Four Reasons You Should Never Buy Land Without An ALC

Let’s face it, buying or selling land real estate can be terrifying. There have been countless times I have noticed visible anxiety on people as they contemplate a transaction. We live in an era where one “bad apple” can spoil the whole bunch.  The news of bad real estate experiences travels fast. The value an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) can bring when purchasing or selling a property is becoming increasingly more substantial. There are many reasons to never buy land without an ALC, but let’s focus on four.

Trust

This is kind of like hitting a baseball on a tee, but it can’t be said enough. Society tends to hear the horror stories and it can be hard for people to feel a sense of trust from a real estate agent. Right or wrong, sometimes us agents get lumped into the over-generalized stigma of used car salesmen and attorneys (comment not intended for the fantastic attorneys with whom I work!). There are far more honorable agents than bad ones, and that is distinctly the case within the REALTORS® Land Institute.  Someone who has taken the time to obtain the ALC designation learns through education and experience that you are often only as good as your reputation. The backbone of becoming an ALC is defining yourself as a trusted professional with high moral character.

Skill

When it comes to selling land, I am absolutely convinced that ALCs are the best in the business.  For starters, you can only become a designated ALC after you have proven yourself in the field.  ALCs are given countless opportunities to hone their craft in negotiations and property presentation.  Through the National Land Conference, Summer Education Week, Online courses, Webinars, ALC to ALC teleconferences and the top-notch staff at the national office, ALCs are given the tools to grow.  A rookie coming into the major leagues for the first time doesn’t stop practicing, and likewise an ALC doesn’t rest on the three letters of the designation.  We are all a work in progress who uses the tools available to get better every day.

Knowledge

I am not a self-proclaimed intellectual genius by a long shot, but I can tell a client without a shadow of a doubt that I am smarter in my field and better equipped because of my ongoing ALC status.  The diversity of knowledge I have obtained through my involvement with the REALTORS® Land Institute is impressive to be honest.  That statement has nothing to do with my IQ or ability to retain information; it has everything to do with what is offered to each and every ALC. What about your competitor at John Doe Reality down the street whose staff hasn’t pursued the ALC and LANDU’s education?  Do they know about Delaware Statutory Trusts, 1033 involuntary conversion exchanges, Timber REITS, current legislation challenges, natural resource negotiations, etc., etc.?  I am confident that an ALC is much better-rounded in knowledge than your typical non-ALC agent.  I don’t see any avenue that would lead me to achieving this vast knowledge without being an ALC.

Connections

When I attended the 2011 National Land Conference in Nashville, I was green as grass and very new to the real estate game.  I remember hearing people talk about the networking and being able to swing all of these deals because of the platform being an ALC provided them.  I have to be honest, that part of me wanted to think these comments were “fluff” or “humble bragging”.  Time and experience corrected me.  Just this year, I was able to help close on one of the largest deals I’ve had the privilege of working on.  The ONLY reason it happened is because of a friendship through RLI.  The large farm wasn’t even being advertised, but my sellers had mentioned that if the right investor came along with a lease back possibility, they would listen.  I made one call.  It was a winding road from there, but it got done and only because of RLI and our bond as ALCs.  Similarly, I have a client moving out to Wyoming.  I have been to Wyoming a couple times, but my knowledge of Wyoming begins and ends with knowing it is out West and is gorgeous. With that said, I can confidently refer him to several ALCs from the Wyoming chapter.  This is a people business. Knowing like-minded professionals throughout the country is a huge asset that not many agents can provide.

Do You Need An Accredited Land Consultant to buy land?

These reasons all sound so simple and in some ways they are.  But, you could delve further into each of these reasons and find sub categories (and sub categories of those sub categories!) on how valuable an ALC can be in this industry.  I shudder to think about how my quality of service would be if I hadn’t made the decision to give it my all within the REALTORS® Land Institute. Maybe I would be oblivious to my shortcomings, but knowing what I know now, I can’t possibly recommend someone buy a property without the help of an ALC.

Contributor Luke Worrell, ALC, Worrell Land Services
Luke Worrell, ALC, is a Broker and Accredited Farm Manager in Jacksonville, IL. He specializes in agricultural real estate and land management in west central Illinois. Luke enjoys all things sports and traveling. He resides in Springfield, IL with his wife Allison and two sons Kale and Benson.

