What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

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BeanCity
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What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by BeanCity »

With all the talk about inflation over the last few months, I hear over and over comments such as "buy land", "buy assets", buy "farmland" etc. to do the following:

-to build wealth
-to preserve wealth
-to stay ahead of inflation

Take your pick on what the reason is, but it feels like it is being talked about often. That being said, do they mean one should buy land that you can develop? Or does it mean buy a house with 10 acres on it? Or does it mean buy a house with 1 acre? Does it mean buy hunting grounds or farmland?

I can't see how buying a house with 10 acres on it does anything more for you than a house with a half acre, other than the "bet" the your asset is going to appreciate.

With assets, specifically houses and land, at an all time high, it seems like this is yet another timing bet that inflation is happening.

Can someone give me their 2 cents?
DoTheMath
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by DoTheMath »

Most often they mean "Buy the land I'm selling so that I can build wealth". :D

Real estate can be a valuable part of wealth building, but there isn't anything magic about it. It's an asset class with its own pluses and minuses.
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Wiggums
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Wiggums »

The land where my house was built, sat vacant for over ten years. Once the land was sold, the demand in the area went much higher. Owning undeveloped land is not my thing.
dbr
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by dbr »

I would say buy land means exactly that. The idea is to buy land that has productive resources on it such as farmland, timberland, land lying over oil and gas deposits the rights to which are included, etc.

It could also mean investing in real estate which you would operate as a business, from one house on a lot or parcel to many houses or businesses on lots and parcels.

It could also mean speculating in land such as buying some acres where you think development is going to go. I'm not sure that is recommended.

All purchases of land are risky and idiosyncratic. I don't think I would just go out and put a big fraction of my assets in ten acres somewhere without having a really good idea what I was doing. In many locations prices of land have gone up a lot. I wouldn't run out and try to buy a farm either.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

Whoever it is who you hear saying this, ask them. My belief is that this as a general statement is poor advice.

I own a bit over 13 wooded acres with a house on it. I harvest firewood from it and with the house far from the road and neighbors, we enjoy our privacy and the ability to watch animals. An advantage is that we are in a state forest management program and for this pay property tax on only 10% of the acreage under management (a bit over 12 for me).

To buy land with no need for it and no plan for it is pure speculation at best. It may not grow in value and you'll pay tax on it. A town may decide that your 1000 feet of frontage is 10 buildable lots and tax you accordingly. This happened to the guy we bought our house from. Although he prevailed (there wasn't actually frontage as the town claimed), he had to pay a lawyer to defend his position.
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surfstar
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by surfstar »

OP - you're hearing trend following. Real Estate is up, so people say you should "invest" in that. Crypto is up, so people say you should "invest" in that.
During the down times, those same people usually yell "SELL". Buy high, sell low. Don't follow trends or you're likely to do that.
Afty
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Afty »

Re: undeveloped land. In 1980 my parents bought an undeveloped lot near Fort Myers, FL. Incidentally this was through one of those “free vacation” things where they give you the hard sell. By 2010 it was worth less in nominal dollars than they had paid for it 30 years earlier. And to top it off, they had been paying HOA fees for the entire 30 years. They ended up giving it away.
adamthesmythe
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by adamthesmythe »

It's easy to buy land. It's not easy to buy the right land, that is, land that is going to become a lot more valuable in an acceptably short time.

Buy some good land and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it.
Exchme
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Exchme »

I don't even know what "people" OP is talking about, I've only hung out here for a few months but can't recall anyone touting raw land. This is not the 11th century where your wealth could be determined by your land holding. As others have noted, undeveloped land can go decades or longer as little more than a tax and insurance headache.

I inherited a few acres of farmland and make a little from renting it, but the land price makes the free cash flow about like a bond paying 2%. Absent a huge increase in food prices or further drop in interest rates, can't see how it would build wealth to buy it.
SlowMovingInvestor
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by SlowMovingInvestor »

Exchme wrote: Mon May 10, 2021 12:24 pm I don't even know what "people" OP is talking about, I've only hung out here for a few months but can't recall anyone touting raw land.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Exchme »

SlowMovingInvestor wrote: Mon May 10, 2021 12:25 pm
Exchme wrote: Mon May 10, 2021 12:24 pm I don't even know what "people" OP is talking about, I've only hung out here for a few months but can't recall anyone touting raw land.
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jsprag
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by jsprag »

Build wealth by creating a plan that fits your skills, personality, and goals. Then (and only then) ask yourself if land ownership is an essential component of that plan.

