Recruiting and Developing Our Most Valuable Asset

This piece originally appeared in the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Summer 2016 Terra Firma magazine.

You know it isn’t very difficult for an agent to shine in the real estate profession.  In some cases all they have to do is return a phone call or follow through on something they promised.  I think it is pretty sad that the bar is set that low….

whitetail2You can have a beautiful building and offices, state of the art website and office equipment and you can spend a fortune on PR, social media and marketing.  However, at the end of the day, if your company is not represented by professional real estate agents you are hurting your business, your brand and the real estate profession as a whole.

Make no mistake, when a real estate agent, regardless of who he or she is licensed with, represents himself in less than a professional manner due to his or her poor work ethic, lack of skill or dishonesty, every single one of us in the real estate profession pays the price.

One very common real estate business model is to hire as many agents as possible, offer them a large split and let them beat it out.  Meanwhile, whether those agents know what they are doing or not, they may acquire a listing or two simply because a friend or family member feels obligated to list with them.  This approach is strongly why over seventy percent of the real estate agents will quit this profession within two years.  I feel this business model is extremely unfair to the agents; unfair to the public; and catastrophically harmful to the image of our industry.

Forget the representation of your company for the moment and consider the amount of money that exchanges hands along with legalities, complexities and the consequences associated with the sale and purchase of land.  I believe our objective as brokers and leaders should be to hire the best people and support them through training, marketing and structure.  In essence, we pour everything we can into them to ensure they are successful and in turn we will be successful because our relationship will be bilaterally equitable.

Recruiting

Our primary recruiting resources are online companies like, Monster, Indeed and Zip Recruiter to name a few. We target the nearest major metropolitans to the areas we wish to populate. These companies cast pretty large nets in that they often have sub-chapters/boards and communities that extend their radius. Our collateral resources include: our own career page on our website; social media; LinkedIn careers; The Outdoorwire; outdoorindustryjobs.com; AGcareers.com and AgHires.com to name a few.

What we do not do at Whitetail Properties is try to recruit/steal-away other broker’s agents. When you consider that we work in an industry where we work together through co-brokers and referrals, trying to recruit agents away from other brokers does not feel anymore ethical to me than calling another broker’s client. If agents from other companies call us, we are more than happy to talk to them; however, we will never call them first.

The prospective agent’s initial phone interview is with our HR executive (we provide her with the qualifying criteria).  If the prospective agent makes the cut, HR then sets up a second phone interview with our three-person interview panel. We then rate the candidate on a scale of one through ten on a ten-line score sheet.  If the candidate makes the second cut, we then setup an in person interview.  If the candidate gives a good personal interview we sign them up for the next orientation after they’ve obtained their real estate license.  It’s important that they attend orientation before we allow them to represent our company and our brand.

Basic Foundation

There are a lot of real estate companies that will hire anyone who has a pulse and the ability to acquire a real estate license.  I believe that this, along with a lack of training, is why many people stereotype real estate agents as a bunch of incompetent crooks.

We have four basic cornerstones when considering a new agent:  First and foremost, the prospective agent has to be an honorable person; the prospective agent has to be passionate about land and every aspect of land; the prospective agent has to have a strong work ethic; and the prospective agent has to be professional.

We can teach real estate, but in my opinion by the time human beings reach adulthood we can’t make them love land or teach them to be honorable!

Additional Prerequisites:

  • Financially Stable
  • Ability to work full time
  • Self-motivated
  • Accountable
  • Trainable

Developing Superstars

whitetailOrientation

We are accountable for and to our agents.  For this reason, we do not allow our agents to represent our company until they have attended orientation.  At Whitetail Properties’ three-day orientation, our goal is to give our agents everything they need to start their career on a successful path.

Weekly Webinars

Our weekly webinars provide our agents with solid career building knowledge. The topics cover everything from utilizing your sphere of influence to recognizing a property’s highest and best use.  Training is not something that you do once in a while.  Training has to be scheduled and repeated on a regular basis.  The key is to keep it fresh, informative, relative, productive and entertaining.

Maintaining Pro-active Contact

It’s important to maintain regularly scheduled calls with agents in order to review, mentor and coach them.  You see, the agents who contact their brokers for assistance are generally the ones working deals.  However, the agents who typically need help the most are the ones we don’t hear from because they are not working anything so it’s very important that we reach out to them and explore what they are doing and how we can help them

Support

Every member of our staff is employed for the sole purpose of helping our agents become successful and continue to grow their businesses.  In addition to the office and administrative staff, the following employees are at our agents disposal: we employ our own graphic designer, marketing director, advertising team, creative director, production department, IT department, compliance officer, accounting department, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer as well as team leaders and brokers.  Of course we did not start off with such an extensive staff.  We realized early on that in order to grow our business and our agents’ businesses, we had to develop a formula where we employed key staff members for every X number of agents.

Experience

The most important thing we teach our agents is that our client’s experience is the single most important part of their jobs. None of us will sell every tract of land we list, but when our ultimate goal is not necessarily to sell the listing but rather to provide our clients with the ultimate land buying or selling experience, we will sell more land.  In addition, we will receive more referrals and elevate the image of our company and of the industry.

