Site Index – A Measure of Forest Productivity

Site index is a term used in forestry to describe the potential for forest trees to grow at a particular location or “site.” Just as a farmer might discuss soil productivity in terms of bushels per acre, forestland is compared by site index. In the good ole days, site index was measured using a base age of 50 because for the most part forest were naturally generated and grown for a long period of time. Currently with the huge improvements made with genetics, pines grow much faster and are harvested before the age of 50. Many stands are harvested when the trees reach an age of 25-35 years of age. As a result, site indexes on pine plantations are calculated using a base age of 25. For the most, site indexes are constrained to the type of soil (texture, parent material, amount of organic material etc) but forest practitioners have found way to increase site index through tillage and fertilization. Tillage is the preparation of land through mechanical means to remediate a hard pan or fracture soils. This process improves soil texture so tree roots can rapidly grow through the soil profile. This is typically done with a ‘savannah plow’.

In some low lying areas prone to flooding, a bedding plow may be used create a ridge and furrow so the trees will not be flooded. The trees are planted on the ridges to keep their feet (roots) dry.

How do you go about measuring Site Index? A tree is measured to be 60 feet (18 m) in overall height, and the stand age is determined to be 50 years old. To find site index from a site index curve, one would find age 50 along the x-axis and then find 60 feet (18 m) along the y-axis. The tree age is determined by using an ‘increment borer’ to extract a core whereby one can count the tree rings to determine the tree’s age. From there, you simply go to a ‘site index’ curve and determine the site index.

Well, enough of all the technical jargon. Why is this important? If you have narrowed your property search to 2 properties (all other things being equal), you might make your buying decision on ‘Site Index”.


Kent Morris, ALC is a Registered Forester and Associate Broker who has experience in fields such as timber appraisals, harvesting, thinnings, and timber sales. He writes articles about these fields and more in his blog Land Blog…Get The Dirt!

Ready. Aim. Fire! Strategic Planning for Your Land Real Estate Business

Last January, I hosted a group of clients for a duck hunt on the Texas coast. Huge groups of redheads flock together during the late season, and when they commit to the decoys, the hunter who takes careful aim can fill his bag with drakes in a hurry! One of my companions, however, was not having a productive hunt. Opportunities were abundant, and he was shooting aggressively, but his shots rarely connected. When he did hit a duck, he was just as surprised as we were! But, more often we heard the words, “%$#@, I should have aimed better!” He failed to follow the proven “ready, aim, fire” model.

Unfortunately, this sounds too much like how many real estate agents approach the land business. Abundant opportunities, lucrative commissions, and time spent outdoors tend to attract these folks to the land business. But many operate their businesses in a reactive fashion, simply taking what the market gives them. While they may feel busy, their business is unpredictable and it leads to the high percentage of agents who fail to make it past five years in this business. Strategic planning for your land sales business boils down to a few simple steps: set clear, written goals (ready), identify the specific activities to get you there (aim), then execute the plan (fire). Top agents who do take time to strategically plan have a more predictable business and, consequently, they operate with more clarity. Core business and operational decisions become much easier with a predictable business. Hiring, debt, expansion, marketing, and scheduling are much easier if you can confidently predict the results you will likely achieve.

As you plan your business empire, you should start by considering where your leads will come from. Use a simple spreadsheet or one of the many software programs available online to track your lead sources by percentage and volume. By identifying your core sources of business, you can confidently plan your activities, make better marketing decisions and bring in the proper leverage to maximize the potential of these lead sources. Additionally, this will force you to calculate the cost of these leads, which will come in handy when doing your pro forma. Knowing the sources of your business is the first step to clear planning.

Now, let’s look at three basic components of a productive and clear business plan. Remember, this is a plan for you to follow, not a 50-page textbook that requires a Ph.D. to interpret! The idea of a business plan is to clearly lay out the specific steps and activities required to reach your goals, and to project profitability once you reach them. The three basic components we will look at are: the Financial Model, or pro forma, the Organizational Model (who does what), and a one-page plan with written goals and the clear steps to accomplish them.

Top business people know their numbers and track them closely. The Financial Model or pro forma is where you write down how much income you would like to net, and calculate all the costs associated with getting to that number. According to the Millionaire Real Estate Agent model, start with your desired net income, then back into the total sales required to support this goal.

For example, if I want to net $300,000 in annual income (before taxes), I would write down $300,000 + $87,600 (29.2% cost of sales) + $87,600 (29.2% operating expenses) to get my total required gross commission income (GCI) = $475,200. Now I know how much revenue I will need to bring in to support my income goal and I can calculate how I will get there. To do this, divide $475,200 (GCI) by your average commission rate to get the necessary total sales volume. In this example, I would need to close $15,840,000 in sales volume to reach my goal. Next, I will need to know my average sales price to calculate the number of transactions needed to reach my goal. My average sale has been tracking around $2,000,000. $15,840,000 divided by $2,000,000 tells me I need to close 7.9, or 8 transactions at my average commission rate to reach my goal. Now, I simply plug in the percentage of listings I expect to close (65%) from the appointments I expect to win (70%) to get the number of listing appointments I will need to set. In this example, I would need to go on 18 listing appointments in order to predictably win 12 so that I could expect to close 8 property transactions. If they average $2,000,000 and I earn my average commission rate that will determine my GCI. After expenses and cost of sales, I will reach my income goal of $300,000. *see chart on page 4 of the Millionaire Real Estate Agent Business Plan