Approaching land as an investment is a perilous and uncertain path. If you're looking at a plot of land thinking "The economic opportunity of owning this land is greater than the market price", always remember that there's a seller on the other side of the transaction who believes the exact opposite. In real estate--much more so than securities--information is imperfect and asymmetric, often to the advantage of the seller.

The risk-adjusted net present value of the resources (timber, minerals, gas, oil, etc...), future production (crops, wind or solar generation, etc..), or development opportunity should already be priced in. Unless you bring reduced costs, economies of scale, information advantage, or some other edge over other market participants then it's probably not an efficient use of capital.
WyomingFIRE
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by WyomingFIRE »

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Last edited by WyomingFIRE on Sun May 16, 2021 4:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
PhoebeCoco
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by PhoebeCoco »

Anecdote: an acquaintance bought a piece of undeveloped land in Texas in 1980, thinking he might build a house on it and retire there some day.

He paid over $17000, including finance charges.

He never retired there. Today, the assessed value of the land is $10000.
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timboo
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by timboo »

I purchased undeveloped land about ten years ago. It produces no income, I pay property taxes on it every year, and it's worth the same amount I paid for it (hopefully). Actually I use it for hunting, but I don't see it as any kind of investment or wealth building.
Last edited by timboo on Tue May 11, 2021 7:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
flyfishers83
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by flyfishers83 »

From what I see, buying land to speculate is a game for deep pockets. Maybe you can be a single residential lot, but if you're looking at any kind of size, the numbers get big pretty quick. If you don't pay cash, you're financing will eat up up.

That said, I've been looking for combination farm land and recreational land for sometime. My ideal property might be 200 acres with 1/2-2/3 farmland, a decent lake and a small house with a storage building. It would be close enough to be able to run over for a few hours, on blacktop and have fiber internet. The farmland component might provide 15-20k in income per year, which would just offset costs a bit. Properties that check all of these boxes are hard to find, so I keep waiting.

If I was going to buy straight farmland, I wouldn't view it as a way to really build wealth. If you're going to buy farmland and lease it around me, 3-4% return per year are pretty good.
hi_there
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by hi_there »

-to build wealth
-to preserve wealth
-to stay ahead of inflation

Some of these maybe makes sense, if you accept the thesis that land value will increase at least equal to inflation. However, it seems like it would be quite inefficient if the land is not developed, since buying the land includes paying for development opportunity that is going unused.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by RickBoglehead »

BeanCity wrote: Mon May 10, 2021 11:08 am With all the talk about inflation over the last few months, I hear over and over comments such as "buy land", "buy assets", buy "farmland" etc. to do the following:

-to build wealth
-to preserve wealth
-to stay ahead of inflation

Take your pick on what the reason is, but it feels like it is being talked about often. That being said, do they mean one should buy land that you can develop? Or does it mean buy a house with 10 acres on it? Or does it mean buy a house with 1 acre? Does it mean buy hunting grounds or farmland?

I can't see how buying a house with 10 acres on it does anything more for you than a house with a half acre, other than the "bet" the your asset is going to appreciate.

With assets, specifically houses and land, at an all time high, it seems like this is yet another timing bet that inflation is happening.

Can someone give me their 2 cents?
What do they mean?

That they're not too bright. :shock:
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Brianmcg321
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Brianmcg321 »

Sounds like Al Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross
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alpenglow
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by alpenglow »

I've been seeing land ads for decades that say, "Buy land, they ain't making any more of the stuff. (Will Rogers)". While mostly true (the making more part), there seems to be plenty of crappy land to buy. Unless you are particularly savvy, I wouldn't invest in land.
Last edited by alpenglow on Tue May 11, 2021 4:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.
averagedude
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by averagedude »

Growing up in a rural area,I have heard this all of my life. The overwhelming majority of people who I heard say this are middle class. None were high net worth individuals.
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alpenglow
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by alpenglow »