Top Reasons to Invest in Buying Rural Homes & Properties

This article originally appeared in the 2017 Winter Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

As fall and winter are around us, I can think of nothing better than to drive out in the open country side and appreciate the views, the rolling pastures and the calm. You may want to stop and smell the fresh air and the crispness as it surrounds you. No vehicles except for an occasional farm truck or tractor. This is the country. For me, this is the land that lies between Houston and Austin and San Antonio.

Our offices are constantly asked about moving to the country. Their reasoning is the return to their hometowns, different lifestyle, out of the hustle and bustle, maybe the love of the land. But it is also investment. This is all the land we have. There cannot be any more manufactured for growth, enjoyment, recreation.

Our location is rural from towns of less than 100 to those of 15,000 or more. But the air is cleaner, fresher, the small town lifestyle of festivals, fiestas, parades and other fun and unique gifts of small town living abounds.

Rural Land Real Estate

So what is rural living? Obviously the population is much less. Our houses are spaced more widely apart. Even in town lots are larger. Go outside city limits and tract size grows by leaps and bounds. There is room for grazing animals, large pieces of agricultural land and greenery. We live in nature, which has a very positive effect on our health. Pollution levels are lower due to fewer vehicles and less industry. Our technology is catching up, and many people in rural areas have short to no commutes and work shorter work weeks. You have privacy, it is peaceful, and there is tradition.

Groceries, pharmacies, and medical facilities are more accessible than ever. Hard working people, who still care about what they do, provide services equal to or better than those found in urban areas. People hold the door open and ladies or the elderly are first to pass through. Politeness and manners still matter more than in most urban areas and are always noticed. It is safer, but as the larger cities grow out towards our country towns, the reality is you still need to take heed of what is around you. However, being in the country, you will also find many people carry handguns and you will still see pickups with a gun rack–a natural deterrent in the country.

The problem arises when the property is more expensive than expected, when a buyer thinks they are aware of the costs of building, upkeep and hard work it is to own a country property. This is no different from any other area of the country. Most of all, they think fifty acres is their goal but have no idea what it means. They get out on property and they are shocked to see how big it is, quickly twenty acres or ten acres is much more in their plan. Naturally, there are still large parcels available for the farmer or rancher want-to-bes. That is part of what we do in the farm and ranch business. It is essential that we as land specialists help the buyer with what purchasing a farm or ranch really means.

Property for $5,000 to $100,000 per acre and all in-between are possible to locate. But where do you want to be? Are you going to live permanently on the property or is it a weekend, future retirement property. Our property in this triangle is not inexpensive. That being said, I just sold a half-acre lot in a very desirable in town subdivision for $200,000!

A question remains: How are we going to be proactive in rural areas and not hang on to the success of the past? How do we encourage young people to want to be involved in rural farming if you don’t have a proactive message? You are competing against the world and opportunities everywhere in more urban areas. Young people need opportunity to continue to run the family farm or ranch or to stay in their hometowns and not feel they cannot make a living in small town America.

Rural America encompasses nearly seventy-five percent of the land area of the United States. It only accounts for fifteen percent of the country’s population. The census bureau classifies rural areas as open country and settlements with fewer than 2,500 residents.

Industry and college educations have pulled our young citizens into urban areas where they marry and grow their families. Most of them do not return to their rural roots. However, as we see in our area of Texas, more young families are coming back, not in droves but in steady thoughtful ways. Family roots, family farms and ranches and a slower pace. We still need to find a way to make rural America enticing enough for those in their twenties and thirties and forties to stay, work and raise their family.

How do we do that? This area for certain is seeing growth due to our most desirable location in that magical triangle spoken of before. An hour to Houston, 1.5 hours to Austin and 2.5 hours to San Antonio makes this a great place to be. Our economy has turned to tourism as a major factor to entice the public here. Fifty years ago it was agriculture mostly driving the economics. New companies are eyeing our area due to the location, as our Economic Development and Chamber of Commerce work diligently to increase work places and jobs.

Second home ownership is driven by amenities and age. Let’s get the children back to our family roots and be closer to grandparents. Let’s buy a weekend place so we can breathe, relax and socialize in a different way. If our area is 60 percent second homes, that is a huge population to get engaged when owners only come to the country maybe twice a month, if that.

farm house

Another point of rural living is scientific. It is confirmed what every urbanite has long suspected, life in the city is more stressful. Those people who are born and raised in urban areas are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and schizophrenia than those brought up in the countryside. Studies show, that exposure to green space reduces stress, boosts health and makes us less vulnerable to depression. This information comes from a study of the brains of volunteers from urban and rural areas.

