What is an Acre of Land?
Over the years, while working as a real estate agent, one of the more common questions I’ve received is how much is an acre of land.
Sometimes the person asking is wondering how large is an acre in terms of square feet, and other times they want to know the value of an acre of land.
If you are planning on buying some land, you might be wondering how much is an acre going to cost? With residential lots often measured as part of an acre, it isn’t surprising that many people want to know how much is an acre of land worth.
Originally, the amount of land a man with a pair of oxen could plow during a day defined an acre’s size.
An acre in farming refers to a piece of land that is one furlong or 660 feet long and one chain or 66 feet wide. One square mile of land equals 640 acres.
Of course, the amount of land this referred to would vary depending on how hard the man was willing to work and how easy the terrain was. So this wasn’t an accurate way to define a plot of land.
An acre would later become more clearly defined, being 43,560 square feet. As a visual guide, an American football field is slightly more than an acre.
A football field including the endzones is 57,600 square feet. 1 acre = 43,560 square feet, so a football field is approximately 1.32 acres.
If you are a tennis player, it would be equivalent to 16 tennis courts.
A city block is going to be somewhere around 2 acres in size. In housing developments, typically, 18 homes fit onto an acre in urban communities.
So the next time someone asks how much an acre is, you will be able to snap off the answer as 43,560 square feet.
What is a Builder’s Acre?
There is also what’s called a builders acre which equals 40,000 square feet. You already know that an acre is 43,560 square feet, so why would there be another term known as a builder’s acre?
The term builder’s acre was created to simplify marketing efforts among builders and developers. It has been used in selling real estate for as long as I can remember. All it does is simplify the math rounded down by letting someone know the size of a lot.
A builder’s acres is approximately 10 percent smaller than a survey acre. It becomes important to know that there is a true distinction between an acre of land and a builder’s acre of land.
There have been folks who have sued builders and real estate agents for misrepresenting land size due to the small discrepancy in size between these two measurements. It brings to light the importance of making accurate statements when representing real estate.
The moral of the story is when someone asks how much is 1 acre, you better give them 43,560 square feet and not a builder’s acre. Of course, when someone asks how much is a half-acre, the answer is 21,780 square feet.
What to Know About Land Values
Land has increased continually in value since settlers were offered acres for almost nothing. Under the presidency of Lincoln, the Homestead Act of 1862 allowed settlers to claim 160 acres. All that was required was the payment of a small administrative fee. 270 million acres were claimed through this act, and since then, the price of land has gradually increased.
The rises in value haven’t been equal across the country. Land in California, which could have been acquired under the Homestead Act for almost nothing, could now be worth millions to the current owners.
Just as the price of homes has increased, so too has the cost of acres of land. By the 1960s, average residential lots were costing $4,500. Forty years later, and this had jumped to $51,000. Now the average lot is going to cost you a little under $100,000.
How much an acre of land is worth continues to go up all the time. The saying they are not making any more land is certainly true.
Why Knowing How Much is an Acre is Useful
While you might not be buying up farmland, many things are measured using acres. Parks and metropolitan areas are often measured in acres, and understanding the scale will help you better understand the differences.
It can help when you are planning to build a home. There could be rules from the local government or the homeowners association (HOA) to restrict the size of property you are allowed to construct on a building lot. There could be zoning laws requiring a certain acreage for the size of home you want to build.
This is something you will need to consider when you’re budgeting for the purchase of a lot.
When you get a mortgage or construction loan to build your home, the lot’s cost could account for a large proportion of it. This expense could end up being the deciding factor in the lot you choose so that you still have enough money to complete the home.
What Affects the Price of an Acre?
An acre in one part of the country might not be worth anywhere near the same amount as an acre somewhere else.
If you were looking at how much is 1 acre of land in, say, Brooklyn, New York, you could expect a value of more than $20 million. However, an acre in a midwest state’s residential area might only cost less than $10,000. You can still buy large tracks of land in Northern Maine for peanuts.
Location is the most important deciding factor over the cost of an acre. Land in major cities is going to be considerably more expensive than rural lots.
The popularity of the area drives the demand for land. If more people want to live in the area, the land will be more costly.
An area’s prosperity will mean more people will be drawn to the jobs and opportunities it provides. This will lead to a greater demand for housing and, therefore, the land will become more valuable.
The environment of the area can affect the value. If the land is susceptible to flooding, values will be lower. Increased likelihood of natural disasters is going to put negative pressure on land values.
How close the land is to things like industrial zones, chemical plants, or nuclear facilities will reduce the price. If there is a perceived danger to living in that area, fewer people will want to be there, and so there will be less demand for land.
Being near amenities and recreational areas has a positive effect on the prices of lots. These are types of facilities people want their homes to be close to, so they will be more valuable. In fact, these are factors that can have an impact on a home’s appraised value.
