Diving into Water Rights: A Primer for Land Agents

“Water is the ultimate zero-sum game; the volume of water used by one right holder sourced from our common pool of water ultimately diminishes, to some degree or other, the volume of water available to other water right holders.”

– Dr. Charles Porter, 2014

Nothing is more basic to successful human congregate settlement than the management and sharing of freshwater resources; the way in which Americans manage their freshwater resources defines the overall quality of life. Today’s REALTORS® must gain a working knowledge of water rights in their geographic area of practice.

Who Owns the Water?

The first question that arises – who owns water in the United States, the public or the individual citizen? The answer is an eternal favorite – it depends – on the geological container in which the water resides. Ownership of water varies from state to state but is always categorized in three geological containers in which water resides, surface water, diffused surface water, and groundwater.

Surface water is water that exists naturally in a river, creek, or stream. Most states own their surface water and describe it as water in a “watercourse” that is generally defined as:

…a channel, comprising well-defined bed and banks, a current of water, and a permanent source of supply. The flow of water need not be continuous, and the channel may be dry for long periods of time.

There are two state-by-state variations of surface water rights in the United States, riparian rights and appropriative rights. Riparian water rights are based upon ownership of land appurtenant to surface water; riparian rights tend to be the basic water law in states east of the Mississippi River. Riparian rights are usufructs only, or rights that allow use of the water but not ownership of the water. Appropriative rights are based upon a grant or license from the state to use the water for a certain purpose. Appropriative rights tend to apply to those states west of the Mississippi River. In most western states, appropriative rights are further permitted based upon first-in- time, first-in-right, a concept referred to as prior appropriation.

The United States “Americanized” the traditional English Common law riparian concept in 1826. According to Professor of Law T. E. Lauer the origin of the American riparian doctrine was rendered by a United States District Court in Tyler v. Wilkinson:

The origin of the American riparian doctrine of water use, whereby each owner of land upon the banks of a watercourse has the right to make a reasonable [emphasis added] use of the water, is customarily placed shortly after the year 1825. Traditionally, the creation of the riparian doctrine has been ascribed to two of the greatest early American jurists, Joseph Story and James Kent.

water rights

The introduction of the reasonable use idea is the driving concept in the permitting of surface water in most states and in some states, even applies to legal uses of privately owned groundwater. As opined by Jurist James Kent in 1828, the American definition of the reasonable use of water is:

All that the law requires of the party, by or over whose land a stream passes, is, that he should use the water in a reasonable manner, and so as not to destroy, or render useless, or materially diminish, or affect the application of the water by the proprietors below on the stream.

What constitutes a reasonable use of water is regularly a matter of hot debate between up-streamers and down- streamers. The situational aspect of reasonable use is subjective and determined in the eyes of the beholder; the same specific use can be usually be argued for or against easily and credibly. Most states broadly define reasonable use of water as water used for irrigation, municipal, domestic and livestock, and industrial purposes.

“Today’s REALTORS® must understand the human-water interface and the foundational role water plays in the quality of life of their communities.”

The second geological container is “diffused” surface water, or water that runs across the surface of the land either from rainfall, snow melt, condensation, or caused by other atmospheric conditions. Diffused surface water is owned by the private landowner in some states such as Texas, but not so in other states.

Private ownership of diffused surface water ends when the water enters a surface water watercourse or in some states, when it disappears into the ground and becomes groundwater.

The third geological container is groundwater. Groundwater is “water that exists underground in saturated zones beneath the land surface.” Groundwater rights are owned by the public in many states but owned by the private overlying landowner in other states. Private and absolute ownership of groundwater is recognized in Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and Texas.

ground water well

In other states with no comprehensive groundwater regulations, ownership is ill- defined in their statutes or in their state constitution. Some states may claim to own the groundwater yet allow unlimited withdrawals without any liability to neighbors, making the practical matter of ownership in those states moot. The geological containers of water exist conjunctive in the hydrologic cycle.

Surface water, diffused surface, and groundwater are, have been, or will ultimately be in union with one another. Diffused surface water feeds both surface water and groundwater.

Groundwater feeds surface water both in the underflow and via natural springs. As water flows downhill above or below ground, the containers feed and deplete each other visibly and invisibly. A single molecule of water is like a chameleon as to its ownership, changing legal status as it flows through the hydrologic cycle.

Another fact of water is that it ignores political boundaries. Setting workable public water policy based upon surface political boundaries and not upon the natural boundaries of the water itself is problematic. A shared common pool water existing in several political boundaries risks conflicts between regulatory agencies weakening prudent management of the resource.

Yet another fundamental concept in water rights is ‘beneficial use’ which is generally accepted to be the use of:

… the amount of water which is economically necessary for a purpose authorized by this chapter when reasonable intelligence and reasonable diligence [emphasis added] are used in applying the water to that purpose and shall include conserved water.

