Inexpensive land improvements that add significant value

What are some examples of relatively inexpensive physical land improvements that can make big improvements in the value of a vacant lot? Preferably, improvements that don’t require any building permits. For example:

  • Brush hogging
  • Clearing trees
  • Adding a gravel driveway (might require a permit)
  • Pouring a slab (might require a permit)
  • Installing an electrical transformer (permit required)
  • Throwing a tiny house on the property

I realize, none of these things are “improvements” unless you understand the highest and best use of a property (knowing how the end buyer will most likely use it)… but assuming you understand this, I’m curious if anyone has experience making alterations or additions to their property that DIDN’T cost a fortune and DID add significant value or desirability.

There’s some really decent things that can be done to bring the value up rated from easiest to hardest, in my view.

  1. Clear brush. It’s a day of work, and it is easily subbed out. This is a no-brainer for curb appeal. Includes sawing out piles of stacked dead wood. Don’t create a burn pile if you can avoid it. Find someone willing to come mulch out if you have a lot of cut wood. The mulched pile on the property is added value, and woodchips can be used for erosion control if you’re doing other work.

  2. Hang a gate if there’s not one present. Replace the old one if it looks derelict. Just being able to lock up the property is a value adder. Bulk up some of the exposed fencing if it’s not up to standard.

  3. Plant flowers! It has a longer lead time to get it done, and it requires some planning, but many state natural resources departments can offer help. Generally these can be sown with an ATV planter. Easily subbed out in the midwest/rural areas. Here’s an example from Missouri.

  4. Correct drainage. If there’s a driveway, make sure that it’s not getting washed out. Clear ditches both sides, and install a culvert. It’s basic earthworks, and is easily subbed. More costly than other earthworks jobs.

  5. Power and water. Bring line power on a pole to the property. Sink a freshwater well. Expensive, but immediately transforms the property into turnkey buildable.


@cory thanks for sharing the ideas! Love em!

One question regarding this one…

Hang a gate if there’s not one present. Replace the old one if it looks derelict. Just being able to lock up the property is a value adder. Bulk up some of the exposed fencing if it’s not up to standard.

Does this assume there’s already a fence around the perimeter of the property or are we just talking about hanging a standalone gate by itself without a fence (whatever that’s worth)?

I’m looking at putting in a new chain link fence and gate around one of my properties where there is nothing present and the cost is approx $100K. If I went for a wrought iron fence, the cost would be 4x higher (needless to say, I’m not doing that).

What kinds of gates and fences have you worked with in the past? Perhaps there are cheaper options I need to investigate.

@retipsterseth What’s the linear length of fencing, and how many corner braces? For $100k it would be worth it for you to work out how to do fencing yourself!

Here’s a great calculator which will build out a BoM for your project to go pull prices against.

What I’m talking about is what would commonly be done in the rural midwest. If you’ve got a piece with 500’ of road frontage, just hanging new fencing for the road front makes a huge difference. Field fence (6” grid opening) sells for $200 for 330’ roll.

Assume you hang to a post every 10’ ( and build two corner frames and two gate braces somewhere in the middle.

16 of these to build your corner and gate braces.

45 posts to run your fence.

Add another $100 for a single strand of Barbed wire on top.

Gate is $150 for a 16’ tube steel gate.

Im showing about $2,000 in materials. It’s probably $2,500 to $3,000 to install. All in about $10 per linear foot in this example.

If you sink that into a $5000 property, it won’t make the property worth $10,000…If you put that into a $50,000 property, it could make it worth $60-65k.

And that’s assuming that it’s all new fencing, and not repair of old fence. Also, field fence is really nice…you could wind this back to 4 strand barbed on steel posts and cut the cost by 60%.


@retipsterseth Whoa! $100k for fencing!? How much fence line are you doing? What makes you feel you need to do this? Is this a value add? The only thing cheaper than a chain link is prob barbed wire fencing right?

@aflanagan this is for a 7-foot tall fence with a barb wire top and an electric gate around a 6.7-acre property (for a self-storage facility). Definitely not a quick job done for aesthetic purposes, but done to serve a functional purpose that will last for decades.



New here and recently just started researching land flipping. Looking to get our first mailers out next week. Our plan is to brush hog and clean up the properties before placing them on the market.

How much value would y’all say cleared land has over still raw land?

I was also thinking about perk testing before selling, worth it or not?

Looking forward to this new journey as Covid put a huge damper in our small business starting up.

@retipsterseth Hey Seth! I’m currently looking at buying an old farmstead, with farmhouse, weathered, but still standing. It also has a 30x40 barn with numerous outbuildings/sheds, all in “poor condition” according to county tax records. My main concern is the liability issue if someone were to hurt themselves in one of those dilapidated buildings. Should I take possession my first act will be to put the property into its own LLC, completely knock down & burn the dangerous outbuildings, and then bush hog the overgrown vegetation, clear trees, etc. I think your above suggestions would definitely make the property more attractive than it is now, with fallen down buildings and overgrown brush & trees. People are seeking rural homesites with plenty of acreage. It also has good road frontage, sits on a hill with existing trees on the north property line for automatic wind break/privacy.

@cory Definitely great ideas! I’m using the wood chip idea. Also I was thinking that if the trees are good for firewood, you could cut it into cord sized piles for sale, or just use it for your own woodstove. Flowers are a great idea. Medium term I’d like to put in a nut tree grove on part of the 6 acres I’m looking at. Pecans grow fast, so there’d be some longer term income there. Thanks!

@retipsterseth To help offset cost on a well find out if the local governing authority allows more than one residence on a well. In Washington State most areas allow 2 homesites off one well. If you sell the second well share you can often offset some to nearly all of your well costs. Some areas allow 6 homes per well.

For speed of sale banks near us will finance only when there is power, portable water and at least a perc test done. But it expands greatly those that can buy.

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How much does it cost to “bush hog” a place in your experience, and how much area do you clear out? 1/2 acre where a house would go plus a path to get to that area? What words would I need to use to get a cleaned up 1/2 acre that would make it more appealing to a buyer? I don’t speak “bush hogger.” And I’m always afraid I’m not going to tell them to do the right thing, or I won’t tell them NOT to do this or another thing cause it’s not what I want or won’t be a good ROI.

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I try not to do any improvements. I rarely pay more for a property when I purchase for an improvement, so I have always thought it won’t often make a material difference in my sales price. I understand that it could help a property sell faster. My strategy is to buy at a price point where it moves quickly based on price, not based on an improvement. Therefore, the only real improvement I target is to subdivide a property if it lends itself to that.

@freesiapropco bush hogging usually runs about $125-150/hr with a 4 hour minimum. That usually is clearing “underbrush” and keeping mature (4-6”+) trees with a skid steer with a mulcher front end attachment. They typically leave the ground up mulch on the property, reducing haul-away costs. True land clearing, clearing all trees and everything back to just dirt, can get pricey quick. They have to use bulldozers and heavier equipment and either haul-away the brush or burn it if allowed. Pasture mowing /small brush / saplings with a tractor/rotary mower can be cheaper at about $60-75hr.

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@aflanagan This is super helpful, thank you!

@juanito If there’s old buildings, have them demo’d and salvaged for the lumber. Worst case, you pile and dry stack the barn wood and start marketing it. I have seen 100 year old barn siding sell for 2x the cost of newly milled siding.

People really like the old material, and are sometimes willing to buy it even when it’s full of nails. =)

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