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Help a Reader: What to do with unwanted land?

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LandToday’s question is really intriguing because it’s a problem I probably won’t ever experience but it does pique my interest. Cyndie emailed me to say that she had a large piece of land that she no longer wants and isn’t sure what she should do with it given that it’s likely difficult to sell. It’s costing her quite a bit each year in property taxes so she’d really like to be rid of it.

Here’s the question from Cyndie:

About 10 years ago I bought a piece of land. Was going to build on it but that didn’t happen and at this point I don’t really want to. So, it is up for sale. Now, I highly doubt that it will sell, it is a beautiful piece on a hill overlooking a creek, but building there would be more expensive. As soon as I bought the land the taxes went sky high. I have worked with the county to get them lowered.

So, what my dilemma is that I feel it is not going to sell (similar piece has been for sale for 10 years) and I basically need to get out from under it. I have thought about donating it to the city, but don’t know if they would want it. Any other suggestions would be wonderful.


The land sounds beautiful, it’s just unfortunate it’s too expensive to build on it. What really hurts is that she owns this land and has to pay property taxes every year even though she can’t live on it. So the key here is to get rid of it and to hopefully get something out of it. We don’t know how much she paid for it but it sounds like she owns it outright and just needs to get rid of it. I see two solutions:

  • Sell it at a discount – Figure out what a reasonable $ per square acre is in that region, give a good discount, and try to sell it fast that way.
  • Donate it

If you do opt for the donation route, find a good tax professional to work with before you do anything. He or she will be able to structure it in a way that provides the greatest benefit to you. Since we’re going to be talking large dollar amounts, you want to make sure it’s done properly.

Has anyone had any experience with this type of thing before and has some suggestions for Cyndie?

(Photo Credit: vanto5)

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12 Responses to “Help a Reader: What to do with unwanted land?”

  1. Dan says:

    Donate to town, county. Many people in my area do that. Especially developers with large parcels – they donate the lots that won’t sell (usually under water) and the neighborhood gets land that no one will build on.

  2. Interesting question. I am wondering if there may be other ways to produce income from the vacant land. Possible rent space for a cell phone tower, build a windmill, solar power array?

    I suppose you could always open it up as a paid storage facility for RV’s and boats? Obviously the location would dictate what income producing opportunities exist, but I would consider exploring those before donating.

  3. Has she considered advertising it in one of those high-income glossy magazines aimed at the rich and famous? This sounds like someone with real money could be seriously interested.

    This could be throwing good money after bad, but can she attract an architect to draw a rendering of a beautiful home on spec, and then photoshop that in to give the buyer an idea of what they could do? In other words, add some sizzle to sell the steak?

  4. Joe Lehman says:

    All real estate sells at right price point. Reduce the price until you find the right price point for this particular piece of real estate in today’s market. It will sell when it is a great value in the eyes of a buyer. You may not like that price but you sound like a serious “don’t wanter” so put it “on sale” and get rid of it.

  5. Nancy says:

    I know someone who had property (not just land but also a building) and could not find a buyer so they had a very public sweepstakes type of sale. People purchased a ticket for a set amount (if I remember correctly it was $100.00) and a ticket was drawn to win. An amount was set before hand that had to be reached or the whole deal was off and everyone’s money returned. It was very successful.

  6. Sadie says:

    It would have helped if she had identified the reason she thinks the land will not sell? Possibly some nearby development went under in the recession as often occurs or her life style changed. If not already done & prior to donating, she should discuss with a realtor specializing in land sales though there may be some tax saving opportunities by donating. Most likely finding a buyer will produce a far greater return.

    Until sale occurs:
    Possibly she could reduce tax if property placed in either the Green Belt Program or Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). See following link:

    http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/printapp?fileName=nr_20130216_rel_0028.html&newsType=newsrel

    Note: Just read earlier today that Jim Rogers, legendary Wall Street trader, was bullish on buying farm land to prepare for coming inflation.

  7. freeby50 says:

    You could also try and find out who your neighbors are and see if any of them would want to buy it for cheap. One of them might want to increase the size of their lot for a nominal price.

  8. Amber says:

    Would it be worthwhile to donate the *use* of it to a non-profit for a set number of years, say if they turned it into a garden/park? Or, if zoning allows it, what about setting up sharecropping on a small scale?

    Hopefully the tax offset/income would reimburse you for the property tax and you’d get to keep your asset.

  9. The best option, if you can swing it, is to convert it into agricultural use. You can do this by growing trees for harvest or allowing a farmer graze his animals on it. You would no longer be subject to property tax.

    Good luck!

  10. huskervball says:

    I agree that she just has not reduced the land enough. Farm land in Nebraska is sky high and looks to go higher–is this a possibility–maybe for a vineyard??

    Someone will see a use for this land if the price is low enough.

  11. Jenne says:

    Unfortunately, there’s really not enough information on the property. Even a state would narrow down possibilities. Depending on how big the parcel is, and what is on (and underneath) it, there are many options.

  12. If you contacted me through my contact form about my answer, my form hiccuped and deleted your reply email, so I can’t answer your question about timber directly, but I’ll post an answer on the blog section of my site tomorrow. Sorry! My site is VERY new, and I haven’t worked out the bugs.


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