The success of any sales business boils down to the right amount of quality leads. The Financial Model showed me how many leads I need to generate to reach my financial goal; now I can build a plan to get there. We have found a simple, single-page business plan to be the most effective way to do this. The COB and CEO of the largest real estate company in the world can fit theirs on a single page, so we can too! The single-page business plan requires extreme clarity on the goal and the specific things that must happen in order to accomplish the goal. In his book The ONE Thing, Gary Keller asks the question, “What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” This clarity allows you to line up your dominoes and start with the most important task first. Focus on the big rocks, the things that only you can do, and break them down into action items.

We start with a written five-year goal, a written one-year goal, three top priorities that absolutely must happen to ensure the one-year goal is met, and five strategies to accomplish each priority. We creatively refer to this exercise as the 1-3-5 goals sheet. Going back to my example from the Financial Model, I would write my one year goal of $300,000 net income and roughly $16,000,000 in sales volume. My five-year goal is a stretch goal, but for the purposes of this exercise it won’t matter unless I hit my one-year goal. Next, I need clarity on what the three things are that must happen to support my goal. These are my top three priorities, and I write them down as well. First, I know I will need $24,600,000 in listing inventory (12 listing agreements at a $2,000,000 average) to predictably close $16,000,000 (65%). Then I break down my five strategies to get there. Secondly, I know I will have to nail lead generation, and third, I will need a solid marketing plan. Each of these gets the same five detailed strategies. If I have clarity on these big rocks, I can dig into each of them and hold the activity (and the person attached to it) accountable for producing the results.

Now that I have completed my Financial Model and I have clarity on the core things that must happen to support it, my final step is the Organizational Model. This is where I bring in leverage and assign who does what in the business. I cannot do everything, and in fact I shouldn’t. There are things I do poorly, like administrative work and bookkeeping. There are others who do those very well, and by delegating to them, I am released to do the things I do well – like lead generation and interacting with clients. Leverage is freedom for business owners. It allows you to scale by staying in your strength zone and working on the business, rather than in the business. Leverage could be defined as strategically removing yourself from every aspect of your business based on your skill set and the value of your time. For most real estate agents and business owners, the logical first hire is an executive assistant, followed by a buyer agent and maybe a second assistant. Draw a simple org chart with clarity on who does what and who they report to. As your business grows, you add future hires under them and build a job description or “missing person’s report” for these future hires. Hiring for the future with a big goal in mind changes the way you hire and lead people. Success through people is one of the hardest things for most entrepreneurs to master, but for most, it is the single largest factor in their ceiling of achievement.

If you own or operate multiple businesses like I do, then simply do these steps for each business and combine the results. With multiple businesses, you would also consider shared resources, shared employees, and weigh any direct ancillary benefits of one business to another. For example, a farm management company and a land sales company might complement each other quite well by maximizing the client opportunity and sharing administrative expenses.

Lastly, you will likely not nail this on the first or even the hundredth try! So inspect what you expect, monitor your progress regularly with good accountability, and make adjustments as you go. What you focus on expands. Have a predictable written plan and focus on the detailed activities that will produce the results you desire.

Go get ‘em!

This article originally appeared in the 2018 Winter Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

 About the Author: Kasey Mock is the Director of KW LAND division at Keller Williams Realty International. Mock is a member of the REALTORS® Land Institute now serving his second year on their Future Leaders Committee. Make sure to check out his break out session diving further into this topic at the 2018 National Land Conference in Nashville, TN, in March.

The Intersection of Environmental Factors and the Valuation of Rural Properties

The value of rural properties can be affected by an interplay of forces, which are continually changing, often in a cyclical pattern. These forces include social trends (population); economic circumstances (supply-side economic indicators); and environmental forces (potential contaminants).

There is a growing need for potential consideration of hazardous substances and their impact on property value. The consideration of environmental conditions is fundamental to the appraisal of rural real property.

Environmental Factors

Some situations where contaminants and hazardous substances may be involved in the appraisal of rural properties include soil contamination due to an abandoned industrial plant, groundwater contamination due to a leaking underground storage tank and pesticide runoff from farmland to rivers and streams. According to The Appraisal of Real Estate, 14th Edition, potential contaminants and hazardous substances may include asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), dioxin, trichloroethylene (TCE), radon, petroleum hydrocarbons, and lead.

Environmental liabilities associated with industrial plants are well known, but many other liabilities may be present in rural properties. Farmers once commonly used long trenches filled with DDT-treated fuel oil, called “cattle vats,” to rid cattle of mites and other insects. Once this practice fell out of use, the trenches were simply filled in. Farms often have aging underground storage tanks that held gasoline for farm machinery, and farmland also may be contaminated from an accumulation of fertilizers and pesticides.

In most cases, all environmental forces that effect land value must be considered. These issues can be specific to a property or considered external to a property. Appraisers should determine the type of detrimental factors present on the property. These include potential hazardous wastes.