Pollution, toxins, or noise could all contribute, however, other studies show access to green space soothes frayed nerves and improves wellbeing. Further studies show, that those with access to the county side are less likely to have heart disease or strokes.

Is this what contributes to the rise in retired people moving to our area? I say so, but also our area is culturally diverse. Orchestra performances, plays with professional actors, restoration of old buildings, shops with high end goods, restaurants and other venues for concerts and music of all types as well as restaurants with more refined menus are popping up all over. The rural arts are benefiting all age groups as spectator or participants. Renovations to existing buildings, are giving them the ability to support more activities for young people drive the younger residents to stay and enjoy events and to invite their friends from the big cities. If we can culturally capture their interest, it is much better as they experience the benefits for all citizens. Years ago I would hear people say there was nothing to do here…. Not anymore!

Also, a small community lets you participate in helping others for fundraising to save a theater, museum, parks, libraries and hospitals. A great fear for country towns is not only the loss of the countryside itself but also the way of life and the community involvement. General concern and care of neighbors and generations of tradition is the focus. We take care of each other and work together to bring a new soccer field, sports complex and other fights for the community.

One thing about living in the country is that when the power goes out after a major storm, it could be days or weeks before power is restored. If a piece of equipment breaks down, it may take weeks to repair and this can mean trouble when it is essential to the running of your farm, ranch or small property. There are no push mowers on properties with twenty acres or more! You become self-sufficient because you have to be. You do a lot more hands-on repairs that you never dreamt of needing to do. It’s an exercise in patience, willingness to learn, taking turns and helping neighbors. In that way, you earn a pat on the back, a handshake, a beer on the porch and know that the person you just helped get a job done is a person you can rely on to assist you, too. Neighbors are key in the country. It is a pace of life you learn to live with.

That is not to say that being part of the country community can take some getting used to. From uninvited visitors, human and wildlife, to the internet not working, cell phones dropping calls in low areas, septic tanks instead of sewers, no streetlights or pavement, it is a far cry from many newcomers previous urban lifestyles.

I hope people will come to visit and stay a little longer than for an ice cream cone or a beer. I hope people come to experience our way of life, the more they can enjoy, appreciate and support it. Our future lies in being able to deliver sustainable communities with thriving local economies made for and by the people who live there.

Cathy Cole, ALCAbout the author: Cathy Cole, ALC, Owner/CEO of Heritage Texas Country Properties, the largest real estate company in south central Texas. She served as the Chair of the REALTORS® Land Institute’s 2016 Government Affairs Committee and as President of the Texas Chapter of RLI. Cathy serves on the Nominating Committee for Texas Association of REALTORS® and is currently a member of their Land Use Sub-Committee. She is also a founding member of the Texas Land Brokers Network.

The Risk of Buying Land Without Using a Land Real Estate Professional

Why do we buy land?  We buy land for:

  • Use as an owner/operator
  • Recreation
  • Investment
  • 1031 exchange
  • Development
  • A legacy
  • Retirement…..

How many types of land are there?

  • Agricultural – farms and ranches
  • Confinement operations: hog, dairy, poultry
  • Agribusiness uses: elevators, seed processing plants, etc.
  • Timber
  • Orchards/vineyards (permanent plantings)
  • Hunting/recreational
  • Development
  • Land-in transition
  • Commercial
  • Residential
  • …the list is lengthy!

Land real estateHow, then, do you make an educated decision in the acquisition or disposition of land?  How do reach your land goals and objectives?  Do you know where to start and the questions to ask?

When you work with a qualified land real estate professional, such as an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC), the land professional can assist you in reaching your goals and objectives through:

  • Asking the right questions to determine what those goals & objectives are
  • Once identified, to provide thoughtful analysis and innovative solutions to help you reach those goals
  • Presenting you with appropriate information on current economic conditions at the local, regional, national and global levels; interest rate trends; commodity prices and effect on land values/rents/sale prices; as well as updates on legislative issues that affect your land
  • Discussions to determine if you should/could do a 1031 exchange, DST, or other tax deferment with the sale proceeds based on your goals/objectives, how large a tax consequence there will be…
  • Determining the highest and best use of your land
  • Handling mineral or water rights issues using the proper legal avenues and guidelines
  • Marketing your property appropriately including through the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Land Connections listing site, Lands-of-America affiliation, as well as marketing at the state and national meeting marketing sessions.
  • … again, the list is lengthy due to the depth and breadth of issues for any tract of land.

