vineyard

The Art of Buying Vineyards

This is part 1 of 2 from an article that originally appeared in the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Summer 2016 Terra Firma magazine.

So you think you want to own a vineyard, do you?!?  There is much romanticism in buying and/or owning a vineyard.  However, let’s take a look at the facts and attempt to put some sense into the process.

Vineyard land or vineyard potential land is not all the same.  First, one must get some questions answered.  What type of grapes is the buyer interested in growing: table grapes, juice grapes or wine grapes?  If it is wine grapes, of which variety?  Does it have irrigation water, and is there enough water for a sustainable crop?  Which way does the air drain?  By that, I mean, is there a slope or is it flat land?  If the land is flat, then one needs to do substantially more research before committing.  Land with a slope (even in any direction) allows for natural air drainage – either up or down the hillside.  If there are undulations in the land (hills and valleys) there could be cold pockets subjecting spring bloom to potential frost.  In the industry, these are referred to as “frost pockets”.

Juice grapes are hardier than wine grapes or table grapes.  Their growing season is short enough to allow them to be grown in nearly every northern state in the US.  Table grapes have both a longer growing season and a tender blossom.  They are grown a bit mid-line across the US to the more southern areas – usually in the foothills to valley floors in the eastern and western coastal inland areas of the US like California or the Carolinas and Georgia.  Both of these varieties strive for high production and quantity, needing substantial water for finishing.

grapesWine grapes, on the other hand, are much more temperamental.  They need some water, but not too much.  There is a very fine line between not enough and too much water for irrigation.  A smaller berry, starved slightly for water, produces a better quality wine in the end.  Slopes are nearly always preferred for wine grapes, regardless of variety.  Red varietals can take colder winters than the whites and are more susceptible to some diseases.

One should make note of the local weather patterns, spring and fall freeze dates and frost-free growing days.  Also, take note of the types of crops grown in the surrounding area.  Know the standards of practice for spray application to the neighboring lands.  Grapes are very much negatively affected by certain sprays, causing bloom drop and loss of production.  Bees are an important factor to consider as well.  Grapes do very well in areas where orchards and nut groves are prevalent for pollination.  The bees tend to linger longer where there is ample blossom time and fresh nectar.

Take a look at the soils.  Vines do not like to have wet feet, so, well drained soils are a major factor.  Have the soils tested for nutrients as a part of your ‘due diligence’ prior to closing the sale.  Know and understand the nutritional needs of your chosen varieties, and if the soils need amending to reach the plant requirements, find out what the cost will be to reach that goal.  You may determine that a nicer looking property may cost you more than your second choice if the cost to get the soils amended to optimum levels is cost prohibitive.  Find a crop consultant in the area who specializes in grape production to help you with your research.  You may also find a Land Grant University with agricultural specialties in the area that has a team or department with ties to the vineyard industry.  Always look for local, regional or state grower associations for advice and/or assistance.

Have a financial plan!  This is one of the most frequently miscalculated and misguided parts of the farming business in general.  Vineyards do not produce the first year, or the second year, and possibly not even the third year.  Know the cost of trellising, planting, pruning and training the vines before production.  Determine if hand picking or mechanical harvest will be done.  If you are not sure, plan for both.  Height, row spacing and end-row turnaround space are critical.

Plan out plantings in phases so that you can optimize the land and the expense calendar.  Order the vines from a reputable nursery.  ALWAYS ask for the patent and copyright certificate for the vines you purchase!  If the nursery says they don’t have one or that you don’t need one, go elsewhere.  Permanent plants are patented and copyrighted just like photographs, parts and paintings, and there are substantial fines and penalties associated with ‘patent infringement’ in America.  It is also against the law to make cuttings of patented plants for expanding your own growing area.  Just be aware!  Most of all…plan for disaster years; they will happen in agriculture, regardless of the crop.  One cannot control Mother Nature!

Next, know the varieties and the demand.  Remember, the ‘sipping public’ changes flavor trends often and suddenly.  Reds are always popular; however, popular taste may vary from light to heavy, oaky to clear, and whatever other flavors can arise in the process of fermentation, or whatever the marketing ploy is at the time.  Whites can vary widely from dry to sweet; there are cooking varieties, sipping varieties, and dessert and aperitif whites.  It is important to know the market, the demand, and watch the industry trends before getting financially buried in the vineyard business.