Specialized Methods And Techniques

Over the past 25 years, the valuation profession has developed a set of recognized and generally accepted specialization techniques for estimating the effect of possible contamination and environmental risks on prices, markets, and values. These specialized methods are based on the three traditional approaches to value which include the sales comparison approach; the income capitalization approach; and the cost approach. These methods involve one or more of the following:

Paired Data Analysis Of Impacted and Potentially Impacted Areas

In paired data analysis, prices paid for properties that sold in an impacted area are compared to prices paid for otherwise similar properties that sold outside the impacted area to estimate the effect of the location on the sale price. More than one pairing is typically necessary to understand the effect of the location in the impacted area on the prices paid.

Analysis Of Environmental Case Studies

Environmental case studies are typically useful when a source site is being appraised or in a situation involving an impacted neighborhood or area where there are insufficient sales to understand the effect of the environmental issue on prices and values.

Multiple Regression Analysis Of Property Sales In Potentially Impacted Area

When property is specified and developed, a multiple regression model can be used to determine if the environmental issue is affecting the sales prices. The model can be designed to interpret the effect of issues such as remediation status, location in a contaminated area, distance from the site source, and other factors.

 The Role Of The Appraiser

Engaging the most competent appraiser is key in achieving a reliable, credible opinion of value for rural properties. Effort should be made to find a valuation professional with experience in rural valuations, particularly if there is a possibility of contamination. Appraisers are not required or expected to have the knowledge or experience required to detect the presence of hazardous substances or to measure the quantities of such substances. Like buyers and sellers on the open market, appraisers typically rely on the advice of others in matters that require special expertise.

Appraisers must be, at a minimum, licensed or certified for Federally-Related Transactions. If the client is a federally-regulated institution and the intended use of the appraisal report qualifies as a FRT, the appraiser will have to conform to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice and the Federal Institutions Reform and Recovery Enforcement Act.

For complex assignments, it may be prudent to engage a more experienced or credentialed appraiser. At the Appraisal Institute, for example, Designated Members have demonstrated a higher level of education and experience and received designations that include MAI and SRA.

 Key Steps

There are five key steps in an appraisal assignment involving possible contamination.

 Step 1: Determine the location of the possible contamination.

In determining the source of the potential contamination, appraisers identify whether it is from:

· A source site: A site on which the contamination is, or has been generated;

· A non-source site: A site onto which the contamination, generated from the source site, has migrated;

· An adjacent site: A site that is not contaminated but shares a common property line with a source site; or

· A proximate site: A site not contaminated and not adjacent to the source site, but that is near the source site.

The distinction is especially important in determining who is responsible for investigation and remediation costs, and whether that responsibility accompanies ownership of the property being appraised.

 Step 2: Determine the type of contaminant and the regulatory requirements.

The appraiser considers the type of contaminant and applicable regulatory requirements (permitted or accidental discharge, level of required cleanup); migration (soil contamination confined to the source site, groundwater contamination spreading off site); and remediation (soil removal, installation of a cap, groundwater pumping, vapor removal) characteristics.

Step 3: Determine the status of the property in the remediation lifecycle.

A remediation lifecycle consists of three stages of clean up: before remediation or cleanup; during remediation; and after remediation. The appraiser determines the status of the property in the remediation lifecycle. A contaminated property’s remediation lifecycle stage is an important determinant of the risk associated with environmental contamination.

The effect of contamination and environmental risk on property prices and values changes over time, typically decreasing as a site works its way through discovery and investigation, remediation and post-remediation stages.

 Step 4. Consider cost, use and risk effects as of relevant date and point in the remediation cycle.

Appraisers consider the cost, use and risk effects as of the relevant date and point in the remediation cycle as they relate to the type of property (source, non-source, adjacent or proximate).

Step 5. Estimate the “as is” value.

Finally, appraisers estimate the impaired, or “as is,” value. In most assignments, appraisers also are asked to compare the impaired value to the unimpaired value under hypothetical condition that the contaminant was not present.

Standards of Professional Practice

Reaching a credible and reliable opinion of value when dealing with potential contamination of rural properties can be a complicated procedure. Among the tools available to valuation professionals are two Appraisal Institute guide notes that may be particularly useful in the valuation of potentially contaminated properties including Guide Note 6: Consideration of Hazardous Substances in the Appraisal Process and Guide Note 15: Assumptions and Hypothetical Conditions.

Guide Note 6: Consideration of Hazardous Substances in the Appraisal Process

The purpose of Guide Note 6 is to provide guidance in the application of USPAP in the appraisal assignment. It is not to provide technical instructions or explanations concerning the detection or measurement of the effect of hazardous substances.

An extraordinary assumption presumes as fact otherwise uncertain information about physical, legal, or economic characteristics of the subject property, or about conditions external to the property, such as market conditions or trends, or about the integrity of data used in an analysis. An example of an extraordinary assumption could be suspected but not confirmed that there may be underground storage tank contamination. An environmental assessment by a qualified environmental professional would be required for such conclusions or determinations.

Guide Note 15: Assumptions and Hypothetical Conditions

In an example of a hypothetical condition, the subject property is the former site of heavy industrial use and the appraiser is aware that it might be contaminated, but this isn’t known for certain. The value opinion reflects the property as though the subject site is not contaminated on the date of value, which is the current date. This value is premised on the special/extraordinary assumption that the site is not contaminated.