Minimize the risk with your largest investment by working with an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) who can provide the connections, education, experience, and expertise to guide you through the changing, complex world of today’s land market. Before you consider buying or selling a tract of land real estate, make sure to Find a Land Consultant to ensure you get the best representation possible.

Terri Jensen, ALC land real estateAbout the author: Terri Jensen, ALC, was the 2015 National RLI President. She is currently the VP Real Estate/Appraisal Operations at Upper Midwest Management Corporation. She is a licensed REALTOR®/Broker in Minnesota and Nebraska as well as a licensed appraiser and auctioneer in Minnesota.

land real estate title issues

The Top Three Real Estate Title Issues REALTORS® Need to Know

This article originally appeared in the 2017 Winter Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

Nothing is worse in the eyes of a real estate professional than discovering an issue with the title to real estate on the heels of a scheduled closing. Real estate title issues come in a multitude of varieties, forms and fashions, and depending on the severity of the issue, can stop a real estate deal dead in its tracks, as well as render the title essentially worthless. The good news is that a solution for nearly every issue exists. The remedies available depend greatly on the issues and factual circumstances. In any event, identifying the problem as soon as possible is essential to resolving the issue in the most efficient and inexpensive manner. Before committing to purchase an interest in real estate, due diligence in the form of reviewing a title commitment and current survey is imperative to discovering and resolving potential issues with real estate titles. A thorough review of a title commitment and current survey will reveal most title issues, including three of the most common title issues encountered by real estate professionals: (i) blanket easements, (ii) boundary issues and (iii) errors and omissions in the chain of title. Below is a brief overview of these top three title issues, along with some suggested solutions and practice pointers for the real estate professionals who encounter them.

Blanket Easements

A blanket easement, also known as a floating easement, is basically an easement that is not limited to a specific portion of the servient tract over which it was granted but, instead, encumbers the entire tract. In some instances, the grantor and grantee intend the easement to be blanket in nature. A conservation easement or flowage easement are both examples of easements generally intended by the parties to be blanket in nature. Other times, blanket easements arise contrary to the parties’ intentions and as a result of the instrument granting the easement failing to limit or describe the area over which the easement is located. Regardless of the scenario, a blanket easement generally constitutes a significant title defect, because the easement holder’s rights significantly limit or prohibit the right of the landowner to use and enjoy the servient tract.

Often times, an unintended blanket easement will arise from an instrument containing ambiguous language, such as language conveying an easement over “a twenty foot (20’) wide portion of the Northwest Quarter (NW1/4) of Section Ten, Range Three West, Township Four North.” While, by the terms of the grant, the easement area is limited to a twenty-foot wide portion of the subject tract, the instrument essentially grants a blanket easement over the entire tract because it fails to specify which twenty-foot wide portion of the tract is encumbered by the easement. Blanket easements on this nature create significant title issues, especially from a development standpoint.

Continuing with this example, consider a scenario where the landowner has entered into an agreement to sell the servient tract to a developer who intends to develop a shopping center on the tract, contingent upon a satisfactory review of the title. Assume also the blanket easement is one for the installation and operation of an underground pipeline, and the instrument prohibits construction of buildings, fixtures and other above-ground improvements within the twenty-foot wide easement area.

Since any development within the 20-foot wide easement area is prohibited and the easement area could consist of any 20-foot wide portion of the servient tract, title to the tract is defective because any development is prohibited as a result of the blanket easement.

