The Ins & Outs of Buying Land in CA according to CA vacant land expert... 

Real Estate Agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties 01238708

The Ins & Outs of Buying Land in California according to California vacant land expert, Endre Barath, Jr.

Over the past 27 plus years, I have been listing and selling land in California all the while noticing a great many trends. I should mention that my experience is and has been centered in greater Los Angeles and its vicinity.

First and foremost, the building department has become more difficult in providing approvals. In my early days of selling land, the Los Angeles approval process generally took eight months to reach RTI (Ready To Issue, as in permits) status also known as when you could start shoveling the dirt. As time went on, this increased to a 15 to 24 month process.   Then I thought we were turning into a third world country "waiting for the envelope to be passed" before approvals were granted. If you think I'm over-exaggerating, there were a few bribery cases in the news recently and I will just leave it at that.

When the great recession of 2007/2008 arrived, land sales pretty much ground to a halt. The majority of Buyers simply paused purchasing land other than the few savvy buyers who took advantage of the lack of activity and purchased parcels of land at bargain prices.

As time went by, I found there are generally four types of buyers (1) Buyers with little money wanting to build a home because they weren't able to afford to buy a home to their liking in the areas they desired; (2) savvy developers who saw the upside to build and sell a new home; (3) international speculators who would buy land with the understanding that they would eventually sell it for more having invested little upkeep and little taxes;  and (4) Buyers who had the patience to go through the approval process and be able to sell for top dollar since the next Buyer would not have to go through the approval process.  

Clearly, all four types of Buyers saw an upside to buying vacant land here in California.  The key is to have a plan and work with a Realtor who is a Vacant Land Specialist to help you achieve your goal.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down, I have noticed a huge impact on land sales. Perhaps more importantly, I noticed that agricultural land segment sales have slowed. Despite having water nearby, the agricultural land sales volume has decreased, and I anticipate there will have to be a drastic price adjustment before the volume of sales will increase. 

I see the future of land sales starting to look brighter than during the great recession of 2007/2008. Part of this I attribute to the migration from urban areas due to the Pandemic makes suburban living desirable once again. Hence, I anticipate developers will start to build homes 50 miles or more from the urban centers or hubs. I have noticed that it is harder to sell a DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles) condominium today than it was three years ago. This is in direct correlation to the figures I have seen about people reconsidering trading in their crowded urban lifestyles for areas with more space.

The bottom line is you can never go wrong with buying Land in the greater Los Angeles area or California in general.


Wishing you a safe and healthy life and I look forward to your comments. If you are looking for a knowledgeable, focused and goal-oriented Realtor in the Beverly Hills area who will help you achieve your Real Estate goals, please reach out to me directly! If you are looking for a pet friendly Beverly Hills Realtor who can handle and sell the most difficult properties that no one else could, please reach out to me directly!! If you are considering buying or selling a home, a luxury home, luxury investment real estate, luxury vacation homes, or luxury beach properties in Southern California, Los Angeles, Century City, Westwood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Marina Del Rey, Venice or Malibu, feel free to contact me at 310.486.1002 ( m) or visit one of my websites at I contribute a portion of my commission to local animal rescue organizations. Endre Barath, Jr. Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties DRE#01238708

Comments (23)

George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Endre if anyone know the "The Ins & Outs of Buying Land in California" it is the "Land King".  Thank you for sharing the process.

Feb 05, 2023 05:53 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Endre - your post makes me think of the quote attributed to Mark Twain:  Buy land, they're not making it anymore comes to mind.  

Feb 05, 2023 06:14 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Good morning, Endre... this was a "fun" read for me and I tip my hat to you for persevering in a niche that I know I have no patience for!

Feb 05, 2023 06:28 AM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

As long as I have Land to Sell , I will never Retire from Real Estate !!!! .............................

Feb 05, 2023 08:35 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

Interesting post about the ins and outs of buying vacant land in CA, Endre. I am curious, do you ever buy one for yourself, build on it and then sell it? That would be a fun project but, I'm sure in CA, a lot more money than we have to put up here...and a LOT more red tape to get your permitting done too!

Feb 05, 2023 10:09 AM
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

Endre Barath, Jr.  The politics involved with selling land always amazes me.  That is all I am going to say as I have sold many over the last thirty-eight years. 

