Buying and Selling Land – The Complete Guide to Vacant Land in California and Beyond

About Land

This web site really deals with residential land, including land for sale suitable for splitting. For commercial property, including land suitable for storing equipment and manufacturing you may want to look here

I’ve put this information together mainly because I seem to spend a good deal of my working life explaining to eager buyers that they can’t buy a $100,000 lot, put a $50,000 mobile home on the lot, and end up with a total outlay of $150,000. Also, there are very few books available on buying and selling land. Books on building a home typically start out with a quick chapter on selecting a lot, but they don’t go into much detail. I’ve included a few book recommendations in the ‘Useful Links’ section of this web site.

If you want to know the typical costs involved in buying a lot in southern California, jump to this page.

I should say at the outset that I’m mainly concerned here with Southern California and San Diego County in particular. My comments about price and availability should also be relevant to many parts of the country. Other important factors and parameters to consider when buying or selling land will be valid no matter where the parcel is located.

You’ll find a wealth of information on everything to do with buying and selling land in these pages. Use the menu bar across the top of each page to navigate around the website. You can also use the ‘Find’ button at the top right of each page – this will produce a list of pages in this site containing the words that you’ve searched for.

Here are the main sections of the site.

Stuff To Know

Whether you are buying or selling land this section covers the basics: the price of land, topography, fire department, access to utilities, easements, CC&Rs and zoning.

Buying Land

This section covers the steps involved in selecting a lot, the steps involved in buying land, working with ‘experts’, getting a loan, lot splits, the building process, and subcontracting

Selling Land

The seller is interested in what the land is worth, and this section looks at appraising land, lot splits (again!), using a land agent and marketing issues

Useful Info

Ever wondered how a lot is legally described, what different types of septic system there are, or how many feet of leach line your septic system is going to need? All this good stuff is here, together with information on the make-up of a land purchase contract and a section on how to read an MLS printout for a lot.


Contains all those words and abbreviations that engineers, land agents and builders know but you don’t: everything from APNs to TPMs.

Useful Links

All the links found in various parts of this website, collected together and categorized. Also contains a short reading list of relevent books on buying and selling land.

Here are a few quick external links if you know what you want!

For land loans IndyMac is a good starting point.
San Diego County’s Department of Planning and Land Use has much useful information.
If you need help with the building process, UBuildIt may have an office near you.

This website has been written and developed by Rob Ransom, PhD. Rob has extensive experience working with buyers and sellers of vacant land in San Diego County, CA. Although Rob currently has a California real estate license he is retired from selling real estate.

If you have comments or suggestions regarding this web site, email Rob at the address below.


Website developed by REMedia, an electronic media company based in San Diego, CA. Previous projects include the ZooGuides series of educational CD-ROM titles, of which over 1m copies have been sold to elementary, middle and high schools across the USA.