2017 RLI Vice President Brings Energy and Fresh Ideas to Real Estate Land Industry

Jeramy Stephens, 2017 RLI VPJune 29, 2016 (Chicago, Ill.)- The REALTORS® Land Institute is proud to announce Jeramy Stephens, ALC, Partner / Principal Broker with National Land Realty from Little Rock, Ark., as the 2017 RLI National Vice President. As the leading educational and membership organization in the land real estate industry, RLI is looking forward to the impact Jeramy’s leadership will have as he works to continue building both the organization and the industry as a whole.

Bob Turner, ALC, 2016 RLI National President expressed “Jeramy has the knowledge, experience, and energy needed to move RLI into the future. As a young leader in the industry, he brings the kind of fresh ideas and contagious energy needed to reinvigorate and steer our organization to the next level of success. We are truly honored to have a leader with such a strong passion for the land business stepping up to dedicate himself to the success of land professionals throughout RLI.”

Jeramy is a Partner and Principal Broker for National Land Realty for the Mid South region in the Little Rock, Ark., office. He is a graduate of Arkansas State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Business with an emphasis in Farm Management and Ag Marketing. Jeramy has served RLI as the Vice Chair of the 2016 Education Committee and is an active member of the Board of Directors.

“I am very honored to be nominated as the 2017 Vice President of Realtors® Land Institute and look forward to serving the membership. RLI is a member driven organization and I will continue the growth of our membership through education, networking opportunities and a voice in D.C. to voice our issues in the land industry which will help members to improve their individual businesses,” said Stephens upon hearing the news. Stephens will take on his official role as Vice President for RLI next November during the RLI Officer Induction Ceremony at the 2016 NAR Expo and Conference in Orlando.

National REALTORS Land Institute LogoAbout the REALTORS® Land Institute
The Realtors® Land Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Realtors®, is the prestigious, higher-learning educational membership institute for the certification and continuing education of elite Land REALTORS® and those that aspire to deal in land real estate transactions. Over 100 years old, the Institute provides education and membership services that empower Land REALTORS® to stay abreast of changes, regulations, technology and legislation that affect the industry in real-time. Through its LANDU curriculum, the Realtors® Land Institute confers its Accredited Land Consultant designation to only those real estate practitioners who achieve the highest levels of education, experience, and professionalism. For more information, visit rliland.com or call 800.441.5263.

Does Your Forestland Have Curb Appeal?

As with residential property, there are steps a landowner can take to add value and make forest acreage attractive from every angle. As a land broker and professional consulting forester, I’m often asked what improvements can be made to add the most value to forest property.

My response focuses on two different sets of property attributes that affect value. The first set is acquired at purchase and includes characteristics inherent to the property. These are fixed attributes such as location, public road frontage, streams, and topography.

The second set of attributes can be implemented or improved upon, creating an opportunity for “acreage appeal,” which is the forestland equivalent to the curb appeal concept in residential real estate. These are improvements that have the potential to increase the marketability and value of your property above the investment expense. Our firm operates across North America, and these six areas are improvements that seem to be universal regardless of market.

“The importance of working with a professional land manager and broker cannot be overstated.”

ACCESS 

Access is a critical component of value and often the first question posed by potential forestland buyers. Having legal access, of course, is key to marketability and upholding property value. A tract without legal access poses many impediments to potential buyers.

If it is a recreational tract, buyers might be uncertain about their ability to easily enjoy the property. For investment tracts, a lack of legal access can impede the ability to extract value in the form of timber sales or hunting revenue, to say nothing of the potential development value down the road.

The investment buyer is likely to discount the standing timber value to account for these challenges. If your property does not have a recorded legal access you should work with some combination of your adjoining neighbors, a land professional, and an attorney to evaluate your options and make a plan to obtain access.

Once you have legal access, creating or improving internal tract access is another strategy to increase acreage appeal. If internal roads exist, funds are well spent to upgrade and improve these roads to ensure they are easy to drive and stable in various weather conditions. This can include smoothing of the road surface (grading), installation of erosion control measures (water bars), seeding, and replacing damaged culverts.

