Selling your home without a realtor isn’t necessarily the most complicated transaction in the world. In fact, it can be a fairly simple process which can be fulfilled more quickly than most people think. But knowing how to sell land without a realtor? That’s an entirely different story.
It’s not just that it’s complicated. The legal ramifications of selling land without a realtor in Utah can be far reaching and much more nuanced than you think. How do you distinguish vacant land? Whose legal property is it? What structures can be constructed on it? What zoning laws apply? What environmental laws apply? And who is ultimately responsible for the land’s integrity?
It would take an entire book (maybe several books) to compile even a basic primer on selling vacant land in Utah which we’re not about to write. At least not yet. But if you’re looking to sell land without a realtor here in the Beehive state, here’s a few tips you should be aware of first.
Reasons to Sell Your Empty Land in Utah
Where property that’s in need of repair may be able to sell as is quickly at a reduced cost, the actual amount of time and money spent on repairing an existing house can easily rival that of building an entirely new one. Especially when a new house can command close to double the fair market value of an existing one.
Between 2017 and 2018, the number of new residential housing units in Utah grew by 2.2 percent—more than twice the national average. National estimates indicate the cost of constructing a new home is a little more than $300,000. That’s before the cost of taxes, insurance, utilities and construction permits. The average cost to sell land in Utah? Over half a million dollars. The market is obviously there. But negotiating the sale requires a little bit of know how.
Land Property Values Are Never Equal
The value of your parcel can be determined by any number of factors: the potential for residential or commercial construction, historical sales, accessibility and location, condition and demand being only just the most common.
In Utah, we may be blessed with having some of the most in demand resort locations in the country. We’re even more blessed with having a highly visible and thriving economy. But what about rural towns? Manila? Vernon? Wallsburg? The sort of towns that slip just under the radar. What’s the potential value of rural property? Or even suburban land?
More than you might think. Utah’s reputation has been built on a combination of friendliness and untamed beauty. It’s not just resort getaways that lure people to Utah. Agriculture still continues to be a major player in Utah’s economy, with over 10 million acres of farmstead operating in 2019. That’s in addition to the $1.0 billion in state sales tax revenue the tech industry generated for Utah in that same year.
But beyond the potential for development, the value of selling land is largely determined per acre in Utah—not by square foot. Your county’s register of deeds and tax can frequently provide you with recent data at cost, but more frequently many sellers choose to turn to an online site like Zilllow to help determine value. Keep in mind that while these sites are kept regularly up to date, they only provide you with a rough estimate of historical and current sales listings. Use them as a ballpark average, but don’t expect 100 percent accuracy from them. After all, they’re there to help realtors sell land as well.
How to Market Your Vacant Utah Land
Unlike selling your house in Utah, it’s not just about the location. It’s about the existing amenities; ones which drive buyers and investors more than price alone.
Most homeowners don’t consider an existing septic system or gas line to be an amenity. But if you’re selling land, it positively is one. Utility hookups? That’s an amenity. Standing timber? That can be an inconvenience which can ultimately lower your asking price depending on how you’re marketing the property.
There’s as much a market for recreation and retirement in Utah as there is for commercial and residential development. Balancing current trends in real estate and your property’s location and amenities is critical when it comes to marketing. Not everyone wants easy accessibility off of I-80. And few people are going to consider Salt Lake City as their number one destination for a retirement town.
Understanding Your Buyer
Is the land buyer an individual buyer or a land development company? In Utah, it’s more of a common dilemma than you might think.
Ultimately, you want the best price for your land. And a land development concern frequently will have the necessary capital and financial history to provide you with it. But what happens to the integrity of your land six years down the road? What if the property winds up being sold to a company whose values are in conflict with your own? Are you willing to see that pristine beauty of Utah compromised by overdeveloped condominiums pricing long-standing residents out of their very own communities?
Admittedly, that’s a worse case scenario potentially arising from the sale of land. But it’s one you may want to consider. Conservation and development have a long-standing history of skirmishes in Utah, and you may not be prepared to add further ammunition to the fire. On the other hand, individual buyers will be more apt to respect the integrity of a parcel. They’ll likely be Utah residents just like you or I. But just like thousands of other Utah residents, they may not have the financial means to pay the annual mortgage on vacant land, to speak nothing of property tax, utility and construction costs.
Selling Your Land Without A Realtor In Utah
- Be prepared for negotiations. Unlike selling a house, there’s no accurate predictor of a land’s resale value. It can depend as much on the state and local economy as it will current market value and location. Land buyers are a bit more savvy than homebuyers, and they’re much more interested in long term resale value ten or more years down the road than residential house buyers.
- Don’t price to sell. Because negotiations are inevitable, your typical land investor is already expecting to haggle over price. If your property is actually worth $125,000 and you price it at $100,000, don’t be surprised if it sits on the market at that price for well over a year. To ensure you get full market value for your land, price it at a mark-up of at least 10 percent more.
- Understand zoning laws and additional fees. If commercial permits are permitted for your parcel, you can frequently command a much higher asking price. Don’t necessarily include tax, utilities and closing costs in your end price. They can sometimes account for almost 10 percent of the sale.
- Pay for a professional surveyor. Even if the tract is already on file with the Utah Division of Property Deeds and Archives, deeds and ownership of land can change unexpectedly and often in undetectable ways. Do yourself a favor and avoid potential legal troubles by hiring a professional surveyor to assess your rightful property boundaries.
- Word of mouth counts more than you think. Especially if you’re selling to an individual investor. Selling land is understandably less popular than selling your house. And it takes a special breed of investor willing to take a gamble on buying a vacant lot. They’re shrewder and keep their eyes towards the future. And they tend to cluster together. Don’t be surprised if you get more contacts in two weeks through word of mouth than six months worth of ad space in a newspaper.
- Show off the features of your land. You can’t just stick an “Open House” sign on a vacant parcel. Think about its natural features if you’re going to list it, online or offline. Show its proximity to major roadways (or lack thereof) and include a map with clearly defined boundaries from a surveyor. Discuss nearby schools, jobs and neighborhood features. In short? Learn to stage your land for sale just like you were staging a house for sale.
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