What to Do After Inheriting Land in California

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What to Do After Inheriting Land in California

Bart Waldon

Inheriting property or land can be a blessing but also comes with key decisions if you choose to sell or transfer ownership. This is ever-relevant in California which contained over 100 million acres of farm and ranch land as of 2021, per the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture. With over 77,000 total farms operating statewide, questions abound after inheriting California property on how best to proceed. Whether the land is vacant or actively cultivated farmland, key steps must be taken to address ownership paperwork, tax implications, value assessments and ultimately options if selling the inherited asset makes sense.

As over $50 billion in California farmland and ranch assets start to transfer between generations in coming years, new land holders need proper perspective. This article explores core action steps after inheriting land in California - from getting appraisals done promptly to weighing advantages of selling through specialized farm property listing sites versus directly to aligned agricultural buyers in the region.

Get educated on the land inheritance process

The first step after inheriting property is simply getting up to speed on the process. There are several key things to understand:

·     How the property transfer works legally: When someone dies, their assets are distributed either according to a will or based on state laws if no will exists. You'll need to verify that you are the legal owner now.

·     The property details: Get all the facts about the land, including the acreage, zoning, property boundaries, any structures on it, etc. Review the deed and property tax records.

·     Expenses: Property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, maintenance costs and more may now be your responsibility. Make sure you know what's required.

·     Potential liabilities: Find out if there are any loans, judgements or liens attached to the property that you may have inherited as well.

Doing your homework early ensures you fully understand what you've acquired and can make informed decisions. If you're unclear on anything, consult with a real estate attorney.

Decide whether to keep or sell the land

Once you understand the property, you can weigh your options - should you keep or sell the inherited land?

There are good reasons for both:


·     Long-term appreciation potential if the land is in a growing area

·     Sentimental value if it's been in the family for generations

·     Using it yourself for things like recreational property or farming


·     Eliminate expenses and liabilities associated with the land

·     Cash out to reuse elsewhere like paying off debts or investing

·      Avoid complexities of being an out-of-state landlord

If you're on the fence, don't rush to a decision. Holding onto the property for 6-12 months lets you see both expenses and potential. But if the inherited land isn't a good fit, selling can be the smartest path forward.

Pay off any outstanding debts

If there are any loans, judgements or liens against the inherited property, make paying those off a priority. This clears the asset and maximizes your equity and options.

You may need to take out a separate loan to cover these obligations. But it improves your ownership position and clears issues that could complicate a future sale.

Handle maintenance, repairs and expenses

Undeveloped land still comes with costs. Here are some things to factor into your budget if keeping the property:

·     PropertyTaxes: These vary by county but expect 1-2% of assessed value annually. Failure to pay can result in tax lien.

·     Insurance: You may need general liability coverage in case of injuries on the site.

·     Leasing: If applicable, you become the landlord and must handle any tenant issues.

·     Security: Fencing, gates, signage to deter trespassers.

·     Surface Maintenance: Grading dirt roads, clearing brush, managing vegetation.

·     Utilities: Water, electric or sewer bills if hooked up.

Evaluate condition and take care of any fixes or overduemaintenance. Also set up accounts and billing in your name.

Explore developing the land yourself

If you want to keep the property long term, you may look at developing it in some way, like:

·      Building Residential Home: For vacationing or retirement. Check zoning laws.

·      Farming: Crops or livestock can be possibilities depending on climate and acreage.

·      Hunting/Recreational: Building cabins or gear storage for private recreational use.

·      RV Park/Campground: Installing utility hookups for RV pads and tent camping.

·      Solar Farm: Withideal solar exposure and acreage, a solar array may be an option.

Look into well, septic, utilities, permitting, construction costs and other requirements to evaluate feasibility. If development isn't practical, leasing land for things like farming or grazing could offset costs.

Market the property for sale

If you decide selling the inherited land makes sense, your next step is effectively marketing it. Here are tips for maximizing the value:

·      Get an Appraisal: Hire an appraiser to establish fair market value based on recent comparable sales and other factors. Don't just guess at pricing.

·      Use a Real Estate Agent: An experienced agent knows the local market and has tools to market listings. Paying a commission is usually worth it.