The appraisal report would need to include a clear disclosure of this special/extraordinary assumption, and state that its use might have affected the opinions and conclusions.


Rural properties can be impacted by environmental contamination resulting in the release of hazardous substances into the air, surface water, ground water, or soil. These factors may complicate real estate financing decisions. The ability for appraisers to accurately identify environmental issues, and factor them into property valuation can, benefit consumers buying and selling land, lenders, and the valuation profession.

This article originally appeared in the 2018 Winter Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

About the Author: James L. Murrett, MAI, SRA, is the 2018 president of the Appraisal Institute, the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers. Based in Chicago, the Appraisal Institute has nearly 19,000 professionals in almost 60 countries. Murrett will be hosting a break out session diving further into this topic at the 2018 National Land Conference in Nashville, TN, in March.

When a Deal Goes Bad: Sink or Swim?

Your first reaction to bad news related to a real estate deal that you are brokering could mean the difference between the deal being saved or lost forever. If you have been a real estate agent or broker for more than a week, you have probably received bad news about a deal falling apart. You know the rush of emotions that comes when you read the email or get the dreaded phone call with “the problem”. How you respond from there makes all the difference in the likelihood of the deal coming together.

In Chapter Six of J. Paul Getty’s book “How to Be Rich”, “The Force of Habit”, he relays some advice he received early in his career as an oilman. “Always think of yourself as a man that has just fallen overboard in the middle of a lake.” This advice really resonated with me, probably because I have been thrown from a boat or had one capsize several times in my life.

In a boating incident, the first thing you must do upon entering the water is come to the surface for air, otherwise you die. That’s a given. The next thing to ensure your survival is remaining calm and orienting yourself to the boat or the nearest land. I experienced this firsthand one summer while whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee. We were shooting the section of rapids used in the Atlanta Summer Olympics, and there were some serious class 4 and 5 holes. It was our young guide’s first time to lead a raft through the course. Right in the middle of the most treacherous water, our raft hit a boulder and plunged all of the passengers into immediate peril. The rushing torrent grabbed us all. I had the good fortune of coming out of the raft and being able to cross my feet on the surface and point downstream, and as a result was picked up almost immediately by a nearby boat. My raftmates were not nearly as fortunate. All the rest of them waged a long battle with the cold, raging water. One of my friends had one of those experiences so close to death that you’ll never forget it. Casey rode the worst part of the Olympic course of the Ocoee River in nothing but his life vest.

Mr. Getty’s analogy is one we can all relate to. There will be times when we feel like a deal is sailing along marvelously, and suddenly we find ourselves plunged into the cold, wet reality of “the problem.” A decade as a land broker has taught me (often through hard knocks) the following suggestions for surviving and salvaging a land deal when trouble hits.

1. Compose yourself- Just as flailing and thrashing about when falling into the water exerts unnecessary energy and decreases your chances of survival, so does pitching a fit or “giving someone a piece of your mind.” You are a professional. Take a deep breath, a walk, a run, a drive, whatever you need to do to get in the right frame of mind to address the situation.

2. Orient yourself- You must identify with as much clarity as possible the answers to the following questions.

  1. What exactly is the problem?
  2. Whatisthesolution?
  3. Who can solve the problem?
  4. How long will it take and how much will it cost?

When learning of a problem, I almost never contact the parties to a transaction until I have a clear understanding of what the problem is and identifying the path to a resolution. Our job is not to cause undue alarm, but to help our clients and customers achieve the desired outcome of the deal.

3. Identify who and what can be salvaged- Is it going to be possible to save the deal? It may or may not be. There are a million mitigating factors that could come into play. The priority, if at all possible, is to save the relationships. Things happen beyond your control. What you do and how you do it will determine if you will have a working relationship with your client, customer, or vendors in the future. Try to rescue as much of the deal and relationships as possible, and at the end of the day be glad you got out alive.

4. “Embrace the Suck”- This expression, used by Special Forces operators, is very helpful in reminding them to “consciously accept an extremely unpleasant circumstance that cannot be avoided.” If you are going to be a good land broker, you will face extremely unpleasant circumstances. Fortunately most of our stressful situations, unlike our military friends, are not life-threatening. Make peace with the fact that you are going to have to navigate some rough water, point your bow in the right direction, and make every effort to reach a positive outcome.

5. Ask for Help- If you are in over your head or in unfamiliar waters, reach out to someone more experienced than you to weigh in on your situation. I have two of the best land brokers in Alabama, Dave Milton, ALC, and Fletcher Majors, ALC, on speed dial so that I can contact them when I encounter a scenario I am not familiar with. I answer calls almost every week from brokers and agents inside and outside my company asking for advice on different scenarios. Do not be afraid to ask for help. You have a responsibility to your clients to provide the best service and solutions possible, and none of us can know everything.

Two of my favorite maritime clichés are “Smooth seas do not make Seasoned Sailors” and “Lose your head, wind up dead”. I believe these maxims are equally applicable to the situations we face in brokering land deals. Any business that requires you to deal with people, property, and significant amounts of money lends itself to problems. The problems are unavoidable, they will come. Following the steps listed above has allowed me to survive and salvage many land deals and kept them from sinking into the dark abyss where dead deals go. Godspeed, my friends.

Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and a partner with Southeastern Land Group. He is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program and podcast “The Land Show.”

RLI Lands Five Legislative Victories in 2017: Inside The Beltway

As the New Year begins, I wanted to use this edition of “Inside the Beltway” to share some successes that RLI had in 2017.

Of, course these victories would not have been possible without the hard work and active engagement of RLI Members with their members of Congress through phone calls, emails, or in-district meetings. These activities make a difference and these five victories are a testament to their civic participation and perseverance.

Greater Awareness on the Value of 1031 

As the battle for tax reform and the possible reform or elimination of 1031s heated up in 2017, RLI members became the trusted source of information for Members of Congress and their staff for data on how 1031s add value to the economy. Turnover in Congress among Members and staff is constant and RLI members did an outstanding job communicating with Congressional offices about how 1031s add value to real estate in their district. While 1031s for real estate are safe as I write this column in November, 2017, it is critical that RLI members continue to reach out to Members of Congress and staff to make sure their voices are heard and 1031s are preserved.

The WOTUS Rule is Rolled Back

The Obama Administration finalized the Clean Water Rule (AKA the Waters of the U.S. Rule) in 2015.  Although the WOTUS rule was never implemented, due to a judicial stay, the damage of this rule would have been far-reaching. This vastly overreaching rule would have hindered economic development in rural and urban areas, tied up farmers, ranchers, and others who work the land in rolls and rolls of red tape and bureaucracy, and would have done unfathomable harm to property rights across the country. RLI and a broad coalition of regulated stakeholders were instrumental in raising alarms about the damage this rule could do to the country’s economy. As a result, one of the first Executive Orders President Trump signed began the process for withdrawing this rule and developing a common-sense and workable definition of “Waters of the U.S.”, one that will provide the clarity needed to encourage economic development and protect our critical water resources.

Drones Take to the Sky

The first call I ever received about using drones for real estate was in 2010 from Florida RLI Member Dean Saunders, ALC, who asked me the seemingly innocent question: “Can I use a drone to take pictures of some land I am selling?” At that time, after doing a little digging on the FAA website, I determined the answer was, unfortunately for Dean, “No.” The drone landscape has changed dramatically since then. Because of consumer desire and market need for innovative technology, RLI Members pushed the FAA to allow the use of drones for commercial purposes. FAA regulations, which were finalized in late 2016, were then implemented and enforced in 2017, unleashing a torrent of market creativity. Now, drones are a regular part of the American “airscape” partly because of RLI Members insistence that this technology can be used safely and can be an important part of selling land, thereby adding value to the real estate economy.

Reforms of the ESA Continue

There was good news on Sage Grouse as well as broader reform of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While the Obama Administration decided to not list the Sage Grouse as endangered, they did withdraw 10 million acres of public land from being used for any economic activity such as mining or timbering, claiming this land was critical habitat for the Sage Grouse. In July, President Trump reversed this withdrawal through executive order.

On the broader issue of ESA reform, Congress has — for the first time in several years — moved forward with several bills that would enhance transparency, accountability of the ESA and improve the cost/benefit analysis during the listing process. More “rifle shot” legislative reforms are on the way.

The Deregulatory Steamroller Continues 

According to the Chamber of Commerce, President Trump has issued 29 executive actions to reduce regulatory requirements. In response, executive-branch agencies have issued 100 additional directives that either knock down regulations or begin a process to eliminate or shrink them.

The chamber’s count also lists almost 50 pieces of legislation that have been introduced or begun moving through Congress. And that count doesn’t include perhaps the most aggressive step the Republican Congress has taken: It has pioneered the use of a little-known 1996 law, the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to repeal executive-branch regulations within 60 days after they are finalized. Using that law, Congress has passed, and Mr. Trump has signed, legislation overturning 14 regulations promulgated by President Obama’s administration in its final days.

While unwinding regulations takes time, these are very consequential actions with huge benefits for the private sector and private development, and I expect these actions to continue.

This article originally appeared in the 2018 Winter Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.


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

How to Improve Your Social Media Presence as a Land Agent

In the age where Americans spend an average of 10 hours a day on the internet, a strong social media presence can help a land agent’s business grow tremendously. With social media, agents can better market themselves and reach their target audience more effectively.

So, if you’re a land professional who is lacking a little engagement on your platforms or you’re just ready to take it to the next level, here are three ways you can improve your social media presence to stand out among the competition.

  1. Be yourself.

Always post about things you care about – anything that feels “you.” If you’ve been out fishing and make a great catch, share a picture and tell the story. Post funny pictures of your dog or your kids, things that make you happy and you feel comfortable sharing. It will show your personality and your audience will appreciate your genuineness. You can also share your listings links, but it should never be your entire feed. If people follow you on a social platform it’s because they want to see more of who you are, not just that you are a land agent. So, try to mix it up a bit.

