Weigh These 5 Site Characteristics Before Buying Raw Land for Development

Arizona’s diverse landscapes and vibrant communities have made it an attractive destination for real estate development. The state offers a wide range of opportunities for those looking to invest in raw land for sale in Arizona and turn it into something valuable. However, before you embark on this journey, it’s crucial to consider certain site characteristics that can greatly influence the success of your development project. In this article, we will discuss five key site characteristics to carefully evaluate before buying raw land for sale in Arizona for development.

Site Characteristic #1. Legal Area

In many residential areas, boundary markers like fences, sidewalks, and roads mark the legal boundaries of a home. But with vacant land it’s not always as clear. Depending on where the land is, it can be difficult to tell where your property ends and another one begins. Before you even invest, make sure you know exactly where the legal boundaries of your property are so you don’t develop beyond those boundaries.

Site Characteristic #2. Zoning

Understanding the zoning and land use regulations of the area is essential before purchasing raw land for development. In Arizona, zoning ordinances and regulations can vary significantly from one municipality to another, so it’s crucial to research the specific rules and restrictions that apply to your prospective site. You’ll want to know the permitted land uses, building codes, setback requirements, and any potential restrictions on what you can build.

Site Characteristic #3. Drainage

When it rains, a lot of the water soaks into the ground. But in a heavy rainfall, not all of it will immediately soak in! When it rains, or when the snow melts, where does the water go? Knowing the drainage lines of your property will help you know where to develop (so you don’t build a house whose basement always floods!)

Proper drainage management is essential for the long-term viability and success of your development project. Arizona’s arid climate and occasional monsoon seasons make it crucial to address drainage issues effectively. Here’s why drainage is a significant site characteristic to evaluate when looking for land for sale in Arizona:

  1. Preventing Flooding: Arizona’s sporadic heavy rainfall during monsoon seasons can lead to flash floods, especially in low-lying areas. Poor drainage can result in severe flooding, which can damage infrastructure and pose risks to residents. Proper drainage systems, including stormwater management and retention basins, are necessary to prevent flooding on your property.
  2. Soil Composition: The type of soil on your raw land can significantly impact drainage. Understanding the soil’s composition and its ability to absorb and drain water is crucial. Some soils may be prone to erosion or compact too easily, affecting your ability to manage water effectively.
  3. Grading and Elevation: The natural topography of the land, including its slope and elevation, plays a crucial role in drainage. Proper grading and elevation adjustments may be necessary to direct water away from buildings and infrastructure. This ensures that water flows in a way that doesn’t disrupt your development or lead to erosion.
  4. Water Runoff Regulations: Local regulations often dictate how water runoff should be managed on your property. You must understand and comply with these regulations to avoid potential legal issues. Implementing sustainable drainage solutions that minimize environmental impacts may also be required.
  5. Water Conservation: Given Arizona’s arid climate, water conservation is essential. Evaluate opportunities for rainwater harvesting and recycling, which can help reduce your dependence on external water sources and make your development more sustainable.
  6. Professional Assessment: It’s advisable to consult with a professional civil engineer or environmental consultant who can assess the drainage conditions of the land and provide guidance on necessary improvements and compliance with local regulations.

Note: even if you don’t like the drainage line, you can often change it (within reason); however, it’s good to know where the water drains before you start building any structures!

Site Characteristic #4. Stability for structures

Vacant land has so many promising possibilities but not all land for sale in Arizona is appropriate for every use. The make-up of the soil will determine if and where a structure should be built on the property, and even how deep you need to dig for a sturdy, dry structure.

Site Characteristic #5. Path of growth

Want to know the best place to buy vacant land? It’s easy: in the area that’s going to be developed in the future! The value of your investment will rise as demand increases for the land around it. So, determine the path of growth so you can know where your next land investment should be.

Here are some key factors to evaluate regarding the path of growth:

  1. Regional Economic Trends: Research the economic trends in the area to determine if it is experiencing growth in terms of population, employment opportunities, and commercial activity. Areas with a healthy economic climate are more likely to attract residents and businesses.
  2. Demographic Shifts: Analyze demographic data to identify trends in population growth and age distribution. Consider the needs and preferences of the local population, as this can influence the demand for specific types of development, such as housing, retail, or healthcare facilities.
  3. Infrastructure Development: Examine ongoing or planned infrastructure projects in the area, including new roads, public transportation, utilities, and schools. Areas with significant infrastructure investments are often more appealing for development.
  4. Zoning and Master Plans: Review local zoning regulations and master plans for the land for sale in Arizona to understand the intended development direction for the region. Proximity to areas earmarked for growth or rezoning can be advantageous for your project.
  5. Accessibility and Transportation: Consider the accessibility of the land in relation to major transportation routes, including highways and airports. Locations with good transportation connectivity are more likely to attract residents and businesses.
  6. Market Demand: Conduct a thorough market analysis to gauge the demand for your specific development type in the area. Understanding the preferences and needs of potential buyers or tenants is crucial.
  7. Competition: Assess the level of competition in the area. A crowded market may require more competitive pricing and marketing efforts, while underserved markets may offer greater opportunities.
  8. Long-Term Investment Strategy: Consider your long-term investment goals. Are you looking for quick returns, or are you willing to invest for the long haul? Understanding your investment horizon on that land for sale in Arizona can influence your decision regarding the path of growth.
  9. Risk Mitigation: Evaluate the potential risks associated with the path of growth. For example, areas prone to natural disasters, such as wildfires or floods, may pose higher risks that need to be managed.
  10. Consult Local Experts: Engage with local real estate professionals, urban planners, and market analysts who have in-depth knowledge of the area. Their insights can be invaluable in understanding the path of growth.


Vacant land has historically been a compelling investment. (After all, ALL land was vacant at some point!) If you want to buy land for sale in Arizona, make sure you weigh these 5 site characteristics before buying raw land for development in Phoenix.

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