·      List on MLS: The local multiple listing service allows realtors to easily see the listing. MLS access greatly expands potential buyers.

·      Market Online: Create websites or Craigslist ads marketing the property. Realtors also list on Zillow, Trulia and other major sites.

·      Post Signage: Install a high-visibility "For Sale by Owner" sign on the actual property with your contact information.

·      Be Flexible on Terms: Offering owner financing or land contracts can expand your buyer pool. But work with a lawyer to protect your interests.

With the right prep work and marketing strategy, you can successfully sell the inherited land for a fair price.

Consider "We Buy Land" cash offers

An alternative to traditional selling is to take a cash offer from a dedicated land buying company like Land Boss. Here's how it works:

·      They research details on your property and existing market activity.

·      If it meets their buying criteria, they make a no-hassle cash offer.

·      The amount is typically based on 50-80% of appraised or market value.

·      If you accept, they handle all the closing details and pay within a few weeks.

This streamlined approach bypasses the hassles of selling it yourself. And the discount offers account for the fact that vacant land is hard to sell at full market value. For many inheriting land, the quick cash and convenience make this option an attractive choice over listing it.

Consult professionals to navigate options

Inheriting land in California triggers some big decisions. To make sure you protect your interests, leverage the expertise of real estate professionals:

Lawyers - Consult real estate attorneys on the inheritance specifics and legal issues. They can also review any sale contracts.

CPAs - A CPA can offer tax guidance, like if selling the land will trigger capital gains taxes.They can identify potential deductions too.

Realtors - Local realtors have specialized knowledge on zoning, regulations, market values and how to maximize a sale.

We Buy Land companies - These professionals can advise if their cash offer programs make sense for your circumstances.

The more informed you are, the better position you'll be into either hold onto the inherited property or sell it for a profit. Don't go it alone - lean on the pros to inherit wisely.

How Land Boss Can Help You With Inherited Land in California

If you've inherited undeveloped land in California that you're looking to sell, Land Boss offers a convenient cash purchase solution. As a company that buys and sells land, we purchase property directly from owners and resell to builders, developers and private buyers. For those inheriting land, our cash offers simplify the process so you don't have to handle the complexities of selling it yourself.

Our team can assess your inherited property and current market conditions, then provide a no-hassle cash offer if it meets our buying criteria. This allows you to sell the land without having to list it on MLS, market it yourself, or wait for bank financing from buyers. Our cash close process takes just weeks, and we handle all the closing details for you.

With over 100 land transactions completed, Land Boss has experience buying all types of properties. We know the local California real estate market well. If you've inherited land you're looking to sell for cash, contact us for a free quote. We can provide a fair cash offer and make the process hassle-free. Our goal is making sure inheriting land is a smooth and profitable process for you.

Final Thoughts

Inheriting land in California opens up a lot of possibilities - both exciting and daunting. But by learning the lay of the land, weighing your options, handling expenses wisely and consulting professionals, you can make the most of this windfall. Careful planning, research and decision-making will lead to inheriting this valuable asset smoothly and profitably over the long-term.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What taxes apply when inheriting land?

In California, inherited land receives a stepped-up tax basis, meaning the property is valued at market value as of the owner's date of death. This can help reduce capital gains taxes if you later sell the land. You'll still need to pay annual property taxes based on assessed value.

Can I sell inherited property right away?

Yes, you can sell inherited property whenever you want. However, it's often smarter to keep it for at least 6-12 months to understand expenses, market value, and potential. Rushing to sell can mean leaving money on the table.

How can I estimate the value of inherited land?

Work with a local real estate agent to compare recent sales of similar vacant land parcels. Also have an appraiser assess the property based on size, location, zoning, utility access and other attributes. An appraisal offers the best value estimate.

What if there are other heirs to the property?

If the will doesn't specify who gets the land, or there is no will, the property will be divided according to California intestate succession laws. This can mean selling the land and splitting proceeds. Speak to a legal or real estate professional to understand the implications.

Am I liable for injuries on inherited land?

Yes, as the land owner you can be liable for any injuries or accidents on the property.Make sure to purchase adequate general liability insurance based on the property size and risk. Post no trespassing signs as well.


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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