If you’ve spent any amount of time looking for a plot of land to build your dream house, or browsing homes with bigger yards, you probably know that the preferred unit of measurement for land in the U.S. is the acre. But what is an acre, and how big is an acre?
An acre of land is 43,560 square feet – it’s hard to visualize because it’s just so large. Let’s go over some easy ways to visualize an acre, the average costs of an acre of land in various locations, and how much acreage you’ll need to build your dream home.
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How Big is an Acre of Land?
The obscure origin of the acre goes back centuries. It was originally the area that could typically be plowed in one day with oxen pulling a plow. Eventually, it became a standardized unit of measurement for land and is still widely used in the U.S. and U.K. today.
An acre doesn’t have to be in any particular shape, as long as the total area is 43,560 square feet. But acres are often 660 feet by 66 feet.
What Does an Acre of Land Look Like?
It’s easier to visualize an acre if you compare it to something familiar. How about a football field?
An acre of land is equal to about 90% of a football field, which has 48,000 square feet of playable area (not including the end zones) compared to 43,560 square feet in an acre.
Maybe your game is tennis. A tennis court has 2,808 square feet of the playable area, so an acre is around 16 tennis courts.
A regulation NBA basketball court covers 4,700 square feet, meaning you could fit around 9 basketball courts into an acre.
How Many Houses Can Fit on an Acre?
To figure out how many houses can fit on one acre, we just need to do some basic calculations.
The median lot size for new single-family homes is 0.19 acres or 8,276 square feet. That means around five average-sized home lots can fit on one acre.
However, if you want to know how many homes you can legally fit into one acre where you live, you’ll have to consult your local zoning laws. Minimum lot sizes vary widely across the country. One study of Texas lot sizes found that minimum lot sizes in the studied towns ranged from 6,500 square feet to 16,000 square feet. A standard east coast rowhome can be built on a lot as small as 1,400 feet, while some rural areas have minimum lot sizes of one acre (or several acres).
What Is a Commercial Acre?
A commercial acre is similar to a standard acre — but slightly smaller. A commercial acre is about 83% of a standard acre.
The term "commercial acre" originated in the commercial real estate world, to account for the fact that there are portions of a property an owner can't modify — features like sidewalks, roads, and alleys. It's now a legal unit of measurement used in a few states, but most often in dense, urban cities rather than small towns or rural areas.
How Much Is an Acre of Land Worth?
The average value of an acre of land in the lower 48 U.S. states is around $12,000, but land prices vary widely across the country. An acre of land in Manhattan is going to be a lot more expensive than an acre in Wyoming.
The price of a specific acre is going to depend on several factors, including the location, topography, road access, water, utility availability, and many other considerations. As a general rule, urban land is more expensive than rural land, since it’s closer to amenities and services.
According to experts, New Mexico has some of the cheapest land in the U.S., where you can purchase an acre for as little as $100. On the other end of the spectrum, Brooklyn Heights, in Brooklyn, NY, is home to some of the most expensive acreage — priced at a staggering $41 million.
How Much Land Do You Need to Build a House?
The median lot size for new single-family homes in the U.S. is just under a fifth of an acre, but that only applies if you’re building an average-sized home.
In general, it helps to think about the land-to-building ratio. Using your home’s square footage, experts suggest you aim for a land-to-building ratio of 2.5:1 to 3.5:1, which is the standard used in commercial real estate.
In reality, the right amount of land to build a house depends on your needs. Someone raising livestock will need a lot more land than the typical suburbanite, and vice versa. Consulting with an experienced real estate agent is the best way to determine the ideal lot size for your needs!
FAQs About Acres of Land
How big is an acre visually?
The easiest way to visualize an acre is to compare it to sizes you're familiar with. An acre has 43,560 square feet, which is about 90% of a football field (minus the end zones), or nine professional basketball courts. If you want to visualize it as a square, an acre measures about 208 x 208 feet. The median lot size for new single-family homes is 0.19 acres, so you can comfortably fit five homes on one acre. Learn how to visualize the size of an acre.
Is an acre of land enough for a house?
If you want to build a typical single-family home, an acre is enough room to provide a spacious yard. However, if you want to raise livestock, do a lot of farming, or have a lot of privacy from neighbors, you may need more land to meet your needs. Discover how much land you need to build a house.
How much land is an acre?
An acre is 43,560 square feet of land. That's about 9 basketball courts or 16 tennis courts. Learn how much land is an acre and how to visualize it.
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