If you do not have interior roads it could greatly enhance the value of your property to have roads built. New roads should be constructed in a way to provide useful access and in locations that will require the least amount of future maintenance. This involves using the existing topography of the land to minimize the slope of the roads (and erosion potential), and limit the number of stream crossings. Choose crossing locations most likely to withstand storms and require minimal maintenance.

In a similar vein, laying out ATV trails or walking trails also can add value. Being able to showcase a property’s Highlights on an initial tour helps create favorable first impressions. Trails should highlight a property’s unique assets such as water features, views or vistas, cultural features like old home sites, large trees, or favorite hunting spots.

BOUNDARIES 

Well-marked property boundaries are a bellwether for good land management. They signal to the public that this property is frequently attended to and minimize the risk of trespassing, dumping, or squatting. The first step to improving boundary markings is to make sure you have a modern survey description that is accurate. The second step is to mark your boundary clearly with paint. Surveyors have customary ways of marking lines so the exact location of the line and corners can be quickly identified. This is done based on the orientation of the paint and shape or number of painted markings on trees or posts along the line. For example, three painted bars on a witness tree typically denotes a corner in the area in front of the marked tree.

MANAGEMENT

Well-managed properties always realize a premium over un-managed or neglected ones, and buyers can spot the difference from a mile away. Attention to access and boundaries signal active land management, but as a landowner you also should have a written forest management plan for your tract that guides your goals and documents past activities. A little organization With this information imparts a huge degree of confidence to the buyer. Consult with a professional on what silvicultural practices will deliver the most return on investment. There might even be cost share assistance from government agencies.

A good consulting forester will be well versed in these programs and can provide guidance on how to qualify. For the private landowner, there are typically programs for activities such as reforestation, site preparation, prescribed burning, road improvements, wildlife food plantings and pre-commercial thinning operations. Implementing management practices that make good financial sense will enhance the income potential as well as the aesthetics of your property.

WATER 

Though it is typically thought of as an inherent and unchangeable attribute, you often can create water features on a property if there is already a water source available. One of the most common requests we receive from potential buyers of recreational land is for a tract with a pond. If your property has a site that is compatible with building a pond, this can make a huge difference in the value and marketability of the property.

Understanding if you have potential sites to construct a pond on your property and how to go about properly constructing a pond can be an enjoyable experience and a significant value add. Typically you need a reliable water source such as a spring or small stream, soils that will hold water, natural bowl-shaped topography to minimize construction, and earth moving expense.

In some areas, pond construction and permitting is regulated by the state government. That means that the first point of contact should be with your local cooperative extension service to begin to understand what is possible on your property. Once you have determined that a pond is permissible and feasible on your site, carefully select a reputable experienced contractor, and have a plan for managing your pond after it is built. Ponds, like forests, benefit from active management.

OPEN AREAS 

The majority of my work is with timberland properties. As a forest landowner, that’s no doubt your focus as well. However, open areas can greatly enhance a property’s appeal, even to buyers looking for timberland. My advice is always to manage natural openings with good forest management, but not to clear land just for the sake of openings. I say this because tracts that have a lot of open acreage might require added continual maintenance time and expense, which could narrow your pool of buyers.

Natural openings are created during harvest operations when loggers use a specific area for a log landing or loading spot. The resulting opening could be maintained as a food plot with annual or perennial plantings.

Open space can maintain sunlit areas along roads if the vegetation is favorable, and this also has habitat benefits. These open areas allow your road to dry after precipitation, and also provide some habitat diversity to your tract on a landscape level. Opportunities can exist to maintain sight or shooting lanes in thinning access corridors post-harvest as well.

These practices do not remove acreage from timber production but make the best use of every available acre and demonstrate variety in a property. Some of these open areas could be maintained by a hunt club since the openings improve habitat and, thus, hunting. The annual maintenance expense is minimal, and there might also be cost share programs through state or federal sources to assist you.

GATES 

It might seem obvious, but the first impression of a property often is the entrance. It’s why subdivision developers go overboard with gates and entryways before ground is broken on the first model home.

You need not break the budget in this area, but investing in and maintaining gates at all points of access it will provide security while you own the property, and is viewed favorably by potential buyers. After all, why would a landowner go to the expense of putting up a nice gate if there wasn’t a quality piece of land behind it?

