In general, is it a bad idea to buy a urban home with undeveloped land behind it?

I’m referring to homes inside a city that have undeveloped land behind them. It’s often a barrier between residential and commercial properties. Sometimes it screens noise and the view of a busy street.

A co-worker lives in a very nice neighborhood a few blocks from work. The neighbors on his side of the street rarely have break-ins. The neighbors on the opposite side have experienced a lot of break-ins. Out of 14 houses on that side of the street he knew of at least 10 break-ins. They come through the woods. Pry open the patio door or a window.

I used to want a home that had woods behind it. Wonderful view and privacy. But privacy is an illusion in the city. 400 yards away is a strip mall or fast food joints. The undeveloped land is simply a natural screen. Transients and druggies are not deterred by a few trees.

I’ve heard similar things about homes bordering city parks. Beautiful view, but… they may attract prostitutes and criminals at night.

I had a friend with a beautiful view of a city park. He was on a bluff. The park was 40 ft below. Ideal location, great view, and he &the neighbors never had any break-ins. :smiley: Good luck climbing down that bluff with a TV in your arms.

A similar problem is homes along the railroad tracks. We have a neighborhood like that 6 miles from me. That same track runs close to my house. It’s about 1 1/2 miles away. The whistle used to bug the heck out of me. It took a few weeks to block it out of my mind. It must be pure hell having that track behind your house. It also attracts transients and druggies.

I’ve only heard from a few people. I’m curious if this is well known in real estate? That buying a home with undeveloped land may be a security issue?

Home buyers, would you typically reject a city home that has undeveloped land behind it?

I wouldn’t call a city park “undeveloped land”. To your broader question, it depends. Here in Bellevue, “undeveloped land” is either protected forest or green belt or immaculately maintained kid friendly parks. Being next to that or the old railroad lines that they’ve converted to bike trails would be an immense positive (especially if you can build a gate directly from your property). Maybe I’d have different thoughts in a more seedy city.

My concern with unprotected undeveloped land is that they would build something annoying on it, like a towering apartment block that looms over my house. Unlikely in my area but I’m sure that is a concern elsewhere.

I wasn’t sure what the buffer areas are called. A plat will show the residential lots, buffers, and commercial lots. There’s usually a tall privacy fence or unused strip of land separating residential and commercial lots.

Zoning prohibits building in a buffer area.

If my house starts attracting prostitutes is that a good thing or a bad thing?

My house is surrounded by 1000’s of acres of undeveloped land, heck the house itself is the only semi developed thing.
Coming through the woods at night may just turn into an alligator feeding excursion.

Maybe not good for urban, but it works well for me.

I’d almost think that depending on the nature of the undeveloped land, it could attract transients, homeless, drug users, etc…

At least with other homes, you have decent odds that the other homeowners are of a like mind as you about non-homeowners in their neighborhood.

But there’s nothing stopping a homeless encampment from setting up in your stretch of undeveloped woods.

Maybe you mean “unclassified” or “untitled” land.

Likely depends if they are of the $5 or $500 variety.

My Dad wouldn’t buy a home with adjacent open land. But as it turns out, that matters not at all in the Melbourne suburbs. The crooks drive, and even if they walk, need car access to remove the items.

In the city, back laneways are a risk, but not open land.

Personally, yes. I live in an “exurb” that was surrounded by undeveloped land when we bought (25 years ago).

  1. That land probably won’t stay undeveloped, and you don’t know what will be there.

  2. The prostitutes you need to worry about wear suits and sell themselves to lobbying firms. The land behind you may be zoned for parks, greenbelts, or single-family, but your representatives will turn it into a concrete plant in a heartbeat if so ordered by their corporate johns.

  3. While it remains woodland, you may find you can’t release your pets into the yard without supervision. Most predators aren’t fazed by a 6-foot cedar fence.

If I’m living “in town”, I try to get near the center of the subdivision. The coyotes aren’t hungry by the time they reach my yard, and I don’t have a 3 story office complex “looking” into my backyard.

Just my 2 cents.

I grew up in a suburban home with a 40 acre woods in back of it. It served as our play area, so it was a wonderful extension to our back yard. I don’t think prostitutes were invented back then, and I can’t imagine how that 40 acre woods would attract anything but kids, squirrels and birds.

However, the ownership of the land can be important. Is it likely to be developed, ever? If so, developed into what?

In my case, the vacant land was owned by the local school district, intended for long-term future expansion. When the baby boomers’ reproduction rate dropped off, the school sold it to a residential developer, who put in 50 homes. Gone was the forest view, the forest creatures, and much of our home value, so this is an important consideration.

It totally depends on what the OP means by “city” and “urban”.

In an area of high crime and homelessness, vacant lots or vacant buildings are magnets for trouble. In an area of low crime they’re a nice amenity and an actual beneficial buffer zone. Cities & urban have both sorts of environments.
I originally thought the OP was going to be about buying next to adjacent unbuilt land before knowing what might get built there. Which is a totally different problem.

Years ago I had the view from my suburban hillside house destroyed when they built more suburbs just below me. The slope there was pretty shallow and when I bought I expected the immediately lower land to get built on eventually. But it was still disappointing when it happened.

In another case in another state there were neighborhoods near where I used to live that were backed up to a lovely forested 1/2mile wide greenbelt. That was actually land reserved by the state for an eventual freeway. Which some of the developers didn’t disclose to buyers because the state’s budget wasn’t going to afford this freeway for farther into the future than the disclosure laws required.

Then the state got a windfall and the freeway was announced & started to be built. You couldn’t hear the construction equipment over the noise of the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the neighborhoods. :slight_smile:
ETA: and as Musicat just explained, even if you think you know the use a vacant plot is earmarked for, it may later change to a totally different use.

When my wife and I were house hunting a couple years ago, we found a house the was perfect for us. A bonus was the undeveloped 14 acres behind the house and a spectacular view of Mt Rainier. 2 weeks after our agent showed us the house, we went back to meet the sellers, they were willing to sell to us on a contract with a rate a bit lower than our credit union was offering. Driving to the house we saw something that just made our hearts sink. The entire 14 acres had been cleared and a large sign had been installed promoting a new 78 home subdivision. The sellers knew nothing of this and they were also dismayed that one of the big selling features of the house was now gone. Needless to say we did not buy this house.

We drove by the house a few weeks ago and noted that we made the right decision, a row of new 2 story houses have been built behind the house we looking at destroying the view the home once had.