A look at land sales in southern Orange County


By Gary A. Miller

There’s an old expression, typically attributed to Mark Twain, that says “buy land, they’re not making any more of it.”  Space and density and construction are hot button issues here in Orange County.  So, with this article I wanted to consider the activity related to land sales in southern Orange County, including volume and cost.

It is important to note at the outset that land sales are difficult to categorize, as some transactions are parts of predetermined developments, others are commercial, and others are simply available, often rural, plots of land.

In terms of raw numbers, it may not be a surprise that there are considerably more sales of homes than there are of lands and lots in the area.  So far in 2023, a total of 32 land deals closed within the zip codes of 27510, 27514, 27516, and 27517 within the boundaries of Orange County.  Simultaneously, there have been 909 sales of homes. 

The volume of land sales this year is roughly on pace with recent years – perhaps a bit slower, depending on how the year closes out.  The table below shows the number of closed land sales in the most recent prior five years.

Number of closed sales6380655260

The price of those 32 closed deals in 2023 ranged from a low of $50,000 to a high of $1,520,000, with an average of $326,062 and a median of $297,500.  The sizes ranged from the smallest at .15 acres to the largest at 20.5 acres.

The most expensive land sale in 2023 so far involved a cluster of 6 tracts on Rogers Road between Homestead Road and Eubanks Road.  The tracts were not completely vacant, as the listing indicates there are two rental properties on the land.  The listing marketed it as a development opportunity for up to 40 homes.

The least expensive land sale so far in 2023 was on Eastwood Road, surprisingly close to Eastwood lake for the price, which was .95 acres at $50,000.  However, on a price-per-acre basis, an 11.28 acre listing on Heron Pond Drive proved the least expensive at $25,975 per acre (total sales price of $293,000)

An unexpected coincidence of my research for this article is that there are the exact same number of active land offerings now (32) as there have been sales to date for the year.  Among these, the least expensive is a .43 acre listing in Foxboro Estates for $28,900.  The most expensive is listed for $4,000,000 on Merritt Mill Road, very near Franklin Street just before Carrboro, which involves commercial/retail/automotive rentals.

Among the active listings, only 6 are what one might think of as “in town,” with the others primarily being located west and north of town.  Similarly, the majority of the closed sales were west and north with around 10 being “in town.” 

As one might imagine, in addition to the volume being much lower, the pace of sales for land/lots/parcels is much slower than that of home sales.  Among the 32 closing in 2023, the average days-on-market was 88.  For the active listings, the average is 219 days-on-market and counting as of this writing.

Gary A. Miller is co-owner of Red Bloom Realty.  He has lived and worked in Chapel Hill off and on since 1994, is an avid musician and traveler, and is a former educator of 25 years.

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