New gates should be properly sized to accommodate any future needs. Consider whether there will be future timber harvests, and the width needed to get equipment through the access point. It is preferable to have the gate installed slightly off the main road so you can easily pull in to open it without having to stop on the road shoulder. The gate also should be installed so that it will not sag and drag on the ground, or not align with their latches properly.

Gates often sag or become unaligned due to not burying the pivot post to which the gate is attached deep enough and in cement.  Gates should last a long time, so if you have an old gate, it can be enhanced greatly with a fresh coat of paint.

These are six key areas often discussed with owners and potential buyers of forestland. There are many other opportunities to add acreage appeal. My advice to owners is to consider these broadly appealing improvements first, and then invest in other, possibly more capital-intensive improvements that enable them to reach their goals for the property. The importance of working with a professional land manager and broker cannot be overstated. These professionals can help you evaluate investments in improvements and explain their long-term impact on your property and investment return should you choose to sell in the future.

Chris Miller, ALCChris Miller, ALC, is a land broker and consulting forester for American Forest Management, Inc. and AFM Land Sales, LLC. in Charlotte, North Carolina. This piece was originally published in the July/August 2016 Forest LandOwner Magazine.

 

Land Real Estate Professionals Prepare for Foreign Land Investments As Britain Leaves the European Union

June 24, 2016 (Chicago) – Analysts are scurrying to predict the impacts of Britain leaving the European Union on the global real estate industry. The Realtors® Land Institute has released a statement on its effects on land investment from Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors®, stating that “The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union breeds both opportunity and uncertainty for the U.S. housing market. Demand for real estate and land could rise if foreign investors view America as a more secure place to do business and borrowing costs become even cheaper. On the other hand, if instability in the financial markets persists and a global economic slowdown occurs, the U.S. economy would also slow, in turn impacting real estate land investment and demand. Finally, the British demand for U.S. real estate would soften from the weaker currency.”

The REALTORS® Land Institute says it is still uncertain how ‘Brexit’ will affect land real estate markets long term but it is important for real estate and land professionals to be prepared to handle an influx of foreign investments in land during the coming months. The Institute recommends all real estate professionals should prepare and know where to find a land consultant in case they are approached to assist in a land real estate investment transaction.

The 2016 Realtors® Land Institute President Bob Turner, ALC, explained that “With the recent volatility in the US stock market, investments in productive farmland, ranchland, and timberland are considered as safer alternatives to stocks because of their income return and stability. Between the increase in demand from US investors and, now, the increase in demand that could come as a result of Brexit, Accredited Land Consultants and other professional members of the Realtors® Land Institute are prepared to welcome the opportunity to use their knowledge and experience to assist investors.”

National REALTORS Land Institute LogoAbout the Realtors® Land Institute
The Realtors® Land Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Realtors®, is the prestigious, higher learning professional membership organization for practitioners who specialize in land real estate transactions. Over 100 years old, the Institute provides a wide range of programs and services that build knowledge, relationships, and business opportunities for the best in the land business. The REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) provides the education, tools, services, advice and networking opportunities that are the foundation for all land professionals to become the best in the business—to become an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC). For more information, visit rliland.com or call 800.441.5263.

5 Ways to Maximize Your Listings

This article was originally featured in the 2016 Summer Edition of the Institute’s Terra Firma Magazine.

I have seen a lot of amazing property listings under-perform or flat out fail from a lack of understanding how to best represent them online. Most of these tips apply to advertising property in any medium- digital or print, but will serve you particularly well online. In our increasingly digital world, there is a lot of noise that can drown out your listing, but with these easy steps, you can stand out and drive buyer interest and leads like never before. Here are my top five tips for how to maximize your online property listing.

