Author Topic: Buying urban land?  (Read 672 times)

Fru-Gal

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Buying urban land?
« on: August 14, 2020, 09:29:41 AM »
Hi everyone,

Thinking out loud:

We live in our forever home in a HCOL area that we love. Yesterday I was perusing land listings near me and there are some cheap ones (e.g. the cost some people might spend on a kitchen remodel or a fancy car), mostly half acre... Granted, I know all the pitfalls of land that may have zoning problems, be on steep slopes, be prone to natural disasters (fire/slides/quake), near high crime/traffic/toxic stuff/other bad location, and would avoid all that. However there is a part of our urban area that is as yet ungentrified and a bit wild.

Husband is a great carpenter and we are very hands-on homeowners. OTOH I have other creative goals in life that potentially cost money, so I worry this is parental programming since my parents are great at real estate, land ownership and custom creative building. Already I've been different from them in that we've stayed in our same house for 25 years while they moved us around constantly while flipping houses when we grew up. One cool thing I've thought would be nice is to buy land that was not far away, so you could literally bike, hike or train to your land instead of, like everyone I know who moves to the suburbs or countryside, have to constantly drive long distances.

Taxes are relatively high, so anything built on land would eventually be costly, I assume.

What would I want it for? Options:

--Build custom house
--Build tiny off-grid house
--Creative structure such as studio
--Land conservation
--Awesome garden
--Mini ranch
--Investment

Terrible idea or something to pursue? Is this kind of thing best done through listings, or are a lot of deals like this more off-the-books/word of mouth directly with owners who wish to subdivide?

SndcxxJ

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Re: Buying urban land?
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2020, 03:00:37 PM »
I have a piece of land in a parcel right between two story apartments and multifamily properties.  It is about a quarter acre, flat, undeveloped except for a storage garage, not really visible from the street.  I have used it for gardening, and I have many fruit trees planted, I used to keep chickens as well.  It is a long walk or a short bike ride from my house and it is pretty cool, but only if you don't spend an arm and a leg on it.  Maybe someday I might develop it, but chances are I won't.  It's not the same sort of getaway as something a couple hours away where I can't be reached, that has a very different value, but it is handy enough I can swing by each day or two as needed to tend to the hobby.
Is that the sort of thing you are thinking for a property like that?

Fru-Gal

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Re: Buying urban land?
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2020, 03:57:27 PM »
Yeah, I think it is! Cool! We have a normal-sized (for our 'hood) 4k sf lot and have used every inch for gardening and animal-keeping. I always wanted a bigger lot so that's part of the motivation.

I suppose as long as you don't develop it, you don't pay more property taxes than on the land value, right?

waltworks

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Re: Buying urban land?
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2020, 09:54:32 PM »
If you are in a HCOL area and land is cheap... something is wrong with the land, such that the many other people who came up with this idea were put off enough not to buy/develop it.

-W

former player

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Re: Buying urban land?
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2020, 02:29:48 AM »
If you are in a HCOL area and land is cheap... something is wrong with the land, such that the many other people who came up with this idea were put off enough not to buy/develop it.

-W
It may be an area that's uneconomic to develop at the moment, it may be an owner who's held on to it and then died, it may have a pipeline running under it.  The big worry in relation to hobby use would be contamination, so you need to know the history - if there's been a garage or a dry cleaners on the land, forget it.

Evie

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Re: Buying urban land?
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2020, 11:50:49 AM »
It so depends on where you are. Where I live the locals excel at selling land to out of towners who think they are going to develop it.  It never happens, or takes decades and millions in attorney fees.  Usually they end up selling it years or decades later in frustration.  So if you can buy and hold with no ill effect go for it. If you need to be able to do something with it, meet with the city or county, call and find out how you would go about establishing utilities (this can be extremely difficult in some areas and may be impossible). Without those you typically can't develop.  Research and ask questions and maybe even ask the seller some pointed questions in writing. 

trollwithamustache

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Re: Buying urban land?
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2020, 12:31:39 PM »
This is super dependent on where you are and what all it would take to get a building permit. Out here in the Peoples Republic of California, that can be very expensive. And take a good year to get your design approved.

Fishindude

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Re: Buying urban land?
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2020, 05:18:46 PM »
I have properties in two different states than the one we live in, each is about a 5 hour drive from home.  These are much larger rural properties that we use for recreation and they also generate some income via farming.
Houses don't do much for me, but neat land does.   It's not a super great investment, but it's a bunch of fun, a safe place to park some money, and you can just about always sell it relatively quickly and get your initial investment back and possibly more.