Land acquisition is a common approach to biodiversity conservation but is typically subject to property availability on the public market. Consequently, conservation plans are often unable to be implemented as intended. When properties come on the market, conservation agencies must make a choice: purchase immediately, often without a detailed knowledge of its biodiversity value; survey the parcel and accept the risk that it may be removed from the market during this process; or not purchase and hope a better parcel comes on the market at a later date. We describe both an optimal method, using stochastic dynamic programming, and a simple rule of thumb for making such decisions. The solutions to this problem illustrate how optimal conservation is necessarily dynamic and requires explicit consideration of both the time period allowed for implementation and the availability of properties.