  1. Completing Everything
    It should go without saying, but a complete listing and profile is essential. The property should be mapped accurately; titles and descriptions filled out completely; a generous number of photos uploaded; but also, pay attention to the smaller stuff. Things like categories and property types can have a big influence on who sees your property and where it shows up in searches. Often these modifiers work as filters, so if your farm isn’t tagged as a ‘farm’, it won’t show up in a ‘farm’ search. You could be missing out on a massive amount of property searches by leaving these blank.Same with property features like house size and bedrooms. Even if it isn’t the property focus, some buyers will be happy to know there is a habitable structure on the property. Water availability, utilities, property access, proximity to a town, etc. should be addressed if not obvious, and often even if it is. At a minimum, when there is a text box to fill out or drop down to select while creating your listing, you should be entering information into it.
  1. Picture it
    You want your listing to impress the pants off of people, no matter the property. The best way to get an initial response is through great photos. You generally see a two to three times greater response rate from listings with professional photos because they capture people. I’ve seen a weedy lot with a decrepit structure transformed into a landscape you would want to hang on your wall. You don’t want to deceive buyers, but you do want to represent it in the best possible way. If a professional photographer isn’t in your budget, read up on how to take better pictures. All photos should include a focal point such as a structure, fence, tree, lake, livestock, or even a flower. Look at your photos. If you don’t like your photo, neither will a buyer.The technology landscape is changing. Aerial photography and video is becoming more common thanks to drones. 3D tours and street-view technology has made its way into real estate. Mapping technology can orient you to the property terrain and features. All of these technologies are improving the way we tour a property remotely and adding some flash and excitement, but really it is about experiencing the property through a computer or mobile device as if we were physically there.
  1. Reading vs. Experiencing
    The title and description of a listing are nearly as important as photos because they frame the image of the property and fill in the gaps. Think of the photos and title as a hook, and the description as a line- you aren’t going to catch a fish without both.The title should be descriptive and evocative at the same time. The interested buyer isn’t physically at the property, so they need to experience it through your words and photos. What are the properties main features or resources? ‘Elk hunter’s paradise’, ‘mountainous’, ‘vistas’, ‘wilderness’, ‘fertile’. What does the property ‘feel’ like? Use descriptors like: ‘tranquil’, ‘remote’, ‘vast’, and ‘sweeping’. Be creative and come up with your own that fit the property. These words will help form an emotional connection with buyers beyond just seeing a piece of land. Use language and phrases that will resonate with your intended buyer to help them experience it from their computer.Similarly, the description should tell a story. Include all of the essential details–structures, acreage, crops or resources, and make these clear, but go beyond that. What is the history of the land? Who owns it now, and what is their story? What improvements have been done, and why? You want the buyer to care about this piece of land, and a story makes it special (even if it isn’t a very good one).
  1. Forming a Connection
    Not only do you want the buyer to care about the land, but you want them to care about you as well. Establishing trust and conveying confidence up front goes a long way to obtaining a lead, and ultimately securing a deal. You are your brand and vice-versa, so it should be treated and promoted like you would promote yourself. Your logo or photo should be everywhere you are; it shows people you are present in the region and an icon in the industry. The more they see it, the more they will feel you are an established and trustworthy business. Not unlike building a reputation within your community, your reputation and brand online are important to your business.A profile photo and bio can form a further connection. People will recognize you, and may even feel as if they already know you. You are no longer a faceless entity; you are a person, just like they are. If there isn’t a place for this on your listing, add it to the description.
  1. Get it Seen
    You have created a place for the information, now you need to drive people to see it. Post it on social media, add it to your website, print off some flyers and pass them out, pay for a featured ad, send some emails. Promoting the listing is the single biggest contributor to any listing’s success.It is also helpful to review your listing performance to get an idea how many people are seeing your property, and what actions are being taken. Give it thirty days, then take a look at listing views and lead count. These numbers can be helpful in telling you what the interest is like for your property. High listing views means that you are promoting it well, or it is popular in searches. If you are getting lots of leads, then you are doing well, but pay attention to the quality of those leads. Are they just kicking the tires, do they lose interest, are they responding to your attempts to contact them? These could be indicators that you are getting the wrong kind of traffic, appealing to the wrong audience, or potentially misrepresenting the property.

