Buying and investing in land is not a well-understood concept. Most people are unsure how the land buying process works, and even fewer realize the advantages of utilizing land to strategically diversify their portfolio. This is unfortunate, because vacant land can be an excellent investment vehicle. Not only does it appreciate well and have the potential to produce high returns, but it can also create an additional stream of income while you enjoy it. However, like all investments, your profitably will ultimately be determined by how informed you are.
Not all land is considered equal. When searching for the perfect property, it’s crucial that you use your due diligence, and choose land that can be developed or utilized for your intended purposes. If you’re thinking about purchasing property, we’ve compiled this ultimate guide on how to buy land in order to help you make an informed decision.
The Benefits of Buying Land
There are a myriad of benefits to owning land, not the least of which is the peace of mind that land ownership provides. As a long-term, tangible asset, land is a limited resource that requires little maintenance. It’s almost a hands-off investment, and unlike stocks and bonds, you can enjoy while it appreciates in value.
Some of the biggest benefits of buying land are:
Vacant land is a more affordable way to get into the real estate market, because it’s typically much less expensive than developed land. As a general rule of thumb, the less other people have done to it the cheaper the property will be. Important factors such as utilities, buildings, and access roads can dramatically increase land value. Of course, the cost of land varies substantially depending on where it’s located and what it’s zoned for, but in general, vacant land tends to be less expensive.
One of the single biggest advantages of buying vacant land is that you can utilize it in any way you want to — provided you adhere to the property’s zoning and building codes. Whether you decide to keep it as it is and enjoy it for recreational reasons or build a home on it, the options are almost endless. You can also hold raw land as an investment until you’re ready to sell it to a developer. This can be a lucrative option if your land appreciates in value.
As many real estate investors will attest — Land is an asset, but structures built on land are a liability. Undeveloped land requires very little maintenance, especially in comparison to keeping a building or a home in good condition. With raw land, in particular, you have no concerns about repair work or maintaining structures. This is why many investors consider undeveloped land an excellent passive long-term investment.
Purchasing vacant land typically means that your insurance and property taxes will be much lower than buying developed land, since vacant land has a significantly lower assessed value than a property that is improved in the same area. As property taxes are directly tied to land value, vacant land typically has lower property taxes. In addition, vacant land is easy to manage — so you don’t have to worry about paying a property manager to take care of it for you.
In contrast to a home or building, vacant land typically remains in the same condition you bought it in, with minimal effort. Although weather and erosion can impact land, in general, vacant land appreciates very well over the long term.
In fact, if purchased in the right area at the right time, land can appreciate significantly. This typically occurs if the area around the land becomes more desirable, or is slated to be a major growth center.
Fewer buyers are competing for vacant land than buyers competing for developed land. This can be a significant advantage when negotiating with sellers, as they can be more motivated to make a deal. However, it should be noted that demand is relative, so it’s crucial to find a strategic location that makes sense for you.
Increasing Land Value
As the population grows, the demand for quality land increases. Most landowners can expect their land to increase in value — even without making any improvements. However, if you want to proactively improve your land’s worth, it’s relatively simple. From adding access roads and utilities to building structures, there are plenty of options. In fact, simply ordering a survey on your land can increase its resale value to potential buyers.
When Is the Best Time to Buy Land?
As the old adage goes, to everything there is a season — and the real estate market is no different. Due to varying market conditions throughout the year, some months are more favorable for buying land than others. If you’re purchasing property as an investment, it’s crucial to understand the best time to buy.
Typically, the colder months are the best time for buyers to purchase land. This is especially true if you’re looking for recreational or hunting land. As hunting season is already in full swing and most people are preoccupied with the holidays, there’s usually more inventory on the market and less competition from other buyers. Additionally, sellers who list their property earlier in the year may be more motivated to negotiate if it still remains on the market during the winter.
In contrast, buying land during the spring and summer season can sometimes mean paying a premium. With plenty of buyers eager to close on a deal and enjoy their land in the summer months — or get it ready for hunting in the fall — you may find yourself facing stiff competition.
Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule, and market trends can vary significantly between states. For example, if you’re considering purchasing equestrian land in Florida, the best time to start your search is summer. As seasonal visitors and snowbirds heavily impact the Florida real estate market, the state sees an increase in sales when the temperatures dip across other parts of the country. This results in less competition from other buyers as the real estate market slows down during the hot and humid Florida summer.
The best time to purchase land varies depending on your desired location. Generally, for most areas across the U.S., buyers can find the best land deals during the winter months.
Residential Land Versus Commercial Land
If you’re looking to purchase land, zoning is crucial, since it states what purpose(s) the land can be used for. There are several different zoning designations for land; however, commercial and residential are the most common. There are also subcategories of zoning within the primary categories. For example, an area zoned for residential use may stipulate single-family dwellings only or restrict the number of multi-family homes that can be built.
Commercial zoning is designated for use by businesses only. These businesses often interact with the public, such as retail shops, restaurants, and offices.
Generally, commercial land has good accessibility and transport links, as well as available areas for parking. In addition, the businesses located in a commercial zone should be able to co-exist peacefully among residential areas. Vacant land may be zoned as commercial if it’s determined to have the potential highest and best use as a commercial business, such as a hotel or shopping center.
Residential zoning is an area of single-family or multi-family dwellings. Depending on local restrictions, some businesses may be able to be conducted in residential dwellings. Residential zones often include hospitals and nursing homes; however, businesses such as retail shopping facilities are not typically permitted.
Zoning laws also limit the type of animals allowed to be kept at a residence, with many laws that prohibit keeping farm animals in residential areas. Chickens, pigs, cows, sheep, and horses are often subject to certain requirements; however, domestic pets such as dogs, cats, and birds are generally not regulated and can be kept freely.
