What to Do After Inheriting Land in Alaska

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What to Do After Inheriting Land in Alaska

Bart Waldon

When most people think of inheriting property, visions of a house or a sum of money may come to mind. However, inheriting raw land brings its own host of considerations. This is especially true for land located in Alaska, America’s last frontier. Alaska contains over 365 million acres of total area, of which over 60% (approximately 222 million acres) is owned by the state and federal government. If you have recently inherited undeveloped land in Alaska, you have many factors to weigh concerning what to do next with your new asset.

Roughly 12.4% of Alaska's land is under private ownership. As one of the lucky private landholders inheriting property in the 49th state, you have various options like building a residence or business, selling the land, using it recreationally, or holding onto it as an investment. With proper research and planning aligned to your personal financial situation and aspirations, your inherited Alaska property can become a valuable asset.

Getting Started: Initial Steps After Inheriting Land

If you have recently inherited land in Alaska, there are some important initial steps to take before determining what to ultimately do with the property.

Verify Ownership

The first thing you should do upon inheriting property is to verify that the land is lawfully yours. To do this, obtain copies of the deed, title or other legal documents like a will or trust that transferred ownership to you. Review the property description, location and size. Also look for information on any current loans, leases, liens or other encumbrances that are tied to the land. If uncertainties exist, consult a real estate attorney in Alaska to ensure you have full and legal ownership rights before proceeding.

Have Land Appraised

Hiring an accredited appraisal company to survey and assign a fair market value to the inherited land is highly recommended. This professional opinion will better position you to make decisions on whether to develop, sell or hold the property. Seek an appraiser experienced in Alaska land valuations and comparable property sales data for accuracy.

Identify All Associated Costs

Make a list of all regular and upcoming expenses tied to owning the Alaska property so you can budget accordingly. This may include loan payments (if any), property taxes, HOA fees (if part of community), utility bills, maintenance fees, insurance premiums, capital gains taxes from sale, etc. Factoring in these costs will determine if retaining ownership is affordable for you.

Conduct Site Visit

Before deciding what to do with inherited land in Alaska, make plans to travel to the property site and survey it in-person if possible. Get a true sense of the landscape, terrain accessibility, neighboring plots and general condition. This will further help you assess the property’s capabilities and determine next steps. If unable to immediately visit in-person, use digital resources like satellite imagery and topography maps to virtually tour the land site.

Weigh Overall Goals

Carefully consider your personal and financial goals before acting on the inherited land. Key questions to ask are:

  • Do you plan to reside in Alaska part-time or full-time?
  • Are you interested in commercial development or residential use?
  • What resources and budget do you have to improve raw land?
  • Is generating rental income off the land among your priorities?

Outlining your overall vision and objectives for the inherited property will guide your subsequent actions. Be realistic about your intentions, timing and means.

What Are Your Options for Inherited Land?

Once the preliminary groundwork of assuming ownership is addressed, there remain several paths forward to consider in handling inherited property in Alaska:

Retain the Land

If there are no urgent reasons you must liquidate, holding the inherited land in Alaska as a long-term real estate investment may be advantageous. Owning parcels in The Last Frontier State presents opportunities for timber harvesting, mineral rights leasing, recreational use and other income means. Over time, plot values also tend to appreciate given Alaska’s abundance of natural resources and increasing land scarcity. Retaining ownership also preserves the ability to sell or develop later pending changed circumstances.

Sell the Land

Some inherit land already knowing it does not suit their lifestyle needs or financial priorities. In such cases, liquidating at fair market price through a real estate agent is an option. With over 100 land transactions closed, seasoned companies like Land Boss efficiently buy and sell land to yield reasonable profit for both buyers and sellers. Be sure to compare multiple bids and thoroughly review terms before finalizing any sale.

Develop the Land

If aligned with your experience, resources and vision for the inherited land, building residential property or commercial facilities could prove worthwhile. Consult area construction firms for assessment of terrain, zoning regulations, infrastructure and local development costs tomake an informed business plan for execution.