  1. Choose quality over quantity.

One well thought out, meaningful post a week is much better than junk content just to post once a day. How many times you post on each particular platform depends on which one you’re using. For Facebook, you’ll want to post around once a day. No more than once a day on Instagram, and up to 10 tweets a day on Twitter. Each platform is different, and you don’t want to be cannibalizing earlier posts. Remember, quality over quantity.

  1. Be strategic.

Each platform also has a different audience. Therefore, you should post where your audience is most active. If you are trying to reach a large age range of buyers, Facebook is your best bet. A younger buyer may be reached best on Instagram or Twitter. And if you’re selling land that includes a home with amazing architecture, Pinterest could be a great spot to share those pictures.

Having a scheduling tool can also make posting on social media a lot easier. Free tools like Buffer and Hootsuite allow you to write your posts ahead of time and share them when it is best for your audience. Try setting aside one hour to plan a few posts across platforms for the upcoming month. This way you can make sure you don’t forget a post and you’ll have consistent content throughout all of your platforms.


National Land Realty is a full-service real estate brokerage company specializing in farm, ranch, plantation, timber and recreational land across the country. NLR currently represents land buyers and sellers in 20 states. To learn more, visit

What’s Right for Your Client?

When assisting a client with a land transaction it is not only important to be able to answer your clients questions but also, possibly more importantly, to be able to ask your client the right questions. Below is a sample scenario of a new client and a few examples of questions a land professional may ask in order to help the client determine the best decision regarding their property.

The scenario
Your client owns land composed of agricultural land, but which also has some woods and water (and you know the highest and best use is continued use of the land as agricultural land and hunting/recreational ground). Your client is reaching a time in their life to make decisions on how best to handle their land for the future and there are many options in today’s world. Some of these could include:

  • selling it for row crop land and the woods/water for hunting/recreation;
  • or, once sold, complete a 1031 exchange to purchase another income-producing property or retirement home;
  • or, keep the farm via leasing it out so that your client has an income in retirement;
  • or, work on a succession plan to keep the land in the family;
  • or, enroll the land in an exclusive ag covenant or conservation easement;
  • or, use the land to build their retirement home or cabin so they can enjoy their retirement and have a wonderful, memory-filled family retreat to pass on to their heirs.

Questions for your client when considering the above options

  • Are you prepared for retirement?
  • Do you need an additional income stream into the future besides other retirement funds?
  • Do you want to continue to farm yourself?
  • Do you have children who want to farm?
  • Do you strongly feel you want your land to continue into perpetuity as ag land or recreational land?
  • Do you already have a retirement home?
  • Do you have funds and time to build and enjoy a family retreat that can be passed on to the next generation?

Starting points
When the future of your land is in question, an appraisal or broker price opinion will provide an opinion of the worth of the land. This factor alone may assist in helping answer some of the above questions for your client. Your client may decide, based on the number of children they have, the number of acres of land and rent or income from that land, there may not be enough income to divide between the number of children and they will elect to sell the land. Or, on the reverse side, they may decide, depending on the number of children and amount of agricultural land, there would be enough income to warrant keeping the land in the family.

Then, are there children who are interested in farming or not? If yes, succession planning can be handled and there are a number of extension offices, attorneys, etc. who can assist with succession planning. If there are no children interested in farming, a professional farm manager could assist the children in managing the farm.

Should the client decide to enroll the land into an ag covenant or conservation easement? An Accredited Land Consultant (broker/REALTOR®) can assist in locating the appropriate agency/entity.

In deciding whether to add a family retreat to their land, the question again is dependent on their financial situation, age, the number of children/grandchildren they have, and so on.

Your client’s land is probably their largest asset and assisting your client to make an educated decision is the goal, even though it may involve tough questions. If you are interested in working with landowners, you can obtain the education, experience, connections, and expertise you need to better assist your client with the tough questions through the REALTORS® Land Institute.

Terri Jensen, ALC, is a Broker/REALTOR®, Auctioneer, and Appraiser in Minnesota and is currently VP of Real Estate/Appraisal at Upper Midwest Mgmt. Terri served as the 2015 RLI National President of the REALTORS® Land Institute, a commercial affiliate of NAR, and is still an active member of the organization, holding their elite Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation.

Ten Lessons for Land Agents from a Decade in the Dirt

This January marks 10 years that I have been in the land brokerage business. Most of the lessons for land agents I have learned came by trial and error, and some have been impressed upon me deeply. That is what happens when you are clueless about what you are getting into, as I was when jumping into this business.

After closing nearly 200 separate land transactions, you see a lot of different scenarios in our line of work. I have had some deals that were whoppers: clients dying, fraud, exhuming a deceased person to prove paternity, a murder on a listing, vandalism to a house, equipment stolen, FBI involved, lawsuits, you name it, I have seen a bunch. That is what makes this business so fun. Below are 10 of the nuggets pertaining to our business that I have plucked from the dirt and carry with me daily.

The land business is about people. About 20% of what we do is about land, and the other 80% is dealing with people. To succeed in the long term as a land broker, you need to be good at the land part, and exceptional at the people part.

The time to do business is when people are ready to do business.

Don’t let your lows be too low or your highs be too high. The land business, as with all sales and service industries, has natural cycles and potentially sharp peaks and deep valleys. Understanding these trends helps you develop an even keel emotionally, and allows you to weather storms and take success with a measure of humility.