4 Things To Consider Before You Start Your Land Search
Vacant land is one of the most overlooked and underutilized real estate investments in the U.S. Unfortunately, many real estate investors fail to realize the multitude of benefits that come from owning land in its raw form. Purchasing the right property — at the right price — can be a lucrative investment opportunity.
Finding the perfect plot of land requires research, realistic expectations, and patience. Taking the time to sit down and determine your priorities and future goals can prevent you from purchasing property that fails to meet your needs and goals.
Here are some important questions to ask yourself before you start your land search:
1. How Many Acres Do You Need?
How many acres you require is entirely dependent on what you plan to do with your land. For instance, according to the USDA, if you plan to purchase grazing pastures for livestock, an adult cow requires around 4 acres per month. In contrast, if you’re looking for prime hunting land, you’ll probably need at least 10 acres for bow hunting, and a minimum of 50 acres when hunting with a rifle.
Regardless of the minimum amount of acres you need, it’s crucial that you don’t overextend yourself and purchase more land than you can manage. If you’re unsure, an experienced real estate agent who specializes in land can help you determine the ideal acreage for your needs.
2. What Topography Needs Do You Have?
Topography is the shape of any natural and man-made features on the land. This can include hills, trees, streams, ravines, fences, buildings, and any other improvements made to the land’s natural state. Finding out the topography of the potential property is essential because not all land is suitable for every use. Plus, the topography of the land can be useful to know when making plans for improvements, such as drainage ditches, or building a home.
The ideal topography varies depending on your intended use for the land. For instance, if you’re purchasing equestrian property, it’s a good idea to check if any riding areas have surrounding hills or grades. This is because the rain that runs off hilly areas can create significant water issues and lead to problems for your horses. In contrast, hunting land should provide plenty of food and fresh water sources to attract animals, as well as trees and cover to encourage them to stay.
3. How Accessible Is It?
Accessibility can drastically increase land value. Land that is within a reasonable driving distance to retail areas and other amenities is often more expensive than extremely rural land. Although remote land does not appreciate as quickly, you can still expect its value to steadily rise in a normal growth market.
In addition, if a property lacks road access, the creation of a legal easement may be necessary. In this instance, it’s essential to seek advice from a real estate attorney or title company to ensure that the document is legally binding.
4. What Is Your Budget?
Ultimately, your budget will determine what type of land you can purchase, and its location. The cost of land can vary widely, and although it may experience some dips on occasion, overall, the value of land consistently increases year after year.
When purchasing property, it’s important to consider whether its cost will leave you with enough money left over to complete any improvements that you want to make. If you’re trying to get the best deal possible, you need to be strategic. Undeveloped land is almost always cheaper than property with an existing structure on it. Often, purchasing multiple acres of land yields the best deal.
4 Basic Types Of Land
Land types, also known as biomes, can be differentiated by their climate, vegetation, and the animals that inhabit them. There are four main land types; forest, grassland, tundra, and desert. Each of these biomes can be further divided into subcategories, depending on their specific location.
When purchasing property, understanding biome types is crucial. Different land can be more suitable for particular uses, so it’s essential to consider your needs and whether your chosen biome can meet them.
According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, approximately one-third of the world’s land area is covered by forests. Depending on where a forest is located, it can be classified as either tropical, temperate, or boreal.
Temperate forests can be found along the Eastern Seaboard and in parts of the Midwest. This type of forest experiences four distinct seasons and yearlong precipitation. In addition, the long growing season in temperate forests often makes them prime locations for agriculture, as the soil tends to be extremely fertile. Temperate forests are also an ideal hunting ground for bears and elk.
Boreal forests make up 30% of the world’s forest cover and feature coniferous trees and plenty of freshwater rivers and lakes. The soil in boreal forests has low fertility and is not ideal for growing plants. However, they can often be fruitful hunting grounds for bison, moose, and elk. In the U.S., Idaho, Washington, Montana, and Minnesota all have boreal forests.
Tropical forests have a dry season and a rainy season. There’s only one tropical forest managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and that is El Yunque National Forest, located in Puerto Rico.
Grasslands, also known as prairies, differ greatly in their vegetation and animal species depending on where they are located.
Temperate grasslands can be found in the Great Plains. As the soil in the prairies is ideal for growing crops, large areas of the central grasslands are used for intensive agriculture. Wheat, maize, and soybean are among the most popular crops grown.
Farther west in Texas, where there is less precipitation, midgrass, and shortgrass prairies are common. These areas are typically used as range land for cattle and sheep.
Tundra is a wide-open space of no trees, extremely low temperatures, little precipitation, and short growing seasons. There are three different types of Tundra; Arctic tundra, Antarctic tundra, and Alpine tundra.
In the U.S., large swathes of arctic tundra can be found in the state of Alaska. Due to the abundant wildlife and low populations, Alaska’s arctic tundra has become increasingly popular with survivalist enthusiasts and people looking to hunt, fish, and hike.
Alpine tundra is found above the tree line in mountainous regions such as the Rocky Mountains and is known for beautiful wildflowers and species such as elk. Due to its breathtaking scenery, alpine tundra is a popular setting for recreational activities such as hiking and fishing.
There are four major deserts in North America; the Great Basin, Mohave, Chihuahuan, and the Sonoran Desert. Deserts are known for receiving very little rainfall and extreme weather conditions. Each major desert in the U.S. experiences freezing winters — except for from the Sonoran Desert.
Due to their low temperatures and lack of rainfall, deserts are inhospitable to most plant and animal life. Instead, many desert areas are mined for valuable minerals such as gold, salt, gravel, and limestone.