Donate the Land

You may opt to donate or gift some or all inherited land in Alaska to a non-profit organization, land trust or government entity provided certain conserved land requirements are met. Consult with tax and legal experts to better understand implications and processes involved with charitable land donations before proceeding.

Overall, thoughtfully assessing both the short and long-term value alongside your personal priorities for the land will shape prudent decisions after inheritance.

Top Factors to Consider When Deciding What to Do with Inherited Land

There remain key considerations around viability, profitability and appropriateness unique to each inherited land scenario that should guide next steps:

Land Condition and Value

Land that is centrally located near growing population hubs and has good accessibility, zoning flexibility, scenic qualities and established utility access offers strong capability and market value. Raw, remote land with notable wetlands or erosion issues will have far more restricted use and lower price point by comparison.

Annual Carrying Costs

If yearly property taxes, insurance premiums, maintenance fees and other associated ownership costs outweigh income generation potential, divesting inherited land for a reasonable return through sale or donation may be the practical choice.

Development Costs

For those hoping to construct residential or commercial real estate on inherited land, carefully project all permitting, contracting, site preparation, utility installation, building and labor expenses beforehand to assess feasibility.

Time Horizon

Consider the timeframe you are working within to either liquidate land, retain it or develop it per your goals. Sales, construction projects and securing permits take patience. If inheriting debt-ridden land, liquidating sooner than later may be key.

Market Conditions

Closely follow supply and demand trends impacting Alaska land valuations if aiming to sell or develop inherited plots at maximum value. Be forward-thinking to get best return.

Inherent Value Beyond Money

Sentimental ties, ecological preservation and family legacy wishes can also shape decisions on inherited land. Historical significance, wildlife conservation necessity and emotional connection may warrant retaining ownership.

These are just some pivotal factors to weigh when navigating the options after becoming an inherited land owner in Alaska. Thoughtful planning converging finances, timing, property condition details and personal motivations will lead to the soundest outcome.

Selling Inherited Land: Where to Start?

If electing to sell inherited property in Alaska, establishing a strategy in advance and executing it methodically is key to optimizing sale terms and profit.

Study Sales Data

Research actual selling prices per acre or square footage for comparable land recently sold in the same Alaska county or borough. This will give you an evidence-based benchmark to inform listing price. Online sites like Zillow provide sales comps data while a real estate attorney can pull title transfers.

Hire an Agent

Engage a trusted, highly experienced real estate agent licensed in Alaska to represent you in marketing and negotiating the sale of inherited land. They offer invaluable expertise in property valuations, demand levels among buyers, advertising reach and facilitating purchase agreements. Typically, the sales commission splits 70/30 between selling agent and listing agent.

Advertise Online

To cast a wide net fast, have your agent create online listings for the inherited land on high-traffic sites like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com in addition to their own website. Quality photos, detailed property descriptions and drone footage help spark buyer interest.

Install On-Site Signage

On-premise visibility via quality yard signs also alerts prospective local buyers of inherited land newly on the market. Include key details like acreage, agent contact and website for details.

Consider All Offer Terms

When offers do come in, carefully parse every detail beyond headline sale price before accepting. Look at feasibility contingencies, deposits or earnest money, timeline for closing, consecutive days clause and more that might affect actual sale completion. Don’t get seduced by a high fast bid that ultimately falls through.

An agent experienced in Alaska land transactions should educate you on optimizing inherited property sales from pricing to close. Be strategic for best ROI.

Is it Worth Using a Land Buying Company? Pros and Cons

Land buying companies like Land Boss specialize in making cash offers and handling the entire purchase process to buy inherited property in Alaska. There are merits and drawbacks to assessing their acquisition proposals.