Of course, waterfront property or lakefront houses are always in high demand because of the land they site on. It’s also why you will pay a premium to get them. Finding an acre of land on a body of water will always be worth more than its non-waterfront counterpart.
How Land Conditions Affects Market Value
While the city or town that land is located in will play a significant role in value, so will the land’s characteristics.
The topography of a plot of land can affect its value. Homebuyers like a view, and they will pay more for a lot that provides one. Level ground is normally more valued than slopes, and good drainage can also boost the price.
Does the land have a public sewer, or do you need to install a septic system? If a septic system is a requirement, the land conditions become even more important. The range in cost for a septic system can vary dramatically based upon the land conditions.
For example, what are the soils like? Is it gravel which is inexpensive, or clay which can be expensive? Does a high water table exist? Is there any ledge?
Septic systems are designed based upon soil conditions. All of these things will impact how much you’ll ultimately pay for the land.
Wetlands are also another factor to research when purchasing land and determining value. You might find a five-acre parcel of land and think you’ve hit the jackpot, only to find out that 4.5 acres of it are wetlands.
When someone asks how much is an acre of land worth, all of these elements will play a role in determining the value.
Much of what you need to know about a specific piece of land will be accomplished by hiring a surveyor who will do a land survey of the property. Only then will you really know what you’re buying.
How Much is an Acre in Your State?
If you like the idea of living off the land, buying a few acres of your own is still relatively cheap in many states. Looking at the US Department for Agriculture data from August 2020 for farm real estate shows some large disparities across the nation.
These are the average cost of an acre of farmland in certain states:
- New Mexico – $575
- Oklahoma – $1,890
- Utah – $2,400
- Maine – $2,490
- Michigan – $4,950
- California – $10,000
- Massachusetts – $11,300
- Rhode Island – $16,000
The national average in the United States, not including Alaska or Hawaii, is $3,160. If you are looking to buy land for residential use, prices will likely be much higher.
Find an Acre of Land Near Me
Lots of people wonder how you find an acre of land nearby. The best way is to speak to a local real estate agent who has a pulse on what land is available for sale. A well-connected agent may also have access to owners who are wishing to sell their land privately.
You could also do a quick online search as well. Use search terms such as acre land near me, acre land for sale, or 1-acre land near me.
In my area, doing this kind of search would not turn up many results as land for sale is scarce. You, however, might have much better luck if you’re in a rural area where undeveloped land is plentiful.
Frequently Asked Questions About an Acre of Land
1. What is a normal lot size?
It really depends on what area of the country you are located in. Lots in one area might be considered small, whereby in another area, they could be considered large.
The media lot size across the country is between 8500-9000 square feet.
2. Is a half-acre large enough for a house?
Yes. A half-acre or 21,780 square feet can easily accommodate a home. In many locations across the US, homebuyers prefer to have at least 1 acre.
3. How do you calculate lot size into an acre of land?
You will need to measure the length and width of the land in feet if it is a rectangle or square.
You would then multiply the length x the width and divide this number by 43,560. Remember 1 acre of land = 43,560 square feet.
4. What is a lot premium?
A lot premium is a term coined by builders to charge more money for what they consider the best lots in the development they are selling.
5. Are lot premiums worth it?
Whether a lot premium is worth it or not is often a personal choice. Sometimes the money charged by a builder does not translate into an increase in value when it comes time to sell.
Make sure the money you pay in lot premium is really worth it to you.
6. Do corner lots sell for more or less?
It depends on the area. Years ago, corner lots were always considered premium locations. That is not always the case today.
7. What is an acre of land worth?
As mentioned previously, it varies based on quite a few factors, most notably the area in which you are located.
8. How much land do you need to build a house?
The answer depends on the zoning in the area you are looking in. For example, a local bylaw states a buildable lot needs to be 1 acre in size. In other places, the size requirement could be larger or smaller.
9. Are there other dimensions of an acre besides square feet?
Yes, there are. Besides square feet an acre could be measured as follows:
- 1 acre = 4046.86 square meters
- 1 acre = 4840 square yards
- 1 acre = 1/640th of a square mile
- 1 acre = 0.404686 hectares
How to Choose Your Acre of Land?
When you are looking to buy land, the most important thing you need to think about is what you need it for. This will help show what things the lot has to have, like access to utilities, roads, or how close it is to amenities and where you work.
When you find the right lot for your needs, buying land isn’t the same as buying a house. Lenders will have different requirements, like larger deposits, for example.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed this guide on how much an acre is and some of the considerations when buying land.
About the author: The above Real Estate information about how much is an acre of land was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 34+ years.
Are you thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate Sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton, and Uxbridge MA.