Feb 05, 2023 12:34 PM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

HI Endre Barath, Jr. - 

This is really good information for buyers and sellers to know.  Specifically about the RTI.  I have a nice lot for sale with some grating already completed and there is a developer who had 3 lots right next to mine.  He is having a fire sale right now!  My lot is at $205,000 and last month he dropped his lots to the $170,000s and I just saw another price drop to $135,000! So I told my seller to hang on.  Once those lots are sold, there will be nothing left and her lot will appreciate.  This is Sedona's vacant land in the roaring '20s!


Feb 05, 2023 01:31 PM
Abby Stiller
SW Florida (239) 284-8637

wow you are truly expert of the area Endre Barath, Jr. you definitely know the ins & outs of buying land in CA!

Feb 05, 2023 01:33 PM
Anna Banana Kruchten Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ

What an interesting history Endre Barath, Jr.  Why on earth have they made things so difficult to obtain permits.  Follow the money? Bribery cases - hmmm.

One thing is for sure you are the GO TO LAND Guy CA!

Feb 05, 2023 03:04 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Like so many things Endre Barath, Jr. timing is everything to take advantage of a great opportunity and if we have the money and can afford the dream, just go ahead and buy it. 

I know you are not kidding about the envelope passing ... it happens here too. Pay to play ... more corruption.  Don't get me started. 

Feb 05, 2023 03:09 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I feel like I always have to jump through the same kind of groups but now you’re not so harsh way since I’ve been here doing The bicoastal thing

Feb 05, 2023 09:51 PM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Endre Barath, Jr. - I admire the the fact that you knew early on you wanted to sell land and you stuck to your niche. Even when times were tough (2007/2008) you never gave up. When a buyer is motivated, the money is not a problem, buyer and agent have patience and understand what's involved. The Agent knows what needs to be done, has knowledge and expertise, and communication is not a problem, things go smoother and more likely to succeed. 

FYI... Flower Mound has some of the strictest regulations, rules, and requirements when it comes to obtaining permits in DFW. 

Feb 06, 2023 04:13 AM
Buzz Mackintosh
Mackintosh REALTORS - Frederick, MD
“Experience, reliable, leadership”

Land is definitely a different animal and you need to know the process and have patients. Our area is beginning throw cold water on the building process also with stiff impact fees and now requiring any lot perked prior to 2019 be re-perked.   

Feb 06, 2023 04:28 AM
Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
Relocation to NW AZ with elbow room & more freedom

So happy you decided to share your experience and how developing land in your area is far more difficult. Many of my buyers are from CA because the land or "dirt" here is much less expensive. The county is slow more so due to being a government entity than bribery but I am sure that exists. Congratulations as others have said in finding your niche as well as to the feature.

Feb 06, 2023 04:49 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Endre,

You are the "Land King in LA! Thank you for sharing the in's and out's in purchasing land, your niche. I can't imagine any buyer tacking purchasing land without your expertise. Can't believe how long it takes to get RTI in LA but then when I think about it makes perfect sense. I like Michael Jacobs immediately thought of the quote: Mark Twain:  Buy land, they're not making it anymore."  

Feb 06, 2023 07:43 AM
Ray Henson
eXp Realty of California, Inc. (lic. #01878277) - Elk Grove, CA

I do not think that I would have the patience to go through the approval process even though I think purchasing land in CA is a good investment.

Feb 06, 2023 08:53 AM
Matt Brady
Watermark Capital - Del Mar, CA
One of San Diego's Best Lenders

 Endre Barath, Jr. You are correct, CA land is always a good investment. Great Information.

Feb 06, 2023 10:03 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Sounds like you are the man for the land. And oooooo - do tell, bribery????

Feb 06, 2023 03:03 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude


You certainly have established yourself as the expert on everything about buying or selling land in GLA. I'm not surprised to hear about the RTI process being a lengthy one.


Feb 07, 2023 04:30 PM
Ginger Harper
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage~ Ginger Harper Real Estate Team - Southport, NC
Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County!

I see that you sell Dirt also.  I am a Dirt sales person in North Carolina..

Feb 08, 2023 10:33 AM