One of the few benefits of the recent recession and collapse in real estate values in many parts of the US is that it's now easier than ever to learn how to buy land cheap and put that strategy into action successfully. Banks and local governments have a surplus of foreclosed properties and land on their hands and private sellers are often desperate to sell, leading to some great deals on buying land if you have the necessary tools and knowledge.
- Do your research. Buying real estate is often a huge investment and tends to be illiquid, as it's not quickly and easily re-sold if you later change your mind. It's easy enough to learn how to buy land cheap but you need to have a solid game plan for what you want to do with the land. If you plan to build a home on it, will you be able to qualify for a construction loan? Is the land zoned to allow for mobile homes or manufactured homes, if you plan to put a trailer on it and rent it out? Is utility service for electricity, gas, and water readily available?
- Start with the local MLS. Once you've done your research and are ready to tackle how to buy land cheap, you'll need to establish a feel for what land typically sells for in your area. This lets you define exactly what "cheap" is, and to know when you've found a great deal. Familiarize yourself with your local real estate listings. Most areas have free publications put out by realtors at supermarkets and stores of local listings, and pulling up a search engine and searching for something like "Tampa MLS listings" (insert your local city there for "Tampa") will lead you to a realtor that provides Internet access to MLS listings. The MLS is a standardized national system that realtors use for listing real estate for sale, and show residential houses, commercial properties, and land and acreage for sale.
- Foreclosures and tax sales. One of the best ways of how to buy land cheap is to buy it directly from banks and local county governments that have acquired the land through foreclosure or seizing property when the owners failed to pay the property taxes. These organizations aren't in the business of buying and selling real estate and they typically want to sell any property they have very quickly, often at a big discount. Tax sales are held monthly in most counties, when seized properties due to delinquent taxes are auctioned off to the highest bidder, and land can often be bought at these auctions for a fraction of its real value. Contact your country appraisal district for more information on when tax sales are held and other important details as far as the bidding process.
Target private sellers. Another great tactic in how to buy land cheap is to appeal directly to private sellers. If someone has listed land for sale on the MLS, they're working with a real estate agent, which makes it hard to find a really great deal. You're also competing with everyone else that checks the MLS for deals, so the best deals listed are snatched up in a matter of days (or even hours). If you work directly with private sellers, though, you can often find some amazing deals, as private sellers are just ordinary people looking to sell real estate who aren't working with a realtor. Post an ad in your local paper that you're looking to buy land or post on Craiglist in the real estate section.
- Cash talks. If you're able to, try to make a cash offer when it's time to buy land cheap. This is especially important if you've found a private seller and are negotiating a deal. Many sellers will take a quick cash offer for thousands of dollars less than a competing offer that requires financing and the approval of banks and underwriters.
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