Take Away
To follow up, your property listing should have all of these qualities to reach maximum potential and performance:

  • Fully Completed Listing – Check all the boxes and enter all the information
  • Transport the potential buyer to the property with your words and photos
  • Convey an emotional connection, tell a story about the land
  • Establish trust and form a connection
  • Promote like crazy, and monitor listing performance

Online property advertising reaches a huge audience, and expands the buyer pool to include the entire country, or even world. When used correctly, it can be the most effective property selling tool in your arsenal. Implementing these tips will allow you to maximize your property listings, and lead to more deals closed in less time.

Jean Paul LaCountJean-Paul LaCount was the Head of Marketing for Lands of America and Land And Farm, and has been a digital marketer for the last 12 years.

FAA Rule Clears Commercial Drone Use for Take Off

On June 21, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released operational rules that now make it easier than ever to use drones commercially. The approved rules are set to take effect on August 1, 2016. The REALTORS® Land Institute continues to support the progress made by the FAA to facilitate the use of drones in the industry. RLI and NAR will continue to work towards increasing the possibilities of use for industry operators, including “beyond visual line of sight” flights commonly used by land professionals when filming/photographing large tracts of land. Read more.

Top 3 Takeaways for the FAA’s New Drone Rule

Top Takeaway: This Final Rule will lead to more predictability in the market for drone-based services. The rule will create a broader base of trained operators and service providers and make it easier for real estate professionals to utilize this new technology in their business.

  1. Education provision: The new rule clarifies that if the drone is for commercial purposes, the operator must be certified, but does not have to be a licensed pilot. A less burdensome new certification for ‘remote pilot in command’ authority will replace the need for a previously required pilot’s license. The certification test is administered at FAA testing centers and is knowledge-based only. The cost is about $150, and will takes around 20 hours of study time to prepare; the test itself is 3 hours long. Operators will still need to pass a background check performed by the TSA.
  2. Flight operations permitted: flights may be conducted during daylight hours, within visual line of sight, not directly over non-participants, altitude limit 400’, and 100 MPH max speed.
    • Provisions for flight over non-participants will be addressed in a future rule-making.
    • Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  3. Almost all of the operational requirements can be waived, which leaves room for innovation and experimentation with the technology.

See a summary from the FAA.

Timberland Investing

The Basics Of Timberland Investing

RLI Signs With NAR

The REALTORS® Land Institute has signed on to a letter in conjunction with the National Association of REALTORS® in an effort to support small business owners by preventing increased regulations and the compliance costs that come with them. Read the full letter.

Land Real Estate Professionals Gather to Gain Knowledge, Prestige

June 16, 2016 (Chicago) – Over ninety courses were attended by twenty-six real estate land professionals during the Realtors® Land Institute’s 2016 LANDU Education Week plus in Little Rock, Arkansas, last week. This annual event is an opportunity for real estate and land professionals from across the country to gain knowledge and take advantage of the camaraderie that in-person education provides. A record number of attendees took all six of RLI’s LAND University courses to fulfill the education requirement of the prestigious Accredited Land Consultant designation.

Jeffrey Hignight, a professional farm manager, real estate broker, and partner at Glaub Farm Management, LLC, was one of the six attendees to successfully complete all six courses towards earning the ALC Designation during this year’s event. He recommends industry professionals attend, saying “LANDU week was a wise investment worth both the money and time.  I have made wonderful new friends from all over and added tools that will help me throughout my agricultural asset management and real estate brokerage career.  I can’t wait to finish the ALC designation process”.

Courses offered during the one-week event included, Land 101: Fundamentals of Land Brokerage; Agricultural Land Brokerage and Marketing; Land Investment Analysis; Site Selection; Tax Deferred 1031 Exchanges; and Eminent Domain. All courses are also offered online throughout the year.

National REALTORS Land Institute LogoAbout the Realtors® Land Institute
The Realtors® Land Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Realtors®, is the professional membership organization for practitioners who specialize in land real estate transactions. Over 100 years old, the Institute provides a wide range of programs and services that build knowledge, relationships, and business opportunities for the best in the land business. The REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) provides the education, tools, services, advice and networking opportunities that are the foundation for all land professionals to become the best in the business—to become an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC). For more information, visit rliland.com or call 800.441.5263.

Image: Land real estate professionals attend the Land Investment Analysis course during the 2016 LANDU Education Week plus.

