Land development info/how-to/steps

Hello all,

I have an opprotunity to partner with a friend that owns 160 acres out right and we are looking to develop it for residential.
Looking for books, or any sites or really any info on how to do it. the steps to change zoning, subdivide it ect…
I have a family memebr that does development and has for years but really looking for outside sources that I can study on my own.

Thanks in advance


Check out Urban Land Institute. They have a great library for land development resources.

They’re the authority on land development.

As far as zoning and subdiving goes, that can be a long and lonely road. Each town has different rules, so you’ll be hard pressed to find any book on that subject. Not to mention planning commission posts last only a year or two before they turn over positions, so the commercial craze today may become the industrial craze tomorrow.

Either way, if you’ve got a family member in the business i would run it by them for advice and guidance.

The process of entitling land goes a little something like this:

-You put together a Subdivision or plat application with an engineer
-You request a Variance to current zoning (if end use requires zoning other than what is currently in place)
-There will be some sort of Public Hearing with City Board to review the Application
-Suggestions will be made and the application will then be recommended to the Planning Commission
-Commission (or local equivalent) reviews the Application
-If all is in order, they issue Preliminary Plat Approval (or notes to make further changes and resubmit)
-You then make Improvements as specified in the plat Approval, which usually include things like: Clearing and Grading, Installation of streets, curbs, and other infrastructure, Utilities
-When work is done, you prepare a Final Plat application, showing the work you’ve done
-Planning Commission Reviews the Final Plat, gets together with the inspector to make sure everything was done to specifications
-Final Plat Approval is issued and the Land is now considered fully entitled[/li][/list]

The Land can be further developed, built on, or sold as specified in final plat / subdivision

Inventory is greatly up in many markets, builders are seriously slowing down activities to match the pace of the market…what makes you think you can sell off the houses once they finish. In the few years or so it takes you to get this project completed the market nationally will most likely be weaker. While I don’t know where specifically you are located and I certainly do not hold a crystal ball this looks like a bad time to get started on something like this.

Thank you both Craig and Rich for your replies

Rich the land is in Utah and despite the national stats Utah is still doing very well for housing. What we are planning on doing is just developing the land and selling the improved lots off to a builder or privately. Looking to do ~145 1ac. lots. We don’t plan on building on them just selling them before hand.

If you’ve never done it before, but you control the land, i’d look to partner with a local developer who can help you line up home builders to buy t he pads once they’re complete.

Whatever your timeline is for completion, double it, and you might just have enough time for approvals, financing, and completion.

We narrowly avoided a concrete driver’s strike here in seattle a few weeks ago that would have shut many projects down for a good amount of time. You can never tell what’s going to happen.

Good luck.


Yes thank you craig.

I’ve been a licensed realtor for about a year and a half now and have done investment and belong to investment groups for about 3 years, but is there any type of local developer groups or meetings where I could network and get to know the local “big players”? Both realtors and investors have support groups so i would imagine that developers would have the same.

Thanks for the time line advice I have learned thru my experiance to atleast double the time and triple what i think the cost will be. :smile

Also in terms of engineers,excavation, ect… Is it normal or common practice to give/guarantee lots in exchange for services instead of money upfront? As with anything we are looking to use the least amount possible of our own money.

Thank You again for the responses

If you can get an engineer to trade services for land, great. I would rather split contingent profits than give up land, but it’s up to you.

Every newspaper home section has ads for new homes and open houses coming online. most people just brush right past the ads, not realizing those developments are put in place by developers. The bigger the development the bigger the developer. Start there. Show up at the open house. Speak to the agent and try to get them to introduce you to the developer.

Another tactic is to put on some boots and show up during construction. The developer is most always on site during construction, especially in the early stages. Excavation and concrete pouring. After they they tail off.

Keep some business cards and flyers in your car.

Another method might be to check the local business licensing authority under the SIC code for real estate developers and contractors.

Good luck,