The Challenges of Selling Land Online

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The Challenges of Selling Land Online

Bart Waldon

As the co-founder of a land investing company, I've learned all about the unique challenges that come with selling land online. There's no doubt the internet has made buying and selling property way more accessible. But marketing vacant land still comes with hurdles you rarely encounter when listing developed real estate.

In this post, I'll use my years of experience in land investments to break down the top challenges we’ve faced when selling land online. I’ll also give tips on how to navigate them based on hard-won lessons! Buckle up for a bumpy ride down Dirt Road Selling.

Challenge #1 - Most Buyers Are Skeptical of Online Land Listings

Think gorgeous photos and flowery property descriptions are enough to attract buyers? Think again! With land, buyers are extremely skeptical of anything they haven’t seen in person. We’re talking Eyeore levels of pessimism.

And for good reason. They want to verify exactly what they're getting - whether the terrain is accurately portrayed, if there are any hidden issues, etc.

A survey found only 6% of buyers would purchase vacant land sight unseen. And that makes sense. With a developed property, you can get a decent feel from photos. But acres of empty trees don’t reveal much. As a listing agent, overcoming buyer skepticism is obstacle number one.

Our Pro Tip: Proactively address buyer concerns in listings with additional details like surveying data, drone footage showing terrain, disclosures on zoning, confirmation of easements or right of ways, flood zone status, and offers to provide custom maps. The more questions you answer upfront, the more confident buyers will be to purchase long distance.

Challenge #2 - Most Shoppers Aren't Specifically Searching for Land

Here’s a crazy stat - when prospecting online, less than 1% of property searches are for vacant land properties. Research shows over 99% of buyers browse for homes and other developed real estate. So even if your land listing pops up, odds are low it’ll attract targeted shoppers.

This happens because the major real estate portals are built for home sales. Trulia, Zillow, etc - they focus on housing data, not vacant parcels. And Google’s algorithm prioritizes pages relevant to what searchers want...which usually isn’t land.

Our Pro Tip: To reach more targeted buyers, advertise land listings on niche platforms used by investors, developers, and land-seekers. Examples include Lands of America, Land And Farm, Land Watch, and Land Flip. Maximizing exposure there offsets lower visibility on bigger sites.

Challenge #3 - Limited Listing Details Turn Off Buyers

Ever seen a real estate ad with just a couple photos and two sentences about the property? With homes, you can maybe get away with that. But not vacant land.

Nearly 70% of buyers complain that land listings lack important details. Yet many sellers still provide bare minimum descriptions. This forces unanswered questions and hurts sales.

The issue is land is more complex. Without structures, a blank slate needs more words painting what could be. Where are the property lines? What’s the terrain? Any easements or right of ways? Flood zone status? Details like that can make or break a deal.

Our Pro Tip: Beef up land listings with additional facts that proactively inform buyers:

- Parcel size according to official survey

- Topography overview

- Confirmation of rights like mineral, water, access or utilities

- Roadway information - public or private?

- Exact location shown on aerial map

- Zoning designation and permitted uses

- Flood zone determination

- Disclosure of liens, easements or other title encumbrances

The more questions answered upfront, the better. Think from a buyer’s perspective. What would you want to know?  

Challenge #4 - No Structures Makes Valuing Land Harder

Here’s an understatement for you - valuing vacant land is tricky. Way trickier than developed real estate. Without buildings, there’s minimal data to compare. Recent local sales of similar parcels help. But those can be scarce.

It leads to wild price estimate fluctuations. Appraisals often disagree drastically. And listing agents sometimes just throw out completely arbitrary asking prices.

One survey showed nearly 40% of buyers felt land was overpriced. Yet 56% of sellers thought their land was underpriced! See the dilemma?

Our Pro Tip: When pricing land, gather as many metrics as possible:

- Recent sales of similar parcels in the county

- Per acre prices for zone type

- Current assessment value

- Area market conditions

- Development potential

- Consult multiple appraisers

The more signals pointing to a price range, the better chance it aligns with buyer willingness to pay. Yet flexible negotiating is still key.

Challenge #5 - Remote Parcels Lack Visibility

Listing location matters, especially with land. Parcels on high-traffic roads or near developments get way more exposure. But remote, rural tracts hidden from view? Out of sight, out of mind.