So what’s the solution? The good news is there may be several, all of which depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding the grant and use of the easement. For example, if the pipeline has not been installed, one solution commonly utilized is to obtain and record an amendment or modification to the easement instrument from the holder that terminates the easement as it applies to the entire tract and establishes the specific 20-foot wide easement area. Additionally, the accommodation doctrine recognized in many jurisdictions generally provides that where an easement instrument does not establish a definite location of the easement area, the grantee does not acquire a right to use the servient tract without limitation, and the owner of the servient tract processes the right to establish its location, provided such right must be exercised in a reasonable manner, with due regard to the rights of the easement holder. If the owner of the servient tract can produce evidence establishing the parties intended the easement to apply to a certain 20-foot wide portion of the tract, the owner may also seek to have a court reform the instrument to limit the easement area to a specific portion of the servient tract. If the pipeline has been installed, the common law in many jurisdictions provides the undefined boundaries of an easement granted for a specific purpose can become fixed by use of the land for the prescribed purpose with the consent or acquiescence of the owner.

Boundary Issues

Boundary issues are common title issues that generally result from the true boundary being located somewhere other than where the owner believes it to be. The discrepancy in boundary line locations may also be the result of natural forces, such as accretion or avulsion caused by waterways. Other times, boundary lines may change as a result of the owner’s action or inaction. Boundary line issues attributable to the owner include changes in the location of boundary lines that result from adverse possession or agreements with adjoining landowners. Additionally, some states recognize the doctrine of boundary by acquiescence, which is similar to adverse possession and arises when adjoining landowners tacitly agree to recognize a boundary other than the true surveyed boundary shared by the parties.

Determining whether boundary issues exist before purchasing real estate is an absolute necessity because unresolved issues can eventually result in the record owner being divested of title to all or a portion of its property, as well as the improvements located thereon. The only means for confirming whether a boundary line issue exists is a current survey. A survey, however, is only as good as the surveyor who prepared it. When selecting a surveyor, keep in mind that, like real estate attorneys, not all surveyors were created equal. Thus, it is equally important the surveyor selected has sufficient experience, is licensed in the state where the property is located and is of good repute. Along those lines, consider retaining a surveyor who is a member of the National Society of Professional Surveyors and familiar with the area where the property is located.

If the current survey reveals a boundary issue, several methods for resolving the issue are available. An obvious solution to the issue is for the landowner to either convey or purchase the encroachment area. Another common solution is a boundary line agreement between the adjoining owners, whereby the owners agree to the true location of the boundary, regardless of the parties’ past or future actions, or the existing location of boundary markers (such as drainage ditches or fences). An easement agreement may also be utilized if the encroaching fixture or improvement will remain in its current location. Alternatively, a quitclaim deed from the adjoining owner may also be used to extinguish any interest the adjoining owner may have acquired through adverse use or acquiescence. If a quitclaim deed is utilized, however, encroaching fixtures or improvements should also be removed in conjunction with the conveyance or the issue will likely resurface at a later point. If these remedies are unavailable, boundary issues may be resolved by a quiet title action or an action for a declaratory judgment.

Chain of Title Errors and Omissions

Title issues commonly arise from errors and omissions in the chain of title and are often the result of sloppy drafting and undocumented conveyances. Incorrect and invalid legal descriptions; mistaken, misnamed and omitted parties; and ineffective acknowledgements are common examples of chain title issues arising from careless drafting. Chain of title issues caused by undocumented conveyances are commonly the result of undocumented intestate transfers between family members, as well as failures to open a probate estate for a decedent/landowner. Some chain of title issues are not substantive issues or constitute title defects—other times, the result may be a complete failure of title.

In many instances these issues can be corrected through a correction instrument, modification agreement, or scrivener’s error affidavit. Because these corrective measures generally require one or more of the parties or their attorneys to execute the remedial instrument, time is very much of the essence. If the issues are not discovered until many years after their creation, the remedies available are significantly limited. Below is a list of some practice pointers for real estate professionals to avoid or remedy chain of title issues:

