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Zoning and Density, how does it affect my property?

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

Many landowners are not as knowledgeable on zoning and density as they need to be, especially if they inherited property from family members, or maybe purchased a lot or land in foreclosure. Help your clients and do some homework for them. It could be to everyone’s financial advantage.

Zoning and Density, what is that?

To better understand zoning, you need to be aware that every piece of property has a zoning designation assigned to it by the county where the property is located. Even the smallest parcel of land has a zoning designation. This important information determines whether it will work for you or your client’s purposes. If not, you will want to know if the zoning can be changed to satisfy your needs or accommodate your plans for the property.

So, in simple terms zoning effectively establishes for what and how the property can be used according to the county, city, or town to control and direct development of the property.

Yes, I did mention changing the zoning.... it’s possible, and it is called a Rezoning.

A zoning classification is not necessarily permanent. Zoning designations often can be changed or conditional zoning approved, depending on the situation. This is accomplished through a process called rezoning. This change is sought when the current zoning of a property will not work for a potential buyer’s or owner’s intended use. You may submit an application to your local municipality for a rezoning and they will guide you through the process. There are typically fees attached to this process.

Note: Potential zoning maps or future land use maps may assist a property owner in obtaining more profitable zoning.

What are future land use plans or maps, you ask?

This is a community’s guide for future planning. Depending on your state and how it is divided up, municipalities or townships will work diligently to hire outside resources to study and layout plans on maps for what they envision for the future growth of the municipality or township. This usually takes into consideration economic development, transportation, housing, and other necessary concerns.

What is the density of a property?

Density is the number of units or lots that a county or municipality will allow per acre of land. You can find this information by calling your local planning and zoning department to find the permitted density for a property as well as the future potential zoning for that property. You will need the address or parcel ID for the property in question when you contact the planning and zoning department.

Note: A residential zoning typically means single-family housing. Commercial zoning is typically associated with businesses. The current zoning and future potential zoning of a property help to determine the value and use of the property.

For example: If residential zoning is changed to commercial zoning, it could potentially, greatly increase the value of the property. Also, residential zoning with a density of one or two houses per acre could possibly be rezoned for multi-family use, changing its density. This would allow for more housing units per acre, also increasing the property value.

Zoning 101 by the City of Phoenix, AZ

Summary: A simple understanding of zoning and density for a property in the future can help you and your client make an educated decision on whether to move forward with a purchase or sale. Is now the right to buy or sell? Alternatively, should you wait for future growth to capture a bigger payday? Is the property in the path of growth and in the current overlay plan for a higher use than currently zoned? These are just a few questions to consider for yourself or your clients.

For more detailed information about Land Zoning and Density, check out chapter 6 in “10 Things You Need To Know About Land”. You can get your copy from Amazon.


Cheryl L. Sain has been in the real estate industry for over 20 years and has executed thousands of land transactions with investors, developers, national builders, and individuals.


This information is provided as-is and does not in any way make or imply any guarantees as to an outcome. You will need to evaluate the information herein and consult appropriate professionals such as surveyors, attorneys, tax accountants, or any other professional agencies or broker-in-charge to acquire the information and guidance you need to help you make the decision that is best for you.


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