Buying Land as an Investment

By Dan Hinson


In today’s foreclosure-heavy market, it’s not uncommon to find land properties for sale in your area. Land has always been a great investment, due to its limited supply and historic rise in value. In fact, banks are now putting land on the market at prices that are pennies on the dollar compared with the original cost.

Many investors are purchasing land across Georgia. Depending on what you plan to do with the land, there are two different courses of action you can take:

Improving the Land

There are many types of land that you can purchase, some of which has been improved and some not. In Georgia, we have a lot of “pipe farms” available, which are pieces of land that have been stopped midway in the process of creating a community. Roads and sewer may have been installed. If you are investor, this may be good or bad. When you purchase a partially developed piece of land, you are most likely committing yourself to finishing the project, which can add more cost and more risk.

Unimproved land, or land in its natural state, can be purchased specifically to be improved and then sold. Improvement usually consists of building some type of structure on the land, whether it is residential or commercial. Building a structure on the land can significantly raise the value, however, like development of a subdivision, can be costly and add risk.

In today’s market, purchase money financing and/or institutional funding is less available to investors, so cash deals are more frequent. Improvements are financed, in great part, based on the strength of a business plan that ties generation of income to the improvement. The investor might consider an improvement to be a good investment, but the lender may not see the tangible means necessary for repayment.

Unimproved Land

Historically, raw or unimproved land values have risen, but like the rest of the real estate market today, buyers can often purchase land at lower than perceived market value. Many investors choose to purchase and hold unimproved land speculating that value and demand will increase within a reasonable timeframe. This strategy doesn’t involve building costs and maintenance is sometimes less expensive. Additionally, ROI from real estate investments has historically exceeded other investment opportunities. This rationale is widely held by speculative real estate investors today.

Land prices can be dirt cheap (pun intended) in rural areas, but growth can be slow depending upon the intended use of the land. The price of land may be higher in more populated areas, but the potential for return greater. Commercial and residential land values vary with location and use. There is no specific investment rule-of-thumb.

Current land investment opportunities are numerous and vary often providing the buyer with the upper hand. If you have any questions or comments about buying or selling land, be sure to post your thoughts below.

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