to adhere to the zoning requirements outlined by the municipality. According to these requirements, a legal residence must be at least 600 square feet large.
A typical tiny house, meanwhile, is often as small as 70 square feet, and highly mobile. Be it a highly populated urban spot, or an immensely remote scene without any sign of civilization – these houses can be put up pretty much anywhere.
There are several factors that can help you determine if your vacant land is farming-suited. These factors include the property size, soil type, farming demand, and the climate of the region. If you find that your property can indeed be developed and modified for growing crops, you should certainly consider exploring this avenue.
There are areas in which farmland can be sold at extremely high per-acre rates, and your property’s characteristics might help you leverage this option. If so, it is certainly something that you should inquire about. If you are confused as to what to ask or look for, you could consider reaching out to real estate brokers specializing in agricultural lands. Such brokers will be able to help you determine if your land could be successfully used for farming.
Properties that are big enough for paintball tournaments, mountain biking, dirt biking, snowmobiling, and four-wheeling – are often used for such recreational activities. Such properties do not require a great deal of –if any – improvement or modification. In addition, they also do not need to be heavily maintained. To add to all of that, using your land for recreational purposes promises a lot of fun and enjoyment.
If you are looking for more laid-back recreation, you can plan a friends and family evening, where you all can just eat around a bonfire, and just have a good time in a rather inexpensive way.
If you could get the required few clearances, your land could be used to help kids (and even adults) learn valuable skills. You could teach simple skills like dry-firewood collection, or more complex ones such as using natural resources to build a tiny shelter.
If you want, you might also be able to offer the land to Girl Scout or Boy Scout troops, who could use it for their yearly camping trips. Passing on any knowledge to other people – especially those belonging to younger generations – is an extremely noble act. You could even generate some profit should you opt to charge some money and maintain the place regularly.
8) Harvest Timber
Often, land owners think about what they can do with their vacant land, but tend to ignore the harvesting potential of their property. Timber is one such example – the (rather substantial) value of timber is almost always ignored in a standard real-estate appraisal.
In fact, there are cases in which the value of the trees on a property might be higher than the value of the land itself. There is so much value to be unearthed and explored in this department.
Much like farming, you could also convert your vacant land into an orchard. You could choose from any number of options, including apples, pears, oranges, nuts, lemons, and grapefruit.
As you are probably aware, the production of food is a pretty big deal throughout so many regions of the world, which also means that such produce is likely to be in high demand in your area. So, if your vacant land ticks all the boxes, why not leverage this opportunity and execute the orchard idea?
10) Raise Livestock
If there is any farming community close to or within your property, you could consider using your land to raise livestock.
Goats, cows, horses, sheep, chicken – all these livestock want someplace that they can call home. In addition, there are markets where grazing could fetch easy and good money for a landowner. So, if your land is fairly large, and is not being used for anything else, you could consider reaching out to farmers in your area and giving your land for lease.
11) Off-Grid Living
Remember the tiny house movement that we discussed earlier? There is quite a similar sub-culture comprising people with a passion to live ‘off-the-grid’.
‘Off grid’ people are those looking to leverage their independence, avoid depending on fossil fuels, and reduce carbon footprint. A lot of such people reside far away from societies and, as you would guess from the term, do not depend upon or use public utilities. This means that they are not connected to sewer, electricity, natural gas, or even water supplies. A total disconnect.
So, those who decide to go ‘off-grid’ usually possess their own wind and/or solar power, septic tanks, wells, and other alternative fuel sources. This allows them to become truly independent, and not rely upon those utility companies that decide how much it will cost to live in a society. Therefore, if your property is disconnected from public utilities, you could consider offering it to someone from the ‘off-the-grid’ subculture.
12) Hammock or Tent Camping
There are so many simplistic camping enthusiasts who dream of possessing a secluded piece of land that is rich with natural beauty. In addition to that, so many people want to spend a portion of their lives outdoors, but struggle to find land that is affordable and suitable for their purpose.
If you feel that your land fits the bill for private getaways, you might want to sell it off to a camping enthusiast. If your property is not very expensive (most rural lots are rather inexpensive), purchasing such a property might be a fantasy for some people. If you can come up with the right offer for the right person, you might end up making someone’s day (and month and year), while also resting assured that the property will be put to good use.
13) Wind Energy
There are a number of regions – both in the US and around the world – which could serve as ideal wind turbine grounds. Being a renewable form of energy, wind energy use can only grow in the near and distant future.
In many cases, you could simply lease the land out to a power company. The company will then use the property to put up turbines, and will also be in charge of the maintenance. This means that the landowner (you, in this case) would only have to receive the revenue from the lease, rendering you free from the complications associated with actually generating the power. Wind turbine, in a number of cases, could be the ideal fit for a property.
