Lot Conditions

Raw Land? Paper Lots? Blue Top Lots? Finished Lots?

During the process of land acquisition, the condition of the lots being purchased is usually described with a variety of terms.  In some cases, the condition might be described with multiple versions which can mean the same thing.  The following will provide you with some of the more common terms.

Raw lots or raw land typically means that the parcel has no entitlements, or government approvals, and no grading or site improvements have been started.  A site plan might exist showing potential lots but the approvals have not been obtained.  I have heard at times a parcel being referred to as raw land with respect to no site improvements, yet the entitlements were approved.  It is always good to ask and clarify if any doubt.

Paper lots typically refer to a parcel that has an approved tentative tract map or a recorded final map.  The property may have a valuable approval such as a Specific Plan, which is essentially a level of entitlements, but I have not generally heard the term paper lots unless the tract map was approved.  Again, no grading or site improvements have been started yet.

Blue top lots are also referred to as rough graded lots, which means the site has been graded to the point that the lots/pads are at intended grades.  As well, the streets have been graded to allow for the base and gravel, and it is also probable that other site features have been graded.  Obviously, the entitlements/approvals have been completed to get to this point, but no other site improvements such as underground utilities and streets have been started.  FYI, the term “blue top” is derived from blue tassels in the ground that indicate the finish grade.

Finished lots generally mean that the site has been graded and most of the site improvements (utilities, streets, sidewalks) have been completed.  Lots might still need some final work such as the final paving cap, sidewalks, or other items, but I think when you see the streets completed the general term is finished lots.  Also, in other regions of the country, I have often heard the term “fully improved” lots, which is intended to mean the same.

We welcome to share your comments and questions with us below.

John Kaye has over 30 years experience within the land development and homebuilding industries, having held senior management positions with The Irvine Company, Koll Real Estate Group, and Brookfield Homes. As a developer, John has overseen the land acquisition, entitlements, and development of master planned communities, residential tracts, urban infill sites, and land assemblages. His experience and skill sets include land acquisition, land brokerage, project management, market analysis, finance, and strategic planning.

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