How to Flip Land in Alaska?

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How to Flip Land in Alaska?

Bart Waldon

With over 370 million acres dedicated to rugged landscapes and great outdoors, Alaska remains America's last frontier for adventure. For real estate investors, the state also offers a profitable frontier in its vast swathes of pristine vacant land. Over 25% of Alaska’s total acreage falls in private and investors' hands according to the latest census data, highlighting lucrative prospects. Flipping raw land to turn quick profits has immense appeal considering 12% of the total 25 million acres held privately in the state constantly stays listed for sale as per land industry reports. Despite uniquely challenging locations, DEALS abound for smart land investors trained to conquer complex real estate frontiers. 

Let’s review essential strategies for buying, improving and selling vacant plots to emerge victoriously in Alaska’s volatile yet rewarding land market.

Scoping Out the Alaskan Land Market

Before jumping into land investments, get the lay of the terrain first. Here are key traits influencing Alaska’s land economy:

Homesteading History - Much of Alaska's land transferred into private hands through homesteading programs from the 1950s-80s. Remote lands granted to hardy settlers willing to inhabit them helped populate the young state. These original land distributions still impact modern supply and sales.

Land Reimbursement Programs - Alaska empowers boroughs and municipalities to selection vacant, unappropriated lands for community expansion, then reimburse the state. Anchorage and other areas continue growing through land reimbursement programs.

Slow-Moving Market - Despite Alaska’s vast size, only 6% or about 25 million acres fall in the private land market. Coupled with remote locales and extreme weather challenges, land transactions happen slowly here compared to the Lower 48. Listings often take over a year to sell.

Resource Driven - Oil and mineral deposits, commercial fishing access, timber harvest potential and other natural resources largely steer Alaska's land values, especially in remote areas. Sites with proven reserves or resource development possibilities attract strong buyer interest.

Recreational Appeal - Alaska's pristine wildlands, waterfronts and access to hunting, fishing and wilderness adventures also impact land prices. Parcels abutting state parks, water bodies and wildlife habitats can demand premiums despite lacking infrastructure.

Permits Required - Deciphering what can or can’t be built on Alaskan lands takes local know-how. Much open terrain falls under conservation protections. Construction requires clearing environmental impact reviews, wetland permits and other red tape.

Factoring in these unique traits allows customizing your land investment strategy specific to navigating Alaska’s complex property market.

Smart Techniques to Source Profitable Land Deals

With background research done, now start targeting viable land parcels for purchase. Here are pro tips to source discounted Alaskan land plots with profit potential:

Scan Online Listings

Lands of America, Land Watch and Land Flip are popular sites aggregating Alaska land sales across MLS databases, auctions and for-sale-by-owner listings. Configure saved searches by attributes like size, price range, borough location and natural features. Checking for newly listed parcels regularly helps jump on deals.

Attend Live Auctions

Government agencies and municipalities often auction unused lands with unclear titles or tax-delinquent properties. Site visits may be difficult for remote Alaskan lands, so partner with locals familiar with the area. Live bidding events remain fairly uncommon in Alaska but offer value buys when available.

Knock on Doors in Target Zones

Certain Alaskan boroughs or neighborhoods provide infrastructure, resources or growth trajectories making land investments there profitable. Consider priorities--oil reserves, commercial development, recreation potential etc. Then do legwork knocking on landowners' doors in target zones to make direct cash offers.

Watch for Estate Sales

Death, divorce or debt may force heirs to sell valuable family lands never listed publicly. Well-connected locals familiar with owners often hear of such distress sales first. Build relationships with town banks, chambers of commerce and assessed value offices to catch wind of estate sales early.

Buy Discounted from Land Companies

Some land companies like Land Boss purchase vacant plots at wholesale prices using their market expertise, volume buying power or ability to pay lumpsums. They then sell the lands at reasonable retail margins. Investors can source promising parcels FAST by purchasing discounted lands offloaded at volume by such land companies.

Implementing a combination of these techniques helps discover coveted lands being sold under value by owners wanting a quick sale. With a bit of effort, due diligence and networking, securing bargain land buys in Alaska becomes readily achievable.

Critical Steps for Vetting and Valuing Alaskan Lands

Once an enticing property is identified by savvy sourcing techniques, verify its actual ground realities before negotiating purchases. Follow these vital due diligence steps:

Confirm Legal Ownership

Start by validating legal title, boundaries, easements, deed restrictions and other encumbrances on the land. Alaska's ex-government lands often have layered title issues that devalue plots substantially when identified.

Evaluate Accessibility 

Assess feasibility of accessing the property through roads, trails or water channels across different seasons. Remote lands lacking transportation accessibility or requiring expensive equipment/infrastructure for access remain unfavorable for development.

Inspect Terrain and Buildability 

Ideally conduct site visits to analyze vegetation, wildlife value, soil conditions, mineral deposits, flood risks and other physical traits determining what can be built on the site and at what costs. If inability to access lands leaves you dependent on aerial maps, enlist experienced appraisers to assess plots virtually.

Understand Zoning Limitations 

Determine current zoning and density regulations governing the land's use and improveability. Understand any development restrictions or impact review requirements before creating improvement plans.

Research Local Market Trends 

A land parcel is only worth what a buyer in that area will realistically pay for it. Connect with nearby brokers, appraisers, recent buyers and airport tax records to educate yourself on current property rates and sales trends guiding regional land rates.

Calculate Potential Value Boosts 

Consider future nearby developments that can raise land prices-- new infrastructure being planned, commercial projects breaking ground, state land auctions announced etc. Speculate how the plot value can be enhanced by proactively improving or repurposing it before sale.

Investing 3-6 months for thorough land due diligence is absolutely vital before placing a value or acquisition offer on Alaska's remote, complex real estate.