14) Easement Access
As strange as it seems – there are a number of companies and people who wish to use a property solely for access. In some cases, your property is not the precise one that they want to use. Instead, they might want to reach another property close to yours, and just want to use a section of your land so that they can reach their ultimate destination.
There are so many properties across the world that are fully landlocked, having no access to roads. What if a neighboring property owner wishes to develop a path or a road that goes through your land to access the closest road? What if a small corner of the land needed to be cut to establish the utility connections? What if your land is a tempting access point for an oil company’s drilling operation?
Of course, these are not very obvious possibilities. However, there is always an outside chance that a party might want to pay you in exchange for using your land. If you think that your property is blocking off access to somewhere that people would want to be able to go, you could consider selling the easement access. Alternatively, you could lease a portion of the property, or just sell the land off altogether.
15) Solar Energy
Much like wind energy, there are a number of lands that are beautifully set up to take advantage of sunlight – the most abundant energy source.
Thanks to the advancements in technology, it is now possible to rig solar panels to obtain power for your household, while it is also possible to construct a power plant. Coming back to ‘off-the-grid’ living, just a small number of solar panels might well be enough to supply power for an entire household. Alternatively, if you are eyeing a bigger operation, selling or leasing your property to a major power company might not be a bad idea.
As we mentioned, renewable energy usage is only going to go up in the future, and becoming an early adopter might allow you to get on the basement of this business.
16) Self-Storage Facility
You will be shocked to know the kind of money that a self-storage facility can fetch. When you think about the simplicity of this business model, the revelation is even more shocking.
If your property is moderately large and commercially zoned, you should definitely consider establishing a self-storage facility. Although such projects are anything but cheap (you can expect to spend well above a million dollars for the whole thing), it could prove worthwhile if there is no other such facility nearby.
17) Dog Park
So many neighborhoods are screaming out for a decent dog park. Besides approval from the planning commission, all you need is a fence to fulfill this need. Your property could serve as a safe place for dogs to roam freely under the monitoring of their owners.
Of course, this option is unlikely to make you any money. However, if you are finding it hard to come up with any other desirable use for the land, you could certainly explore the dog park option.
18) Photography Studio
As any photographer will tell you, outdoor places are perfect spots for clicking pictures. Lighting is arguably the most important factor in photography and, under the right lighting, outdoor photographs offer a type of quality which is almost unbeatable.
This means that photographers often want access to the perfect photography locations. Hence, if your land offers good backdrop or scenery, you could either lease it out or start your own photography studio.
19) Drill for Gas or Oil
States like California, Alaska, North Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas make a big deal out of gas and oil production.
There are situations in which landowners possessing the land’s mineral rights – alongside being part of a 640-acre land tract which is being drilled upon by an oil company – are automatically subject to royalties. This is true even if your property itself is not being used for drilling.
There are regions that will offer a lot more promise regarding this opportunity compared to other regions. However, if your land is situated anywhere around the US oil production hotbed, spending time researching this potential might well be worth your while.
20) Outdoor Advertising
The interstate highway system in the US has a length of 46,876 miles. To put this into perspective, this is equivalent to driving around the entire globe, twice. Let us not even consider the non-highway, regularly traveled roads.
Considering the large number of people passing across this space on a daily basis, you realize the outdoor advertising potential that a vacant land might contain. You could use your property to erect an advertising billboard. An even better decision would be to just lease the property out to an advertising company (this way, the company will bear the costs of construction and maintenance, and even endure the recurring sales expenses).
It is almost certain that you will need to obtain permission from the local municipality, before using your property for this purpose. However, in general, if your property is within range of any of the many well-traveled roads – and is commercially zoned – you could certainly use it for the purpose of outdoor advertising. You could consider this option even if the land is not presently vacant.
21) Pave a Walking or Biking Trail
If you think that your land could have a path of its own (or maybe even a loop connecting two known locations), you could consider paving a walking or biking trail.
Although this option is only suitable in very unique situations, it certainly presents you with the chance of creating a calming and pleasant atmosphere. You could use your land for exercising, spending time alone, or just to benefit the local community. Often, property owners discover that a path running alongside or being connected to the property actually adds to the land’s value.
22) Donate the land
Speaking of giving back, you might want to donate your property. Besides the obvious benefits of donation, donating your land also makes a lot of sense from a financial perspective. This is due to the fact that land donations are often associated with personal and corporate tax write-offs.
Hence, donating the land could be an excellent way to bring about an instant and massive tax saving – especially if you purchased the land at a low price. For high earners, this is an excellent way to shield their income from crippling tax burdens.