Get to know the other growers and vintners in the area.  They will be your biggest resource and greatest fans.  Wine growers, unlike hop growers, are extremely generous with sharing information about practices, operations and what’s new.  Plus, they’ll give you advice–solicited or not!

You have done your research, completed your due diligence, developed a master plan, and found a circle of friends, consultants and advisers…now, you must have a passion in order for your plans to meld into your life and future.  If you don’t have passion, one can give up or give in and the project can easily fizzle at the first bump in the road.

Flo Sayre, ALCAbout the author: Florence “Flo” Sayre, ALC, has been active in the land business for over forty years and licensed in the real estate industry for over twenty. A member of RLI since 2008, she is the current RLI Pacific Northwest Chapter President and the Chair of the ALC Designation Committee and serves on the RLI Board of Directors.

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Promoting Your ALC Real Estate Designation

No matter the industry, separating yourself from the competition is a critical component that can’t be overlooked. We RLI members know what an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) is, but does the public? I don’t believe they do. Isn’t our duty to educate the public? We are the elite members of the REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) and we need to inform the public about WHO we are, not just WHAT we do.

I would like to share some ideas/thoughts that fellow ALCs have shared with us which are working well for them.

Don’t market specific properties, market yourself! Tell the public who you are, how you got to be an ALC. Let them know about the rigorous requirements you had to meet to obtain the designation and how you can use your expertise to assist a client with their current real estate needs.

Educate everyone around you. Let your colleagues, clients, friends and family know what RLI is and how this amazing group of land professionals have helped you in your career. Let clients know that you have a huge network of experts to assist you in meeting their needs. Let them know having your ALC designation, sets you apart from the other millions of real estate agents. Get them to ask themselves, why use anyone else?

Establish connections. Develop a sold group of bankers, accountants, attorneys and financial advisors that you trust. Help the client with full process of their land sale or purchase. It’s more than just buying and/or selling; it’s helping them understand each step and how it will affect them financially.

Write land articles, blogs, post videos etc. These are great ways to position yourself in the industry as the expert you are and share your knowledge and expertise. It helps build a brand with the public that you are the go to person for all their real estate needs. Be the star you are!

These are just a few things that you can do to promote your ALC designation and set yourself apart as being the one they will come to when they think about selling or buying real estate.

I will leave you with this thought. Another MN ALC gathered some data and found out these staggering facts. There are 23,565 licensed real estate agents in the state of Minnesota and of those agents, there are only 13 are ALCs–in the whole state of Minnesota! I am proud to say that I am 1 of those 13 ALCs and I need to educate the public to again get them to ask the question………WHY USE ANYONE ELSE?

Quick fact: According to a recent Nielsen study, only 33% of buyers trust what a brand says about itself; however, 92% believe what their peers say about a brand! What does that mean to you? If you are an ALC you are the best recruiting tool to motivate and promote your peers to grow and join RLI. As the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers. The more RLI members, the more networking, awareness about the ALC, and organizational growth there will be–which benefits all ALCs!

wendy forthun, ALCWendy Forthun, ALC, is an experienced broker and 1 Stop Realty’s Vice President. Wendy joined RLI in 2006 and earned her Accredited Land Consultant designation from RLI in 2013. She has successfully marketed her esteemed designation to help grow her business.

THE REAL (E)STATE OF PRINT ADVERTISING IN THE DIGITAL AGE

This article originally appeared in the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Summer 2017 Terra Firma magazine.

More than one real-estate agent, borrowing from humorist Will Rogers, has advised, “Put your money in land, because they aren’t making any more of it”.

When it comes to where to advertise that land, the adage does not hold so true. Plenty of media vehicles are launching all the time—a vast, renewable resource of print, broadcast, outdoor, online, mobile and social-media outlets to explore. A marketer could be forgiven for wondering exactly where to invest the finite resources of an advertising budget.

