Improve Your Land Before Selling (LA 781)

Improve Your Land Before Selling (LA 781)


Steven Butala:                   Steve and Jill here.

Jill DeWit:                            Hi.

Steven Butala:                   Welcome to the Land Academy show, entertaining land investment talk. I’m Steven. Jack Butala.

Jill DeWit:                            And I’m Jill Dewitt, broadcasting from gorgeous, sunny southern California.

Steven Butala:                   Today Jill and I talk about improving your land before selling it. Is it a good idea? Is it a bad idea? We definitely have different ideas about this, but our goals are the same, I think.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   Get in that piece of property, get out of there, convert it to cash.

Jill DeWit:                            I agree. That’s what we all want.

Steven Butala:                   Before we get into it, let’s take a question posted by one of our members on the online community. It’s free.

Jill DeWit:                            Travis asks, “In one of the Land Academy Podcasts, I recall Jack saying that vacant land, that for vacant land not houses, perhaps we should ignore the days on market on Zillow and similar sites, as it’s not revalent/accurate. At the same time, however, when researching a new county to mail to, we are instructed to find a county road property seems to be selling rather quickly, to identify a hot market.”

Steven Butala:                   That’s it.

Jill DeWit:                            Right? “But if LandWatch and similar sites don’t provide this data, the limited real quest pro sales data only gives a date sold, not the date the property is listed for sale. We are to look past days on market on Zillow and Trulia and data for the region is not provided on Redfin and how are we to know how long property is sitting on the market? How do we identify a region where property sells quickly? I perused the forums on this topic, but I have yet met with a satisfactory answer.”

Steven Butala:                   We’re gonna give you a satisfying answer.

Jill DeWit:                            Have I overlooked something? I’m able to identify counties that I qualify for based on price, but how determine how long properties take to sell. Should I just pull data and find a place for a lot of properties close in the last few months or leave it at that. Or is there a technique with more finesse? Always appreciate your help as always everyone. Cheers.” That was a good long question. Well thought out.

Steven Butala:                   Travis is a long time member. Very successful. He’s like third or fourth generation land subdivider in Texas, so he really knows. He came to us with a tremendous amount of knowledge, plus he’s really one of the funniest people I’ve ever talked to. So here’s the deal. What you’re describing is the whole concept that caused us to launch Land Academy 2.0. Land Academy 2.0 is all about buying urban land, not rural land. Because of this fact. I have in all of my experience, not been able to locate a good place to find completed sales or true old school comparison values for rural vacant land. And here’s why. It’s not because the data is looked at differently or handled differently by assessors. None of that. It’s all handled the same way. The further out you go, there’s just no comps. There’s not 25 sales in a rural county in Texas every day, like there is in an urban county.

Jill DeWit:                            I wonder too, how many transactions are off market of this property type?

Steven Butala:                   Yeah.

Jill DeWit:                            Does that make a difference to you?

Steven Butala:                   Very lots.

Jill DeWit:                            Okay. That’s what I’m thinking, too.

Steven Butala:                   It hits the assessor, no matter what.

Jill DeWit:                            Yeah, hits the assessor, but it’s not like it hits the MLS. So much of what we do does not hit the MLS.

Steven Butala:                   Right.

Jill DeWit:                            By design, you know, part of it is the properties are not worth doing the MLS. We’re all doing them different ways. There’s not as much out there to find.

Steven Butala:                   Right. So I mean if you’re looking at completed sales from in RealQuest and in Data Tree, the sales compare, those are theoretically supposed to be driven by the assessor.

Jill DeWit:                            Right.

Steven Butala:                   Whether or not they’re up to date recording that stuff, who knows? But I’ll tell you this, the more urban you get, the better data you get. In our group, the more data that you have, the better the whole thing’s going to turn out for you. The more you remove the risk from not striking gold in your acquisition. So, again, this is what prompted me to launch Land Academy 2.0. It hasn’t launched yet. We’re recording it right now, it’s launching when? September or something like that. September, October.

Jill DeWit:                            Yeah. The first wave, we’ll get at our live event in September. You can see that on, and then the second wave, there our intermediate event in October. They’ll get it and then after that all the rest of the Land Academy members will get it.

