Divide to Conquer

So the 30 acres had been listed in the MLS for a couple of months before I ran across it. I contacted the agent, who emailed me a crude plat, and I used that to outline the tract on GoogleEarth and other mapping programs. It looked good on paper. Decent topography. Mostly out of the flood zones. Long frontage on a public road. A stiff-but-workable price per acre. A scout went out: The area is pleasant, he reported. It has a quiet, spread-out rural feel to it. People will like it. No serious negatives in the area. We knew the schools were good. There was water, power, cable. No sewer or gas – as is usual in rural areas. Heavy woods. Huge trees spaced throughout, shading out and killing the understory.

So what’s not to like?

Well, the overall price. $300,000. It’s a lot of money and we just weren’t ready to go that big at the moment. So I began my conversation with the RE agent – to ask a few questions and make him aware of me as a solid-but-hesitant prospect. After a week or so, I called him again. Would he be available to show it? He met us at the land, told us what he knew about the property. I mentioned several possibilities but mainly focused on the idea of the seller splitting the property in half and selling us our preferred half. He hemmed and hawed, and we parted. I waited. A week passed before he sent me a followup email. I replied that we liked the property, but whine, whine and another little whine.

“Are you sure the lady won’t sell us half?” I asked. “She could get half her money now, with us doing all the platting work, and she would have a smaller, more-saleable piece left over. We think it’s a win-win.”

So in the fullness of time – after great negotiating travail – that’s what happened. We bought 15 acres for around $135K. Within 60 days we sold a quarter of it (about 4 acres) for $70,000. And I wasn’t conning the RE agent. The owner came out of the deal in a great position. Our expertise in dividing land, along with our willingness to do all the leg work, left her with half of the money she expected to get, plus a smaller and more affordable tract left over. Start your negotiations early, and persist. Think creatively. Larger tracts of raw land can be difficult to sell. If you can offer the seller a creative solution, you might get what you want and also give the seller what she wants (but didn’t know she wanted until you told her).