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Land Loans: Everything You Need To Know

January 5, 2024 • General News

What is a Land Loan? 

A land loan, also known as a plot or lot loan, is a financial option allowing individuals to purchase a piece of land using credit. This type of loan is suitable for those who intend to acquire land without immediate construction plans. It's important to note that land loans differ from home loans or construction loans. It can be used for both residential and business purposes.

How Do Land Loans Work? 

Securing a land loan follows a process similar to a standard mortgage. It involves making a down payment, obtaining a loan from a lender, and repaying the loan with interest over several years or even decades. However, the process is more rigorous due to the higher risks involved. Compared to traditional mortgages, land loans lack property collateral, making it more challenging to assess the land's value.
To mitigate these risks, banks, credit unions, specialty lenders, and government programs require specific information about the land being purchased. This typically includes details about zoning regulations, land use restrictions, and access to utilities. Given these risks, land loans often have higher interest rates, larger down payments, and stricter credit score requirements than standard mortgages.

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Types of Land Loans 

Land loans can be categorized based on the level of land development. Each type of land loan necessitates distinct preparations to convince lenders to provide financing. Let's explore the different types:

Loan for Undeveloped Land (Raw Land Loan) 

Undeveloped land refers to properties without road access, water supply, electricity, or sewer lines, rendering the land unsuitable for immediate construction. While raw land is the most economical option for purchase, it also requires higher down payments and interest rates to secure a loan. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) sets a minimum down payment of 35% for undeveloped land. Additionally, to obtain a raw land loan, you'll need a well-structured and detailed plan for the land's development to convince lenders that it represents a calculated risk.

Loan for Semi-Developed Land (Unimproved Land Loan) 

Semi-developed or unimproved land typically possesses some basic infrastructure, although it may need more amenities such as phone boxes, natural gas, or electric meters. Financing a loan for unimproved land is less risky than undeveloped land but still requires a rigorous process. The FDIC's minimum down payment standard for unimproved land is 25%.

Loan for Developed Land (Improved Land Loan) 

Developed lands, often called lots, come with access roads and all the necessary utilities for residential construction. Although improved lots are more expensive, they tend to have comparatively lower land loan interest rates. Lenders are also more inclined to finance this type of loan, with the FDIC setting the minimum down payment for improved land loans at 15%.

image of draft of a house on raw land purchased with a raw land loan

Advantages of Taking a Land Loan 

Land loans offer several advantages for individuals who need more time to build on their purchased land. These advantages include:

  1. Flexibility: Land loans provide the flexibility to secure land for its potential, such as in areas with upcoming business opportunities or future development. You can hold the land until the timing is right for your construction project.
  2. "Blank Canvas": Acquiring land before any construction allows you to start with a "blank canvas." You can envision and create your dream home or commercial space according to your preferences and needs.
  3. Transition to Construction Loan: When you're ready to build, your land loan can be seamlessly integrated with a construction loan to finance the land purchase and construction costs. Ultimately, this can transform your land loan into a standard mortgage when you're ready to move in.

Disadvantages of Taking a Land Loan 

Despite the advantages, land loans come with certain disadvantages, mainly due to the higher risks involved:

  1. Limited Lender Options: Lenders for land loans can be limited in number due to the inherent risks, which may limit your choices when selecting a lender.
  2. Stricter Qualifications: To secure a land loan, you must meet more stringent qualifications than a standard mortgage.
  3. Higher Down Payments and Interest Rates: Land loans have higher down payment and interest rates than traditional mortgages. These additional costs are a result of the higher risks faced by lenders.

To mitigate these disadvantages, having a well-defined construction plan, including a set timeline and cost estimates, can increase your loan approval chances, is essential.

How to Get a Land Loan 

To secure financing for a land loan, you should aim to meet at least three of the following qualifications:

  1. Credit Score: Maintain a credit score of 700 or higher.
  2. Debt-to-income Ratio: Ensure your debt-to-income ratio remains within 43%.
  3. Solid Land Use Plan: Develop a comprehensive plan detailing your use of the land.
  4. Detailed Land Information: Gather prepared information about the land you intend to purchase.

Back Your Intention to Use the Land with a Solid Plan 

Once you meet the credit score requirement, it's crucial to substantiate your intention to purchase the land. Lenders assess risk levels associated with your land loan based on the clarity and feasibility of your plans. Planning to build on the land sooner generally carries fewer risks than postponing construction, as unforeseen events can affect future development.

