The US has 1.9 billion acres of land in the contiguous 48 states. Only 3.6% of it has been developed for residential use in urban areas. And even after accounting for all the acreage that’s dedicated to agriculture, crops and government use, that’s a lot of land that could potentially be available for private use. For decades now, the “American dream” has centered on owning a home with a picket fence and, if you’re lucky, a bit of land. Wondering how to find land for sale is something a lot of Americans do.
At some point, you might find yourself pining for a piece of land to call your own. Maybe it’s the vacant property next door, or maybe it’s 100 acres of rolling farmland in South Dakota. Wherever your dream calls you, it may be time to pay attention. Why? Because there are lots of benefits of owning land.
Advantages of Owning Land
Brandon Hedenburg, Director of the Commercial and Land Division for Berkshire Hathaway, puts it plainly: “First and foremost, the best thing about not putting off buying land is that they’re not making any more of it.”
Indeed, land is a finite resource, and while the amount of available land in the contiguous United States is vast, you can’t assume things will always stay the same. “Areas get built out, restrictions can be placed on land that prevent it from being developed, or a natural disaster could occur, making previously habitable land uninhabitable,” he said.
Striking out and finding a plot of land that suits your needs and fulfills your fantasies may sound like a hair-brained idea that’s not exactly grounded in reality. But here’s the good news: There are several financial advantages of owning land that may quiet any doubts.
You can lease it out to farmers, builders, or developers through a ground lease. A ground lease is an agreement in which a tenant is permitted to develop a piece of property during the lease period, after which the land and all improvements are turned over to the property owner. Ground leases are a great way to retain your land while generating income and revenue for decades.
You may be able to write it off on your taxes. If you’ll be taking out a loan to pay for vacant land, any interest you pay on that loan may be deducted (up to a certain limit), as can any property tax you pay throughout the year.
The land may appreciate. If you intend to buy land and hang onto it, there’s a chance your investment may appreciate over time. Here’s a handy map that shows how land values have appreciated since 1976.
You can leverage equity for other investments. With the equity you might gain, you can invest in other properties or investments, which is a great way to build a passive income stream.
You can do just about anything with it. Fishing, golfing, hunting, hiking. It’s all possible, depending on the type of land you purchase. Then of course, there are tiny homes: Simple to build, relatively inexpensive and majorly popular, you could build one (or several!) and rent it out on sites like Airbnb to generate income.
How to find land for sale
There are two ways to go about finding vacant land that’s available for sale. You can use the listings that realtors use, which are sometimes referred to as “on-market,” or you can go “off-market” and conduct your own search for land.
Especially if you enlist a realtor to help you, an on-market search will likely be quicker, easier and more comprehensive than an off-market search. All the large real estate agencies maintain up-to-date listings online that allow you to filter based on things like price, location, acreage, and much more. In addition, there are websites that specialize in vacant land searches.
LoopNet: A full-color website that allows you to search for several types of commercial real estate. Options include land, industrial and/or retail buildings and office space, and an advanced map feature can provide the property’s exact location. A robust, relevant blog rounds out the excellent features on this site.
Land And Farm: They specialize (as the name indicates) in vacant farms, ranches, and hunting properties. You’ll find an impressive showcase of properties across the country (and be wowed by the vast price variations), but the site also boasts a fully functional search feature that allows you to search by type of land and state, along with a wide variety of advanced filters.
LandLeader: This site calls itself the “National leader in Land Marketing.” Specializing in vacant land of all types, including farm, hunting, recreational, and ranch properties, offerings are more limited than other, similar websites, but can give you an overview if you’re wondering how to find land for sale.
LotNetwork.com: Though the design may be basic, LotNetwork.com is still a good option if you’d like to find land for sale. It’s easily searchable by county, state or zip code, and features more than 400 thousand lots for sale on the site.
Real estate listings are an excellent tool to help you find land for sale. But sometimes it takes a bit of extra sleuthing to find the property you’ve always dreamed of. Maybe you’ve got your eye on the perfect piece of land, but someone already owns it. Or maybe the land you’re after is in a highly coveted area and gets snapped up before it even hits the listings. In cases like these, a traditional real estate search may not be the best tool for the job. It’s time to take things off-market.
“You have to go old-school,” said Hedenberg. “Things like cold-calling property owners, door knocking, and even sending letters are all tried-and-true methods of success.”
Justin Smith, a property buyer with Hollis Hill Properties, LLC, has another proven method.
“I use a service like ListSource.com to find properties where the owner has high [greater than 50%] equity and has owned the land for more than 7 years. ListSource gives me a list of names and addresses and property information and I use that to send each individual a postcard asking if they are interested in selling their property.”
This land is (now) your land
Whether you choose to find land for sale through an on-market or off-market search, owning land can be a highly rewarding endeavor. It’s a way to own a piece of this land we call home and fully customize it in a way that makes your heart skip a beat every time you pull up to the lot. As Hedenberg said, “there aren’t any drawbacks to owning a piece of land.”