In addition, people often undermine the true impact of donations. The truth is, a seemingly simple donation can go a very long way in making a difference.
23) Parking Lots
Although this is one of the less exciting options, it could allow you to make several thousand dollars in a mere few hours – especially if the land is situated close to any major attraction.
There are plenty of examples of such parking lots in cities such as Detroit, which has numerous parking lots close to Ford Field and Comerica Park. On big event nights when parking is almost impossible to find, these property owners can earn big money by simply providing an easy parking spot. If you think that your land is close to a popular spot, a parking lot can certainly be a highly profitable option for you.
24) Golf Course
Making a golf course out of raw land certainly comes at a hefty price (a cost of a million dollars per hole is not unheard of). However, if you live in an area where recreational activities are in high demand, starting a golf course could prove to be highly profitable for you.
If you have a large enough property, along with the kind of funding required to take this leap, there is no reason for you to not take a swing. This option will also keep you from having to reduce the greenery of your vacant land.
There are so many places around the globe that make excellent spots for wine and grape production.
States like Washington, California, New York, Michigan, Oregon, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey are just some examples of expanding wine regions in the country.
Similarly, a number of other countries, including South Africa, Germany, Chile, Australia, Argentina, Italy, Spain, and France offer the kind of climatic conditions that are perfect for vineyards.
If you feel that your land is located in one of these vineyard-ideal regions, this could prove to be the perfect way to put your property to use.
26) Wetland Preserve
Properties situated in the center of wetland areas are unusable for a large number of purposes. This is because these properties hardly have any dry ground, which makes them impossible for building anything.
However, one must remember the importance of wetlands in the wider ecological system. So, if you own such a property, you could play a key role in environmental preservation by letting your land stay exactly as it is. By taking this action (or inaction), you could be doing the noble job of offering an invaluable refuge to the many animals and plants that flourish in wetland environments.
27) Spiritual Sanctuary
We have all experienced times when we just felt the need to disconnect from this world and spend time in a place that would allow us to refuel our engines. There are people who feel the urge to develop (or redevelop) their spiritual presence, and are looking for an opportunity to reconnect with the Creator.
In today’s world, such spiritual calm has become a need for most people, as it allows them to improve their health and enhance balance in their lives. Unfortunately, places that encourage and foster spiritual growth are few and far between.
Do you think that your land possesses attributes that will enable people to think, concentrate, breath, and strengthen their spiritual foundation? If so, why don’t you consider using your land as a spiritual sanctuary where people can energize their souls?
28) Boat Launch
Owners of lands present on water bodies, understandably, want to use their land to build a house of their dreams. However, a smarter way to use this property would be through a boat launch. This way, people who are unable to access the water body will be able to benefit – more so, if yours is the only boat launch within the area.
A lot of owners feel that using your land as a gift for the entire community is often more pragmatic than just using the property yourself.
If you are an environmentalist landowner, this might not sit well for you. However, the truth is, sometimes deciding how to use a property comes down to the economic analysis of demand and supply.
We cannot deny that every person creates trash – just like we cannot deny that all of that trash needs to end up somewhere. For this reason, people are often paid millions of dollars just to dump all of that waste inside the ground – which begs the question, what is stopping you from becoming one of those people?
If you think that your property is large enough to serve as a landfill, and you will have no problems in obtaining the relevant allowances and permits to make this happen, this is a terrific way of transforming your vacant property into a money-making machine.
30) Athletic Field
Regardless of whether you are a fan of playing football, baseball, soccer, cricket, volleyball, lacrosse, or rugby, a land that is larger than a few acres (and on the flatter side) can serve as a wonderful athletic field. By making this happen, you could invite your family and friends over to an outdoor sport event.
If you have the required funding, you could even modify your property so that the standards and dimensions are in accordance with the requirements of your chosen sport. However, even if you do not have an outrageous budget, the possibilities are surprisingly abundant.
31) Community Park
Sometimes, a property is just too beautiful, and it is almost unfair that just one person or family gets to take advantage of it. If your land is an example of this, you could consider using it to create a community park. This could also be considered if you are planning to develop a subdivision.
An outdoor community space has a great deal of value. This is primarily because such a space can boost the value of all the other properties within that space. When every local resident enjoys access to a section of a property that is beneficial to everyone, it strengthens the community. This, in turn, makes the locality more attractive to people looking to own a property.
32) Drive-in Theater
A drive-in movie theater is almost as rare as a unicorn. However, where such theaters are present, they are highly popular, often because of the sheer novelty of the concept. It is common to imagine driving off somewhere to watch a movie; it is almost impossible to imagine driving off somewhere to watch a movie without actually stepping out of our cars.
