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Billionaire land investors

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

Some billionaires invest the old-fashioned way -- in land. After all, they're not making any more of it, and its tangibility appeals to those who want to touch and see their investments.

This ranch at the foot of the Grand Tetons is priced at $175 million.

The largest land baron in the country is John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media, who surpassed another media mogul, Ted Turner, by 200,000 acres this year. Malone recently invested in New England timberland to bring his holdings to a total of 2.2 million acres, according to Forbes. Turner, founder of CNN, owns 2 million acres, primarily Southwest ranch land.

"My wife says it's the Irish gene. A certain land hunger comes from being denied property ownership for so many generations," Malone told Forbes. The cable TV giant only began his quest as a land baron recently, joining the Forbes list of the nation's largest landowners a year ago after an investment in a New Mexico ranch.

An investment in a tangible asset such as land is not as solid as it might seem, as anyone who has purchased property during the housing bubble now realizes. Its value can fluctuate as much as a stock or bond, but that doesn't mean it couldn't have a place in a diversified portfolio if you invest wisely. The benefits to investing in unimproved land (no structures) include a cheaper purchase price and lower taxes and fees. Some drawbacks could be that you won't receive much income unless you plan to develop it or sell it at some point in the future and, as mentioned, its value could go down before that time. However, a savvy investment could pay off if you can predict the future and follow the real estate creed of "location, location, location."

How do you feel about land as an investment?

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