Neighbors Land, Zoning and Learning

11 Replies

Hi All,

I have a general question and would love anyone's advice on land investing and whom is familiar in zoning requirements.  If anyone from Massachusetts wants to chime in, that would be great too : )

How did anyone here get familiar with land investing, zoning requirements, what to do, how to do it, and what order to do it.  For example, the more and more I research, read, go through case studies the more I realize that the land world is a complete monstrosity.  I might be over thinking it but can someone simplify what they would do in terms of how you would safely go about the following case. (Something I'm looking into right now)

Case: Well priced peace of undevelopable land that does not hit the minimum requirement for a single family use of 6,000 sqft or multi-family use of 8,000 sqft ft per zoning bylaws.

Here are my thoughts and how I would go about it, can someone confirm or let me know how they would do it?

1. Approach abutting land owner and offer to purchase a piece of his land for a certain price to make my 3,500 sqft lot to the minimum of 6,000 sqft.

Question: What are the technicalities of this? How does one "buy" a small piece of land off a neighbor.  I'm assuming you would get a plan drawn out from a surveyor and have them resubmit both parcels to the city for approval?

Additional Question: I do this PRIOR to purchasing the property, right? 

2. What are some potential hurdles you see with this?

I hope this is not a loaded question, just trying to steer my overconfused mind in a simple straight forward direction.



@Kyle Cabral Welcome

I'd get it Under Agreement with conditions then go to neighbors and zoning.

1. Yes

Yes Surveyor and Plan. Buy it then combine it as one lot.


2. Neighbors may not cooperate, Zoning won't allow it??

@Mike Hurney

 Thanks for the insight! When you say, it combines as one lot? What combines as one lot? The assumption I have is the creator of the plans creates two separate lots with specified requirements meeting zoning standards and submits to zoning board.  So hopefully it all goes well, 2 lots 1 for me 1 for the neighbor I bought a bit of his land from.

Am I thinking of this clearly? Thanks again!

Your new lot is the non conforming and new addition.

Off to Movers and Shakers now.

Hey @Kyle Cabral your biggest hurdle is going to be getting the neighbor to give up some of his land for a house to be built next door. Assuming you are successful and you offer enough money, you will need to have a surveyor figure out how much of his land to take in order to give you adequate frontage, lot width, setbacks, etc... and still leave your neighbor with enough land to be sure his property still conforms to current zoning. Another hurdle you may run into is that many lots were developed so long ago that they pre-date current zoning requirements so your neighbor may not have adequate frontage on his own lot as an example. Since his house was built prior to current zoning regs, he is all set. He can't however, give up land to you and make his property even less conforming. It's very likely that your neighbor enjoys the privacy of not having a neighbor. You could consider bringing him in as a partner if you plan to sell the house you would be building. Come up with a value for the land you need to take from him then figure out the profit you will make when you sell the house and offer him fair value for his land as well as a percentage of the profit. Now he might be more motivated to sell. Just don't spend any money until you at least have a written purchase and sale agreement.

Is it really worth it? that is a lot of work for a small piece of land. I am not sure if it's worth the time, the neighbors might play hard ball and sell it for a golden goose.

@Rob Beland

Thanks for the great insight.  I did some preliminary research and believe the requirements would be good to maintain currently zoning regulations from a frontage/sqft perspective. But then the question becomes when the house was built, it was built with a side yard requirement of only 3 feet.  Now, zoning requirements require 10 feet.  But the thing is, you can't pick up and move the house and the house will always have 3 feet on the right side, has nothing to do with my trying to purchase the land as the 3 feet is on the other side abutting another property.

Do you have an idea of how that's interpreted?

@Manolo D.

I think it's worth it from just a mere education perspective and if it's a matter of paying a couple grand to make 20 grand, i'll fill out a couple pieces of paper and make it buildable, why not.

You should budget about $5K - $7500 for the surveying and permitting. If things go smooth you could get it done for less. Good luck. 

Your first step is go to your local planning and them what you want to do, and they can tell you if it's possible, and how to do it.  We may have all done it somewhere else, but no one here knows the requirements of your particular situation.

@Kyle Cabral Keep up the spirit, you still have a chance on this tho. First thing is first, ask the neighbor if they want to sell, all that research and the neighbor doesnt want to sell, everything is useless. get them under contract / agreement that you will be doing the paperwork and once you're done, they will sell it to you, cover your bases at all times. then go to zoning/planning, then hire a surveyor, go from there.

do you have a few neighbors that you could make an offer or is the other boundaries of the lot public streets etc... if so pick the one with the their house furthest from your lot and try to get a reasonable deal from them and than go to the other neighbor on the other side and say "hey so and so will sell me x land for y around can you do x land for z amount etc... who knows you may wind up with the land for really cheap and you could say that when your done they might be able to get a discount on there property taxes since they own less property etc....

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