Are you interested in LAND?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

Homestead Woodlot Management by Doug Smith

Yesterday’s Fence for Today’s Homestead by Kathryn Wingrove

Living with Poison Oak by Wade Truex

Homestead Prepping: Buying a B.O.L. by Doug Smith

Attract Wildlife to Your Property by Doug Smith

Crofting Life by Magdalena Perks

Buying Land at a Tax Auction by Neil Shelton

How to Sell Your Land Yourself and Move on with Your Life by Neil Shelton

How to do a Genuinely Hafast Job of Surveying Your Own Land by Neil Shelton


How to Sell Your Land Yourself and Move on with Your Life

by Neil Shelton

Excerpted from Neil's latest book, LandBook, The small landowner's guide to buying, improving, maintaining and selling rural land.

There is no other single aspect of land ownership which more completely captures the imagination than the actual selection and purchase of the land.

Sometimes however, on the way to acquiring the ideal tract of land, many folks, for whatever reasons, wind up owning the less-than-ideal parcel that needs to be sold before real-property nirvana can be achieved. 

Whether you inherited a piece of property that doesn’t mesh with your goals, discovered that you simply need to live in another part of the world, or even if you bought a piece of property and later just fell out of love with it, selling land, particularly in a poor market, can appear to be a daunting task.  The amateur’s first reaction is usually to list with a real estate agent and hope for the best.

Now, far be it from me to discourage using an agent.  This certainly is the easiest way and not necessarily the least profitable or most expensive, especially in a booming market.  In a less-than-booming market however, it’s good to remember that listing your property with an agent will subject it to comparison with dozens, perhaps hundreds of other listings, all competing with yours in features and price. Selling your property then, will probably require that a potential buyer finds it to be either the best he sees… or the cheapest.

If you have unimproved land to sell, you may also find that the majority of agents are more interested in selling more expensive improved properties where they stand to make much larger commissions (and get fewer ticks) so your five acres of woods may get short shrift when it comes to exposure to the market.  This wouldn't be such a big problem were it not for the fact that these days, more and more brokers are insisting on exclusive listing contracts that obligate you to pay them a commission even if you sell the property yourself to the fellow next door.

That’s why you may want to tackle the job on your own.  These days, you can set your land apart from the crowd by marketing and selling it yourself.  Since the advent of the internet, it’s easier and more effective than ever, and the phrase "for sale by owner" has a particular cachet about it that buyers seem to like.  Many buyers assume that they'll be saving the sales commission by buying directly from the owner.  Of course, you're probably assuming that you're saving the sales commission by selling it yourself.  Which of you is correct depends on how adeptly you handle your sale.

 Evaluating Your Land from a Seller’s Standpoint

The first step is to decide on your price.  The timid choose a price too low, and the foolish pick one too high.  What you want to do is find the right price that will yield a reasonably quick sale, but not generate a stampede of skinflints to your door.

To determine, or appraise, the value of land, you need comparables.  Using the internet, finding these is easier than it’s ever been, although there are also a few new pitfalls.

The best places to find your comparables are the places where you plan to advertise.  In a moment I’m going to recommend that you advertise on the internet, so you shouldn’t be surprised if that’s where I recommend you gather your comparables as well.

In choosing comparables, you want as many tidbits of information as you can find; that’s the primary reason why the web is the best source, because the people writing the advertisements there aren’t usually paying by the word - although you'll find that they can still be infuriatingly vague.

Here are the basic things that must be considered when appraising land:

Size:  The fact that you find 80 acres, or 8,000 acres, selling for a given amount per acre tells you virtually nothing about what your 8 acres is worth, so ignore it. 

Rather, classify your property somewhat like this: is it from 0 to 3 acres? 3 to 8? 8 to 15? 15 to 40?  Of course it can’t be all that cut-and-dried, but remember to only compare your rural property to others of about the same size – nothing has greater bearing on the value of unimproved land than size, except, to a degree, location.  

Please note that I am NOT going to repeat the old saw about the three most important things to know about real estate.  Unless you spent your formative years in a cave, you’ve already heard it enough times to make you wish you hadn’t.

I’ll assume that, as an adult who can read and operate a computer, you already know that the price of your 40 acres in western Kansas has very little to do with the value of New York’s Central Park, but you do need to make a distinction between a property that’s a thirty-minute drive from a city and one that’s two hours distant.