There are too many real estate companies who feel making the sale is more important than working in their client’s best interest; more important than building a relationship; more important than being a professional and even more important than being honest.  This has to change.

Our Most Valuable Asset

Our agents are unquestionably our most valuable assets.  However, we can’t just wind them up and turn them loose. Through explanation and repetition we have to instill our company’s core values in our agents.  Our company’s ideology is the foundation from which we’ve grown our business.  Without a solid foundation based on integrity you are not developing or nourishing your most valuable assets.

As I mentioned before, we have to provide a consistent training program.  We have to take every opportunity to mentor and guide our agents and we have to teach our staff how to best assist our agents to ensure their success.  Along with this, we don’t allow agents to simply “hang their licenses” with us.  If we teach, train and mentor our licensees they become our most valuable assets.  However, if we do not teach, train and mentor an agent, that agent becomes our biggest liability!

We take our obligation to our agents; to our clients; to the public; to the States where we are licensed; and to all of our fellow brokers and agents in the industry very seriously.   Although as brokers we are held responsible and accountable for every one of our agents, there is no possible way that we can be present every single time our agents interact with buyers, sellers, customers or clients.  However, we can pour into our agents on a regular basis to ensure they conduct themselves, knowledgably, honestly, professionally and responsibly.  After all, they are our most valuable assets.

perez-danAbout the author: Dan Perez, RLI Member, is the CEO, Chief Broker, and one of the Founding Owners of Whitetail Properties Real Estate as well as the host of the ever-popular Whitetail Properties television show. Dan is passionate about the land business and driven by hiring and developing real estate agents to become multi-million-dollar land specialists.

Senate GOP seeks swift action against ‘ominous’ regulation

Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today released a 38-page report accusing U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers of advancing “very broad claims of jurisdiction” in Clean Water Act disputes.  The report also warned that a recent Supreme Court win for landowners in a case about who can challenge certain decisions about water permits in court could become “moot” if Congress does not act to withdraw the Clean Water Rule.

The Obama administration’s rule, also known as Waters of the United States, defines which waterways and wetlands receive automatic protections under the Clean Water Act. In October, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put the rule on hold nationwide while litigation plays out .  Republican members on the EPW Committee and foes of the rule have previously accused EPA and the corps of flouting the court’s order by asserting broad jurisdiction over the nation’s waterways.

The report argues that the agencies are taking a narrow view of exemptions for farming, highlighting several case studies of jurisdictional battles taking place across the country.

“The reach of federal authority claimed by EPA and the Corps is, in the words of Justice Kennedy, ‘ominous,'” the majority’s report says. “That ominous authority would be codified in the WOTUS rule. As a result, if that rule goes into effect, the hard-won right to challenge Corps jurisdictional determinations will become meaningless.”

Luke Worrell, ALC, Named 2016 Illinois Farm & Land Broker of the Year by the Illinois Farm & Land RLI Chapter

The REALTORS® Land Institute is proud to announce that Luke Worrell, ALC, of Worell Land Services has received the 2016 Illinois Farm & Land Broker of the Year Award from the Illinois Farm and Land Chapter of RLI. Luke is the youngest recipient of this award since 1979.

The award was presented to him by his father Allan Worrell, ALC, who was the 2015 recipient. “I couldn’t be more proud of Luke, both as his dad and his colleague. People often say that Luke is following in my footsteps, but in reality, the way he does business challenges me to continue to grow in our profession,” said Allan of his son’s accomplishment.

luke-worrell

Luke is active within the National REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) serving on their Education Committee, National Land Conference Committee and as a contributor to the RLI Blog. He is also a board member for the Illinois Chapter of RLI, which earned the 2015 Outstanding Chapter Award.

Read the full press release.

RLI Iowa Chapter Releases 2016 Iowa Land Trends & Values Survey

The Iowa Chapter of REALTORS® Land Institute is pleased to announce the results of their September 2016 Iowa Land Trends & Values Survey. REALTORS® Land Institute is an affiliate of the National Association of REALTORS® and is organized for REALTORS® who specialize in farm and land sales, management, development and appraisal. Participants in the survey are specialists in farmland, and are asked for their opinions about the current status of the Iowa farmland market.

Participants were asked to estimate the average value of farmland as of September 1, 2016. These estimates are for bare, unimproved land with a sale price on a cash basis. Pasture and timberland values were also requested as supplemental information.

Survey Results

The results of the 2016 Iowa Land Trends & Values Survey show a statewide average decrease of cropland values of -3.7% for the March 2016 to September 2016 period. Combining this decrease with the -5.0% decrease reported in March 2016 indicates a statewide average decrease of -8.7% from September 1, 2015 to September 1, 2016. Since our highs in 2013 we have seen a decrease in land values roughly 25-30% according to our surveys.