WyomingFIRE wrote: Mon May 10, 2021 1:08 pm I could say more but it would take about 20 additional paragraphs to set forth my tale of woe, so I won't bore you dear and kind folks.
Tell us more! Was it part of a FIRE plan? I purchased undeveloped land too, so we can commiserate. :annoyed
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BeanCity
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by BeanCity »

averagedude wrote: Tue May 11, 2021 4:21 pm Growing up in a rural area,I have heard this all of my life. The overwhelming majority of people who I heard say this are middle class. None were high net worth individuals.
yes I think it is a very common thing for people to say, and I have been told this all my life as well.
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BeanCity
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by BeanCity »

dbr wrote: Mon May 10, 2021 11:30 am I would say buy land means exactly that. The idea is to buy land that has productive resources on it such as farmland, timberland, land lying over oil and gas deposits the rights to which are included, etc.

It could also mean investing in real estate which you would operate as a business, from one house on a lot or parcel to many houses or businesses on lots and parcels.

It could also mean speculating in land such as buying some acres where you think development is going to go. I'm not sure that is recommended.

All purchases of land are risky and idiosyncratic. I don't think I would just go out and put a big fraction of my assets in ten acres somewhere without having a really good idea what I was doing. In many locations prices of land have gone up a lot. I wouldn't run out and try to buy a farm either.
I have decided that most people are just speculating on land assets, and nothing more.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by miamivice »

I am a big fan of buying land to increase wealth, as long as one is sensible about what land they are buying, the current market, and the like. I own many acres of timberland that has been an outstanding investment - comparable to stock market appreciation, and also a place we might build a home on someday.
MJD
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by MJD »

Just like active investing, the phrase holds true if you know what you're doing.....or get lucky.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by GoldenFinch »

My experience: If you buy land in the rust belt you will not keep up with inflation. If you buy land on the coast you will make money.

Something to do with location...
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by JBTX »

If you buy land you need to exceed inflation, plus property taxes, maybe modest insurance and any other minimal maintenance. While in some areas you will clear that in many instances you won't. I had parents buy some NC land in the 80s for potential retirement home. Sold it a decade later and decided to retire elsewhere. I don't think they made anything on it.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by timboo »

I live in what's mostly farm country. I know a number of folks that don't have a pot to pee in, yet own large chunks of land. Some of them cry about being poor, yet say "One thing I don't do is sell land! It stays in the family". I always thought if you're that hard up and the land isn't producing income, SELL IT!
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by investuntilimrich »

You may be able to lease land your holding to reduce the cost . My family has land that is leased for cattle, I think the lease is about a break even on the costs of keeping it. I have no idea if it is appreciating faster than inflation, as there are no plans to sell it. There are also some downsides to cattle, too, they may end up in places you didn't want them if you also have a house on the property
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by flyfishers83 »

timboo wrote: Tue May 11, 2021 7:55 pm I live in what's mostly farm country. I know a number of folks that don't have a pot to pee in, yet own large chunks of land. Some of them cry about being poor, yet say "One thing I don't do is sell land! It stays in the family". I always thought if you're that hard up and the land isn't producing income, SELL IT!
That's so true. I know a number of people that own many millions of dollars worth of farmland. One of my parents' neighbors has a house that I don't ever want to enter, but she owns at least 1 million worth of farmland. She doesn't have kids. It's hard to understand.
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cheese_breath
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by cheese_breath »

Anybody remember the pitch that we should buy land because the amount is limited? It's the only thing we can't make more of?

Technically that may be true, but we're not going out during our lifetimes.
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JoMoney
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by JoMoney »

Real estate is a liability. Even if you own it unencumbered, there are property taxes and maintenance responsibilities. Depending on where you live you can be hit with requirements to clear fire-hazard brush while at the same time prohibited from clearing "protected" native plants. You can be prohibited by permit and zoning from developing, farming, or otherwise using your land as you wish, while at the same time subject to eminent domain seizure if the powers that be decide they have better use for your land.