The nature of such drive-in theaters is rather seasonal. So, if your land is located in continent’s northern half of the continent, it is likely that your business will stay dead for around six months every year. In such cases, the costs of setting up a drive-in theater might outdo the benefits.
Having said that, establishing a drive-in theater is often cheaper than most people think it is. This is mainly due to the fact that the attendees will be using their car radios for the sound. Hence, if your screen is bright and big enough – and your land large enough to accommodate enough cars to make the business profitable – the idea of a drive-in movie theater is certainly one to consider.
You are probably aware of the high profit margins associated with hotels. You are also probably aware that building and maintaining a hotel will cost millions. However, a campground can help you avoid the substantial expenses, while making decent profits.
In other words, even though the profit margins associated with campgrounds are nowhere near as high as those associated with profits, the development and maintenance costs are also a fraction of what a hotel requires. This means that your profit margin will be almost as high as that of a hotel.
If you think that your property has what it takes, a campground – even a simple one – can be an excellent income source.
34) Festival and Concert Grounds
These are all some of the most popular and biggest concerts, but that is not the only thing common – these festivals are also held in land parcels present in the middle of pretty much nowhere.
So, if your land is massive enough to easily accommodate thousands of festival freaks or concert attendees, you could leverage it for hosting the next major event and making your presence felt throughout the world of entertainment.
35) Horse Stable
Do you have a love for horses? If so, you probably realize how important a good living place is for this animal (or for any animal, for that matter). If you own land, there is a good chance that your property is perfect for a horse looking for a safe and happy home.
Creating a stable, or creating a simplistic fence surrounding your property, could allow you to create just the environment that would tempt local horse owners to use your offering for their pets.
Once again, if you are passionate about horses and would love to be surrounded by them, this might be just the option for you.
36) Pole Barn for Equipment or Animals
There are so many people desperate for a place where they can store heavy equipment such as a boat or a car.
There are also animal lovers or farmers wanting a safe place where they could house their cows, horses, sheep, chickens, goats, or any other animals.
The best thing about a pole barn is its tremendous versatility – you can use such a barn for any number of things. In addition, if there are people in your area looking for a place where they can store their equipment or animals, a barn is probably the answer to their prayers. Of course, it will also provide you an opportunity to make a tidy profit.
In addition, you can always repurpose a barn for climate-controlled indoor self-storage or other similar purposes.
37) Mobile Home
If you want to increase the livability of your vacant land without having to spend a lot of money, you should consider the possibility of developing a mobile home. It is hard to imagine the number of land parcels around the world that are perfect for such homes – and there is more than a fair chance that your land fits the bill as well.
Not only is the zoning already taken care of, but the various utilities are also available, and there is little to no development required to make the area suited for a mobile house.
There are cases where all that the only preparation required for a mobile home, is the installation of a driveway and/or cement slab – and even this is more of a ‘good to have’ rather than a ‘must have’.
Other than that, you will have to put in the effort to connect the home to the utilities. Once this is sorted, you will realize how much less expensive it is to install a mobile home using a vacant land parcel, than it is to construct a site-built dwelling.
38) Outdoor Storage Facility
Remember the self-storage facility that we discussed earlier? Well, an outdoor storage facility is an alternative for lands that, although present near to civilization, are not in an ideal location for such a highly expensive project.
Establishing an outdoor storage facility means that you will be able to use the land without making any major changes to it. You could charge an annual or monthly fee against letting people park their trailer, boat, RV, or any other large machinery in the space.
Generally, creating an outdoor storage facility will require you to construct a reasonably tall wall and fence (tall enough so that the view is obstructed and any trespassers are kept at bay). In addition to that, you will have to install a gate with a secure lock. These two are probably the only standard requirements to begin a storage facility; other than that, it is a fairly cheap and simple venture, without having any major developmental prerequisites.
39) Tree House
Let us face it – as kids, almost every single one of us has imagined living in a house up above in the trees. As an adult, if you are the owner of a property that contains any mature, large hardwood trees, you might well be able to materialize that childhood fantasy.
Depending on your approach to construction, a tree house can either be high-end, or rather rustic. Regardless, such a house is an excellent way to have fun with your family (especially if you have any kids in the household) and, of course, to make your own childhood dream become a reality.
40) Shooting Range
As kids, we also imagined having a gun with unlimited bullets, and using it to rip the bad guy to shreds. If you still have that itch as an adult, converting your vacant lot into a gun range is certainly one way to scratch it away.
You would probably need excavated dirt or sand piles (or a hill) as the backdrop, so that all those stray bullets can be caught. Such properties can also serve as training grounds for paintball or archery. Whether you want to keep the gun range to yourself, welcome your friends and family, and open it to anyone willing to pay the admission fee – a great deal of fun is almost guaranteed.
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