Perhaps the wisdom of permies will help me. Several years ago my husband and I made a mistake. We purchased 6 acres in a gated community where all the lots are the size of ours or larger. It is mostly wooded and on a slope. It is about 45 minutes away from the city where we live. We thought we'd build a house there. I thought it would be a weekend cottage and my husband thought we'd build a house to move there in retirement, which is a 2-3 years away for us. The reality we now know is that we can't afford (without incurring a mortgage) a weekend cottage nor do we now want to live there. We put it up for sale and in 1 year, 1 person looked at it. There are many similar lots for sale in the same and other area developments. I contacted another realtor about listing it and so far he hasn't returned my call.
This community requires your home to be approved by a committee and it must be at least 1200 square feet.
Our financial situation is good; our home and this property are both paid off. The expenses for this property are $75 per quarter in homeowners association fees and property taxes of $350 per year. So basically this property is sitting there. Any suggestions?
Ouch! So sorry to hear the predicament you are in. The last time I had to go through a real estate transaction, I felt like I was being pummeled by the market (in a hot market I had a house that would not sell. It looked nice and all, but I had placed a contingency on the property). I have an idea of the pain you are feeling. If you are thinking that the property will not sell easily at this point might I suggest you take the land off the market and treat it as an investment for a while? $75/mo, while a bit painful is not terrible. I am pretty certain that properties that just sit and sit on the market get resale problems--almost like the produce at the store that is going bad. At some point I am certain someone will want the property, but this may be some time in the future. One possibility is to just sit on it and let it (hopefully) appreciate in value. You said you are comfortable now and the property is paid off. This is a good financial position to be in. Perhaps someday down the road someone will be interested in the property and you will want the money--whatever money--you can get from it. Hopefully it will have risen in value.
I am certainly not a real estate professional, I have been through 3 real estate transactions in the past and I have no desire to add another to that list. This is just a suggestion, and maybe someone else will have an idea of how to make the property more desirable to buyers now.
If it were me, I would think about and research improvements that would be desirable for you and also might improve its value over time. I would probably plant fruit and nut trees and start building garden soil. But whatever I'd do I'd try to keep it aesthetically pleasing for marketing it. I'd plant the trees in a grid or some manner that people might find charming. That way even if you end up not being able to sell it you might be happier living there, because of the production. Or maybe these improvements would make it more marketable, depending on local conditions.
Things are unpredictable politically and economically. I hate to say it, but the reality is that you might not be able to sell it for quite a while. Or maybe it will sell soon. On the other hand, food is bound to get more expensive overall over time, so these improvements will either a) save you money or b) make it more marketable
When you reach your lowest point, you are open to the greatest change.
I think a lot of people are scared of buying "unimproved land". The question is whether you can, or are willing to spend your time making improvements, and whether the money you put in will equal an increase in the eventual selling price.
If you can do the "start a food forest from seeds" technique, the money cost is negligible and the time cost not unmanageable. If the property doesn't sell, you will still end up with a source of food that involves driving out there on likely harvest days, and bringing back organic nuts and fruit to use yourself or sell to cover your carrying costs.
If you're prepared to spend more money, and willing to pull a bit of a fast one, I know of someone who pulled house plans "off the shelf" and then told the planners that he needed to build the garage first so he'd have a work space to build from. The "garage" was passive solar oriented with an attached greenhouse space and ~20x20 ft. The fellow moved into the garage and simply never built the "house" part that was supposed to go with it. With the kind of storms North America's been getting, build this thing tough but basic and definitely totally fire resistant. The community brass are probably just as aware as you are about the current housing situation, so if you say you're "trying to sell", they will likely let things slide for some time before actually threatening you. If I was doing this, I'd actually make sure the garage included an underground cold cellar so you have a place to store some of those goodies from the food forest when it starts producing. A solid little outbuilding could easily be the selling feature that could make the difference in finding a buyer.
Good luck with however you decide to approach this problem.
Well if you really don't want to live there, you need to calculate how much you are willing to lose to make it happen so you can take your dream elsewhere. You will need to take an active hand in finding a buyer, a real estate agent will be of little help.
I was close to purchasing a similar property of the same reasons and timing, but I need the freedom to do what I wanted on my own property. I understand where you are coming from.
While I agree that planting fruit and nut trees improve a property and of course are a Permie thing to do, but I know that not every potential buyer would agree. One man’s incipient food forest is another man’s burden (fruit trees traditionally need care, pruning, spraying etc.). Also planting trees on a property that you intend to sell as soon as possible doesn’t make sense financially in that you will likely not get to see any benefit and unless the new owner takes up care of the young plantings the likelihood of survival goes down dramatically (of course this can vary depending on specifics). It’s like a swimming pool, many buyers would see it as an added value, but there are also many who would scratch it off there list as a liability, so you usually wouldn’t go to the expense of putting one in to sell a house.
As far as improving the property to make it sell I would look at the terrain and the entrance and see if there are any elbow grease, low costs projects that could attract a buyer. Perhaps a bit of clearing and planting wild flowers to make the entrance a bit more welcoming if someone comes to see it (or add to photo’s online). Also are there any features that you are aware of that could show the lot in a better light such as interesting features such as streams or springs? Is there information on successful wells nearby that provide good drinking water that could be included in the listing?
Making sure the lot is listed on all the vacant land listing sites such as Landwatch in addition to making sure there are lots of good photos on all the listings could also help your lot to stand out from the competition and is an inexpensive way you could improve the listing.