What To Look For When Buying Raw & Vacant Land | askBAMLand

Raw and vacant lands have much appeal to those on the real estate market, but it’s important to know what to look for when seeking these types of properties.

When looking to buy raw and vacant lands you should always consider these factors when analyzing properties: the location, cost, environmental value, natural resources, development restrictions, local market trends, land condition, and most importantly the end goal for the land.  

Whether you are buying property for commercial reasons, financial investment, environmental activism, or simply building a new home, having raw or vacant land can offer so much potential for creative vision through your development process.  It is absolutely vital that you know what to look for when assessing these types of properties, as they can greatly vary in qualities and features.  Understanding all of these qualities can make all the difference in finding your perfect parcel of land.

Before you commit to any purchase of raw and vacant lands you should always consult your local state or city government in regards to zoning restrictions pertaining to development, as well as environmental restrictions - in the case that you are purchasing lands under a conservation easement.

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Key Factors To Consider

Given that raw and vacant properties encompass such a vast amount of land that covers the United States, the features that you will need to assess will require a keen eye and most importantly a vision for the property.

Establishing an end goal for your raw and vacant land will help you narrow down your options, prevent you from wasting time in your search, and will give you confidence in your investment.

With that being said, there is always some form of risk involved with buying any property, but especially when considering a parcel of land that is raw or vacant.  

To mitigate the risk involved when buying raw and vacant lands, we are going to take you through all the key factors you should consider when hunting down the property that’s right for you.

Valuation  

The first and most important factor to consider is the current and long-term value of the raw and vacant land you are looking at.  The price associated with raw and vacant lands can vary greatly depending on what qualities they offer and the state of the current market.

There are many ways you can go about the valuation process.  Regardless of your land intentions, being as thorough as possible when determining the overall worth of your property will give you the assurance that you are making the right decision.

Let’s take a looks at how you can evaluate the cost of your raw and vacant land:

Online Research

The best place to start is always by doing some personal research online, as there are loads of tools on the internet that will help give you a basis for the property price.  

There are specific online resources that specialize in this called ‘valuation tools’, which allow you to determine a reasonable figure for the value of the property.  You will do this by dialing in the features of the land in relation to obvious qualities such as location, on-site resources, and level of development.

This is a very practical approach to get you started, as you don’t want to jump the gun and hire a professional to analyze the property to determine a result that you could find yourself.  Taking the initiative to research the property on your own will save you time and money in the long run.

Property Comparison

If you are set on a specific region to purchase your raw and vacant land, having a comparison to gauge the costs and qualities of different properties within the area will help you get a realistic idea of what the land you are assessing is worth.

A great way to approach this is to simply pop into a local real estate agent and ask for their help.  They will likely either have a catalog of comparative properties for you to evaluate or give you insight into the overall market value of raw and vacant lands located in the area.

Alternatively, you can always do this yourself by contacting other individuals selling their land nearby.  This offers you an on-the-ground visualization and comparison of similar properties.

Appraisal  

Once you’ve dug deep on your own and have evaluated a number of properties and compared them to one another, you will likely have found a few options that are worthy of consideration.

When you reach this stage, you never want to commit to purchasing unless you are an experienced land buyer and know exactly what you are looking for.  It’s easy to have things look good on paper or at face value - when in reality there could be something beneath the surface that you overlooked.

To seal the deal and give you complete reassurance of the value of the raw and vacant land you’re looking at, you should hire a professional appraiser that specializes in land valuation.

Having a second opinion of a professional that will do a thorough analysis of all the nuts and bolts of the property will give you complete confidence in your purchase.  This sort of analysis will cover everything you should have already assessed with more detail with the addition of giving you potential predictions of market trends relating to the future of your raw or vacant land.

Location  

Anyone involved in real estate will tell you that location is everything.  This factor is so critical when hunting down your perfect raw or vacant land, as it will be the key determinant of your end goals and the costs attached to them.

As stated before, having a vision for your property will help you narrow down where you want to build and what you want to build.  Given the versatility of raw and vacant lands, the potential for their use stretches far and wide.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways location will determine your decision-making when buying raw and vacant lands.

Commercial Use

Having an empty plot of land to establish a business offers a lot of freedom for project ideas without the drawbacks of adapting to a previously developed property.

While raw and vacant lands can equally serve the same purpose for commercial development, there are undeniably some locations that will benefit you more than others.

Commercial Use (Raw Land)

It’s very uncommon to find raw lands located within urban environments, as these properties have been virtually untouched and are generally located in rural environments or even in the middle of nowhere.

With that being said, your commercial use may be limited to a specific type of business.  Raw lands with the intention for commercial use are suitable for:

  • Warehouses
  • Industrial building
  • Manufacturing
  • Car dealerships

Depending on the location of your raw land, there is potential for other business opportunities.  If you, for example, have land along a highway, the prospect of opening any business associated with a roadside stop significantly increases.

Commercial Use (Vacant Land)

The potential that vacant lands have for commercial purposes is far greater and more versatile than raw lands.  Given that vacant land can be found in so many different environments, including urbanized areas, your location options greatly increase.

Depending on their characteristics, vacant lands in rural areas can essentially be utilized for commercial use in all the same ways raw lands can.  However, if located in an urban environment, vacant lands can also be used for:

  • Hotels
  • Offices
  • Shopping malls
  • Gas stations
  • Retails
  • Healthcare
  • Gyms
  • Restaurants
  • Bars

Ultimately, a vacant lot located within a town or city can be transformed into just about any type of business you are ambitious about creating.

Local Residence

If you are buying raw and vacant land for the purpose of building a residential area as a business investment or are interested in buying property to build your own home, the location will be an important factor.

