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Selecting a Lot

I often get calls from people just desperate to buy a lot in a rural area. 'I just need an acre where I can put a mobile home' is the commonest request. People like that are less selective than the high-end buyer who wants to build an 8000 square foot palace in the best area of town.

It is important to list the most important priorities, and if these are addressed from day one, the prospective buyer can save a lot of heartache. Here are some questions to ask.

How much can I afford to spend? The most important question. Once you've addressed the other questions you can do some research and find if your budget is reasonable for the land you want to buy. Don't worry about the cost of the lot. Just consider the money you want to spend on the lot AND building the home. Divide by 3 and add a little. that's the value of the lot you should be looking for. A $1m home should be built on a $350,000-$400,000 lot.

Where do I need to live? If you are buying land for a retirement home you'll be less worried about commuting distance and probably just want to make sure the grandkids aren't too far away. If you want that 30 minute commute you are probably going to have to pay for the privilege!

How much acreage do I need? It may seem strange, but unless a lot is splittable, a 1 acre lot can end up costing as much as a 4 acre lot. If you can only build one property on the lot, the value of the extra land is diminished.

Do I need a prime view lot, or would I consider something less attractive? If you want a spectacular lot, or a lot in the best part of town, it stands to reason that you will pay more.

Do I need special zoning, for example for animal breeding, for agriculture, or for a commercial enterprise? Sometimes these things don't cost extra, but they may reduce your list of possibilities.

What is the best way to quickly find out if your ideas are practicable? OK, I'm biased, but do consider consulting a Realtor who is experienced in land matters. Tell him or her what you want and the realtor should be able to tell you very quickly if you will be able to find the lot of your dreams within your budget.

Sometimes the best location is impracticable. I found a lot for a client recently that was just breathtaking. The views went on forever, the property already had a small home on it that could be removed, leaving all the utilities in place, and the access driveway was already blacktopped. But to get to the lot, the road was just about the scariest 2 miles of switchback I've ever encountered. Needless to say, the client didn't buy the lot!



This website has been written and developed by Rob Ransom, PhD. Rob has extensive experience working with buyers and sellers of vacant land in San Diego County, CA. Although Rob currently has a California real estate license he is retired from selling real estate.

If you have comments or suggestions regarding this web site, email Rob at the address below.


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