Note: A version of this blog post appears in our book “The Land Flipper: Turning Dirt into Dollars” It has been rewritten here for ease of internet consumption. You can also find these and other sales strategies outlined in our Land Flipping Course.
So you’ve got a piece of land and need to sell it. The task seems overwhelming, but you have to make some kind of move to get the ball rolling. What to do?
Normally we might recommend hiring a professional to market your property. There’s a lot to be said for turning it over to the pros. But there are a couple of issues here. The first is that no one knows your land like you do. The average real estate agent sells buildings, not dirt, and the companies out there which specialize in land sales are thin on the ground. You may not be able to find an agent expert enough with raw land to do a bangup job for you.
Second, an agent just isn’t going to make as much money selling your small tract of land as he’ll make selling the average house. A $50,000 lot, with a house on it, is probably worth $500,000. So even the most saintly of agents may give more attention to selling the house rather than the lot.
All of which is to explain why we insist on selling our own property. No one knows as much about the property as we do and no one wants to sell it as passionately as we do. We’re not shooting for a 10% commission. The prize for us is the sales price of the property.
So the time has come to turn this rectangle of dirt into cold hard cash or else mailbox money, and we’ve decided to do it ourselves. How to do that?
Let’s start by discussing our market. Who are our buyers? What do they want in a tract of land and how are they likely to find it? It’s awfully hard to categorize people, so don’t take the following sketches too seriously, but you might find them helpful as an aid to figure out what motivates various buyers.
- The Trucker- Best type of marketing: Index Cards in Truck Stops
Lots of people need to live near cities. Truckers do not. They often only need to live close to a major highway. This makes them prime buyers of rural acreage. Find the best way to advertise to truckers in your area, with notices and ads in their truck stops being the most obvious target.
- The Retirees- Best type of marketing: Local newspapers
Some people just live in the city because they have no other choice. Their job is there, after all. As soon as they get the chance, they dream of moving back out to greener pastures. They’ve also got the pensions to do it.
- The Neighbors- Best type of marketing: FSBO/Bandit Signs & Onsite Info Mailbox
A lot of times, selling your land can be as simple as letting the people already living in the immediate area know that lots are available. Everyone wants to pick their neighbors after all. Make sure that someone looking at the land itself will know it is for sale.
- The Factory Worker – Best type of Marketing: Facebook
If you are young, rural, and without the opportunity or interest in college and all that goes along with it, one of the best paths you can take in life is to try to get a strong, blue-collar job in a factory or plant, in construction or dirt work. These young people work hard and have the money to show for it. And for whatever reason, they often don’t favor the city. For all these reasons, we try to advertise around factories, plants, and spread the word with these types in any way we can conceive.
- The Immigrant – Best type of Marketing: Posted Signs and Flyers. Facebook.
For a lot of people from elsewhere, owning a piece of land is the visible sign that they have made something of themselves in their new lives. If you have a lot of land to sell, one of the best things you can do is hone up on your Spanish or else find a Spanish salesman.
- The Investor- Best type of Marketing: Craigslist/Landwatch
You won’t get rich selling to investors (you are usually better off dividing the land and selling it yourself), but sometimes they can provide an easy escape route if you really need to unload a piece of dirt. Be prepared to lower your prices and cast a wide net.
- The Trailer Park Escapee – Best type of Marketing: Mailouts
A lot of people who live in mobile homes often temporarily end up renting a small patch of dirt in what is commonly called a “trailer park”. These areas are often undesirable due to how cramped and even dangerous they can be. Fortunately for you, if you are willing to owner finance your property, you can often offer these people an even better deal than they are getting in the trailer park. Imagine telling these people that they can own five acres for the same price as they are paying a month to rent this 100×50 spot five feet from a meth head. If you’ve got cheap land you can owner finance, these people can be your go to buyers. Find out how to notify them.
Here is a video from the course that goes into more detail on IDing your customers.
So how do you get the word out there? Here are some quick and dirty tricks we have learned to help spread the word on your own.
- Craigslist- These are the newspaper classifieds of our time, and you can post FSBO ads for free.
- Facebook- Search for swap groups in your area, post a beautiful picture of the land, and be on hand to answer questions.
- Zillow/Landwatch – These two websites are gunning for the MLS, and are functionable substitutes. Zillow is free, and it certainly has issues, but it seems to be used by a lot of buyers these days. Landwatch is the first result you get when you type “land for sale” into google, and even though it comes with a monthly cost, that itself is pretty valuable.
- Newspapers – We still advertise in the newspaper because (believe it or not), there are still country people out there who don’t use computers and the internet very much. While print advertisement is dying, we haven’t given up on it just yet.
- FSBOs and Bandit Signs – Your land should have a sign on it, and you should check this sign regularly (neighbors and thieves will remove it). You should also put “bandit” signs on any major highway or intersection near the property. You should check all of these religiously. If someone passes by your land and doesn’t see a sign, you have failed one of the most basic tests of listing land FSBO.
- Index Cards – Around your land there will be country stores, hardware stores, gas stations, markets, libraries, and so on. Anywhere within 20 miles of your property where people gather, there should be a little index card with your phone number on it.
- Mobile Home Dealers – Many people who are in the market for a mobile home are also interested in land on which to place that home. Therefore, if you can get mobile home dealerships to push your land, you get an instant sales funnel. We regularly visit the dealerships in our area. We bring a box of donuts and a stack of sales flyers for our property.
- Trailer Parks – There are plenty of ways to do this – bandit signs near the park, index cards at the local corner store where residents run for a gallon of milk, or even a direct mail out to each lot in the park. The best way is to know someone in the park who can spread the word.
When someone calls about the land, you should have a script with a few questions on it. Obviously, you aren’t sticking religiously to the script, but make sure you hit these high points.
- “What is your email address?” You need this for what comes next
- “What are you looking for?” Indispensable market research
- “Where did you hear about us?” Know what’s working and what isn’t
- “Got any money?” Find a subtle way to find out if the person is a serious buyer. You’d be surprised how many will waste your time with a thirty-minute question about your land when it turns out they are in no financial position to be buying property.
- “Do you want to schedule a showing?” Move the sales call to the next level if you are getting good vibes.
Now is the part where you are going to be using the email address you got during the phone call.
Here is what You send interested Parties:
- The Location Map – We send a hand drawn map that leads potential buyers instantly to the property. Remember that raw land has no address and can’t be found on google maps. (We do recommend getting any nearby addresses you can for buyers who can’t follow a map).
- The Sales Plat – This is a simplified map showing all the borders of the property and/or lots. It should have prices and contact information that makes it easy for a buyer to see what they are looking out.
- Photographs – Lovely pictures of the property help raise the interest level through a visceral reaction. We are visual creatures, after all.
- The Aerial – A shot from google earth, showing the property borders, can really help people get a sense of what your land is like.
- The info sheet – Here is where you put any additional info – utilities, pricing options, financing information, etc.
- Deed Restrictions – We usually put a few light restrictions to prevent our property from becoming a trailer park itself (but only if we have multiple lots or other land in the area)
Protip: Keep all those email addresses. Think of it like leads. You’ll need them if you want to sell more land in the future. You might even be able to sell your leads to a hungry real estate agent, though I’m not sure about the legality of this.
Hope this helps! If you are interested in learning more about land sales, land flipping, and real estate, you can check out my Land Flipping Course Here!