Top Land Real Estate Blogs to Follow

With easy access to the internet, staying up to date on the latest trends in the industry has never been easier. However, it is important to find credible blogs–like the RLI Blog–from which to source your information. Here are a few of our favorite land real estate blogs to follow for news, advice, and insights. If we could, we would put our RLI Blog on here, but if you’re reading this you’ve already found us–congrats, you’re off to a good start! Now, here’s our list of the top land blogs to be regularly checking:

  1. The National Land Realty Blog
    We are a fan of this blog for a few reasons. The site is laid out to make finding blogs you’re interested in easy. Visitors can choose from categories like Hunting & Fishing, For Land Professionals, Conservation, Land News, and Featured Properties; there’s even a way to browse by state. Not to mention, the content is credible, relevant and there is a wide variety of topics covered. Plus, the authors are land professionals–just like you–who are experienced in the industry and are able to give valuable insights.
  2. Mossy Oak Properties
    If you’re in the land business, you need to be reading this blog. Between advice from How to Buy Land and How to Sell Land to Land Market Information and Life on the Land, this blog covers almost every aspect of a truly passionate land professional’s life. We wouldn’t be adding this on our list if the content wasn’t both credible and relevant.
  3. Lands of America Blog
    This blog is a helpful resource for anything related to buying and selling land. Whether looking for market trends, information on hot industry topics, or just good to know information, this blog has it all when it comes to land. As a leading listing site with insights into all kinds of valuable data, these posts are jam-packed with useful information making them a must read.
  4. LandThink
    If you are active on social media, you’ve probably come across a post or two from this awesome blog page. They offer posts covering a wide range of topics from niche areas of the industry to bigger picture topics. They also offer insights gathered from survey results they’ve accumulated to give information on the latest industry topics. With a clean look, easy navigation, and great information, its easy to get lost in their sea of posts about the land real estate industry.
  5. Land Blog… Get the Dirt!
    This one is a favorite, not just because one of our own Accredited Land Consultants runs it, but because it comes from a firsthand account of on the job experiences. If you’ve ever had a client ask questions like When is the best time to sell my property?, What do I need to know about due diligence? or How do I chose the right REALTOR® to sell my land?, then you’ll love reading through these gems to see just how an expert land consultant answered.
  6. Southeastern Land Group Blog
    If you’re looking for a blog where learning takes many forms, look no further! This blog not only has valuable written content, but they also have a steady stream of videos that keep industry professionals and their clients informed. While they don’t post as frequently, the content they do publish is high quality and there is no lack of quantity in their archive to explore. You know the content is good when it is coming from experienced professionals.

Regularly checking in on the latest posts from these industry experts can help keep you informed, provide new knowledge, and even help you to answer your clients most common questions with a fresh perspective. Make the most of these blogs by commenting and starting a discussion–you never know where the conversation will take you!

Obama Administration Loses Major Supreme Court Water Case

Supreme Court justices today handed the Obama administration a big loss in a high-stakes clean water case. The court ruled unanimously against the government in a case deciding when landowners can challenge certain decisions about water permits in court.

The case, Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. Inc., centers on a North Dakota peat mining company that wants to challenge a government determination that its mining plans would require costly Clean Water Act permits. The broader issue in the case was whether the Army Corps of Engineers’ “jurisdictional determinations” about whether permits are required represent “final agency actions” that can be challenged in court. Property rights advocates and industry contend that landowners should be able to contest those decisions in court; the government disagrees. 

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the court’s opinion, finding that a jurisdictional determination approved by the corps is indeed a “final agency action” that is subject to judicial review. Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justice Elena Kagan filed a concurring opinion, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring with the judgment. The justices seemed skeptical of the government’s position when they heard oral arguments in the case in March.

It’s the latest wetlands case, the Obama administration has lost in recent years. In 2012, the high court ruled 9-0 against the government in another important case where property owners sought to challenge U.S. EPA enforcement actions in court.

Riggs, RussellUpdate provided by Russell Riggs. In his position with the National Association of REALTORS®, Russell Riggs serves as the Institute’s Government Affairs Liaison in Washington, D.C., conducting advocacy on a variety of federal issues related to land.