If your plan involves improving the land by adding utilities, be prepared to address potential issues like rising costs and construction complications. When communicating with lenders, provide a detailed strategy for overcoming these challenges.

On the other hand, if you plan to hold the land as a speculative investment, anticipate a higher down payment requirement, as lenders perceive this as riskier. To enhance your chances of loan approval, demonstrate how the land's value is expected to increase and outline your development plans.

Prepare Information for the Land You Intend to Buy 

Lenders will require detailed information about the land you intend to purchase. This information helps them assess the associated risks.

Here are some critical details they will want to know:

  1. Official Boundaries: Hire surveyors to mark the official boundaries of the land, ensuring precise documentation.
  2. Access to Utilities: Lenders are interested in the availability of water, electricity, sewer, and cable hookups on the land. Additionally, they want to know if the land has access to public roads, which can impact the land's value and the ease of construction.
  3. Zoning: Lenders need to confirm that the planned use of the property complies with local zoning regulations. Certain properties may be restricted to specific areas to maintain the well-being of nearby residential zones. They'll also consider how nearby properties may affect the land's value.

Land Loan vs. Other Land-Buying Options 

If you encounter difficulties meeting land loan qualifications, alternative methods exist to finance your land purchase. Some options cater to home-building purposes, while others are designed for commercial space.


Seller financing is where the seller acts as your lender in a land contract. This arrangement can be more flexible and suitable for those who may not meet traditional bank loan requirements. It's essential, however, to engage an attorney to review the land contract to ensure clarity and prevent potential gray areas or loopholes.

Home Equity Loan 

Another method for purchasing land is through a home equity loan, where you receive a lower interest rate against your home's equity. It's important to note that defaulting on this type of loan could lead to the risk of losing your home.

Home Equity Lines of Credit

Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) provide a flexible way to access funds over a specified timeframe using your home's equity. You can use a HELOC as a down payment for a land loan and repay the HELOC amount and interest.

USDA Loan 

The USDA offers a land and construction loan designed for low to moderate-income families planning to build a home in a qualified rural area. This option can particularly benefit those seeking a more affordable land and home construction path.

SBA Loan 

Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are available to assist small business owners in financing raw land and construction costs for commercial buildings. The SBA 504 loan program provides fixed-rate financing with a 10% down payment, 40% loan financing through the Certified Development Loan, and 50% provided by a bank or credit union.

Personal Loan 

A personal loan can also finance your land purchase. While this approach can offer flexibility, it can have higher interest rates. You may also need to compare its shorter repayment periods with the rest.

Looking for a Land Loan? 

Securing a land loan can be more challenging than obtaining a standard mortgage. However, you can increase your chances of approval with proper preparation. A credit union consultant specializing in land financing can provide significant assistance in navigating the process and ensuring your specific needs are met when purchasing land. Explore your options and receive expert guidance by scheduling an appointment with us today.


How Long are Land Loans? 

Land loans typically have shorter terms of around 15 years. This shorter duration is due to the higher risks associated with land loans, primarily because they lack property collateral.

Are Land Loans Hard to Get? 

Yes, land loans can be challenging to obtain. Lenders view them as high-risk financing, leading to more stringent qualification requirements than standard mortgages.

What are Land Loan Interest Rates? 

As of 2023, the interest rates for land loans typically range between 6% and 7%. It's important to note that interest rates may depend on several factors, including your creditworthiness and the lender's terms.

Can You Refinance Land Loans? 

Yes, you can refinance your land loan. Refinancing involves replacing your existing land loan with a new obligation under different terms. This may include extending the years to repay the loan or adjusting the interest rate. Discuss the possibility of refinancing with your lender to explore your options.

Are Land Loans the Same as Mortgages? 

No, land loans are not the same as standard mortgages. They are more complex due to the absence of property collateral, which is typically present in traditional mortgages. Land loans also often require a down payment, making them distinct from conventional mortgage loans.

Is Land Loan Eligible for Tax Exemption? 

You may be eligible for a tax exemption for your land loan if you have plans to build on the land. However, if you purchased the land solely as a speculative investment with no intention of development, you may not qualify for a tax exemption. It's essential to consult with a tax professional or advisor for specific details regarding tax exemptions and your situation.


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