Home & Garden

The challenges of selling small/large lots

James Hughes is one of a cohort of Americans who still loves owning a large plot of land, no matter how long a commute it imposes. He lives on a 13-acre parcel a full hour’s drive from his office.

“Some people just like the sanctuary feel of lots of land,” says Hughes, a real estate expert and dean at Rutgers University.

Hughes has no intention of selling his place anytime soon. But if he did, he believes he’d face considerable difficulty finding buyers who value living on a big, high-maintenance property as much as he does.

“Country settings have lost their allure for a lot of older people. They want to live where they can walk to restaurants, movie theaters and museums,” Hughes says.

But just as the sellers of remotely located properties and their listing agents often find it problematic to locate buyers, so do those who own a house in a city setting with only a postage stamp-sized lot or smaller.

The reality is that many current homebuyers want the best of both worlds – the convenience of in-town living along with a patch of ground they can call their own. This makes it tough for sellers on both ends of the land-size spectrum. Here are a few pointers:

1. Stress the best features of a city property with a tiny yard.

Maybe both the interior and exterior of your property are diminutive in size. Even so, your place could still be very saleable due to its urban setting.

Does your city home offer easy commuting access to major employment centers? Are neighborhood schools close enough that children can walk? Also, are popular shopping venues just a short distance away? If so, you and your listing agent should talk up these advantages in your marketing materials.

As Hughes says, one way to help potential buyers appreciate your location is to create a colorful map that puts your home in context with neighborhood amenities. This could be placed on an easel on display in your dining room.

You may also want to exhibit photos showing nearby parks and biking trails, which are increasingly important to fitness-minded homebuyers, as well as to those with small children.

2. Highlight your interior space if your city lot is tiny.

Mark Nash, a longtime real estate broker and author of “1001 Tips for Buying & Selling a Home,” says a “surprising number of family buyers can be persuaded to accept the trade-off of a very small lot if the house is loaded with bells and whistles inside.” A large kitchen that flows into a high-ceilinged family room would be one such plus.

Another big draw is lots of storage space, he says, “so if you have great walk-in closets and huge kitchen cabinets, don’t keep all that a secret.”

3. Market your country home through a “broker’s open.”

Perhaps your property is surrounded by several acres in a bucolic area with flowering gardens, yet it’s located far enough outside the city that it’s hard to draw prospects to your distant location.

If that’s the case, Nash recommends you ask your listing agent to stage one or more “brokers’ opens” at the place. These are open houses to which real estate agents throughout the general area are invited. They typically feature food, entertainment or both.

“If your place looks gorgeous and gets exposed to many agents, they'll spread the word and bring interested clients by,” Nash says.

4. Tout highway access to the country house you’re selling.

The cost of gas isn’t the only factor that discourages many buyers from considering a property in a country location. It’s also the time a long commute can absorb.

“Dual-career couples are more time-stretched than ever. They don’t want to get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic when they could get back and forth to work a lot faster,” Nash says.

But as any long-distance truck driver will tell you, not all roadways are created equal. If your property has easy access to a major highway that’s not traffic-ridden, then Nash says you should make sure potential buyers know this.

“You'll never attract hard-core urbanites to a rural location. But you can ease the minds of country dreamers who would consider your place,” he says.