Steven Butala:                   So I hope that answers your question. It’s not you Travis, and believe me, I obsess on this topic. I obsess on, and I never stop trying to improve how and where we get data and how we look at it and how we use it to do really, really intelligent acquisitions. What I hear you saying is that you’re mentally ready for buying urban property. Never stop buying rural property because it’s next to free. But urban property man, you know exactly what it’s going to sell for. Here’s the other thing about buying urban property. Taxes are a lot higher, which really motivates people that aren’t using the property. Let’s say an infill lot, let’s say, or a commercial piece of property that you’ve inherited. The taxes could be 10, $20,000 a year. You want to just continue to pay that bill? No. Our strike percentage on urban infill lots is incredible, so I’m excited actually about Land Academy. Land Academy 2.0.

Today’s topic is improve your land before selling it. This is the meat of the show. So you got a piece of property. Congratulations. You bought it for next to nothing. The whole thing works. Jill and I constantly get emails from people who says, oh, it turns out this works. Thanks very much. Changing my life. Of course it works. You send out a bunch of letters and you get one back or several back and you buy a piece of property and you’re looking at it. This happens especially with new people. You’re looking at the property and you always have this thought. What if I put a house up on this thing? What if I put a tiny house up? What if I put a fence around it.

Jill DeWit:                            What if I staked it out even?

Steven Butala:                   What if I bladed a road in right from the county road? Would that make it more valuable?

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   That’s what this whole week is about. It’s about improving your property. So here’s the big picture concept. This is actually the takeaway, if you only listen to one thing in the whole show, really the whole week, it’s this.

Jill DeWit:                            Yeah, you’re done after this.

Steven Butala:                   Should you or should you not improve your property when you buy it? And I think you should not, 99.8% of the time. What do you think?

Jill DeWit:                            I go with whatever you say. What are you talking about?

Steven Butala:                   Here’s why.

Jill DeWit:                            I agree.  Because it’s like I look at it like this way. If you have a house and you go through all the efforts of putting a pool in the backyard, we all know that spending $50,000 on a gorgeous pool is not going to raise the exact sale price of the house by $50,000. Right? I look at it like that.

Steven Butala:                   That’s a perfect example.

Jill DeWit:                            Thank you.

Steven Butala:                   Carrying that example forward. We also all know that if you put a new kitchen in, and new bathrooms, then you might get $50,000 more for the house because everybody wants kitchens and bathrooms, but it’s not going to cost you 50.

Jill DeWit:                            Right.

Steven Butala:                   So there’s money well spent and there’s things you can do that actually improve it and things that I think that outweigh the benefit. Like putting a new driveway is silly. No one cares about that. So with land, this is a question you have to ask yourself. I bought this property for 25,000 bucks. I know I can sell it for 40 right now. I don’t honestly do anything to it. I just have to put it out on the internet and make sure that all the other land owners around that property know that it’s for sale.

Jill DeWit:                            Right.

Steven Butala:                   Bang, there’s my 40 grand, I’m onto the next deal. Or I could spend six months building a road in or putting a mobile home on there and take perfect pictures and obsessing on it.

Jill DeWit:                            Permits. Doing it all the right way.

Steven Butala:                   And now you’re taking a lot of risk. You don’t know if stuff’s going to get approved. Are the neighbors going to complain? There’s a lot of variables. You’re opening yourself up to a lot of stuff. But if you just buy it and resell it exactly how it is, and you explain to anybody who’s interested in buying the property. Yeah. I don’t know.

Jill DeWit:                            Here’s what’s possible. Or you don’t know.

Steven Butala:                   I don’t know about this property? I just bought it. The only reason I bought it is just to sell it. Well, well you know, can I get my 1979 Toyota and then they launch into a personal story for a half hour and the answer is I don’t know.

Jill DeWit:                            Know what I say? I tell him to do their homework. I will say, well do the posting, however it’s zoned. That’s like a no brainer. You know? Hey Mr. Smith, it’s zoned this. If you have any more questions about that and how long that means you can leave your RV, I don’t know. Call the county. And then let them do the homework. And then I also explain to them that here’s why it’s priced this way. That’s the biggest thing for me. I didn’t mean to step on your toes.

Steven Butala:                   Oh no, absolutely not. This is good.

Jill DeWit:                            So here’s why it’s priced this way. Because I’m not doing that work. You might have a diamond in the rough here, you know, kind of thing. I’m here to buy and sell wholesale and if you want to do all this great stuff, go for it and is it really price under everything else. Yeah. Because that’s my business and I wish you all the, and they’ll go, oh, okay, I got it.

Steven Butala:                   Oh. So it really is a smoking deal. It’s just, that’s another reason. People when property is priced really cheap, believe it or not, they want to know what’s wrong with it.