All nine Iowa crop reporting districts showed a decrease in the average farmland value. The districts varied from a -2.4% decrease in SC district to a -5.8% decrease in SW district since March 2016.
Factors contributing to current farmland values include: lower commodity prices and limited amount of land on the market. Other factors include: lack of stable alternative investments, cash on hand, and increasing interest rates.

The Iowa Chapter of REALTORS® Land Institutes farmland value survey has been conducted in March and September since 1978. This survey, plus the RLI Farm and Ranch Multiple Listing Service, are activities of REALTORS® specializing in agricultural land brokerage on a daily basis. For more information about this survey, please contact Kyle Hansen, ALC, at 515-382-1500.

vineyard

The Art of Selling a Vineyard

This is part 2 of 2 of an article that originally appeared in the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Summer 2017 Terra Firma magazine.

Although it is somewhat romantic to purchase a vineyard, it can be stressful, emotional or drudgery to sell one that you have put your life and soul into and worked at for years.  A buyer may not have the same passion as the seller.

Vineyards sell for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps the owner has improved it to the point of capacity and wants a new challenge.  Perhaps there is a death in the family and the succeeding generation does not have the desire or passion to continue. Possibly a vineyard has produced some exceptional grapes for wine or juice and a major player wants the label and juice bad enough to pay an exorbitant price for the vineyard.   Perhaps there is financial difficulty that dictates moving on.

Juice grapes hold very little, if any, additional value for the variety.  That land is considered similar to row crop land except that the vines need to be scraped off to make way for a higher and better use.  Unlike merely a few years ago, when grape cooperatives had shares and the shares in the co-op held some value, the co-op shares are nearly worthless in today’s market.  The returns are lower than most any other crop, especially in the western states, and growers are actually losing money in places.  There is approximately a $1,000 to $1,500 cost to pull the vines and remove the infrastructure from a site.  Sellers may take a hit in price for this reason unless the buyer has a higher use for the land.

Table grapes, on the other hand, tend to retain their longevity as a crop.  Disease and urban encroachment are the largest factors confronting sellers of this type of land.

vineyard

Wine vineyards have exponentially more hurdles in the selling process.  Much of it is emotional; however, location within a specific American Viticulture Appellation (AVA) lends higher or lower value to a vineyard.  One in demand can, and usually does, sell at a substantially higher value than the same plantings across the road if they do not sit within the desired AVA.  Red Mountain AVA in southeastern Washington, is one of the smallest AVA’s known. The prices for vineyards and vineyard potential land can command one and a half to two times the price as a similar land parcel merely across the road–simply because of where someone drew the line for the AVA!

When selling, there are specific disclosures required.  The disclosure most often overlooked is the five-year crop pesticide and chemical use records.  There are also production records, income and expense records, labor hour records and sales contracts to disclose.  Much of this type of information is disclosed only with ‘confidentiality agreements’ signed by potential buyers.  Plus, there are state mandated disclosures that vary from state to state.  In addition, some sellers may demand potential buyers to be registered and pre-qualified with a lender’s letter in hand before they will show or release any information about the property.  If there are homes, buildings, or commercial parts to the sale, then, separate disclosures may be required for each endeavor.

One of the most important aspects of selling a vineyard (or any property for that matter) is keeping it clean, weed-free and presentable to the buying public.  First impressions make a HUGE difference when buying a piece of property.  Remember, sellers… Buyers often rely as much on emotional connection to a property as they do on business sense.  A clean and showy place makes all the difference–especially if there is more than one property that a particular prospect is considering.

Vineyard sellers would also be wise to have in their possession (or at least make available or have access to) the weather data, seasonal harvest dates, freeze data and so forth in order for a buyer to make an informed decision about the property.  The varieties, number of acres planted, age of vines, type of root stock (if they are grafted cuttings), row spacing, plants per acre, type of trellis, type of irrigation system, etc. are all pertinent to the sale.  In addition, a recent soil analysis and pH analysis are very helpful to potential buyers and their brokers.  The most important part of disclosures is to BE HONEST!  If there has been a disease or problem in the vineyard, disclose it even if it has been corrected.  Detail any environmental concerns such as being downwind from a processing facility, excessive dust from a gravel crusher, dairy nearby (fly spots on berries), etc.  The more honest, complete and accurate the disclosure is, the less liability the seller shoulders in any transaction.

Also, sellers should think through the end of the transaction.  What are they going to do with the money?  Bank it and pay capital gains, convert the sale into an IRS 1031 Tax Deferred Like-Kind Exchange, split a partnership or family holdings?  Bring in a qualified Certified Public Accountant early in the process so there are no last minute surprises–and be prepared for a long ride.  Vineyard listings, especially wine vineyards, either sell very quickly or may take several years.  If the numbers fit the return profile, they may sell quickly.  If not, it may take a while.  Investors don’t usually jump into the buying process on smaller acreages unless they have other similar property in the area or the holding and profit margin are substantial.  As with most family-owned vineyards, that is not the case.  You may need to take an additional harvest or two before you find the right buyer.  Hang on for the ride!

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.