Whether you’re looking for residential land on which to build your dream home or in which to invest, you might need to stretch your budget, depending on where you plan to buy.
The average price of residential land grew by 6.8% in 2020, faster than other types of land, and is expected to maintain that growth in 2021.
But which counties have the biggest price tags?
Lawn Love’s ranking of 2022’s Most Expensive Counties to Buy Residential Land compares the average price and estimated property tax per acre of a single-family parcel in 300 of the biggest U.S. counties.
Use our rankings and in-depth analysis to get a better understanding of the current market before breaking ground.
In this article
See how each county fared in our ranking:
Results in depth
Bank-breaking Bay Area
Ever dreamed of living next door to celebrities like Julia Roberts or Danny Glover?
A quick look on Zillow shows that you can — if you have $20.6 million. Like San Francisco’s steep roads, that’s the average price per acre of land — not including the mansion — in San Francisco County, California, the No. 1 priciest county in our ranking.
San Francisco County was the only one to earn over 90 points, about 30 more than the next most expensive county, thanks to being one of only two with lot prices averaging eight figures.
A few spots down the list fall nearby Santa Clara County (No. 4) and San Mateo County (No. 5). This region’s high price tag for residential land is largely due to the influx of high earners at tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple.
Despite a lack of available tracts in the Bay Area, the San Francisco region is notorious for having strict building regulations, so you’ll definitely want to do a lot of research before committing to a piece of land.
Kings and Queens of New York
You’ll need a king-sized wallet if you want to buy residential land in Kings County, New York (aka Brooklyn). In Kings County (No. 2), an acre will set you back an average of just under $13 million. With such exorbitant prices, it’s no wonder the county’s overall score is more than 20 points higher than the next most expensive county.
Take the subway up to Queens County (No. 6) and you’ll find similarly towering prices, slightly lower taxes, and even more rules to follow. Farther north in Bronx County (No. 8), lot prices and property taxes will still hurt your wallet but not quite as much.
High prices extend outside of NYC into nearby Nassau County (No. 9). Moving farther away from the city gets you slightly better lot prices, but don’t expect taxes to be much lower.
Having a hard time finding lots in NYC? Look across the river from The Big Apple, in Hudson County, New Jersey (No. 3). While lots in Hudson County pack a heavy price tag, the area is less developed than its busier neighbors, so there are more potential tracts to purchase.
Drive a few hours south to Washington County, DC (No. 7), and you’ll likely need extra capital. Like many metro areas, Capitol Hill is booming, limiting access to pricey parcels more than ever.
Just outside of D.C., scenic Arlington County, Virginia (No. 10), is home to many commuters and similarly high costs, with even fewer lots on the market. Beauty clearly comes at a premium here.
If you’re really hoping to settle down without breaking the bank, set your sights on the South. Montgomery County, Alabama, boasts the least expensive residential land, and you’ll find similar savings in other Alabama counties, as well as in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
What makes this region so affordable? These counties have lower land prices, lower taxes, less demand, and more available lots than other metros. You’ll also get more bang for your buck in these areas, where average yard sizes are significantly bigger than in pricier counties.
Keep in mind, however, that relocating to a smaller, slower county comes at a cost. Less-populated areas typically have fewer job opportunities, which may be one reason for lower demand for land.
We ranked 300 of the biggest U.S. counties from most to least expensive for buying residential land (1-300) based on their overall scores (out of 100 points), averaged across the weighted metrics listed below.
The highest value for each metric below corresponds with ranking position 1 and the lowest with 300, meaning the higher-ranking cities are more expensive.
- Average Price per Acre (Weight: 3)
- Average Annual Property Tax per Acre (Weight: 1)
- Average Annual Property Tax Rate (Weight: 0.5)
Federal Housing Finance Agency and SmartAsset
Final thoughts: Buy now or later?
There are many factors to consider when deciding where to buy land, especially if you’re planning to put down roots in that area. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a long-term investor, the buying process can be nerve-wracking and stressful during a pandemic.
Stay-at-home and work-from-home regulations boosted sales of residential land, while commercial real estate sales dropped by about 32%, according to the National Association of Realtors, proving the pandemic to be an important time to consider buying land.
Before putting a payment down on residential property, it’s a good idea to check local constraints on developing land, if any. Many regions have specific zoning ordinances that may prevent buyers from executing their vision, particularly for multi-family and mixed-use development.
Shop smart by researching plenty beforehand. Check out our expert tips above and make an appointment to speak with a land specialist for personalized advice on buying property during the pandemic.
Take care of your landscape to increase your property value. Reach out to a Lawn Love pro to provide expert lawn care and landscaping service to help make your land your own.
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