5 Types Of Land Use
Undeveloped land is a blank canvas that can be utilized in any way you choose. From building your dream equestrian property to having your own slice of survivalist heaven, your options are endless. However, it’s important to note that how you intend to use your land will significantly affect the type of property you purchase — and it’s location.
1. Hunting Land
Whether your passion is hunting for elk on vast ranches or searching for pheasant on the Great Plains, the type of hunting land you purchase can greatly affect your enjoyment and hunting success.
To ensure you buy land that meets your needs, it’s crucial that you take the time to consider your hunting goals.
What are the Benefits of Buying Hunting Land?
Owning your own private hunting land can provide you with a level of pride and enhanced safety that simply can’t be achieved by leasing. The freedom of not asking anyone’s permission to hunt, or make improvements to the land, can make family hunting trips infinitely more enjoyable.
Some other advantages of purchasing your own hunting land include:
- Hands-Off Investment – With hunting land, there are no tenants or significant maintenance issues to take care of. You can simply enjoy the land whenever you’d like while it appreciates in value.
- Long-Term Tangible Asset – Land doesn’t wear out, or fall apart, or depreciate — and it can’t be stolen.
- Provides Tax Deductions – You may be able to deduct the land’s property tax, interest, and other carrying costs.
- Income Potential – Timber mining, renting tillable acres, and leasing mineral or oil rights are all potential ways that you can create cash flow from your land.
Important Considerations when Buying Hunting Land
Buying land involves more than analyzing online topographical maps and looking for pictures of bucks on trail cameras. Here are several important considerations to think about before you make an offer:
- Understand the Area – Being familiar with the area is a huge advantage when purchasing hunting land. You should also research the neighboring lands and find out important information such as what the hunting regulations are, and the disease prevalence.
- Consider Cover – Animals like deer gravitate toward areas that provide ample bedding and make them feel safe. Land with thick brush and plenty of trees provides the perfect cover, and can draw animals in.
- Food Sources – Are there existing food plots on the land, or a variety of food sources for your preferred game? For example, if you like to hunt whitetail deer the land should provide wild berry bushes, oak or fruit trees, and honeysuckle vines, among other vegetation.
- Water – Water is essential to any animal’s livelihood, so the land you choose to hunt, or one close by, should have a water source. Properties with creeks, rivers and ponds provide an important haven for wildlife.
Popular Hunting Areas
From tracking game, to taking the winning shot, the sport of hunting provides an adrenaline rush unlike any other. To make sure that you find the best piece of land for your hunt, it’s crucial that you research potential locations thoroughly.
Here are some popular hunting areas to consider:
- Minnesota – It’s easy to see why Minnesota is one of the most popular destinations for hunters, both in and out of state. Featuring a landscape of rolling mountains, vast open fields, and thick forests, Minnesota is a hunter’s paradise. Famous for a wide variety of large game species, hunters can look forward to whitetail deer, moose, and black bear. If you prefer to hunt small game animals, there’s also an abundance of rabbits, grouse, doves, and prairie chickens as well as a large population of wild turkeys.
- Montana – If you prefer hunting big game in challenging terrain, Montana is the ideal state to put your skills to the test. During the fall, head to western Montana to hunt black bears or to the rugged mountains to catch a glimpse of the elusive mule deer. Mountain mule deer are known to be some of the most difficult species to hunt, as they frequently occupy the highest peaks and harshest terrain of all game.
- Colorado – With it’s vast mountains and dense conifer forests, Colorado is a haven for trophy Elks. In fact, Colorado has more elk than any other state, as well as boasting white-tailed deer, moose, mountain lions, black bears, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and many more game species.
- Texas – Home to some of the most diverse hunting opportunities in the U.S., Texas has more white-tailed deer, turkey, and wild hogs than any other state. However, Texas’ prime hunting grounds are almost exclusively reserved for landowners, with 97% of the hunting land privately owned. Fortunately, it’s also one of the most affordable states to purchase your own piece of hunting heaven.
- Wisconsin – Due to a wide variety of wild game, land in Wisconsin can provide almost year-round hunting opportunities. Wisconsin is also known to be home to some of the world’s largest whitetail deer, making it a dream destination for serious trophy hunters. If you prefer to hunt mallard ducks or Canadian geese, be sure to locate land that includes one of Wisconsin’s many waterways — or you can hit the woods in early fall and take advantage of the large wild turkey population.
How Can I Add Value to My Hunting Land?
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to increase your hunting land value is to add trail cameras. Trail cameras provide potential buyers with evidence of deer activity, and could significantly increase the chances of selling your land in the future.
Another affordable way to add value to your land is to improve its “road appeal” by installing a fence and a “no trespassing” sign around the front perimeter. This makes a good first impression on future buyers and sets the tone for the rest of the property. It’s also a good idea to clean up any trails to make navigation around the property easier.
If you’re looking to increase your property’s value substantially, you could consider adding strategic food plots to your land. Food plots, along with a water source, can help attract wildlife to the area and make your property more marketable. Once you attract some deer to the area, you can also consider installing an enclosed deer stand on your land. Stands are something that almost every hunter wants, and you can also enjoy them while you own the property.
Income Producing Hunting Land
Owning your own hunting land can also be an opportunity to create an additional income stream. For example, leasing your land out during hunting seasons can be lucrative — plus, with hunting seasons different depending on the game and weapon, there are income producing opportunities throughout the year. If you have a water source on your land, you could also consider leasing the fishing rights for anglers to enjoy.
Hunting land that contains farmland can also be particularly profitable, as you can rent out the farmland to help offset your monthly payments or property taxes. In addition, you can utilize any natural resources you have on your land, such as selling your timber. However, before you start cutting down trees, it’s important to consider what the potential impacts could be in terms of income and property value thereafter.
