Is Florida Land a Good Investment?

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Is Florida Land a Good Investment?

Bart Waldon

Rising inflation and stock market volatility has more investors exploring alternative assets like Florida real estate and land. And robust population influx into the Sunshine State suggests property remains a smart long-term allocation. Florida welcomed over 330,000 new residents last year alone – that’s 900 more people daily calling it home. This incredible migration patterns fuel housing demand that elevated median sales 11% according to 2022 Federal Reserve Data.

Yet land facilitating future development offers advantages over existing inventory. Though over 77 million acres sits in agriculture, timber or conservation use, Florida land valuations still increased approximately 8% annually from 2012-2021 per USDA statistics. And current property inflation points modest land plays holding 5-10 year horizons can deliver stable returns insulating against markets correcting. Whether targeting legacy generational wealth potential or simply smaller scale capital gains flipping vacant plots, Florida land investment options cater to varying appetites and objectives. This guide examines factors influencing state land profitability for investors at different levels seeking emerging stable havens.

The Florida Real Estate Market

Overall, Florida's real estate market is quite strong. Home values across the state increased by over 25% between 2020 and 2022 according to Zillow data. Florida also saw its population grow by over 900,000 residents between 2020 and 2021. This influx of new residents is fueling demand for housing.

Most experts project that real estate in Florida will continue appreciating over the next 5-10 years. The state is attracting buyers from high-cost states like New York, California, and Illinois who can sell their homes there and buy larger properties in Florida for less. This steady stream of buyers from out of state will sustain demand.

In particular, Central and South Florida are seeing the strongest growth. Cities like Tampa, Orlando, Miami, and Jacksonville have thriving job markets and relatively affordable home prices compared to other metros. These factors make them magnets for new residents.

So from a macro perspective, Florida's housing market appears poised for steady, continued growth. This bodes well for land investors hoping to eventually sell sites to builders or developers.

Factors to Consider When Buying Land in Florida

While the outlook for Florida real estate overall is positive, not all land parcels are created equal when it comes to investment potential. Here are some factors to research thoroughly before purchasing land in Florida:

Location - As with most real estate, location is king when it comes to land value. Parcels located near growing cities or employment centers will generally have the highest demand and value. Rural lands or sites in shrinking communities are riskier bets.

You also want to consider accessibility. Land near major highways and roads is more desirable. Being close to amenities like shopping and restaurants is also a plus.

Zoning and Land Use Regulations - Understanding current zoning and land use rules is crucial. You want to ensure the site you are considering can legally be used for your intended purpose, whether that's building residential properties, commercial buildings, etc.

Sometimes a site may be zoned for agricultural use but show potential for rezoning to residential or mixed-use. This type of land can offer big rewards but also carries risk as there is no guarantee rezoning approval will be secured.

Flood Zones - Flooding is a fact of life in Florida. You'll want to be very cautious about sites located in FEMA designated flood zones. This can limit what you can build on the site and make it much harder to find buyers or get financing.

Utilities Access - Land with existing electric, water and sewer hookups or located near these utilities is far more valuable. Having to pay to run utilities to a remote site can eat into your returns significantly.

Surrounding Uses - What are nearby properties being used for? Adjacent lands used for incompatible purposes like industrial facilities or highways can diminish your land value. Scenic views or proximity to parks and protected lands can enhance value.

Natural Features - Things like wetlands, ravines, or dense forests on all or part of your site will constrain buildable area and reduce what you can ask for the land. But some natural features like ponds or trees can be an attractive amenity if kept and incorporated thoughtfully into development plans.

Size - Within residential zones, smaller infill parcels under an acre can sometimes command premium pricing per square foot compared to larger multi-acre sites. But larger parcels give developers more flexibility. Consider what size makes sense for your investment goals and the local market.

Competing Inventory - Examine the amount of comparable vacant land already on the market nearby. Is there a glut of similar inventory that could limit demand for your site? Or is quality land scarce in the area? Understanding supply dynamics is critical.

Researching all these factors for any land parcels you are evaluating takes diligence. But it helps avoid costly mistakes and narrow in on sites with the most potential.