Among the fastest losses of wealth I've heard of was a family that won a 10 million dollar lottery, and were convinced that using it to buy leveraged up real estate was the way to go... under the premise that that having the properties mortgaged was good for taxes and and to limit liability exposure. When real estate took a turn for the worse they wound up bankrupt with over a million in debt.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by anoop »

Typically it means you buy the land and your grandchildren will thank you for it.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Prahasaurus »

OP, have you been watching Gone with the Wind? :D Seriously, who today says "buy land to build wealth"?
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Yooper
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Yooper »

As a blanket statement it's untrue. A couple ways it could work out, a) you just get plain lucky and out of the blue prices shoot up in your area, or 2) you're an astute real estate person and you buy property, develop it and sell for a profit. But land as a whole doesn't build wealth in my opinion. Fourteen years ago I bought 40 acres of accessible vacant land with an artesian well, 1/2 mile off a state highway. I've paid over $11,000 in taxes over the years. I've made some very minor improvements on it. Realistically it's still worth about what I paid for it - certainly less if you account for taxes - and probably less since land was going for about a thousand an acre back then and is about the same now. It's given me countless hours of enjoyment and I have zero regrets, I'd do it again in a heartbeat, but it certainly hasn't built any wealth. My two cents.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Wricha »

Buying land/property. I took it to heart, the first major purchase of my life was 25 acres of woodland/pasture. The local banker set me down 42 years ago and tried to discourage me. I was unmoved, he then said to me I will lend you the $10k if you miss a payment ($265/month this was a lot of money salary $15k salary) you will never own another thing in your life; if you pay this off on time you will have will have access to anything you may want. Now this statement terrified and intrigued me at the same time. And you know he was right, I took the loan. This piece of land never made me much held it for 25 years (which is the longest I ever held any piece of property). Sold it for $40k. So I did not get rich on it.
However, it gave me an education and introduced me to people in real estate I would never have met had I not bought this land. My career was a self employed consultant in healthcare. I did real estate on side as they say. 30 years later I bought many types of property (mostly commercial real estate) borrowed multiple 8 figure and did well. Real estate got me to invest and was my vehicle to save money/build wealth. Had I put money in stock market when I was young I would have been bored by it and probably blown it. You can always make something out of land ( may or may not work) but you have some control. Today as an old guy I own stock/bonds and of course real estate.
My point, you can’t look at one piece land and judge is this a good deal or not, it’s where it may take you.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Sandtrap »

There was an old saying that goes, "Land Is The Basis For Wealth".

The concept holds true as a partial Metaphor. (IE: something in diminishing availability, rising value, etc, etc)
Not necessarily raw land
Not "land as dirt" per se
Etc.

There are those thru history that have amassed incredible fortunes that involved "land".
(Not everyone, just some.)
Offhand, there are a zillion real life examples of this small and large.

A business person's point of view may be far different than one who is not in business.

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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by Jags4186 »

All I can think about is…

Image
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MillennialFinance19
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by MillennialFinance19 »

I’m gonna go against most of the thread of this one.

A few years ago I bought 24 acres for $140k. I split this into 4 lots and sold them for $264k about 6 months after purchase.

I then bought 17 acres for $120k and split that into 3 lots which I sold for $208k.

Overall, this was very easy. I got good deals, admittedly, but haven’t found any since.

To summarize - buying undeveloped land can be pretty lucrative, at least in my limited experience.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by dt123 »

GoldenFinch wrote: Tue May 11, 2021 6:50 pm My experience: If you buy land in the rust belt you will not keep up with inflation. If you buy land on the coast you will make money.

Something to do with location...
Absolutely. All that matters is the local trend. I've seen several people on the FLA coast become very wealthy from real estate alone. But you have to pick a place to invest that hasn't yet peaked. Same as with any investment. And not easy to reliably do.

And you definitely want to avoid a place that is not growing/appreciating at a good pace.
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Re: What do people actually mean when they say "buy land" to build wealth?

Post by SlowMovingInvestor »

Here is an interesting article from 1953 by Robert Caro (who later went on to become a history writer, writing about Robert Moses and LBJ).

exposing the sharp practices of slick salesmen who sell arid desert land to the aging prime retirement property.

https://www.robertcaro.com/misery-acres/

It's about land sales in Mojave County, AZ. Exact prices aren't mentioned -- just $10 down, $10/month.

Mojave's population is around 25x what it was in those days, Kingman (nearest town) around 4x.

I'm curious if those lots are actually worth decent money now. There are areas of AZ that have boomed. But Mohave had some really remote sections, IIRC.
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