2. Agricultural Land
Whether you have dreams of starting your own organic farm or owning your own vineyard, agricultural land can be a lucrative investment — as long as you research your options thoroughly.
What are the Benefits of Buying Agricultural Land?
Agricultural land is a tangible asset, so it’s an excellent way to diversify your investment portfolio. It is a fact that the demand for food has steadily risen over the past several years, increasing the value of quality farmland. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Land Values and Cash Rents, the average value of U.S. cropland was $4,100 per acre in 2019, which was an increase of 1.2% from 2018
Not only is agricultural land a sound investment opportunity, but it can also provide you with an additional income stream. For example, many landowners choose to lease their property out to other farmers or sharecrop it to offset some of their expenses. At $140 per acre, the average rental rate for U.S. cropland has increased by 2% since 2018, and continues to rise steadily.
Some other advantages of purchasing your own agricultural land include:
- Tax Deductions – Many farms have improvements that depreciate, such as barns, grain storage, and irrigation pivots, which can be used as a depreciation tax deduction. This can be useful for offsetting yearly taxes.
- More Control – Owning your farmland gives you more control over management decisions, such as crop rotation, conservation strategies, farm practices, and building improvements.
- Long-Term Returns – Agricultural land can provide substantial long-term returns. This is particularly true if your land is located in an emerging area that will benefit from infrastructure projects in the future.
Important Considerations when Buying Farm Land
Finding the perfect piece of agricultural land can be challenging, so it’s essential to thoroughly lay out your wants and needs before you start your search. Here are several critical points to consider when buying farmland:
- Understand the Soil Quality – Whether you plan to grow crops or keep cattle, the soil quality of agricultural land is crucial. It’s vital that you research the condition of the soil you’re buying, and furthermore, understand how it will impact your revenue forecast. If possible, ask the existing owner about the type of soil on the land as well as the annual crop rotation history.
- Consider the Water Source – An adequate water source is integral to establishing the value of agricultural land. It’s crucial to find out what the water source is, and whether the water rights also convey with the property.
- Study the Land Survey – A land survey can provide you with invaluable information about the property you’re planning to purchase. For example, are there any gas or mineral rights for the property? If so, do these rights convey to you as the new owner or have they been severed from the surface rights? It’s important to know, because mining or drilling the property can harm the soil and water quality.
- Inspect the Amenities – If you’re purchasing agricultural land with an existing infrastructure, it should be thoroughly inspected. Making repairs can be costly, so finding out the condition before you take the plunge is important. Be sure to look at any existing buildings and fences, as well as the utilities.
Existing Infrastructure on Agricultural Land
Depending on the type of farming enterprise you desire, the infrastructure, equipment, and resources you need will vary. Before you purchase agricultural land, it’s vital to have a good idea of what supporting infrastructure your operation will need, and what, if any, existing inventory there currently is.
For example, livestock requires correctly sized housing, as well as storage facilities for their feed and equipment, or any product you produce. In addition, you will be held responsible if any animals get loose, so effective fencing is a necessity. The fencing you require will vary depending on your livestock species. If you’re unsure, you can refer to your local Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) for guidance.
If you plan to grow crops, you may need a greenhouse or barn — or even refrigeration and specialized processing facilities. In this instance, it’s vital to have a sufficient power source for your operations.
Of course, the more existing infrastructure on agricultural land, the more valuable the property can significantly increase your costs. Also, if the infrastructure is not in good working condition, the expense of repairing can be extremely costly. It often makes better financial sense to purchase land with less existing infrastructure rather than a property with amenities that need significant repairs.
3. Recreational Land
Recreational land provides you with the unique combination of being a sound financial investment as well as an asset that you and your family can enjoy for years to come. Whether you’re a passionate angler looking for a secluded fishing spot, or an avid outdoorsman who loves ATVing, there’s plenty of recreational land to snap up across the country.
What are the Benefits of Buying Recreational Land?
Unlike a stock certificate, recreational land has the added benefit of being enjoyable while it’s value appreciates. From hiking and camping to fishing and hunting, ownership of recreational property provides a fun getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
In addition, a recent Land Market Survey by the Realtors Land Institute found that in 2019, recreational land sales saw a year-on-year increase of 2.7% — outpacing land sold for industrial and retail use.
Some other benefits of buying your own recreational land include:
- Privacy – In today’s fast-paced world, many people dream of having an accessible escape into nature. With the right amount of recreational acreage, it’s possible to achieve the secluded retreat that you and your family desire.
- Nature – Spending time in nature can help reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, according to Harvard University, an evolving scientific field known as “ecotherapy” has shown a strong correlation between spending time in nature and reduced stress levels.
- Vehicles – If you’re a fan of dirt bikes, 4-wheelers, and snowmobiles, owning your own recreational land is the perfect way to indulge your passion. With easy access to your own personal playground, you can make your own rules and design completely customized trails and challenge courses.
- Create Memories – Quality family time can be difficult to carve out, but owning recreational land makes it easy to enjoy your family away from life’s everyday distractions. Bond with your children while cutting firewood and sharing stories over a campfire, or use the time to pass down invaluable hunting skills and survival knowledge to the next generation.
Important Considerations when Buying Recreational Land
When purchasing land for recreational use, it’s important to consider what you intend to use the property for. The ideal location, topography, and amenities will be determined by the activities you want to enjoy. Here are some essential factors to consider when buying recreational land:
- Zoning Regulations and Restrictions – Understanding zoning regulations and restrictions that impact a property is crucial. Zoning regulations can impact every aspect of your land, from it’s build-ability to the species you are allowed to hunt.