“Want to” is the glue that holds deals together. When I am evaluating the likelihood that a deal will come together, I try to measure the motivation. If there is a strong “want to” by both parties, the better the odds that the deal will happen. No “want to” almost always equals “no deal”.

Marketing does not equal selling. No amount of marketing a property to the general public can replace your being able to hand deliver a packet of information directly to the person most likely to buy it. Having those contacts and the strong relationships to make that happen takes time to cultivate. Be intentional about building relationships.

They don’t give out big commission checks as participation trophies.

Always be honest.

You always reap more than you sow. Everything you do in this business has the potential to come back to you in spades; good and bad. Momentum breeds momentum, and inactivity breeds inactivity.

Your reputation gets to the room before you do. How you treat people, how you conduct business, and how hard you work will be talked about in a room before you ever come through the door. One of my favorite principles for this come from ancient King Solomon, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”-Proverbs 22:1

The team you work with will make or break your business.

The land brokerage business has opened many doors for me that I never anticipated. I am grateful for the opportunities and income it has afforded my family. Joining the REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) has been one of the best parts of the journey so far. I value the relationships and knowledge that have been a part of being associated with this great group of land professionals. Earning the Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation has been a source of pride, and has made me better at what we do. I would encourage everyone that wants to make a career out of being a land broker to join RLI and work toward the elite ALC Designation. The benefits are well worth the time and money invested in the process.

Many of you reading this article have been at this far longer than I, and have many more insights into what it means to be a true land professional. I look forward to learning more and getting better if the good Lord gives me more time. Thanks to all of you who have invested in and helped us “youngsters” get started in the land brokerage business. We are standing on the shoulders of good men and women that gave us an example and an opportunity.

Jonathan Goode, ALCJonathan Good, ALC, is a licensed land broker and partner with Southeastern Land Group serving Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program and podcast “The Land Show” to share his love of the land with people across the country.

Six Steps to Take After You Purchase a Land Property

Purchasing a land property can be a wise investment. Whether you are looking to build a home on the property, cultivate farmland, or want the land developed for any other purposes, it is important to take the right steps after purchase to ensure your plans for the property can be carried out smoothly. After finalizing the purchase, you will need to carefully survey your land, get all documents in order, and get the property into a good condition to fulfill your plans for it.

1. Study the Topographic Map
Before finalizing the sale, you should obtain a topographic map of the property from the seller and check to be sure you know exactly what you are buying. After the sale is finalized, a good first step is to carefully study the map to get the lay of the land. If you are intending to build a home on the property, identify flat areas that may be good to lay a foundation, as well as areas that will need to be cleared of rocks or debris. If you are planning to raise livestock, you can also plan out where they can graze and how best to keep your animals penned in. This map will also show you the exact boundaries of the property you purchased.

2. Establish Boundaries
If the land you just purchased does not already have fencing or natural barriers running along the edges of the property, you will want to establish boundaries. There are many reasons for doing this. If you are preparing farmland, you will want to keep wild animals out, and if you intend to build a home, boundaries will prevent hunters or other trespassers from walking around the property. Be sure to create your boundaries based on the specifications of the topographic map, which will show you exactly how far the property stretches, and choose the material for your boundary wisely. Wooden fencing is the most visually attractive option, but if you are looking to keep livestock in or predators out, barbed wire is usually best.

3. Have Your Land Evaluated
If you intend to build a home, or other structures such as a barn or garage, you will want to have your land professionally evaluated after purchase. Hire a local builder to survey the land; they can take into account topographic conditions, drainage, sun direction, privacy, and other factors that will help determine where on the property you decide to build. Many companies offer free on-site evaluations for customers intending to build.

4. Pick Up Trash
You would be surprised at how much garbage can be accumulated on large plots of land, particularly if it was unowned or unused before your purchase. Whatever your intentions for the property, you will want to clear your land of trash. This will improve its visual appeal, get it ready for development, and keep livestock from coming in contact with garbage. Some trash will be obvious, but keep in mind that items like glass and rusted metal often rest just below the top layer of soil, which can cause them to blend in with the ground. Check the entire property carefully; occasionally, you may even find something interesting or useful among the waste.

5. Clear the Land
After trash has been removed, you will need to clear the land of obstructing boulders, fallen trees, or other debris that can cause problems for land development. You will likely need to hire professionals to help dig out large rocks or clear massive trees; although if you own a reliable chainsaw, you can often cut trees up yourself and then remove them or use the pieces for firewood. Do not complete this step until you have carefully surveyed your property and chosen where you will be building, as you will likely need to more thoroughly clear the site of the foundation for your home, barn, or other building.

6. Meet the Neighbors
One of the most important steps after purchasing land has nothing to do with building or finances. By introducing yourself to your neighbors, you not only gain potential friends, but if the neighbors have lived on their property for a long time, they may be able to offer advice on clearing and developing the land. In addition, being on good terms with your neighbors can be a lifesaver if you ever have a medical emergency or other crisis situation.