Smart Strategies to Improve and Repurpose Purchased Lands

Raw land itself earns you nothing until you improve it sufficiently to attract buyers at higher prices. Choose targeted enhancements that align with local buyer needs and marketability challenges in Alaska's distinctive real estate environment.

Survey and Subdivide Large Acreages

Larger 100-500 acre rural and recreational lands often sell faster when subdivided into smaller 1-5 acre parcels. The individual lots also become affordable to more individual buyers, increasing resale pools.

Upgrade Access Roads

Add driveways, trails, gravel or paved road access points to remote parcels through forests, slopes or wetlands. Access infrastructure enhances buildability and property values, provided done legally by obtaining any required permits.

Clear Dense Vegetation

Modest clearing of thick bush, overgrown scrub and deadwood not only improves access but also addresses wildfire risks. Check borough regulations before removing trees or doing substantial land clearing.

Add Basic Utility Hookups

Getting power, water and sewerage pre-connected to vacant plots saves builders installation hassles later, avoiding permit delays. Even adding marked connection sites along the land perimeter draws higher buyer interest.

Construct Storage Structures

Simple sheds, equipment garages or covered RV parking pads give buyers move-in ready amenities to use lands immediately while they work on long-term improvements. Even minimal buildouts raise property worth.

Rectify Title Issues

Lands with clouds on title, disclosure failures or access restrictions will stay longer on the market. Before listing, investigate options to fix minor title defects via boundary adjustments, title insurance or contacting heirs.

Weigh targeted value boosting options against permit needs, improvement costs and expected sales proceeds to pick viable enhancements. Avoid over-improving lands beyond what average purchasers in the area need or will pay for.

Tips to Market and Close Deals Profitably

With a renovated, permit-ready vacant land parcel in hand, implement promotions to finally sell it advantageously.

Highlight Location-Based Value Drivers

Emphasize natural features, waterfronts, views and access attributes attracting Alaska buyers most-- hunting grounds, fishing spots, trails, open spaces etc via photos, videos and descriptions.

Price Competitively

Benchmark prices against comparable recent sales in the borough and appraiser records. Competitively priced lands sell within 6-12 months. Overpricing means years stuck waiting for right buyers.

Offer Owner Financing

In a tight financing environment, owners willing to accept payment installments often attract more buyers. Set clear land title transfer terms over 1-5 years until buyers make final balloon payments.

Partner with Local Agents and Investors

Well networked realtors and land investors already deal with buyers regularly. Offer commission splits or finder’s fees to motivate influential partners to promote your listing in their circles.

Advertise Strategically

Beyond MLS listings, use digital and print ads in Alaska Dispatch News, Alaska Magazine and other localized media highlighting the land’s investment upside for remote property buyers.

Proactively enhancing marketability and maintaining reasonable pricing finally gets desirable lands selling to interested developers or individual buyers seeking the Alaskan dream even in turbulent times.

Common Mistakes Alaska Land Flippers Must Avoid

While land investments deliver high ROI when executed systematically, several missteps can thwart success:

Not researching regulations - Assuming lands are readily buildable without checking conservation statuses, wetland restrictions, density rules etc. Results in undevelopable lands or expensive compliance fixes later devaluing profits.

Overpaying initially - Getting emotional or lacking market value experience and overbidding, leaving inadequate room for improvements/ marketing costs. Creates losses instead of profits at resale.

Underbudgeting access builds – Failing to realistically estimate true costs of creating usable access across wet terrains, forests or freezing landscapes leaves unfinished roads diminishing land desirability.

Forgetting permits needed - Neglecting permissions needed for land clearing, habitat disruptions, subdividing or structure additions. Leads to legal violations lowering sale prices.

Overbuilding too soon - Constructing extensive structures before securing buyers. Extravagant builds rarely give good ROI on cheap vacant lands in Alaska unless sought by locked-in purchasers.

Not confirming title chain - Skipping title checks, failing to identify and settle encumbrances leaves ownership uncertainties hampering sales down the line after sinking improvement investments.

With the right property selection criteria, due diligence practices, targeted improvement strategies and optimized marketing, Alaska’s challenging land market can reward smart investors with attractive profits. Just avoid the common pitfalls derailing many hopeful land flippers seeking to capitalize on Alaska's intriguing real estate frontiers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What permits do I need before starting any land improvements?

In Alaska, construction permits, land clearing permits, wetland permits, subdivision permits and more may be needed before improving raw lands. Research state and borough-specific laws. For any earthworks impacting wetlands/water bodies, obtain Army Corps permits under the Clean Waters Act to avoid violations.

What land types sell fastest in Alaska’s real estate market?

Lands with natural resource potential - mineral deposits, drill sites, logging value etc along with recreation lands - riverfronts, trailing paths, open spaces and approved subdivisions sell fastest in Alaska. Remote properties lacking road access or lying in flood-prone regions tend to have few interested buyers.

How much profit margin can I expect from land flipping deals?

Successful land flippers in Alaska target a reasonable 25-30% profit margin from acquisition price to final sales proceeds. Higher margins quickly price out buyers unless lands have rare features or resources commanding exceptional valuations validated by appraisals.

Should I take out financing or pay cash when acquiring lands for flipping?

Paying cash outright for new land acquisitions preserves more working capital for renovations/carrying costs and provides flexibility for quicker resales anytime if needed. But some investors do leverage financing with adequate equity, cautiously limiting risks on remote properties with volatile valuations.

What factors typically diminish values of Alaska lands drastically?

Any land traits impeding immediate use or development like absence of legal access roads, identified protected species habitats, odd shapes lacking buildable space, highly unstable terrain prone to slides or large bodies of water splitting properties can greatly reduce land valuations by Alaska buyers.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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