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"To improve or not to improve"? That is the question...

Real Estate Agent with Aloha Coast Realty, LLC

"To improve or not to improve"? That is the question...

The majority of my sales here on the Big Island of Hawaii, are land sales...I love selling land, the potential inherent in land is very attractive to me and I meet so many wonderful people. The sellers almost always have the same questions for me;

  1. How much?
  2. How fast?
  3. What can I do to improve either one of the above?

First question can be answered by a review of the market data, second question can also be answered by a review of the market data. But the third question usually involves a discussion of "Improvements". Making improvements to a home for sale can be fairly quick and affordable and is almost always cost affective, but for land, well...that's a different conversation...

Improvements to land for the purpose of increasing the final sales price can be problematical... a 150' wide lot may have 3-4 separate driveway options and these options can be a intensely personal choice. Some people like a long, wide, stately driveway. Others prefer a more narrow, winding, private entrance. Or the cost of bringing in the utilities may make that lovely LOOOOONG driveway you installed cost prohibitive for the buyers. Where would you position the house site? With the average approximately 3 acre lot being either 100'-150' W by 1,300'-871' L, there can be a staggering amount of choices on home site, driveway, garage or shop, locations, etc...  If you have the choices made in advance you remove the buyers ability to dream about where they would put what. Which to my mind is part of the fun...

So why not just clear the lot completely? Buyer still can make all the choices about where to put what, but isn't locked into what the Seller chose? If anything, this choice is even worse than the first... clear cutting the Hawaiian forest should be considered a criminal offense. Primarily because of what it does to the aina; destruction of critical animal habitat, removal of the oxygen producing "green shield", soil erosion (we can receive 160"-220" of rain a year!), the resulting "piles" of debris can be huge and are happy homes to hordes of disease carrying rats (if you burn the piles the ground is scorched & sterile and can remain that way for many years.

You also have to face the fact that recently bulldozed ground is a desirable target for many opportunistic invasive plant species. Quite often these plants species are only waiting to get a toe hold, a nice cleared patch of land with no competition from the slower growing endemics is exactly what the Jacobs scourge and Albizia Tree are waiting for, removal of these "Weeds" can be intensive and costly ($4,000.00-5,000.000 to cut the Albizias on a 8,000'-12,000' lot, this does not include chipping or removal of the cut trees or poisoning or removal of the trunks). The other undesirable most likely to ruin your newly cleared and soon to be actively listed property, is man. A thickly wooded land lot is very challenging to dump a wrecked car on, a cleared lot is not. I have seen a dozed lot "sprout" 3 abandoned vehicles in one month. At a few hundred dollars a pop for removal it doesn't take long to "loose" any potential profit from the "improvement".

And finally, most people state that one of their main choices for purchasing acreage in the forest/jungle is for "privacy", a place to get away from everything & everyone... how likely is it that a buyer is going to purchase a property that has had one of the main desirability points removed?

Best course of action? Position the land properly for sale; Hire some one to cut back the frontage from the road, have it staked, any rubbish removed, price it properly and market it aggressively!

And leave the Ohia Trees to grow...Lovely Ohia Trees in Fern Acres, Puna District, Big Island, Hawaii

Mary Lockman
Windermere Real Estate Methow Valley - Winthrop, WA
Methow Valley Real Estate

Good points, I am glad you are targeting what you do best, me too and I think it works well.  You can see from this blog there is more to it than just the sign in the yard for sure!

Jan 02, 2010 12:00 PM