The most common question I get working in real estate, and more specifically the land business every week is, “What’s land going for these days?”
This is not only the most common question I get, but also the hardest question to answer accurately, if asked in this very general fashion for a fairly broad area on the map. My reply typically begins with, “Well, that all depends on a lot of factors really.” I realize that people don’t want to hear that, they really want you to just throw out some raw average number and take your best stab at a price that they would like to hear. But unfortunately in the land sales industry, it just doesn’t work that way. There are way too many factors and various details that come into play when determining what a particular piece of property is worth.
For example, I primarily cover 4 main counties in my land sales region in SC. You can drive from the county furthest west to the county furthest east in about 45 minutes or less. I have seen almost the exact same type and size of property sell in County B for anywhere from 2 to 10 thousand dollars more per acre than it did in County A. That’s not even some small commercial lot that we’re talking about, that’s for larger rural land tracts. That being said, I’ve also seen a situation where certain factors come into play, and a property in County A will sell for more per acre than a similar sized property in County B. Even though the “dirt value” may be much much higher in County B, the County A tract may have other things adding to its overall value, making it sell for a higher price per acre. These other things I’m referring to that add value to the property do not just include houses or other buildings, as I feel like that is an obvious situation for most people to understand. We all know that the right dwelling sitting on a particular piece of land could most certainly add substantial value to a property’s overall price per acre. This article is not being written to explain the obvious, it’s to remind you of other important factors to consider when determining land value.
One of the most common factors to take into consideration is timber value. The timber on a certain parcel can add a lot of value and thus greatly affect its overall price tag. Markets vary, and change, and the type and age of the timber, as well as whether it was planted or naturally grown matters too. Is it mixed pine and hardwood, planted pines, or something else? What percentage of each type does the tract consist of?
Some other physical attributes to consider are overall elevation above sea level, topography, roads in place throughout, ditches, road frontage, power, sewer, water, bodies of water and access to those, soil types, fences, gates, and the overall layout of property features. How much work is required to get the land in good shape for its desired use? If it’s a hunting property, are there things like deer stands and food plots already in place? Are there a lot of signs of wildlife being on the property and in the overall area? Is there diversity in fields, trees, bedding areas, etc?
Some other factors affecting overall value include: scarcity, present and future land use, proximity to other attractions or desired areas, accessibility to economic activities, area amenities, type and proximity of property neighbor dwellings, type and size of surrounding parcels, zoning, future development potential, taxes, safety and security of the area, and many many more. Just like with most other things, it really all starts first and foremost with location, and then it’s down to the special characteristics of that particular parcel itself, as well as what surrounds it.
Hopefully now you’ll understand a little more as to why land professionals don’t just spit out per acre numbers real easily when asked. There are a lot of things to consider when discussing land values, and they’re typically always changing. It really is a case by case study, and it’s usually more likely that you may be given a fairly broad range of values for a particular area and type of land, than just one per acre number. It’s always a good idea to consult a land professional when determining a property’s value, and even they may need to consult other sources to get the most accurate numbers too, such as foresters, engineering specialists, and other local resources.
As real estate professionals, we always like to have comparative sales data to use when determining the value of property. However, with rural land, we don’t always have the convenience of a recent sale of the perfect “comp” (similar property, in the same area) available to use when determining the value of a particular parcel.