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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Bernstein, CCIM

Unlocking the Potential: A Guide to Buying and Developing Land in Central Texas

Central Texas, with its vibrant economy, growing population, and stunning landscapes, presents a prime opportunity for land development. Whether you're an experienced developer or a newcomer to the industry, understanding the ins and outs of buying and developing land in this region is essential. If you have ever wondered about the steps involved with developing land here is a bird's eye view to walk you through the basics. If you have deeper questions, we are always available for a consultation to discuss further.

What Do Land Developers Do?

Land developers play a crucial role in transforming raw land into valuable real estate assets. Their responsibilities encompass various tasks, including site selection, feasibility analysis, securing financing, obtaining necessary permits and approvals, overseeing construction, and ultimately marketing and selling or leasing the developed properties.

Raw Land vs. Entitled Land: Understanding the Difference

When considering land for development, it's essential to distinguish between raw land and entitled land. Raw land refers to undeveloped, unimproved parcels without any entitlements or approvals for development. On the other hand, entitled land has undergone the process of obtaining necessary permits, zoning approvals, and entitlements from local authorities, making it ready for development. Just because land has been entitled, does not mean you must use the entitlements or that its been entitled to the highest and best use. Generally, the value and price will be higher for the work completed on the land but we still highly recommend doing your own research on the property to ensure the financials of the entitlement will be a successful endeavor.

Do Developers Own the Land? Can You Develop Land With No Money?

Developers may own the land outright or enter into agreements such as purchase options or joint ventures with landowners. While it's possible to develop land with no money upfront through creative financing strategies like partnerships, loans, or equity investments, it typically requires some form of capital investment to cover acquisition costs, development expenses, and other associated costs.

The Team Behind Land Development

Successful land development requires collaboration among a diverse team of professionals with specialized skills and expertise. This interdisciplinary team typically includes real estate brokers, architects, civil engineers, land planners, environmental consultants, surveyors, attorneys, construction managers, and financial analysts. Architects and land planners are responsible for designing site plans and conceptualizing the layout of the development. Surveyors provide precise measurements and boundary determinations for the site. Environmental consultants assess potential environmental impacts and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Civil engineers manage the design and construction of infrastructure, such as roads, utilities, and drainage systems. Attorneys navigate legal complexities, negotiate agreements, and facilitate transactions. Real estate agents/brokers market the developed properties and facilitate sales or lease agreements. Construction managers oversee the construction process, ensuring that projects are completed on time and within budget. Financial analysts assess the financial feasibility of the project and secure financing. Together, this multidisciplinary team works cohesively to bring land development projects to fruition, leveraging their collective expertise to overcome challenges and maximize the value of Central Texas's land.

Steps Involved in Developing Land

The process of developing land involves several sequential steps, including:

1. Feasibility Analysis: Assessing the viability of the project, considering factors like market demand, site conditions, regulatory requirements, and financial feasibility.

2. Acquisition: Purchasing or securing rights to the land through negotiation, contracts, or agreements.

3. Entitlement: Obtaining necessary permits, zoning approvals, environmental clearances, and other entitlements from relevant authorities. Most cities or counties offer a free pre-development meeting with them to discuss the process and what you are planning to do with a particular property.

4. Design and Planning: Collaborating with architects, engineers, and other professionals to design site plans, infrastructure layouts, and building designs.

5. Infrastructure Development: Constructing roads, utilities, drainage systems, and other essential infrastructure to prepare the site for development.

6. Vertical Construction: Building structures commercial buildings such as retail centers, industrial warehouses, flex warehouses, offices, storage, hotels or mixed-use developments.

7. Marketing and Sales: Promoting the developed properties to potential buyers or tenants and facilitating sales or lease agreements.

Cost and Timeline of Land Development

The cost of land development varies depending on factors like location, site conditions, project scope, and regulatory requirements. Generally, expenses may include land acquisition costs, design and planning fees, infrastructure development costs, construction costs, financing costs, and marketing expenses. Each property will be unique to its own costs; understanding the cash down, financing terms, the property proforma and your desired returns will be the best determining factors to consider if the cost is appropriate.

As for the timeline, land development typically involves two main phases:

1. Entitlement Phase: This phase involves obtaining necessary permits and approvals and can take anywhere from several months to several years, depending on the complexity of the project and regulatory processes.

2. Construction Phase: Once entitlements are secured, the construction phase begins, which can last from several months to a few years, depending on the size and scope of the development.

Buying and developing land in Central Texas offers immense potential for those willing to navigate the complexities of the process. If you can look at a property and visualize the potential, while understanding the most realistic pathways to develop to it's highest and best use, you have the opportunity to create something to be proud of.

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