I’ve found that most people draw an invisible line at a thirty-minute commute whether they’re commuting into L.A. or Buzzard’s Bluff.

Additionally, you shouldn’t compare land from outside your region.  West-coast prices aren’t applicable to West Virginia, and vice versa. 

Okay, that takes care of the broadest measures.  Let’s assume you’re looking for comparable land to your forty acres in rural Tennessee, we next start to evaluate the features of the land.

Water: Lake or river frontage is more valuable to most people than a non-navigable stream, which is more valuable than a spring, which is more valuable than a pond, which is more valuable than no water at all.  Almost everyone wants water frontage, but not everyone is willing to pay for it.

Soil Terrain and Vegetation: Most small landowners will prefer a mixture of hill and valley, but level agricultural land is usually more expensive than hilly ground.  However, if your property is smaller, say less than eighty acres, there will probably be a better market for the mixed terrain that includes level bottomland and forested hills.  Likewise, the best overall market exists for small properties with a mixture of forest and meadow as opposed to all woods or all field.

Improvements: A modern water-well is worth more than it costs to drill.  In the Ozarks, for example, where the typical well costs around $6,000, I generally value them at around $10K.

Access: While few in number, there are still some properties that don’t have legal access – that is, a deeded access-easement, or frontage on a public road.  This is what is known as “landlocked” property, and it is of considerably less value.  If you see an extremely low-priced piece of land for sale, it may be a bargain, or it may just not have legal access.  Curing this can be fairly simple, but don’t count on it.  If it were an easy matter, it would likely already have been fixed.  In most cases, legal access will require a deed from the neighbor whose land you’re crossing, and folks tend not to like to sign deeds unless they get something of significant value in return.

Utilities:  Electric and phone. Check whether your comparables have, or don’t have, the same utilities that your property has.  If not, and all other things are equal, price yours ahead of those that don't have what yours does, or behind those that have what yours doesn’t.

Buildings: This chapter is intended to address land-only sales.  Obviously, if your land has buildings on it, those can add significantly to the value.  If the buildings are of any value, that is, a livable house or a barn or shed in good repair, this may be harder for you to estimate or to compare with others.  About the best you can hope to do is to compare the number of rooms/bedrooms, the square footage, the general condition, and overall appearance.  If the buildings are of marginal value, give them appropriate ranking, however as advice to a potential seller of real estate (I’d tell a potential buyer something else) don’t discount that shack or hovel too severely.  A lot of buyers seem to feel somehow assured if there’s a structure of any kind on a property.   Maybe it seems less intimidating than starting with empty woods.  So if it doesn’t leak too badly, and isn’t going to fall down in the next few years, you may consider bumping the price up a few thousand dollars, or leaving it where it is so that the building provides another inducement to buy.

Finally after you’ve researched all your research and compared all your comparables, it’s time to decide on your final price. 

Actually, this is the easy part: you bring all your comparables together and rank them – a spreadsheet like Excel is good for this.  Put the price of each property in Column A, the “sort” column, and a brief description of the features in Column B.

Now put yourself in a buyer’s shoes.  Right away, you can see what’s a bargain and what may be overpriced. The idea is to price your property as a happy median between the two extremes.


Now that you’ve arrived at your price, you’re ready to put your property in front of the world.  To do this, the first thing you need is a web page.

Now, I suppose you could HIRE someone to make a page for you, but frankly, if you can read well enough to get this far in this book, you’re perfectly capable of making one on your own. 

Nowadays all of my favorite software packages come for the same price: free.  So I’d check out what’s available at or  You can also make a tolerable web page using Microsoft Word (which probably came loaded on your computer) however, if you’ve never made any web pages before, you’ll probably also be needing  web-space to put them on, and you can find both web-authoring software and web-space available cheap or free with a little thoughtful web-searching.

Once you’ve got the mechanics taken care of, all you need to do is collect absolutely everything you can think of that will describe your property, which may include, but will not be limited to, a written description, lots and lots of photographs, perhaps taken in different seasons, information about the local area, last year’s real estate taxes, aerial photos, road maps and perhaps a .pdf or .jpg copy of the survey, if available.

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