The trick lies in putting the money where it matters most, where it will connect with people who’d be most interested in that new-model car, custom shirt maker or ranchland for sale. While data-rich digital platforms offer new ways to target individuals, traditional media, such as newspapers and magazines, remain a vital part of a successful marketing budget and continue to offer distinct advantages.

In the midst of the digital revolution, newspapers and magazines continue to deliver, and so does print advertising. A wealth of research shows that the printed-and-published-on-paper word still resonates today, extending to favorable demographics, longer interaction times, greater trust and other indicators that make a positive environment for advertisers. The combination of print and digital often make an ideal partnership, particularly in real estate marketing, where print advertising introduces a property and peaks interest, even among people who may not be actively looking, and digital draws prospects in further with virtual tours, slide shows and all the important specs.

newspaperIn 2015, consumer neuroscience researchers at Temple University released a study that explored how people responded to print and digital advertising. They concluded that each medium had its strengths, with digital grabbing sustained, focused attention and print ads engaging better emotionally.

The study, produced for the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, included test subjects looking at advertising in print and on digital screens, while receiving functional MRIs of their brains. While looking at paper ads, the MRIs revealed more activity in the areas of the brain associated with desire and motivation, indicating subjects had a more positive, subconscious response for the item being advertised—a great way to kick off the sales process.

Print and digital go hand in hand in other ways, too. A Wall Street Journal reader study found that subscribers read the print edition in the early morning (six in ten read the newspaper in print, according to the 2015 Ipsos Affluent Survey), later logging on to the paper’s website from a desktop or laptop during the workday and checking in throughout the day via their mobile devices.

Broader audiences display similar behavior. According to the Pew Research Center, citing a Nielsen Scarborough 2014 Newspaper Penetration Report, more than eight in ten people read the newspaper in print—fifty-six percent of people in print alone—with the remainder including online and mobile platforms through the day.

With morning tending to be the most popular time to pick up the newspaper, even in a world of twenty-four-hour news cycles, a print paper still provides an environment for advertisers to present their own big news. Reading the print edition is an engrossing interaction, a lean-in experience, with people engaging forty-five to fifty minutes a day with the print edition of The Wall Street Journal. In today’s content landscape, that is an incredible length of time to hold an individual’s attention.

Magazines have also retained vibrancy in the digital age. Samir Husni, the director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University Of Mississippi School Of Journalism has tracked trends in the industry for thirty years. Husni was happy to discover that during the first quarter of 2016, one-hundred and ninety-nine new titles launched, seventy-seven in January alone, compared to one-hundred and ninety-one which had debuted during the same period in 2015. In a blog on his website, Husni said, “One thing that I’ve noticed this year in following magazine media and the marketplace, no one is saying that print is dead anymore. That mantra has vanished.”

So who is the print reader? Demographics trend favorably to being able to make bigger purchases, with affluent, well-educated people indicating they read newspapers.  A 2016 Ipsos study revealed newspaper readers have an average net worth that is thirty percent higher than total affluents–$1.64 million compared to $1.27 million. The same distinction holds true at The Wall Street Journal, where print-only readers report net worth of $1.8 million, twelve percent higher than total brand readership. Wall Street Journal print readers have net worths that are sixty percent higher than television viewers.

Environment counts in real estate and it counts in advertising, too. A Pew Research Center study found numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Economist, ranked high in consumer trust across differing political philosophies, outpacing newer digital news outlets like BuzzFeed and Yahoo News.

With readers, right demographics and environment in place, today’s advertisers use print to capture attention and craft the right image and digital to drill down the details.

In addition to capturing the attention of people who are looking for real estate and those who originally were not, print ads also elevate the brand identity of the brokerage and sales agent.

These objectives would be difficult to achieve in a digital-only campaign, as online, people tend to search for specific things or enter actual web domains—behavior is more directed. Print showcases the property, hooks the prospect and directs him or her further down the sales funnel with digital listings, virtual tours, property slideshows and agents’ websites.

In this era of information overload, another way print is evolving is through creative executions. A clean, simple style—not too wordy or crowded with different elements cluttering the layout—works best to draw the reader’s attention and spur action. According to researcher GfK MRI Starch, the qualities that work best in successful print ads are:

  • Simplicity: A minimalistic design with not a lot of clutter. Copy that is equally simple to read.
  • Boldness: Judicious use of vivid color to grab attention.
  • Clarity: Memorable, direct headlines and similar body copy.
  • Contrast: Visual play of light and dark tones to create sharp contrast.

