Improved Land Defined & Explained

Unimproved Land
••• Jim Kimmons

Definition: Though a building is considered an improvement to land, when we speak of improved land in real estate and in our listings, it's generally land that has certain utilities and services available to it. These would include electricity, telephone, water, sewer, etc.

Multiple listing service rules differ by area concerning whether all or some portion of these services would allow the land to be listed as improved.

Land and Development

Let's look at some articles that can help us to understand land use and development, as well as selling land as a real estate professional.

Three types of real property:  The vast majority of real estate agents and brokers work with three major property types. It's no coincidence that these are the three property types accounting for most of the real estate transfers.As a new agent or broker, you may want to narrow your focus and specialize in one or more property types. A study of the number of properties of each type in your area, and their relative values, would indicate the possible financial rewards of working with those types.

Top 5 Land Transaction Types:  In this article I describe the top 5 types of raw land transactions and the ways in which they are similar and different.  We hope that some land always stays in its raw state, as there are many beautiful areas on this planet.  However, there are many great ways to develop land and make it useful for humans and our economy.

How to Calculate Land to Building Ratio:  A structure occupies a certain portion or percentage of the land parcel on which it sits. This percentage or ratio of the size of the building to the land on which it resides is called the "land to building ratio."

Control of Land Use with Zoning:  There are three basic elements in the discussion of the control of land use. For details on each, take the links:

• Land Use - The Plan: Municipalities develop master plans for the use of their land, traffic, commercial and residential areas, as well as community schools and parks.
• Zoning Codes: Zoning codes, laws or ordinances are developed to specify what land uses and building types that will be allowed in certain areas.
• Zoning Permits: Zoning permits are a tool to enforce zoning ordinances. Permits must be granted for all uses and structures.

Land Use Planning:  A county or other municipality, in developing a plan for growth, would first need to determine the accepted uses for the land, in what proportions for each use and rules for implementation of the plan. Depending on the area, this would include using land for residential, commercial, industrial, parks and green belts, community facilities, flood control and more.

Zoning Codes & What They Control:  Zoning codes, laws or ordinances for a municipality control many facets of the use of the land, including what can be built upon it and how the structures can be used. Some things controlled include:

• Size of lots for subdivision
• Types of structures, as in residential, commercial, etc.
• Use of the land for agriculture, industrial or other uses
• External appearance or style of structures
• Density - or how many structures/units in a given area
• Setbacks - how far apart structures must be

The Zoning Permit Explained:  Communities use a zoning hearing board to enforce, manage and modify zoning ordinances, grant zoning permits and other duties pertaining to zoning. These boards hear citizen complaints and suggestions concerning zoning ordinances.

General Concepts of Land Development:  Land Development is the process of converting unused (or differently used) land into construction ready sites for commercial, residential or industrial building processes. Land Development incorporates a number of secondary design concerns such as drainage, excavation, paving, and zoning/land use considerations that need to be addressed as part of the development process. 

Land is a finite commodity, and it will always appreciate in value.  As the population increases, cities will spread out and more land will be incorporated, zoned and developed.