Challenges of Buying Florida Land for Investment

While Florida offers appealing demographics and a strong housing market, investing in vacant land here still involves notable risks and challenges:

  • Long Hold Times - Depending on location, it can take 3-5 years or longer for a site to appreciate significantly in value to reach your target sales price. Are you comfortable waiting this long for a return?
  • Zoning Changes - As noted earlier, the local municipality could deny requests to change a site's zoning from say agricultural to residential use. This limits what you can do with the land.
  • Inaccurate Appraisals - Lenders sometimes appraise sites for much less than recent sales of comparable land in the same area. If this happens to you, it can limit financing options for buyers.
  • Changing Market Conditions - No one can predict how Florida's real estate market will fluctuate in the years ahead. An economic downturn could dampen demand right when you hope to sell.
  • Natural Disasters - From hurricanes to flooding, disasters are always a risk in Florida. Damage to land during your ownership can negatively impact value.
  • Property Taxes & Maintenance Costs - You'll be on the hook for yearly property tax payments as well as maintenance costs like brush clearing, mowing, etc. These expenses eat into returns.
  • No Guaranteed Buyer - Ultimately, there is no guarantee you will find a motivated buyer willing to pay your desired price when you are ready to sell. Marketing and patience are required.

The upside potential of Florida land investing may seem very appealing. But going in with realistic expectations and your eyes wide open to the risks is key to success.

Tips for Investing in Florida Land Profitably

If you decide Florida vacant land represents a good opportunity for you, here are some tips to help maximize returns:

  • Seek sites in growth corridors around dynamic cities like Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville. Demand will be strongest here long-term.
  • Look for parcels already zoned or viable to rezone for residential, commercial or mixed use projects. This opens up more potential buyers.
  • Corner lots near highways or major intersections tend to be more highly coveted as they offer prominence and exposure.
  • In rural areas, look for sites fronting state highways or roads as opposed to unpaved backroads. Accessibility is key.
  • Focus on sites that are ready to build on now or will be within 1-2 years. Markets can change fast. The longer the wait to build, the higher the risk.
  • Hire professionals to assess soils, flood risk, wetlands and other factors on sites you are considering. This upfront investment saves money and headaches later.
  • Be prepared to do some initial site improvements like clearing land, building roads, adding fencing to boost curb appeal and value.
  • Market actively to likely buyers like local builders and developers to generate interest. Listings on websites like Loopnet are also a must.
  • Consider subdividing larger parcels if allowed to sell off pieces individually for higher per acre prices.

With the right property, smart enhancements, and targeted marketing, Florida land can deliver strong returns on investment. But patience and accepting some risk are par for the course.

Final Thoughts

Many investors are attracted to Florida's strong population growth and robust housing demand. In the right location, Florida land can be a profitable long-term investment if you buy smart and can wait out the typical multi-year hold period. But it also comes with hazards like rezoning denials, changing market conditions and natural disasters. Going in with clear eyes, doing your due diligence on properties, and not overpaying sets you up for success.

While rewarding, land investment in Florida is not for the faint of heart. You need to be comfortable with unknowns and have the grit required to see your investment through to the right buyer and sales price. If you are willing to be patient and persistent to see a site through to its highest and best use, Florida land can still represent a solid addition to an investment portfolio.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What regions of Florida offer the best land investment opportunities?

The major metropolitan areas like Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville tend to have the highest demand and growth potential. Suburban areas located near these major cities can also be strong investment locations as populations spread outward.

What types of land parcels make for good investments?

Land already zoned for residential or commercial development is ideal. Parcels located near highways, transit, and infrastructure connections are more valuable. Larger tracts of land that can accommodate master-planned communities may deliver higher returns.

How can I determine a fair purchase price for land?

Research the sales prices of comparable vacant land parcels that sold recently in the same region. Factor in location, zoning, parcel size, and infrastructure access. Hire an appraiser to assess market value professionally. Only pay what aligns with current area land rates.

What risks or challenges are involved with owning land?

Land has higher carrying costs than other investments, requires maintenance, and may need zoning changes to develop. Market downturns can impact value. Demographic changes may decrease demand long-term. Natural disasters in Florida also pose a risk.

How soon can I expect returns on investing in land?

Land investors need to take a long-term approach. Depending on location, it may take 3-5 years or longer to get land development projects approved and completed to realize returns. This investment strategy requires patience.

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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