According to a recent study of Wall Street Journal readers, more than eight in ten read the weekly Mansion section, appearing in the Friday edition. Further, a 2014 Wall Street Journal proprietary study conducted with Ipsos Media CT, revealed twenty-two percent of The Wall Street Journal’s print readers had contacted a real estate broker as a result of a Wall Street Journal real estate ad.

As for what real estate advertising stood out best in the section, according to Starch, top-scoring ads featured ample use of white space, putting the headline, copy and key images in crisp isolation. Of special note, contact information was easy to see and not buried at the end of a copy block, as real estate advertising, more than anything, is a call to action to visit the website and contact the broker.

Starch’s best real estate ads also featured compelling, professional photography. Layouts that featured one, dominant photograph, or a main shot with one or two minor images, scored well.

In a 2015 REAL Trends survey, done in partnership with industry image and virtual-tour maker Virtuance, found ninety-four percent of agents “felt passionate” about using professional photography, believing it attracted buyers to their websites and burnished their brand images.

Headlines, sometimes as simple as the property’s name or address, or maybe a few descriptive details, succeeded in their simplicity, directness and ability to grab readers’ eyes. Copy urged readers to take action, often directing them straight to the property’s website for details and video.

Successful print ads look a lot like strongly performing digital ads, which were even sparser and cleaner—one key image, a headline and a caption often sufficing. As for mobile ads, with minimal screen space comes more simple layouts and little copy.

Real estate marketers have more tools than ever to sell a piece of land, and print complements a broader campaign that might begin with a sign on a fence post and end with an online 3D showcase.

One does not replace the other, as history has shown. The popular media of Will Rogers’ era—newspapers, magazines, billboards and radio—are still with us, but today they work in harmony with digital, satellite, virtual reality and whatever is to come.

Gallardo, MartiAbout the author: Marti Gallardo is Global Head of Advertising for Real Estate and Vertical Markets for The Wall Street Journal.  She and her team work with real estate professionals on smart marketing solutions, helping them connect their luxury and investment properties with qualified prospects. RLI members can save big on print advertising opportunities with the Wall Street Journal as part of the Member Advantage Program (MAP).

Social Media and the Land REALTOR®

This article originally appeared in the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Summer 2017 Terra Firma magazine.

I’ll be straight with you all: If you haven’t figured out how to use Facebook or Twitter – and built a sizable audience by now – don’t worry about it.  The saturation of sameness of real estate social media is palpable and, frankly, your audience might not be there.  However, from beginners to advanced users, there are ways to leverage social media in your business.  Here are some tips:

First, audit your audience

Before you use social media you must know whether or not you even have an audience there.  Go online to your social media accounts, subtract all your friends and family. Now, is your target audience for your marketing there?  If you’re an agent dependent on referrals from residential agents, are your partners there?  How much time do they spend there?  Researching what you have will determine what you will do on social media, so do a deep dive into your audience.

Audit yourself

If you’ve started accounts on Facebook or Twitter, is your website, contact information and status as a REALTOR® or ALC obvious?  Too many agents don’t take the time to complete their profile and add a current picture of themselves to the public elements of their social media, which is akin to not having a profile at all.  Whether you choose to use social media actively or passively, make sure a potential client can get ahold of you should they stumble upon your social media accounts.  Chances are, your social media will outrank almost any of your other web presence, so it’s just plain good business.  Use a Google Voice number generic email address (info@yoursite.com) to track the effectiveness of your accounts and to keep the spam emails and phone calls to a minimum.  Don’t forget about your website.  Does it have the “Like” and “Tweet” buttons anywhere on it?  Make sure your website is shareable on social media, especially if you’re creating content on your site that’s WORTH sharing.  More on that later.

Review and recommendation websites are social too!