Jill DeWit:                            They do. They often think that there’s something. Yeah.

Steven Butala:                   So here’s what’s wrong with it. Nothing. I just don’t know what’s possible.

Jill DeWit:                            And I’m not going to do the work. And you are going to win. When you get them to understand that your buyers, which is really true, when you can explain, you know, like, here’s why I’m not going to do that much work. And if I did it, here’s what, you know what I mean?

Steven Butala:                   Yeah.

Jill DeWit:                            We can all check and see what it costs. And at the end of the day, we all know that if I did it, if I sell or do this stuff for you, I’m going to mark it up. You know? And nobody wants that.

Steven Butala:                   You know. Here’s the other thing. If you buy a piece of property, here’s the timeframes that are usually involved in rural vacant land. You send out a mailer. By the time you send the mailer in to the mailing company, by the way, we own a mailing company called And I know this from experience, once we receive the mailer itself and do all of whatever needs to get done and make sure that the addresses are there, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on. Actually nobody talks about it.

From that time that it’s submitted to the time that the actual owner gets it and reads it and it makes a decision is about two weeks, so you’ve got two weeks. Then the stuff starts to hit and then you buy some property and if everything goes well, it’s going to take you maybe 30 days to buy the property. From the time the mailer goes out, you can get a deal done in two weeks really easy the way we do it. And the way that we teach it. Then let’s say it takes you another 30 days. This is real conservative to sell it. So you buy it for, I don’t know what my example was 10,000, 15,000, 25,000 and you sell it for 40.

Jill DeWit:                            You’re talking about infill lots.

Steven Butala:                   No, I’m talking rural acreage. Anything. Not super cheap property because that even goes faster. Trying to be realistic.

Jill DeWit:                            That’s what I was going on. Like I know where you were getting the 30 days, meaning you use escrow.

Steven Butala:                   Yeah. Let’s just say from the day you send a mailer out to the day you sell the property, cash in and cash out is usually 30 days. Sixty days is usually the whole process.

Jill DeWit:                            That’s perfect.

Steven Butala:                   After you know what you’re doing. So every 30 days you make 10 grand, 20 grand, you do the math on that. It’s a quarter of a million bucks a year or you know, between 120 and a quarter million bucks a year. I’ll tell you this right now, from experience, that first piece of property, you’re sitting there looking at it going, man, it needs access. Better access, put a blade road in, it’s going to be a year later before you go and sell that property. And you’re going to sell that $25,000 piece of property for not 40, maybe 70. 60, 70, maybe 80, let’s say, and all you had to do instead was never leave your desk, do like 10 in the time you can do one, because you’re horsing around obsessing on this one piece of property.

Why? Because you want to maximize the value out of your real estate deal. This is what people have been telling you since you’re a kid. That property’s worth more than that. Not it’s not. Not worth more than that. So do you want to liquidate and wholesale and just keep it moving, keep the money moving, or do you want to obsess like a real estate agent? Obsess on this one property and make sure all the caulking and the whole house is perfect.

Jill DeWit:                            And then put the sign out front.

Steven Butala:                   Make sure that the concrete is stained and painted in the garage. No, you don’t want to do any of that stuff. That’s not why we’re here. If that’s the kind of stuff you want to do, there’s a ton of other places to learn. It’s not from us.

Jill DeWit:                            Thank you. Do you want to use our example of what we’re doing right now on one of our houses, or do you want save it for another show?

Steven Butala:                   Sure. Well, there’s a parcel split show coming up.

Jill DeWit:                            Okay.

Steven Butala:                   So all this week is what you can do to the property. We got that out of the way.

Jill DeWit:                            Okay, got it.

Steven Butala:                   I don’t believe that you should actually improve property almost ever. You should just resell it, because you’re so good at acquisitions. The best thing you can do to a piece of property is buy it cheap, then you don’t have to improve it. If you buy it retail out of the MLS, you better have a better plan to improve it.

Jill DeWit:                            Can I add one thing too? One of the nice things about what we do is we’re all investors, right? So we’re not agents. We’re not anything like that. We’re not licensed, we’re buying and selling our own land. We’re not representing anybody else. Only ourselves. So got that out of the way.