  1. Use a Valid Legal Description. An instrument purporting to affect the title to real property must contain a valid legal description, which are usually in the form of a platted, lot and block description or a metes and bounds description. Tax parcel numbers and property addresses are generally invalid legal descriptions. Most importantly, if the legal description is referenced as an exhibit, don’t forget to attach the exhibit.
  2. Attach the Legal Description. It is easy to make a typographical error when retyping a legal description. An instrument affecting title to real property must contain a valid legal description, and in order to be valid, a metes and bounds legal description must “close.” Often times, errors or omissions in retyped descriptions can result in the legal description failing to close, rending the instrument ineffective. If possible, copy and paste the legal description from another instrument in the chain of title, a title policy or a survey. If you must retype the description, have someone read aloud the original legal description used by you while you follow along reading the retyped description you prepared.
  3. Correctly List the Parties. Always review the chain of title to ensure the current grantor is the same party listed as the grantee in the immediately preceding conveyance instrument. For individuals, driver’s licenses and birth records should also be reviewed to confirm correct spelling is used and ensure the parties’ names are listed correctly. Also, be sure to include suffixes such as “Jr.” and “Sr.” and confirm whether the individuals are married. With respect to corporations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships, review the entity’s filings with the appropriate secretary of state’s office to ensure correct spelling. As for trusts, the trust documents should be reviewed to confirm proper names and spellings. If the applicable state law provides for trust certificates, also consider having the trustees execute and record a certificate of trust verifying the names of the trust and the trustees.
  4. Use a Proper Acknowledgement. In some cases, a defective acknowledgement can render the instrument ineffective. Arkansas for example has a form acknowledgment set by statute. Be sure to review applicable state law to ensure the instrument’s acknowledgment conforms to any state-specific requirements.
  5. Correct the Record. As noted above, many issues can be resolved by correcting the errors and omissions in the chain of title via a corrective instrument. However, before preparing a corrective instrument and tracking down the requisite person or persons to sign the instrument, check with a title insurance underwriter to confirm the corrective instrument will have its intended effect.

At the end of the day, the question is whether the title to the property will be insured in connection with a conveyance. Accordingly, consult with an underwriter to confirm your plan and form of corrective instrument will result in an insurable title.

About the author: Timothy W. Grooms is a founding and managing member of Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he concentrates his law practice on real estate and general commercial lending transactions.  He is a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL) and a Fellow in the American College of Mortgage Attorneys (ACMA).  He serves as counsel to numerous real estate industry groups and is a frequent lecturer to title, banking, real estate, real estate brokerage, and construction industry groups and industry regulators.

About the author: R. Seth Hampton is an associate with Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC in Little Rock, Arkansas.  His law practice primarily focuses on real estate, agriculture, commercial finance, regulatory compliance, and business succession and estate planning for farm families and closely-held agribusiness corporations.

The Value in Using a Land Real Estate Expert

“Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization. REALTORS ® should recognize that the interests of the nation and its citizens require the highest and best use of the land and the widest distribution of land ownership.”Preamble to the NAR Code of Ethics

Accurate, reliable and timely information is vital to effective decision making in almost every aspect of human endeavor, whether it be for personal or business gain. It is absolutely essential for making the most informed decision. As one of our responsibilities as licensed real estate professionals we are to “protect the public.” In the absence of accurate information, people will make bad decisions. Being a member of the REALTORS® Land Institute provides the public with the information that you and I are considered as “the land real estate experts.”

Being the Expert
In today’s world of more highly educated adults and, more specifically, the millennial sector, the qualification of being more than fifty miles from home with a brief case doesn’t qualify a person as an expert. As part of today’s college educated society, the process for making a business decision in a specialty area outside that of your educated profession is to hire an “expert.”

When a client hires an expert, the most important quality they look for is someone who presents themselves as a professional. A potential client will evaluate a REALTOR® on how articulate they are, their personal appearance, and the degree of comfort they demonstrate with the specific area of expertise.

Most likely you’re already fluent in several specific areas of real estate. You may know a little bit about several different types of real estate, but stressing overall knowledge doesn’t let you stand out from your competitors.

Alternatively, consider your unique interests, experience and passion for a specific area of agricultural real estate. Look at your business and calculate where the source of the majority of your transactions comes from.

In essence, what is it about real estate that attracts you and gets your juices going? Do a strong and precise evaluation of what you know best, what you wish to know more about, and what will get traction in your area. Then, focus on those issues that come out at or near the top of the list. In order to gain the edge, you will need to acquire all of the detailed information that is available in that area. Sources can be online, seminars, and/or professional meetings with networking opportunities. Accurate information is crucial to nearly every professional and academic discipline because facts are the only way humans can ascertain truth. With that said, the purpose of this article is to emphasize the importance of providing accurate information to our clients and some processes to attain that information.

Communication of information is key
Based on nearly forty years of experience in farm land sales, management and consulting, I have prepared what I consider to be a comprehensive checklist of detailed information that is the basis for listing a property for sale or when representing a buyer, it’s used to acquire the right information. One of the most frustrating issues for me is when I am evaluating a property for a potential buyer and the listing agent provides only a general summary of the information and, in some cases, inaccurate information.