By carefully following these six steps, you will ensure that you are ready to work or live on the land you just purchased. The most important thing is to have a plan for what you will do with the land; while these steps will always need to be taken in some capacity, exactly how you go about it will depend on your intentions for the land. As long as you take stock of the property after purchase and hire professionals when necessary, you will have the land ready for farming, building a home, or other property development in no time

About the Author: Alex Briggs is a contributing writer for Lone Eagle Land Brokerage, Inc. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, traveling, and spending time with his family.

wind energy

Does Wind Cool a Hot Housing Market, or are Wind Farm Worries Overblown?

For most of us, buying a home is the most financially consequential decision we make. So it makes sense to protect that investment—and find out how major developments in the neighborhood will affect our most valuable asset.

Traditionally, three factors have an outsized impact on home values: strength of the local economy, low taxes, and access to good schools. For rural communities that may go years between major investments, the arrival of a wind farm has large benefits in all three areas.

Over 99 percent of wind power projects are built in rural America and on private land. That means project owners lease small segments of property from large landowners—usually farmers and ranchers. The concrete pads on which they build wind turbines, and the gravel lanes to reach them, typically leave 98 percent of the land undisturbed and available for other uses, such as crops, livestock, hunting, and off-road vehicles.

And the checks start arriving for thousands of dollars per turbine per year.

Those lease payments can really add up: in 2016 alone they totaled $245 million across America, a figure that is steadily rising. That creates a steady source of income for landowners, as well as a new tax base that agricultural communities can count on. It’s especially meaningful during years of drought, poor harvests, or crashes in commodity prices. In fact, many farmers call wind their new drought-proof cash crop.

“It will not change how we operate, it will not change anything about our lives. But it will be an additional income stream that I suspect will be very handy,” said John Dudley, whose family has been ranching in Comanche, Texas, since the 1880’s. “It’ll allow [our] family to have that ranch for a long time.”

Dr. Sarah Mills of the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy recently examined the concrete benefits of wind income for Michigan farmers. Among her findings:

  • Farmers with turbines on their land have invested twice as much in their operations over the last five years as those without them.
  • Turbine-hosting farmers have purchased more farmland in the last five years than non-hosts.
  • Farmers with turbines are more likely to believe their property will be farmed in the future, and they’re more likely to have a succession plan in place for when they retire.

Crucially, Mills also found that landowners with wind turbines spent significantly more on improving their homes and farms.

Beyond income for farmers and ranchers, wind projects also create jobs in the local community. Wind turbine technicians, one of America’s two fastest growing jobs according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, are needed to operate and maintain projects. That offers new career opportunities for young people.

It also helps small businesses thrive, another key component in keeping local economies healthy. For example, Auxilius Heavy Industries, based in Fowler, Indiana, performs services for many of the area’s local wind farms. The company has been able to double in size each of the four years since its founding.

Community members don’t need to work in wind or host turbines on their land to realize its benefits, however. Because they are usually built in rural areas with low tax bases, wind farms often become a county’s largest taxpayer. That boosts local budgets and can help pay to fix roads or build new hospitals, without having to raise taxes. In fact, in some communities, wind revenue renders local taxes totally unnecessary. In Sheldon, New York, for example, the town abolished local taxes for eight years because wind revenue covered all of its budgetary needs.

Wind’s extra revenue also strengthens the third pillar of home valuation: access to a strong school system. New financial resources from wind allow rural school districts to offer services they otherwise would not be able to.

“Oh my gosh, it’s been a game changer for us,” said Jeff Synder, superintendent of the Lincolnview school district in Van Wert, Ohio. “Now we have the windmill money opportunity, we have $400,000 per year for 20 [years]. I didn’t have to pass one levy, ask [our taxpayers] for anything.”

The Lincolnview school district was able to provide every student grade K through 12 with a laptop, and fully fund the repair and replacement program. In New York, the Lowville school district used wind revenue to build a new athletic field and offer advanced placement courses, and it has a swim team called The Turbines. In fact, students from the Lowville district perform so well on standardized tests, compared to areas with similarly low average family income, that researchers from Syracuse University are now studying Lowville to see what makes it so successful. The added programs funded by wind surely play a role in the system’s success.

For those concerned about the impacts of wind farms on property values, the evidence shows there is no cause for concern — long-term, comprehensive studies show wind power doesn’t affect property values. In 2014, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) along with University of Connecticut examined 122,000 home sales near 26 wind facilities in densely populated Massachusetts between 1998 and 2012, comparing transactions within a half-mile (1,500 of the sales) to similar transactions up to five miles away. Based on a detailed analysis the researchers were unable to uncover any impacts to nearby home property values.

LBNL has conducted two other major studies on this topic (in 2009 and 2013), and in all cases, found no statistical evidence that operating wind turbines have had any measurable impact on home sales prices. As an author of the 2009 report stated “Neither the view of wind energy facilities nor the distance of the home to those facilities was found to have any consistent, measurable, and significant effect on the selling prices of nearby homes.”

“Wind is a lucrative, sustainable ‘crop’ for our farmers and entire community,” said Susan Munroe, president and CEO of Van Wert County’s Chamber of Commerce. “We hope to continue to harvest wind to not only build economic success for our county but provide sustainable, renewable energy for our state.”

About the Author: Greg Alvarez is the Deputy Director, External Communications, for the American Wind Energy Association.