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Before You Purchase, Check the Average Price of Land Per Acre

written by: W. A. Swan•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 11/10/2010

If you are looking at buying land of any size, understanding the average cost of land per acre will help determine a good deal from an overpriced parcel. Other costs, both added and potentially unseen, determine the afford-ability of the land and your pla

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    Farming Acre The cost of land per acre across the United States varies widely. In New Jersey, farmland can have an average cost of $8,000, while in Wyoming the same size acre can be purchased for one-tenth the same price. While there is an “average" cost per acre for land, there are various other costs and considerations that can drive the price upwards.

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    The Average

    The average cost per acre of land can vary across the United States, but does have a general range. According to the Lincoln Institute and the Federal Housing Authority figures, an acre of land in 2010 sold for an average of $1,000. This is unimproved land without utilities or any structures or easements. This number can vary widely depending on geographic location and quality of the land. Florida land averages near $5,000 per acre, while cheaper land can be found in the Midwest and Mountain areas.

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    Sliding Scales

    The cost also depends on the reason for buying land. Consider the use of the land, the improved nature of the land, and the location of the land in relation to similar land. An acre of land in a development will cost more than an acre of undeveloped land in the middle of the woods. Acres of land in ranges found in Texas will not cost the same as land in Colorado. Land found suitable for building rises in cost quickly as the building progresses; examples include building lots of ¼ acres selling for $10,000 and up depending on the location. Land with mineral resources can also increase threefold as the minerals are drawn out; examples of this are gas drilling in New York and Pennsylvania coal mines in West Virginia or oil in the South.

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    Unseen Costs

    When buying land, consider the unseen costs. These costs cause the price of land to increase. Property tax usually increases when improvements of any type are made to the land. Surveying costs are also an unseen cost because of their need to determine the exact boundaries of the land. Costs related to recording deeds, mapping, regulatory permits depending on the potential use, and restrictive covenants can increase the price. The cost of acquiring rights to nearby resources must also be determined. Rights to nearby water supplies may not be included in the initial price. Easements may be needed to gain access to the land in some states. Restrictions or protective covenants may be in place adding costs to the use of the land such as home size, the amount of acres owned per lot, or use or installation of sand mounds for waste treatment.

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    Additional Costs and Considerations

    Additional costs should also be included when buying land. Things to consider include financing costs and utilities. In states where land contracts are common, there are hidden or added financing costs. When buying land, consider the availability of utilities and resources to the land. The average cost of land where utilities are not included or are miles away is much less than if electric and water are at the building site. Consideration should also be given to the usefulness of the land. Agriculture requires a certain type of soil condition to be useable.

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    Understanding what the average cost of land per acre is for the land you want means knowing the variables associated with it. Local markets, intended use and the effective implementation of resources needed for the intended use can make average costs unreasonable for your budget; determining the factors associated with the base cost of an acre may help determine the average cost you can afford.

    Image Credit: William A. Swan

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    The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

    Placer County Homes and Land

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