- Consider Your Interests – If you plan to use your recreational property for hunting, you should think about the game you like to hunt. Is there an adequate water supply and food plots? On the other hand, if you plan to set up a hobby farm, you’re probably more interested in the soil quality and available pastures.
- Location – Even the most beautiful recreational plot can become a burden if you live too far away to enjoy it. If your purpose for buying land is to take a break from daily life, it’s important that you can visit your property with relative ease. Ideally, you should look for an area within 4 hours of your home.
How Can I Add Value to My Recreational Land?
Adding value to your recreational land is a wise investment; however, the improvements you make must align with its intended use. It’s also important to remember that the more specialized you make your recreational land, the smaller your potential buyer pool may become.
In general, improving access to your land is a safe way to increase its value, regardless of what you intend to use it for. If your property lacks road access, you may need to discuss creating a legal easement with your neighbor. Although this is a relatively simple process, it is a legally binding contract, so it’s important to seek advice from a title company or real estate attorney.
Another way to improve your land value is to plant trees. Timberland is a solid asset that has historically offered a higher rate of return than stocks. Because timber is a long-term investment, federal tax provisions also allow the deduction of tree planting and forest management expenses.
If you’re looking to make more specific improvements to your land, it’s crucial that you take into consideration what other buyers might want. For example, a log cabin can provide somewhere warm and safe to retreat to after a long day enjoying the great outdoors, but it can also raise your property taxes and limit your future buyer pool.
Income-Producing Recreational Land
Recreational land offers many opportunities to create an additional income stream. From leasing out your hunting rights, to selling timber, there are plenty of ways your land can help pay for itself.
Some popular income-producing methods for recreational land include:
- Short-term leasing rights – If your property is located in a prime hunting area, there’s the potential to make a substantial amount of money leasing out your land;s hunting rights. If you have a body of water on your land, you can lease out the fishing rights to anglers.
- Long-term leasing rights – Many independent farmers are willing to enter long-term leases for quality land. Easily tillable land with good soil, and a fresh water supply can be hugely profitable. If you have pastureland, you can also rent it out to farmers who need space for their livestock to graze.
- Rent to campers – According to the 2019 North American Camping Report, the camping market is growing — with 62% of U.S. households claiming to be active campers. Renting your land out to campers is an easy way that you can make money from your land.
4. Equestrian Land
Building the perfect equestrian estate takes more than merely buying a plot of land. Whether your dream equestrian property is a horse farm, working ranch, showjumping estate, or racehorse training facility, owning the right piece of property can make your vision a reality.
What are the Benefits of Buying Equestrian Land?
Investing in equestrian property can provide a multitude of benefits, not the least of which is the convenience of keeping your horses at home. According to a study by the American Horse Council Federation, the horse industry contributes almost $40 billion to the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S., making equestrian property a sound financial investment.
Other advantages of purchasing equestrian land include:
- Close Proximity to Horses – Any horse enthusiast knows that having their horses at home provides peace of mind that boarding them elsewhere simply can’t provide. Whether you keep horses as companion animals or participate in equestrian sports, such as show jumping or polo, the convenience of having your animals close by is unparalleled.
- Profit Potential – Owning equestrian property provides endless amounts of income potential. Renting your extra stalls to boarders is one of the easiest and most lucrative ways to earn money from your horse property. If you plan to purchase an equestrian estate to start your own horse-boarding business, check local ordinances to ensure that it’s possible.
- Long-term Investment – Land is an excellent long-term investment option, and equestrian property is no exception. This is especially true if your land features on-site equestrian facilities. Even simple improvements to your horse property can significantly increase its resale value and make it desirable to potential buyers.
Important Considerations when Buying Equestrian Land
The type of horse property you should purchase is heavily dependent on the type of equestrian interests you have. For instance, a commercial horse facility would require an entirely different infrastructure than a private equestrian home with only a few horses. It’s essential to thoroughly understand your goals and choose the most appropriate land to help you realize them. Here are some crucial things to consider when buying equestrian property:
- Location – Your horse-related interests can narrow down your search significantly. For example, if you like to take your animals on open state land or local trails, you should search for a property that has access to them. If you’re a professional, you’ll likely want to be near the ‘hub of the industry,’ where you can network easily and clients can access your services.
- Build, Buy, or Renovate – Do you plan to build a new equestrian home or business? If you have a vision you want to create, buying raw land can enable you to achieve precisely what you want. However, if you don’t want the expense or work of building from scratch, you might prefer to buy an existing property that you can renovate. There are pros and cons to both options, so it’s essential to consider them thoroughly.
- Acreage – The size of your operation will determine how many acres you’ll need. At a minimum, there should be enough space for a barn, stables, paddocks, tack room, and storage for equipment. In addition, each horse should also have around two acres of grazing pasture. As of 2019, pasture land in the United States costs on average $1,400 per acre.
Popular Equestrian Areas
The location of equestrian land can significantly affect its value, as well as how it can be utilized. Buying an equestrian property that has established equine businesses and services within close proximity is preferential.
Here are some popular equestrian areas to consider:
- Ocala, Florida – Attracting equestrians of all disciplines, Ocala is home to over 1,200 horse farms and is still growing. Ocala is a slice of Southern hospitality with its mild winters and beautiful oak trees, where you can enjoy comfortable riding all year long. Wellington’s incredible equestrian events are just three and a half hours away.
- McAllen, Texas – The state of Texas boasts more horses than any other state in the U.S., and is second only to California when it comes to its population of Arabian and Thoroughbred stallions. Whether you’re looking for a couple of acres for your horse to graze, or thousands of acres of ranch land for your herd, Texas has quality equestrian land that’s sure to meet your needs.
