Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Tips on Buying California Investment Property, Undeveloped or Pre-Developed Land?
Generally there is only developed land which has some or full development on the parcel, or undeveloped land which would be considered just raw land with limited or no access but with future potential development. Much of the available raw land in the US is agricultural land or just vacant unused land. There is also an in between designation we identify as pre-developed land. The main distinction between Un and Pre developed land is the proximity to current development and the zoning of the parcel, but both are Land Banking options. Undeveloped and Pre-developed land offers the potential of both risk and reward whether it is zoned rural residential agricultural land, or typically better zoned pre-developed land which could be zoned urban residential, industrial or even commercial land use. Undeveloped land is generally less expensive to purchase than pre or developed land. An abundance of undeveloped land in Los Angeles County is designated agricultural use as large amounts of land is needed for farming, but usually this land type also allows limited rural residential uses. Don’t be afraid of the agricultural zoning as much of current developed land was previously agricultural land. Many of today’s farmers are now real estate investors as urban growth has encroached and absorbed their land.
Many parts of the City of Palmdale and Lancaster Ca. include vacant land parcels within the city limits or just outside, but at a distance from development. Much of this pre-developed land is rural residential, industrial (light or heavy) and a lot of multi-family residential zoning. The lowest price per acre would be the rural residential where an owner would be allowed to build one home per 2.5 acres. This type of land is cheaper acreage but high reward as the zoning can change to a more favorable zoning over time as city planning designates. The higher price per acre available vacant parcels would be multi-residential R-7000 or R-10,000 allowing one dwelling per 7000 or 10,000 square feet. You would have to pay a much higher price for this type of parcel zoning, but the return on investment can be in the thousands of percentages since housing developers will pay top dollar for needed property if you held the parcel longer term.
You can look at buying either undeveloped or pre-develop land based on your capital and time horizon. A low capital investment and longer time horizon which may be typical for a 401k, or IRA type of investment would best fit an undeveloped parcel. For example an investor could purchased a 10 acre parcel in LA County for $3000/acre of rural residential and agricultural land zoned and hold it for fifteen to twenty years. It is an ideal buy and hold opportunity where you should target a 200% return in twenty years or less. This would be a buy it and don’t worry about it investment. Undeveloped land should have the higher percentage increase of the three examples of land over time as it is easier to double you money on a $3000/acre investment than a $50,000 per acre investment.
Now with pre-developed land we have a high profit potential and a lower risk property with usually a higher capital investment and shorter time horizon target. Potentially it has all of the profit potential built in. Ideally, pre-developed land could have a better return on investment based on its zoning. Pre-developed land would be land directly in the path of growth with targeted zoning and in or near current city limits. A past example of pre-developed land would be the San Fernando Valley where decades ago one would pay $10,000 per acre for a vacant land parcel just outside current development. Today that type of parcel would be hundreds of thousands of dollars per acre over several decades. But you don’t have to sell the parcel after holding for decades as the parcel should be profitable in less than ten years. We look at pre-developed land as a more favorable profit potential in a shorter time frame as it is the land that has been allocated for near term future development for the cities growth. The urban development alone will drive the price increase of this type of property.
We have both types of properties in our inventory, which fit undeveloped and pre-develop scenarios in Northern Los Angeles County cities of Palmdale and Lancaster Ca.