One analysis found 70% fewer online views for land listings in the boonies. Makes can’t catch eyes driving by if there’s no drive-bys.

Our Pro Tip: Boost visibility for remote land sales with strategic signage off main roads advertising the listing. Also utilize digital ads targeted by location to reach folks near the area.

Challenge #6 - Developing Strong Marketing Content is Harder

Imagine trying to make an empty field sexy. That’s essentially what writing land listing descriptions and ads feels like!

With developed property, you describe features of the actual house. But acres of trees? Not so exciting.

Coming up with intriguing content is tougher. So is taking attractive photos without buildings. It requires creativity to highlight potential using only words, aerials, zoning data, etc.  

Our Pro Tip: Vividly paint ‘what could be’ for buyers. Use descriptive phrases emphasizing envisioning their future cabin tucked into the woods, the sprawling vineyard potential zoning allows, family hunting adventures, etc. Focus more on the lifestyle and investment possibilities than the dirt itself.  

Challenge #7 - Complex Title and Parcel Legality Issues

Think closing on a house comes with paperwork? Just wait until you try to sell your land!

Titling for vacant parcels is notoriously more complicated. Ensuring clean, clear ownership with no encumbrances takes extra diligence. Some legality considerations simply don’t exist with developed lots.

Surveys reveal around 15% of land listings have title defects. And roughly 20% of transactions face delays due to title problems! Dodging those bullets isn’t always easy.

Our Pro Tip: Don’t rely on the seller’s word alone. Independently verify parcel boundaries and easements via official survey. Get title insurance to protect from errors. Review title history for any red flags that could suggest past legal issues.

Challenge #8 - Local Zoning and Permitting Rules Vary More

You wouldn’t believe the zoning variations between counties, even neighboring ones! Building permits, water rights, mineral rights, subdivision’s the Wild West of red tape from place to place.

This hyper-localness makes compliance tricky for land sellers marketing across regions. What’s kosher in one spot may be code violating in another. Regulations apply differently to some vacant land owners, too.

Our Pro Tip: Research each region’s unique zoning rules when listing land. Disclose permitted uses and restrictions upfront in the description. For any buyers looking to build or develop, emphasize consulting local planning departments before purchase to verify project feasibility.

Challenge #9 - More Environmental Due Diligence Needed

Over 50% of buyers backed out of a land deal because of environmental concerns uncovered late in the process. Common red flags include former dumping, buried waste, asbestos, wetlands, and contamination.

Many issues only come to light through soil testing, in-depth water surveys, mineral checks, etc. While not cheap, upfront due diligence prevents awful surprises after the fact.

Our Pro Tip: Be proactive reducing eco liability by including any past assessment reports with listings. Offer Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments for serious buyers to review. Task a specialist to identify potential red flags early before problems torpedo deals down the road.

Challenge #10 - Patience is Key with Longer Sales Cycles

And the award for real estate’s longest average days on market goes to...drumroll please... vacant land!

Data shows land parcels take around 9 months on average to sell. Roughly twice as long as developed properties. Makes sense with buyers doing more upfront research before committing. Oh, and this applies to those with and without real estate agents.

Yet many sellers get antsy when their dirt fields don’t immediately sell or attract gobs of offers. They slash prices at the first flat week then miss out on better deals. Impatience pays nothing if you sell land.

Our Pro Tip: When selling land, expect an extended time horizon and budget accordingly. Don’t panic reduce after a slow open house or two - use that as motivation to enhance marketing efforts instead. Staying resolute gets the best sale price, even if it takes some months to sell vacant land.  

The Road Goes On and On

As you can see, the challenges of selling vacant land online also comes with unique challenges you rarely encounter when listing homes or commercial real estate. From skeptical buyers to environmental homework to long close times, it's a different ballgame to sell land and especially selling land fast.

But solutions exist for every issue if you know what to watch out for! Following the tips and best practices I shared will set you up for success guiding land safely from listing to sold.

The road to closing land deals may be longer and bumpier. Yet the journey can be immensely rewarding if you’re prepared with the knowledge on how to sell land - particularly without a real estate agent. I hope these lessons from my decade in land investing helps smooth the path, wherever your parcels may take you! Let me know if you need any other advice from this dirt road veteran.

Happy land selling!

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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