- Lexington, Kentucky – Often referred to as the Horse Capital of the World, Lexington, Kentucky, is a horse lovers mecca. The city boasts a deep-rooted equestrian history and is home to the Kentucky Horse Park, an exceptional equine facility dedicated to a range of equestrian sports. With endless pastures and affordable acres, the Bluegrass State is one of the most popular areas for horse enthusiasts.
- Santa Fe, New Mexico – With its high desert, pine forests, various bodies of water, and picturesque arroyos, Santa Fe is widely considered one of the most scenic and diverse riding terrains in the U.S. If you’re looking for a relaxed lifestyle and pleasant weather all year round, New Mexico could be an idyllic location for your equestrian property.
- Middleburg, Virginia – Known for hosting America’s oldest horse show — the Upperville Colt and Horse Show — equestrian property in Middleburg, Virginia, is suitable for even the most discerning buyer. Featuring lush greenery and pleasant weather, Middleburg is truly an equestrian paradise.
- Rancho Santa Fe, California – Located just outside of San Diego, Rancho Santa Fe is perfect for the equestrian who wants to enjoy nine months or more of comfortable riding. With daytime temperatures rarely dropping below 60° F, even in the winter, and staying around the high 80s in the summer, the climate in Rancho Santa Fe is idyllic.
5. Waterfront Lots
If you dream of waking up to the sound of crashing waves, or the gentle lapping of a lake, a waterfront property could be the perfect choice for you. Waterfront lots provide significantly more versatility than land-locked real estate, and they’re often more valuable. Whether you dream of living by the ocean or having your own personal fishing dock on the lake, there’s plenty of waterfront property available throughout the U.S.
What are the Benefits of Buying Waterfront Land?
There are so many beautiful advantages to living on the water. From having a tranquil place to sit and enjoy nature, to being able to indulge in fun water activities with friends and family, with waterfront property, the world is your oyster.
Here are some of the biggest advantages of purchasing waterfront land:
- Investment Opportunity – Waterfront land is limited, which makes it an in-demand real estate commodity. Beach or waterfront homes make excellent investments because they can be used as vacation homes or rented out to create a passive income stream.
- Water Sports – If you enjoy water sports, waterfront land is a must. Whatever pace of life you crave, there’s a body of water that can help you realize your dreams. Waterfront land gets you right next to the action — from paddleboarding on sleepy canals in Florida to surfing impressive waves in the Pacific ocean.
- Lifestyle – The tranquility of living by the water is almost medicinal. In fact, there is proven scientific evidence that being close to bodies of water can promote mental wellbeing and happiness.
Important Considerations for Waterfront Land
Buying waterfront land is entirely personal, and there are no hard and fast rules; however, depending on your individual needs, some properties may be more suitable than others. There are several factors to consider when buying waterfront land, which aren’t a concern when purchasing landlocked real estate. Here are some essential things to consider:
- Choose the right water – Not all waterfront property is the same. If you crave the scent of salty air and deep sea fishing, you’re probably going to feel most at home on beachfront property. However, if you want to enjoy the crashing surf, a waterfront property in the bay probably won’t be a good fit for you. Not all lakefront property is skiable, so if you have dreams of riding your jet ski every weekend, you need to make sure that it’s possible on the body of water you choose.
- Insurance Requirements – Waterfront properties often have an increased risk of flooding, and many beachfront homes are at risk of hurricane damage. It’s crucial to get an idea of your insurance costs before you purchase waterfront land. A good place to start is asking the seller how much their insurance costs are yearly. If the premiums are cost-prohibitive, it’s best to know before you make an offer.
- Permits – Some waterfront land requires permits for things such as building a dock, or fishing. It’s essential that you thoroughly research permit restrictions before making a decision on waterfront property.
- Littoral or Riparian Rights – Land that borders bays, the ocean, sea, or large lakes, have what is known as Littoral Rights. Property abutting moving bodies of water such as rivers and streams has Riparian Rights. Owners with littoral water rights can claim dominion of the shore to the median high water mark. In contrast, riparian water rights can give owners a license to use the water for domestic or commercial use.
How Can I Add Value to My Waterfront Land?
Land located on a body of water such as a lake or pond is a valuable asset. Taking some simple steps to improve your lakefront property’s value can maximize your return when the time comes to sell. The value you create now will only increase over time — and you can enjoy your improvements in the meantime.
Here are some ways that you can increase your waterfront land’s value:
- Improve Visibility – Purchasing beautiful waterfront property isn’t much use if you can’t see the water. One of the easiest ways to help increase your land’s value is to ensure that there’s a clear and unobstructed view of the water. Take the time to trim all trees, bushes, and shrubs that are hindering visibility.
- Build a Dock – If local ordinances permit, building a dock or boat lift is a huge selling point for waterfront property. If you already have a dock, ensure that it’s in excellent condition and easy to access.
- Tidy Your Shoreline – A shoreline infested with seaweed, or lake and pondweed is often a major turnoff for buyers. Keeping your shore free of aquatic weeds makes it more aesthetically pleasing, and can also increase your land value.
- Build a Home – Waterfront land is most often purchased to build residential homes, and it’s easy to understand why. According to a study by Collateral Analytics, waterfront properties are typically worth more than other houses in the same area. In fact, one study found that homes with unobstructed ocean views are valued at 58.9% higher than similar homes, not on the water.
Land Development Permits
If you’re planning to build new construction on your land, or even a fence, it’s crucial to understand your local land development requirements. Each phase of your project will require separate permitting, including land development, any demolition, building, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work. In addition, the permitting process can be long and convoluted — especially if there are special restrictions involved, such as building on a wetland.
It’s vital to be aware of who the governing authority is for your land and ensure you understand that agency’s permitting process. Typically, this information can often be found by directly contacting the authority or searching on their website.
