Finding the perfect property for your project lays the foundation for a lifetime of happiness. The land which you choose to steward not only defines the experience of where your home sits, but also your life. What do you wake up to in the morning? The hum of an ever present buzzing city? The peaceful chirping of a growing flock of birds in the trees? The sound of waves breaking on soft sand? Don't underestimate the importance of the piece of land you choose as your home base.
That said, don't be fooled into thinking that finding that perfect parcel is a daunting task! We've guided you before on the process of purchasing vacant land, and now we're taking things one step further to really dive into where you can find the best options and real estate listings without working too hard, or spending unnecessary money.
We're no strangers to the land search, having recently purchased land to build our own off-grid cabin, so today we're sharing the details of how we found our "perfect property," and how you can do the same.
Find vacant land for sale
If you'd like some help to find land for sale, you always have the option to contact a local real estate agent and ask them to create a list of potential properties based on your property preferences. A licensed realtor has access to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) system, so you'll get an updated list of what's available, new listings, and what properties have sold every week or so. They can also help you sort out financing options to better understand how to pay for your property. Plus, realtors generally get paid from the sale of a property itself, which means as a land buyer you aren't handing out any cash to get them on board for your search!
Another option is to subscribe to a vacant land listing service. They will provide a list of vacant land for sale based on your search criteria for a monthly fee (👎).
The biggest problem with this option is why would you pay for land listings that you can easily find for free? They might offer fluffy qualifiers about saving yourself time, suggestions for how to use the land, etc., but part of the process of buying land is looking for the land! Comparing listings and properties is an invaluable part of your search, so you can truly understand where you want to live for the rest of your chosen time frame.
The third (and possibly the best!) option is to dive in head first, where you perform your own online vacant property search. The best part is you can look for that perfect property on your schedule - including nights, weekends, or holidays.
The DIY option saves you silly subscription fees and playing phone tag with a realtor. But there is another huge perk for going it alone.
With option one or two, you have to notify someone about any changes to your property search preferences. And then wait for them to get back to you with the updated information.
The DIY option allows you to change any of your property parameters and see the revised results immediately.
For example, you can easily switch from acreage to waterfront or mountains to desert.
Or, maybe see what's available when you increase your property budget by $5K or $10K.
Easily compare property prices of different locations and parts of the country.
Customize the property features to include a stream, pond, or waterfall, or change your mind completely and pivot to the beach.
Your search for vacant land begins with establishing your search criteria.
The first step is to determine where you want your new cabin or home to be built!
If you've been living in the city or suburbs, you might be ready for a little extra elbow room or even some "peace and quiet" from the neighborhood noise.
If you're building a weekend getaway or vacation home, the location should match your recreational activities—a mountain property for skiing or the waterfront for fishing and boating.
The second step involves determining how you want to live, connected to the grid or completely off-grid. We recently opted for the off-grid option, so we didn't have to worry about water, sewer, or power when searching for our vacant property.
But not everyone wants to live off-grid, so including criteria on whether properties have access to the local water, sewer, and power infrastructure is an important thing to note.
Step three is to determine the size of property you want or need, and there are several options available.
Residential lot - means an unimproved parcel of land intended for use as a site for a single-family detached dwelling. According to the US Census, the current median lot size is approximately 9,000 square feet or 1/5 of an acre. Most tract homes use 72' x 100' as a "standard" lot size.
Ranches and Farms - usually include vacant land beyond the home site, perfect for goats, pigs, sheep, cattle, and horses. Sometimes considered commercial land. There's also plenty of room to plant an orchard, start a vineyard, or grow fruits and vegetables.
Acreage - typically refers to 2 or more acres of unimproved raw land for sale. Depending on the location, the property may or may not have access to the local infrastructure, such as utilities and roads.
Step four is to, of course, determine your budget. Again, being realistic with your calculations now makes your property search much easier and quicker.
This land buying checklist will also help you remember the budget items often left out or overlooked during a property visit.
Vacant Land For Sale: Online Resources
If you haven't decided on a location quite yet, you can search using only price and lot size to see what's available and narrow your search from there.
Each of these websites below will bring back results based on your specific search parameters.
State, county, city, and zip code
Lot size or acreage
Type of land - residential, recreational, or agricultural
Location - beach, desert, forest, or mountains
Terms of sale - cash, loan, or owner-financed
Zillow.com does provide listings for vacant property, but you can't enter "vacant property" into their search box.
Instead, enter a city or zip code into the search box. Select for sale, and then set your price range. For the Beds/Baths, select the "any" option. Then under Home Type, you can choose the option for Lots/Land.
Realtor.com works similarly. You have to set the filters before you can see the results. Next, you may want to set up a profile on these websites. Once you do, you can save all of your settings and searches for easy access later on.
Don't forget about Craigslist.org! Often times you can find amazing deals straight from land sellers right in the sales section of Craigslist.
Land.com is the central hub for three other property listing sites. The sites below use the same property database but are more user-friendly for vacant land searches than Zillow or Realtor.
Lands of America - enter your state, price range, and property size to see results. You can also see featured properties on the home page.
Land and Farm - enter your state, price range, and property size to see results. In addition, you can search using tags such as ranches, hunting, and recreational from the home page.
Landwatch.com - enter a state to see property listings. There is a slider with tag options below the search box, and featured properties are displayed below.
Landsearch.com is our final, and perhaps best, vacant property resource because they're a bit different. Landsearch has one simple goal, unlike the other websites: to respectfully connect property sellers to property buyers.
Does not sell your leads or info to any third party
Does not represent other agents on your listings
Does not have distracting pop-ups or intrusive ads
So what does Landsearch do?
Provides the most extensive inventory of vacant land
Search by location like city, state, or zip code
Search by property type, residential, commercial, recreational, agricultural, undeveloped land, vacant lots, rural properties
Search by tags such as cabins, farms, or lakefront
Includes non-MLS listings not typically found on other sites
Provides superior map-first service on mobile and desktop devices
Based on the latest listing data, there are currently 4.4 million acres of vacant land for sale in the US, with an average listing size of 166 acres.
So, as you can see, there's no shortage of vacant land for sale. And there's no need to pay for vacant land listings when plenty of free online property resources are so readily available.
Buying land also ISN'T a blocker for beginning the planning process of what you'd like to build. Often times, determining what type of home you'd like to live in can help with your land search criteria. Just some food for thought.