Land as an Investment

Land for Sale

Land as an investment can be a marvelous and amazing process to behold. In the beginning, there is no crystal ball that can predict with absolute certainty what the future will bring. Consider the following two examples—both ultimately profitable—that began almost 100 years ago.

In 1917, Utah rancher Thomas L. Williams purchased 140 acres north of Las Vegas for $8 per acre and subdivided 100 of the acres in 79 lots. This was the beginning of the town of North Las Vegas. Williams eventually sold all of his lots to residents who liked the idea of no taxes, no building restrictions, and no license requirements. With the coming of Prohibition in the 1920s, he sold quite a few lots to bootleggers who built their homes over basements containing stills.

When the Hoover Dam was constructed during the 1930s, it brought new prosperity to the region. After World War II, in the late 1940s, the gambling industry began to develop. Thereafter, Las Vegas and its surrounding suburbs developed into a multibillion-dollar mecca of glittering resorts, attracting many millions of tourists annually.

And what would Mr. Williams’ 140 acres, which he purchased for $1,120 back in 1917, be worth today? Try around $50 million.

The second example would be a 50,000-acre ranch located in the middle of Nevada, also purchased in the same year of 1917 for $1 per acre. Unlike Mr. Williams’ 140 acres next to Las Vegas, during the ensuing years, absolutely nothing developed near this ranch. Very few new residents arrived, no casinos, shopping centers, or housing developments were built, no new roads were constructed—in fact, the ranch is still being used today to graze cattle, just as it was back in 1917.

So what is the 50,000 acres worth today? It is worth around $10 million.

What is the moral of this little analogy? Mainly that land as an investment—assuming it is purchased cheaply enough and held long enough—will always be profitable. The only variable will be the magnitude of profitability.

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