The following is a list of common permits needed for land development:
- Demolition – Required if you plan to demolish any free-standing buildings.
- Fence – Required if you plan to install new fences
- Plat Reviews – Required if you plan to split a single property into multiple lots, or build on previously undeveloped land.
- Land Disturbance – Required if you’re starting a commercial project that impacts surrounding properties.
- Retaining Wall – Required if you plan to add or remove a retaining wall on your property.
- Tree Removal – Required to remove certain trees.
Zoning is how the local government controls the land’s physical development and determines how each individual property may be utilized.
Zoning laws most commonly specify how residential, commercial, recreational, or industrial activities may occur.
For example, an area zoned as residential might allow only detached single-family homes, rather than apartment complexes or duplexes. On the other hand, some authorities permit a mix of housing and businesses, even if the area is zoned as “commercial.”
In addition to restricting the use of land and buildings, zoning laws can also regulate the dimensional requirements of lots and structures, as well as the density of development, and even what animals can be kept. The extraction of natural resources is also often regulated by zoning ordinances.
Who determines zoning?
Zoning is regulated by the local county, city, or municipality. Zoning classifications can vary from county to county and even within the same town. For instance, it’s not uncommon to find that zoning rules in one neighborhood are entirely different from those in another part of town.
What are the most common zoning classifications?
Zoning classifications are not uniform from place to place. The most commonly-used zoning groups include:
It’s also important to note that zoning classifications can be used in various combinations. In addition, there are even more narrowly defined divisions within each of these general categories. For instance, a residential zone might segregate single-family homes and low-rise apartment complexes, or an industrial area may be further categorized as “heavy” or “light” industry. Commercial zones are often segregated into retail stores, shopping centers, restaurants, gas stations, warehouses, and adult-entertainment businesses.
Is Zoning Permanent?
Zoning classifications are not set in stone — but, it can be challenging to have them changed. Zoning maps tend to follow a logical pattern; however, these codes don’t always reflect the reality of an area’s layouts. Zoning decisions are often made based on an area’s activity. For example, if there is a strong indication that the local community would benefit from a commercial business within a residential area, it’s more likely to be permitted.
Deed Restrictions on Land
Deed restrictions, also known as “restrictive covenants,” can limit how a piece of real estate can be used and what structures can be built on it. Deed restrictions tend to cover issues not determined by community zoning regulations, such as limiting the number of garages that a home can have.
Because deed restrictions “run with the land,” every property owner of land with deed restrictions is expected to abide by them. This is true even if the restriction was attached to the property many years prior and is no longer relevant. When purchasing a plot of land, it’s vital that you check your deed for restrictions. Fortunately, deed restrictions can be uncovered during a title search.
Common deed restrictions include:
- No hunting
- No livestock
- No splits or land divisions
- No mobile homes
- No outdoor storage of RV’s, trailers, or junk, etc.
- Easements and usage of easements
Property tax is most commonly a real estate ad-valorem tax and is calculated by the local government where your property is located. It is typically based on the land value, but also includes any structures that are present. Some jurisdictions also tax tangible personal property, such as boats and cars.
Local government uses property taxes to fund infrastructures, such as road and highway construction, water and sewer improvements, education, libraries, policing, and any other services that benefit the local community.
Vacant and unimproved lots are taxable. However, unlike developed land, the vacant land tax rate is typically determined by its “highest and best use” — even if you don’t plan to utilize the lot in this way.
Each jurisdiction, from towns to cities, counties, and states, has its own specific property tax rules. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median property tax paid in the U.S. is around $2,000 annually — 1% of the $200,000 median home value.
Fortunately, there are tax exemptions available to property owners. For instance, in many states, agricultural land is taxed at lower rates than other land types; however, it’s important to note that the definition of “agricultural land” differs from state to state. Many states offer property tax exemptions and credits to veterans and seniors. You can learn more information about the exemptions you may qualify for by visiting your state and local government websites.
How To Finance A Land Deal
Although there is no right way to finance land, taking the time to weigh up each method’s pros and cons can help ensure that you avoid unnecessary financial risk — and get the best deal for your dollar.
When you purchase land through owner financing, you are essentially using the seller as your lender. Because a bank isn’t directly involved in a seller-financing deal, it is up to you and the seller to determine the financial arrangements. This is done by drawing up a promissory note that stipulates your payments schedule, the agreed interest rate, and the procedure if you default on the loan. Unlike a mortgage, there is no transfer of the deed from buyer to seller, but merely an agreement on repaying that sum over time.
Seller financing can be the ideal solution if you have a low credit score and may have a problem securing a traditional loan. Sellers also typically require lower down payments of between 5% and 10%, compared to standard lenders. You can also save more money on closing costs when seller financing, compared to traditional loans.
However, seller financing is not always the most affordable financing option. Many sellers try to mitigate their risk by charging the buyer a higher interest rate. This can result in land being much more costly in the long-term.
Home Equity Loan
If you have significant equity in your home, a home equity loan can give you access to cash to fund your land purchase. Home equity loans typically have lower interest rates than other types of loans, and they also tend to be fixed. This means that the payment is the same each month — making it easy to budget. In addition, home equity loans do not require a down payment, which can be a big advantage if you have limited savings.
However, using your home as collateral can open you up to significant risk — especially if you can no longer make payments on the loan. Also, using all of the equity in your home could work against you in the future if property values in your area decline.
Financing a land deal is very different from a standard home loan, partly because holding raw land is speculative. Because of this, lenders often view land as a more significant risk than traditional brick and mortar. The process and cost of borrowing will depend on the type of property you’re purchasing. Lenders tend to be more willing to lend if you’re planning to add value to the property, for example, by building a home.