I would like to illustrate a perfect example of why using a land real estate broker with specialized expertise in these types of transactions—preferably an Accredited Land Consultant—is necessary. A while back, I received information on a farm, provided to me by a farm broker, that was not his listing. That fact was disclosed, which is the correct process. The property included a nice residence and several outbuildings. The large barn had been refurbished into a family party facility and the farm did contain some tree and berry crops. The information packet from the listing broker contained significant information about the improvements but very limited information concerning the crops, soil types, crop varieties, historic crop yields, and lease history.

I use this as an example to illustrate two things: First, in my opinion this is not providing the seller of the property appropriate fiduciary service on selling their farm. Second, as a farm buyer’s agent, I will either pass up the farm right away or have to spend significant time acquiring the appropriate detailed information required to make an informed decision for my client.

The “rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey always said, is that the broker whom presented this property to me did end up doing the work researching the appropriate detailed information. However, he had a very difficult time of acquiring all the usual crop history, even though he attempted, because it was a bit difficult working with the listing agent. Again, the farm broker worked very hard and did the best he could.

Again, I use this example for a few reasons: First, you would not be providing your client (the seller) “expert” service, because as a result of not providing adequate detailed information, many potential buyers will simply pass on the deal. Second, as a member of the elite RLI you would not be appropriately representing our society. Third, you will be losing deals. With the technology available today, your goal should be to provide 95 percent of the information which a potential buyer will need to make an informed investment decision. I use 95 percent because no two investment experts think alike so there will always be some unique information that every potential buyer will request.

Where do you get the information?
First, start with a very detailed interview with the seller, the current tenant, and the respective Farm Security Administration (FSA) office. Be certain to get a letter signed by the seller giving you permission to access their information at the FSA office.

Second, verify the information provided. Even though the information is provided by the seller, I have found that sometimes their memory may not quite be totally accurate.

Third, you can use websites available for aerial, soils, topo, land-use, water permit registrations, drainage, and FSA information. I have a list of websites that may be of interest and am happy to share if you drop me an email.

Fourth, contact your fellow ALC colleagues for information about areas which you may NOT be real knowledgeable. The MOST valuable resource of information for my business is the tremendous network of colleagues that I have created through all the years of being a member for professional agricultural organizations like RLI. That is why I feel so honored to have earned the ALC designation this year and to become a member the most “elite land experts” in the nation. I have known many of the ALCs for years and am certain that when I call on one of them for assistance, there response will always be “what can I do to help you out?”; which would always be my response as well. However, if I have the opportunity to list a property which is outside my area of expertise, I contact one of my ALC colleagues whom I know is an expert in that particular type of real estate and refer the listing to them. For me, that is providing me the “expert” quality service to my client.

The network of professionals you create by attending the annual meeting, your local chapter events, and attending education classes will continually expand that network knowledge base for you to draw from. Having been in the business for many years I have been blessed with having done sales, management or consulting work on more than forty different crops in the thirty-nine of the fifty states. There are many other members with similar experiences and we all are your best resources to draw from for information.

Accurate, reliable and timely information is the key to “protecting the public,” which is a responsibility of our real estate license, providing our clients the top level “expert” fiduciary service, and will bode well for building a very successful business. The best information resource you have available is your fellow RLI ALC members. As a reminder, always make certain to use a disclaimer statement on all of your brochures.

One last testimony: I contribute a very large percentage of my success in the farm land brokerage, management, & consulting business to the networking relationships that I created through the REALTORS® Land Institute. Whenever I have called a colleague for help the answer has ALWAYS been, providing they knew the answer, “How can I help you?” In the cases where the person did not know the answer, they always knew someone to contact. I am willing to share my listing due diligence information checklist if you happen to be interested or if I can help you with any type of project, please contact me.

This article originally appeared in the 2017 Winter Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

About the author: Fred Hepler, ALC, has been involved in the land business for over forty-two years and is a licensed broker in multiple states for over twenty-five years. He has experience in selling, managing, and/or consulting in thirty-nine states. He is a past president of ASFRMA where he held numerous positions on committees at the state and national levels and is now looking forward to becoming more actively involved in RLI.