By Steve Gillman - 2008
Are you selling land or small lots? Want to get more for your
property and sell it faster? There are three important things
you should do.
The very first piece of real estate I bought was two-and-a-half
acres adjoining some state land in Northern Michigan. I paid
$3,500 for it (land was cheap back then), and sold it for $4,750
just two weeks later. I am convinced that selling the land so
easily (and for 35% more than I paid) was due to three things
that I did.
Clean and Prepare the Land
I pulled all the broken branches off to a corner of the property,
out of sight. I nailed together a simple wooden bench from used
lumber and put it overlooking the valley behind the property.
I raked the leaves away from the front of the property. Finally,
I took several of the larger logs that were laying on the land
and arranged them as borders where a driveway might go. I raked
out this area, and spent a few minutes leveling it with a shovel,
so a car could easily pull in.
Real estate investors who do a lot of deals may be able to
see beyond the piles of old stumps, the garbage on the ground
or the rusty fence. They may imagine what the property will look
like, but do you want to limit your market to those who have
good imaginations? Help potential buyers see the properties potential.
All it took in this case was a few hours to clean up, place a
bench and outline a driveway. Even if you pay someone to do these
things it will be worth it.
Mark the Boundaries
When I was looking at land to buy, I clearly remember that
there were many pieces to look at. If I wasn't clear what the
boundaries were on a piece of land, I often just dropped it from
my list. Is that tree on the land, or that gully? I can't visualize
from a legal description, and I am certain that others have the
same problem too.
In the case of selling my land, I resolved this issue by finding
the corner markers in the ground. Two sides of the land were
bounded by roads, but it was hard to see where the other two
property lines were, so I marked them. I cut several dozen sticks
and, using my own crude surveying tool, tapped them into the
ground and quickly spray-painted the tops white. Not being a
surveyor, I put them several feet inside the lines, just to be
safe, and I let the buyer know that these were not official survey
The idea here is clear. When the buyer walked the land, I
wasn't there to show him anything, yet he clearly could see the
markers. He knew what he was buying. It took me a couple hours
to do this, but you could do it faster with sting, perhaps, and
tie little flags onto it. On a larger piece, pay for a survey,
and let the surveyor know you want the markings to be obvious.
Selling Land for More
The key to getting that 35% bump in value in just two weeks
wasn't just in the afternoon I spent cleaning, preparing and
marking the land. It was also in the way that I sold it. I put
up a hand-painted sign that said "For Sale: 2.5 acres. $4,750,
$250 down, $100 per month." The people that bought the land
thought it was overpriced. They also fell in love with it and
paid my full asking price. What choice did they have with about
$400 in their bank account?
If you can offer financing when you sell, do it. It is the
single easiest way to add value, and get a better price. In fact,
if you may be able to make money just buying lots, marking them
up 25% and selling them on easy terms. A house can be trashed
by a low down payment buyer, but land is safer when using this
technique. Selling land this way also means you can get 11% interest
on the balance, as I did in this case.
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