Now the second thing is the less you know, the less you share. It’s doing the right thing. No, I’m serious. You know, if I don’t try to dig up dirt, you know what I’m trying to say. If I go into it and I don’t mean to skip along the top, but I obviously know enough about the property that it passed my test that I bought it. Because no matter what, at the end of the day I loved it enough. I plopped down the cash to pay for it. So for anything to go sideways and I really can’t sell it, I’m stuck with it. So I really went into this with very good intentions. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it, flat out. So I can with good faith, I’m feeling good about it, press this on to the next person. Passed all my tests. Here’s everything that I did. I wish you well. So I guess the point was, that’s another reason to not like try to dig and improve it and all that good stuff. You just don’t want to go there. You just want to get in and get out.

Steven Butala:                   You want to be an acquisition specialist.

Jill DeWit:                            And a selling machine.

Steven Butala:                   Yeah. You don’t want to be a property specialist. If you’re a property specialist, again, this isn’t for you. We are acquisitions here, we are data driven acquisitions. So that’s why Travis’ question was so important early on. The more information you have about a market, then the better days on market. The information that’s available on urban neighborhoods and urban counties in this country is staggering. It’s staggering.

Land Academy 2.0 addresses all this and then a program we’re launching next year, House Academy, takes that to a whole new level where you analyze 10 or 15 statistics on that actual local market by zip code. You know what’s gonna happen. If you buy a house or a piece of property, a piece of land in these little micro markets for 20 percent of what stuff is being sold for, which happens all the time, I do it all the time. Can’t lose. Unless there’s some huge, huge issue. So you don’t have to do any improvements. You don’t have to do anything. We buy houses all the time and we put a lockbox on there. You know the kind you get from Home Depot. It’s not like a real inner lock box. It’s all highfalutin and special. Simple lockbox. Then we send it out to our lists and things sounds in like five days, because it’s such a smoking deal. We didn’t even clean it out. We have a house right now that’s got cockroaches and dead cats in it.

Jill DeWit:                            There’s no dead cat.

Steven Butala:                   They said there’s dead cats. Not cats, but large rodents. They’re so dead. They can’t tell what they are.

Jill DeWit:                            Okay, moving on. That’s awful.

Steven Butala:                   There’s a conference call yesterday on this whole thing.

Jill DeWit:                            All right, let’s leave that out.

Steven Butala:                   We’re actually clean, that’s over.

Jill DeWit:                            We might clean that part.

Steven Butala:                   We are actually cleaning that out.

Jill DeWit:                            That’s the only time we clean.

Steven Butala:                   Now Jill’s done with this episode.

Jill DeWit:                            I’m done.

Steven Butala:                   Dead cats.

Jill DeWit:                            You bring up dead cats now, I’m out.

Steven Butala:                   Well you did again, you spent another 15 minutes or so listening to the Land Academy show. Join us next time where Jill and I talk about splitting parcels, 101. If you have to improve your property, if you absolutely can’t handle it like the Rain Man, you have to do something, you can’t control yourself, split the property up.

Jill DeWit:                            Got it. And we answer your questions posted on It is our own personal online community and it’s free.

Steven Butala:                   You are not alone in your real estate ambition. What do you think about this new video format?

Jill DeWit:                            I’m not sure.

Steven Butala:                   I’m not sure either.

Jill DeWit:                            I’m letting you decide.

Steven Butala:                   I mean the numbers come back good. Really good, but I don’t know. It’s a whole different process, isn’t it?

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly, yeah. For people who are listening to us right now on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you are listening, we are also recording this in video format so you can see, probably find it off our social media or find it easily on YouTube, if you go to Land Academy, the YouTube Channel, so please let us know. How about this. Let me take this a step further. You listener, if you would, please take three minutes when you get home from your commute right now where you’re listening to this. Go onto YouTube tonight or laying in bed, pull up Land Academy, subscribe, and then say yay or nay, and depending on your opinion, because we do get them and we do read them. We’ll either get these off the air or we’ll keep them going. Let us know like, yeah, it looks good or no. No. Don’t do that ever again.

Steven Butala:                   They’re going to say, can you pan in on Jill?

Jill DeWit:                            No.

Steven Butala:                   And Steve, just take yourself out of the frame.

Jill DeWit:                            No, no. Oh my goodness. And so thank you. Kind of covered that. So please share the fun by subscribing on iTunes or wherever you’re listening. And while you’re at it, like I said, just rate us there. We are Steve and Jill.

Steven Butala:                   We are Steve and Jill, information-

Jill DeWit:                            And inspiration-

Steven Butala:                   To buy undervalued property.

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