Here’s what you should consider:

Rural Areas

If costs are a determining obstacle for such a project, you will have a harder time finding raw and vacant lands located within urbanized environments.  In this case, you should consider buying property in rural areas, as the costs are often astronomically lower and come with the benefit of having more space for a smaller price.

This can prove to be a challenge for many residences due to the lack of accessibility to urbanized resources.  Since rural areas are further away from regulatory essentials such as grocery stores, schools, and social life, you should consider opting for towns and smaller cities.

If you don’t need regular access to such amenities nearby, you’ll find that rural parcels of raw and vacant lands are a deal-breaker when it comes to location and costs.  A great medium for this is acquiring a property that is located within a reasonable distance of a town or city.  This offers all the benefits of rural living while keeping urban standards of living within arms rach.

Urban Areas

Vacant lands are a common association with urban environments and you should not have an issue locating a suitable lot.

Having a vacant lot to establish your residential business investment or a private home, is a great way to lower costs and gives you versatility with your development.  Purchasing a developed project comes with exceptionally high costs and restraints on pursuing your own development ideas.

One of the first things you’ll want to assess is the surroundings of the vacant lot.  Urban areas are not all suitable for residential living; some locations have a lot of noise pollution, less accessibility to parking, and are located in unfavorable neighborhoods.  

To get an idea of a vacant lot located in a city, you should also consider what kind of residence you plan on building, as you will find certain urban environments suit residential classifications better.  A great benefit of locating a vacant parcel of land for your residence in an urban area is that you can design the project based on your budget.

Conservation Easements

A common association with raw and vacant lands is that they have been set up as conservation easements.  What this essentially entails is that the property has been designated under a form of environmental protection.

These types of properties will almost exclusively be found in rural areas, as urban environments rarely are able to retain ecological value.  These easements can be a high selling point for some buyers, as they do come with their fair share of beneficial qualities. Raw and vacant lands that have conservation easements are generally surrounded by nature and can offer beautiful landscapes at a fraction of the cost of what typical private properties would charge.

This is due to certain restrictions that the landowner has to adhere to in relation to protecting the local environment. In exchange for their compliance with these standards, the cost of the land significantly drops and the property owner is rewarded with tax incentives. This can be extremely beneficial for those seeking to buy raw and vacant lands at a lower budget, but who still want to indulge in having a large property.

Setting-Up An Easement

There are, however, many raw and vacant lands that are worthy of conservation easements that simply have not yet been established and declared.  It’s becoming quite popular for private landowners to purchase properties for the very purpose of converting the property for conservation use - either to live in or for preservation reasons.

If you are pursuing raw and vacant land ownership with this intention, you will have to go through an appraisal process to determine whether the conversion process will be attainable.

Here’s the process of establishing a conservation easement.

Find Worthy Land

The first thing you will want to do when buying raw and vacant land for conservation use in evaluating properties that you deem worthy of environmental value.  These types of properties are located all over the United States and can often be acquired at a relatively affordable cost.

As you begin your search look for areas that have an abundance of natural resources such as vegetation, forests, and freshwater channels. After evaluating a number of properties, narrow down your options and prioritize the ones you liked best.

Appraisal

In order to fully understand whether the raw and vacant land has environmental qualities worthy of conversion, you will need to hire an appraiser to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment.

The appraiser will do a thorough analysis of the property and look for qualities such as critical or endangered habitat, as well as essential natural resources.

If the appraiser’s report confirms that there is significant environmental quality to the land, he will approve of the easement.  At this point, you can officially convert the property to a conservation easement through a non-profit land trust or a government branch such as Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Farmland

When analyzing raw and vacant lands, many buyers aspire to establish the property as a farm.

These vast and affordable lands offer a great business investment opportunity to either utilize their property for farm use or set up a farm until further development projects come into fruition.

A great aspect of vacant lands in this pursuit is that it’s not uncommon to find properties that have already been converted to farmland, which takes care of some of the dirty work for you.

Depending on the conditions and yield of the farm, this could make for a very easy transition directly to your new investment.

However, you will also find that many raw and vacant lands are completely untouched and will require a considerable amount of work to establish them as farmland.  Before you commit to a plot of land, you are going to want to confirm that the land is suitable for food growing, as well as determining the crops that will yield best for the area.

To confirm the potential for farming, you are going to want to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment that focuses on farming conditions. You will have to hire an appraiser to analyze environmental conditions such as the fertility of the soil to ensure that the potential for food production exists.

If the report suggests that the land is suitable for food growing, you can feel confident in setting up your farm.

Natural Resources

A common business incentive many property investors seek when buying raw and vacant lands is the prospect of harvesting natural resources.

Many vacant lands have already been established for the purposes of harvesting natural resources - making them viable and easily attainable lands for this purpose.  Whereas raw lands have not yet been evaluated for this purpose and need to be approached with more caution.

In order to confirm whether or not raw or vacant lands have natural resources such as oil, you are going to want to seek the professional evaluation of a geologist.  A thorough report and analysis will help signify whether the land has the potential for harvesting resources.

If the report comes back successful, you will likely find your raw and vacant land is capable for:

  • Oil production
  • Natural gas
  • Coal
  • Nuclear energy

The prospect of harvesting these valuable resources offers massive potential for economic and financial gains.  

If you are buying raw and vacant lands specifically for this purpose, you are going to want to approach your investment carefully.  Many landowners have purchased the property with this intention and have been let down by either finding no trace of natural resources to harvest or highly underestimate the quantity of resources that actually exist.

About THE AUTHOR

Brittany Melling

Brittany Melling

We loved family’s outdoor adventures so much we started a land business just to help others buy their own land. We’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans five western 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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