Owning a Vacant Lot in West Virginia (WIP…)

I’m currently sitting on a little bit of money. I have enough in my 401k, and I’m capping out my IRAs. I don’t buy much, where 70% of my monthly expense is my mortgage. This tiny pool of money is currently sitting a money market account earning 1%, with some of it sitting long on risky stocks (TSLA, SNAP, SBUX etc). It’s not an insignificant amount, but it’s too small to buy a second home in DC. So the question popped into my mind:

“What can I do with this little pot of cash that serves no purpose?”

So while driving along the western, remote areas of Virginia, the idea came into my head “why not buy some unused land nearby?” I love being outside of the city on weekends, my dog would love it, and there’s so much of it everywhere!

And so here’s my journey into exploring this crazy idea (not really so crazy because so many people do it, but everyone says it’s crazy when I tell them)…

What To Do With Vacant Land: I think first and foremost, I need to answer the simple question of “what the hell are you going to do with it?” My answer is “not a whole lot.” Like I said, I love to be out of the city on weekends hiking and camping. So finding natural serenity is the core need. Googling this question popped up a hipster website on 50 things you can do with vacant land. All great ideas, but I think what I really like about vacant land is the whitespace-ness of it. There’s nothing on it, and you can pretty much do whatever you want “within zoning, physical, and financial laws.” But here are my ideas (not in any order):

  • Keeping it Natural:
    • Hunting & Fishing
    • Camping & RVs (Check out the Airstreams and KNAUS)
    • Leisure and Dog-Friendly (Dog Park?)
  • Homestead:
    • Build a Cabin
  • Monetization:
    • Turn it to a Campsite (RVs, Yurts, Tents)
    • Turn it to a Glamping site
    • Bed and Breakfast
    • Hikers/Climbers Spot
    • Timber extraction

Finding Vacant Land: Finding vacant lots is pretty simple these days with Zillow, Redfin, Local listing sites, etc. The hard part is filtering and getting a good idea of what it looks like and what you can do with the land. Aside from contacting the listing agent/owner to send you information, here are some of the things you can do online:

  1. Zillow it to see the zoning
  2. Google/Bing Map it to see what it looks like from above
  3. Google Map it to see what’s around
  4. Zillow to see historical/comparable listings (pricing)

Here’s another article of all the things you should do before hand. Not all of the websites make sense. Besides all the above, I contacted the owners/brokers to send me what they can, and asked general questions about zoning, what the property had been used for, and what’s known to be on the property.

Due Diligence (WIP):

  • Road Access
  • Assess the zoning laws and regulations on the property so you can fully assess the potential upsides of what’s possible.
    • Non-Government covenant and easement restrictions.
  • Title Search & Title Insurance to ensure the property has no liens and seller has authority to sell.
  • Property Lines
  • Optional: Find a representative broker
  • Get a real estate appraisal on the property value and potential assets residing on the property.
  • Get a geography assessment to evaluate road and land conditions and potential hazards.
  • Estimate Taxes (what was paid last year and expected)

Buying Process:



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