Why Buying Vacant Land Can Be an Incredible Real Estate Investment

When you think of real estate investing, you probably think primarily of various types of residential or commercial buildings. And it's true that from single-family homes and apartment buildings to retail, office space, and warehouses, most of the real estate investing we discuss here at The Motley Fool involves buildings of one type or another.

But with all its potential and possibilities, vacant land can be a very exciting investment. Let's take a look at a few options when investing in vacant land, as well as some pros, cons, and considerations.

For sale sign in front of vacant land with grass and trees.

Image source: Getty Images.

Thinking big

If you can find a reasonably good deal on a large plot of land in the right area, it could be worth buying and holding on to. It's likely to appreciate in value over time as demand grows, and there are several ways you could make money off of it in the meantime.

Possibilities to explore, depending on the characteristics of the parcel and its location, include selling the mineral rights, setting the property up as a hunting lease, or even leasing it out as farmland. You could also think long term by planting a portion of the land in timber while still making an income through one of the aforementioned methods.

From 2020 to 2021, the value of farmland, cropland, and pastureland in the U.S. increased around 7%. That's a huge increase for a one-year period.

Current developments in the housing market are also a huge plus for landowners. After a significant dip, homebuilding is back in a big way. New home construction is up 22% over this time last year, making the prospect of starting a housing development well worth looking into if you think you've found the right land for that type of project.

Thinking small

But what if you don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in a huge parcel of land? In that case, you may want to simply take it one lot at the time -- one residential lot, that is. If you can buy an undeveloped, or "raw," lot in a new or desirable residential area and make some improvements to the land, you may be able to sell it at a considerable profit to someone looking to build their dream home. Think of this as the land version of house flipping.

These improvements could include clearing a site on the land where a home could eventually be built and creating easy access to that area, if needed. This could be an effective way to take advantage of the homebuilding boom without having to make a huge up-front investment, perhaps especially in a growing suburb. And this way, you can take it one piece at a time.

Should you consider vacant land?

If you've been investing in real estate primarily in the form of homes or commercial property, vacant land can feel like an entirely different ball game. But the most important difference is that you'll need to ensure any land you're interested in will be suitable for your intended purpose (or purposes) before pulling the trigger. This could include making sure most of the land is high and dry and that it isn't subject to any zoning restrictions that could get in the way of your plans.

The vast potential of vacant land is a big part of its appeal. So is its simplicity, in that you don't have to do anything but hold it and wait for it to appreciate, if that's your preference. But the No. 1 reason vacant land is often a safe investment is a bit of a cliché, and for good reason: They simply aren't making it anymore.

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