How to Find the Best Land Loan?
There’s no “one size fits all” land loan, so it’s crucial that you explore your options to find the best loan for your situation. One way you can prepare for the loan process is to develop a comprehensive plan detailing your intended use for the land, which can help you determine which loan type is best and the most realistic loan term for your project. When you consider your loan options, it’s also important to choose one that is within your budget and also helps you achieve your real estate goals.
Building Loan Types
Another consideration to make if you’re planning to construct a home or business on your land is how you’ll cover your building costs. Construction loans differ from a traditional mortgage, as they tend to have higher interest rates and shorter loan terms. Unlike conventional loans that are based on the building’s market value, construction loans are determined by the projected value of the building once it’s complete.
There are two main types of building loans; stand-alone construction loans and construction-to-permanent loans. Both of these loan types can apply to residential and commercial properties.
A construction-to-permanent loan, also known as a single-close loan, is a loan that can be used to finance your home or business construction. Once the building is completed, a construction-to-permanent loan converts into a permanent mortgage, saving you time and money. Although they’re typically more convenient, construction-to-permanent loans also tend to have higher interest rates — and you’ll typically be required to put down a deposit of at least 20%.
Stand-Alone Construction Loan
A stand-alone construction loan is a loan that covers the building process only. This means that you’ll have to secure a separate mortgage to pay off the construction debt once the building is complete. It’s also not possible to lock in a mortgage rate with a stand-alone loan, which could be problematic if rates rise before you apply for your second loan. On the plus side, stand-alone construction loans often require lower down payments and enable you to shop around for a mortgage once your home or business premises are complete.
Residential Construction Loans
Residential construction loans are short-term loans that can be used to cover the cost of building — or rehabilitating — a house. Unlike conventional home loans, the funds from a construction loan are paid directly to the contractor and not the borrower.
Although each project is different, residential construction loans typically cover the land’s cost, any plans, permits and fees, labor and materials, and closing costs. There are several different kinds of residential construction loans available, so it’s crucial to explore your options thoroughly to find the right one for your needs.
VA Construction Loan
A VA Home Loan is an option for service members and veterans who plan on building a home. Although the VA partly guarantees VA construction loans, many lenders still consider them a higher risk investment, which can make finding a lender challenging.
When using a VA Construction Loan to fund your build, only the money required to purchase the land is released at closing. The remainder of the funds are placed in an escrow account and released periodically as construction milestones are met.
USDA Guaranteed Loans
A USDA construction-to-permanent loan enables rural and suburban home buyers to build a home with zero downpayment. They work in much the same way that other construction-to-permanent loans work, by providing the benefits of a single-close. When you opt for a USDA construction loan, your lender manages the disbursement of the loan funds to your home builder or contractor.
To qualify for a USDA construction-to-permanent loan, your property must be in a USDA approved location, and you must meet the specified income and eligibility requirements.
FHA Construction Loan
An FHA construction-to-permanent loan is backed by the Federal Housing Administration and is suitable for people who have a minimum credit score of 500 and down payment of at least 10%. Like other construction-to-permanent loans, you can roll the cost of your own land, the construction of your home, and your lender fees into one loan.
It’s important to note that FHA construction loans do not allow you to build a home on land that is near an airport, near a gas or oil well or located in an area prone to floods.
Commercial Construction Loans
A commercial construction loan can be used to finance the costs of constructing or renovating a commercial building. You can use the funds from a construction loan to purchase and develop land for a commercial building, as well as the labor and materials it takes for construction.
Conventional Construction Loans
If your company does not qualify for government-backed SBA loans, you could consider a conventional construction loan. With a conventional construction loan, partial amounts of the total loan, known as “draws” are released as each construction phase is completed. You are only required to pay interest on the draws, not on the loan’s entire amount. Although interest rates and terms vary from lender to lender, business owners with good credit should expect to put down between 20% and 30% as a down payment.
SBA 504 Loan
An SBA 504 Loan is an economic development loan program that’s designed to promote business growth and job creation for small businesses. To be eligible for a 504 Loan, your business should fall within the SBA’s size standards and be operated for profit.
With a 504 Loan, eligible small businesses receive long-term, fixed-rate financing that can be used to acquire fixed assets. 504 Loans typically require you to contribute 10% of the project costs, with a participating lender covering up to 50% of the project costs, and the SBA providing the remaining 40%.
How To Locate the Best Parcels of Land
Buying land and bringing your real estate dream alive can be one of the most gratifying experiences — both financially and emotionally. Land investments can help you achieve financial independence much faster than keeping your money in the bank.
With the advent of the internet, finding your dream real estate has never been easier. A simple online search can provide you with thousands of beautiful properties for sale across the country. By narrowing down your search online first, you can avoid viewing land that doesn’t meet your needs. The more time you invest in choosing your land, the less chance you’ll run into any problems after closing.
Work With a Land Expert
Buying land can be complicated. If you want to find the perfect property, it’s crucial to work with real estate professionals who are passionate about land ownership. As America’s premier land marketplace, Land.US specializes in connecting real estate investors and buyers with exclusive land listings and dedicated rural property experts.
Land.US combines decades of luxury real estate experience, unparalleled concierge-level service, and spectacular high-impact marketing imagery to present the most desirable land ownership opportunities in the U.S. Our affiliate real estate agents are experts in their market and can provide invaluable guidance while helping you to identify your unique land needs.
From breathtaking equestrian ranches to magnificent waterfront property, Land.US provides the most detailed and accurate data on land for sale across the U.S. — placing unique and prestigious properties at your fingertips. Start your search for the perfect property today by browsing our database of exclusive land deals.