Pros of Using Land Buying Company

  • Receive and review no-obligation offers quickly, often within days of inquiry
  • Land buying companies have funds readily available for prompt purchase
  • Selling to them sidesteps hassles of securing traditional bank financing
  • Closes faster than selling through traditional real estate listing (typically within 30 days or less)
  • Supply fair upfront cash offers competitive to current market rates

Cons of Using Land Buying Company

Overall, those inheriting land already facing financial strain, tight timelines or lacking means to develop land may benefit most from a reputable land buyer able to make competitive purchase offers and finalize sales faster than most. Conduct due diligence, secure multiple bids and verify credentials for optimal experience. With over 100 land deals successfully closed to date in Alaska earning high customer satisfaction, a company like Land Boss can make for a smooth business transaction buying inherited property.

Alternatives to Outright Sale of Inherited Land

If reluctancy exists around entirely divesting family property passed down in Alaska, there remain some alternative options to consider:

Partial Sale

This scenario involves only selling a portion of the inherited land plot to generate funds to finance near term financial needs while retaining majority ownership for future use, sale or development. The land buying company or agent prices and purchases a specific segment of the larger parcel.

Ground Lease

Rather than a permanent sale, establishing a long-term contractual ground lease lasting 30+ years allows temporary utilization of inherited land by a tenant. The owner retains underlying ownership and right to inherit the land back once lease expires.

Life Estates

This creative estate planning arrangement enables inheriting lifetime usage of property while subsequent heirs eventually assume full ownership. It helps avoid certain tax penalties while letting current heirs reside before formally transferring land.

Conservation Easement

Here an inheritor permanently or temporarily signs over certain legal development rights for land preservation purposes while otherwise retaining ownership for limited usage like farming, camping or grazing. Can provide beneficial tax incentives if land has important habitat or resources warranting conservation.

In summary, fully divesting inherited land is not the sole course available to land heirs in Alaska. Speak to specialized real estate legal and financial experts to identify any alternative arrangements aligned with your short and long-range property plans.

Final Thoughts

While inheriting land offers a unique opportunity, the multitude of options surrounding what to ultimately do after claiming inherited property in Alaska can seem daunting. Whether you look to develop, retain, donate or sell the land, conduct thorough due diligence around zoning viability, accurate valuation, ownership rights, profitability potential and your own vision for how the land fits into your personal financial plans before advancing too far. Seek guidance from real estate attorneys, appraisers, land development firms, conservation groups and reputable land buying companies to make the most informed decisions for your inherited land that balance financial, practical and emotional motivations. With sound planning and strategic positioning, inherited land can prove a valuable asset for years to come. Let’s connect to explore how to make your new property ownership work optimally for you!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If I inherit land in Alaska, do I have to live there or visit the property?

No, there is no requirement that you must personally occupy or even visit land you inherit in Alaska. As the lawful new owner, you have the flexibility determine what to do with the property - whether sell, retain for investment purposes or donate. However, before deciding it's wise to undertake due diligence like inspecting the land parcel firsthand to assess its condition and potential.

What taxes or fees typically apply to inherited property in Alaska?

Common expenses may include the local property tax or mill rate, land improvement district special assessments (if located in developed areas), insurance costs, applicable estate taxes at federal & state level, and potentially capital gains tax if selling for substantial profit over time. Consult with a local real estate attorney and accountant to confirm your obligations.

If I sell inherited Alaska land, who pays title and closing costs?

Typically, the buyer covers the title insurance policy and related title fees while the seller pays real estate transfer taxes, brokerage commission fees, recording charges and other closing costs. However, some expenses are negotiable so review all terms closely.

Is it difficult for individuals to sell inherited raw land on their own in Alaska?

Yes, selling vacant land without structures poses unique challenges vs. traditional home sales. Reasons range from remote parcel locations, site readiness costs, zoning limitations and smaller buying pool interested in undeveloped land. Hiring an experienced agent and advertising online help but still may take 1-2 years to finalize sale.

If I use a land buying company, how much below market value will their offer likely be?

In general, reputable land buying companies aim to pay competitive prices aligned with current area land rates, usually ranging from 70 – 90 percent of the land's reasonable appraisal value. Discounts apply since they take on hassles traditional buyers avoid. Research multiple buyers, verify credentials and customer reviews to identify fair operators when inheriting property.

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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