Cementing your reputation by starting profiles on Google (google.com/business), Yelp (biz.yelp.com) and LinkedIn is something everyone should do.  LinkedIn, especially, is made for business-to-business relations and is the most business-centric social platform online right now.  Complete your profile with a current pic, and don’t forget your contact information and website!

Consider “groups”

In an effort to keep business away from personal lives, Facebook groups have become a major source of networking among professionals.  Most local and state associations, real estate designations and certifications and offline networking groups have a presence on Facebook.  “Search” on Facebook’s search bar for your local association or group.  NAR has a national group that can be joined here.  Make it a habit to go through groups – especially real estate groups – to see if an agent has a need.  The more active the group is, maybe post in it once a day.

Use Twitter like a media resource

Twitter isn’t for the meek and takes an active commitment to make its use worthwhile.  One of the best ways to quickly build an audience to engage with it is to follow local journalists, television news-people and pay attention to what they have to say.  Are they talking about real estate value?  Are they looking for stories on community development?  You can have meaningful conversations with people who move the needle in your local markets and grow your sphere while doing it.  Follow the more active residential agents in your area who are almost always looking for land and commercial real estate partners, as well!

Use video as a marketing platform

In my mind, the most relevant social platform available to a land agent is video, preferably on YouTube.  Whether you’re speaking on camera about tips to buy and develop land, using it to convey the size and scope of a land offering or re-envisioning what that land can be via digital mock-up recorded on video, the options are many.  The one thing about video that makes it stand out against its brethren is that it’s not viewed as a “toy” and a time-suck like Facebook and Twitter can be, plus YouTube’s little red “play” button has universal – and multi-lingual – appeal.  To wit, look no further than this video, created to be a vision of a potential mixed use development.  Parking videos like this on YouTube and then your website ramps up your organic search engine optimization. They are “social” in that anyone can share it to their social media if wanted, plus they can be viewed on a laptop or a smart phone alike.

Pay-to-play with social media and Google ads

Residential real estate is experiencing a bit of a paid marketing renaissance when it comes to effectiveness online and on social media due to the business models of online media and their need to make money.  The key to optimizing paid media, however, is to have content worth the click – from the internet browser’s point of view. As mentioned above, a social site with social content turns your website into an online destination, regardless of where the ad is placed – social media, Google, or otherwise.

Did you audit your audience?  Also mentioned above, that audit will determine where you should spend your ad money.  If it’s social media, direct your ads to those who have “liked” elements of your local market or even your city’s social media presence, or other businesses in the area complimentary to yours.  If it’s Google, explore the search trends of your market here: google.com/trends/ and direct per-click ads to the relevant audience.  Ads are not for the meek.  It takes investment in a high quality website and content to really leverage it properly.  Talk to a local small business online expert in your town for details.

So whether you are actively or passively leveraging social media in your business – or doing something in between – be social.  Think about whether or not what you’re doing – marketing-wise – is worth someone sharing it on social media.  Have a visible, social profile and reputation and be “out there” if someone needs your expertise.

hata, nobu, NARAbout the author: Nobu Hata is the Director of Digital Engagement for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). As a real estate technology and new media expert, he brings value-added information to NAR members, brokers and associations. Nobu regularly present at the RLI National Land Conference on the latest technology for real estate agents.

National Land Conference Hotel Charlotte Westin

Industry’s Largest Land Real Estate Event Hits Charlotte in 2017

August 3, 2016 (Chicago) The REALTORS® Land Institute is proud to announce that the most prestigious land real estate professionals in the business will gather at the Westin Charlotte for the 2017 National Land Conference from March 31-April 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The annual conference is an opportunity for the most elite and successful land professionals in the business to gather, share ideas, build relationships, and make deals.

As the premier educational and networking event for land real estate professionals, the conference hosts a full line-up of renowned industry speakers that will share tips and reveal insights into best practices. Nobu Hata, the Director of Digital Engagement for the National Association of REALTORS®, will be the featured finale speaker.

“This is a can’t miss conference for land professionals who are serious about growing their business, more confidently assisting clients and closing more deals. This annual event grows and becomes a more powerful tool every year for real estate professionals to propel themselves to success—the 2017 National Land Conference is no exception,” stated 2017 REALTORS® Land Institute President Brandon Rogillio, ALC.

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