The Highest and Best Use. All in this industry know the value of this term, but are we consistently applying it in an eﬀort to truly maximize the features of your latest listing? In researching ranch and land property listings across the United States, it is evident that there may be value being left on the table. Sometimes this value can be signiﬁcant, but agents may gloss over it as just another feature. I’m talking about hunting properties. I’ve come across numerous listings with some of the best access to hunting and/or might even qualify for landowner tags that in some areas are worth thousands of dollars; and the listing has nothing more than a bullet point that says Hunting. In order to maximize the value of highest and best use, let’s look at how we can better represent and convert hunting into positive dollar value.
The Outdoor Industry’s Effect on Land Value
The wildlife recreation industry is a $110+ billion industry and, of that, over $25 billion comes from hunting alone. In the West, agricultural land is rapidly being converted for recreational uses. According to the CCIM Institute, “demand for both improved and unimproved recreational property has contributed to rising rural land prices. An increased interest in outdoor recreational hobbies as diverse as hunting and bird-watching, a graying baby-boom generation that is more conscious of the investment potential in vacation and retirement properties, and low interest rates have come together in the past ﬁve years to create a niche market for recreational land.”
How Access to Hunting Affects Property Values
As the outdoor industry continues to grow and access to public lands continues to shrink, land with hunting access has become highly desirable. Hunting properties provide a buyer with the perfect mix of recreation and investment. Passive cash-ﬂow opportunities include the leasing hunting rights, in addition to grazing and leasing land for farming. According to CCIM, in many cases, a hunting lease can bring in more than ﬁve times the revenue from cattle grazing. Simply stating hunting on your listing doesn’t sound like nearly enough to communicate the value that the land truly holds in its highest and best use case.
How To Better Market Your Hunting Property
As a broker, how can you leverage the indiscernible value of a property with hunting amenities? A good place to start is to create a section in your listing dedicated to the hunting amenities. You may be leaving money on the table and doing your client a disservice to just list “hunting” as a bullet point. If you are not a hunter or don’t know much about the area, this can be easier said than done. So how can you ﬁnd out more information quickly and inexpensively? Start with your local Parks and Wildlife oﬃce, as the rangers can help orient and qualify your search metrics. Also, consider jumping online and research the area around your client’s property, to see what kind of access public land access is available.
Consider becoming knowledgeable in your states hunting laws to determine if that property qualiﬁes for landowner tags. For example, in Illinois, 40 acres is the minimum required to obtain a Deer tag for shotgun season, whereas western states may require a contiguous quarter-section worth of acreage, or more, to qualify. There is signiﬁcant value in this knowledge, and it is well worth the time spent researching the ﬁner details. To recap: here is a list of some key items to research and market on your hunting land listing:
- Hunting Access: What is the nearest public land access or is the property large enough to hunt on
- Wildlife Population: What is the wildlife population in that area? Big game, small game, waterfowl, and/or upland bird hunting
- Revenue Opportunities: Does this property qualify for landowner tags and how many? Are you able to turn the land into a hunting lease?
These are three key elements that can oﬀer more value to a hunting property, and a good starting place for any agent. However, if you ﬁnd a trusted local contact who is a hunter and that has the right tools and knowledge of the area, you can consider putting together a spectacular Hunting Guide that is sure to impress any prospective buyer. There are also a myriad of companies throughout the US with dedicated teams of hunters and outdoorsman, who can help in putting together a complete hunting and outdoor recreation analysis to be used to bring considerable value to the unseen beneﬁts of a property. Consider reaching out to your local RLI chapter or use the Find A Land Consultant search tool provided by RLI for help in ﬁnding a consultant who can provide maps with public land access, hunting units, species migration patterns, hunting tag draw odds, landowner tag information, and more.
As land is being converted to recreation and access to public lands is shrinking, there is more value than ever before in hunting properties. The right buyer for a hunting property will know its inherent value, but don’t miss the target in marketing it appropriately, for achieving that highest and best use should be a guiding, as well as an inherent, principal.
“Hunting for Recreational Properties”, CCIM Institute,
About the Author: Mike Miller, MBA, is the Vice President and Co-founder of White River Ranch Marketing LLC. With a background in Automotive and Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Mike is lending his decade-plus of experience in marketing and branding to the farm and ranch land real estate industry via his startup, WRRM - designed to expand the virtual impact of land brokers and their listings throughout the US.