A vexing question arises – what is reasonable intelligence and reasonable diligence? Of course, my use of water, and yours likely as well, is always based on reasonable intelligence and reasonable diligence, right? Beneficial use varies from state to state, clearly defined in some but loosely defined in others. The California legislature so clearly defined beneficial uses of water that their list is five pages long!

water fall

Why Land Agents Should Know Water Rights Basics

Why is it so important that real estate licensees in the United States have a working knowledge of water rights in their practice area? First, land with water is more valuable than land without water. The sales price we recommend to our clients to ask and offer is significantly impacted by water rights and water availability.

Second, it is our duty to assist our clients in determining the characteristics of any given tract they are selling or are interested in buying. We, of course, cannot provide legal advice, engineering advice, or hydrologic advice to our clients unless we hold licenses in those professions. A prudent REALTOR®, though, assists clients in finding the professional help they need.

Third, often overlooked but of high importance to our overall civic duty, is the significance that water has on the fair market value of land and its resulting impact on the ad valorem tax base that is so important to the quality of life of any community. In most of the United States public school education through the 12th grade is the most cherished social value, and most often is funded by ad valorem taxation. Some hospitals and other critical public services derive their funding from ad valorem taxation as well. As the water resources in a rural city are sold or leased to an urban area, now more than ever a battleground of conflict nationwide, the ad valorem tax base in the rural city inevitably declines leading to a decline in public school funding and other public services. This, in turn, creates a downward spiral of quality of life in the community.

underground water

Frustratingly, there is no “one size fits all” water law or policy that can be applied to a country with such wide geographic diversity as ours. The federal, state, and local governments all have and/or claim some jurisdiction over water, with policies and jurisdictions that exist in open conflict. The route to understanding water rights is challenging, but essential to the value REALTORS® add to their clients’ transactions.

REALTORS® should begin their search by reviewing their state’s constitution and seeking help from the state and local agencies responsible for water use permitting. Some states have county agriculture extension agents that are a great source for water rights information as well.

Many states such as Texas recently created statutory duties requiring real estate license holders to become “geographically competent” in the region or area in which they work; competence in water rights therefore is now the law. Today’s REALTORS® must understand the human-water interface and the foundational role water plays in the quality of life of their communities.

This article was originally published in the REALTORS® Land Institute Summer 2020 Terra Firma Magazine.

Charles Porter NLC20 SpeakerAbout the author: Charles Porter, Ph.D. is an award-winning author, speaker, testifying real estate expert in over 600 cases nationwide, and has served in various faculty teaching roles at St. Edward’s University since 2008. In 2016 he earned a Ph.D. in Economics and Business from the Universitat Jaume I in Spain with “Cum Laude” distinction. He is also a well- recognized water rights expert. He was recently appointed to the Education Standards Committee of the Texas Real Estate Commission. If you have any questions related to the content in this article, Charles can be reached at crporter@sbcglobal.net

This article was originally published in the REALTORS® Land Institute Summer 2020 Terra Firma Magazine.

Winning Large Land Listings

Having spent over 40 years in the land business, I am occasionally asked about the biggest change I’ve seen in those four decades. The answer is one we can all be proud of, and it’s an excellent starting point for this article on winning large land listings. It’s the change in the culture of our profession.

With RLI leading the way through offering the ALC Designation, LANDU Education Program, annual National Land Conference as well as regional and state chapter events, the level of knowledge and expertise of the average land professional has improved dramatically.

The expansion of knowledge and expertise have allowed us to keep pace with rising seller expectations. As land prices have increased, sellers have become increasingly particular in the process they use to select a listing agent. It’s assumed the agent will have the level of skill and knowledge needed. Land education that was once considered optional is now a must.

“Better is not Differentiation” – Shark Tank

A major shift in the thinking of the seller has changed the way we now present ourselves and our services to them. Not long ago a listing presentation was 75% about the agent and their company, and 25% about the seller’s property. Today its 25% about the agent and their company and 75% about the seller’s property. The person who is able to articulate differentiation more clearly will win the listing almost every time. This is especially true for large properties. As the price goes up, the need for differentiation becomes even more important.

As a rule, brokers and agents create differentiation one of two ways. They show value by putting together a strong detailed presentation illustrating how they are different and uniquely equipped to help the seller sell their property, or they cut their commission.

That’s the big picture but each presentation will involve finer points of differentiation, as well, that need to be emphasized or countered. For example, a competitor may have more experience than you, the seller wants to auction and you don’t do auctions, your competitor has the same marketing tools you do and you are not much different in any way. You need to be prepared to address these and other points that will arise.

Experience Helps Win Large Land Listings

Let’s look at experience first. After my presentation for RLI’s Virtual NLC20 event, someone asked “How do you get in front of the seller to present in the first place?” I get that question a lot. Some have the misconception that other REALTORS® are just invited to present. If they are invited, it is only after a lot of hard work. You must consistently communicate your message to those who own the kind of property you want to sell and use every opportunity you have to show that you are relevant in that market. If you are doing that and still being looked over it’s almost always about experience.

This is common, many agents skip an all important step and try to compete for prime listings before they are ready to do so. It sounds odd but the first step in getting large land listings is to get experience. It’s extremely hard to win this type listing until you are proven. So, how do you get experience when sellers won’t list with you because you don’t have experience? You find someone who has experience you can partner with; you borrow their experience.

The truth is you need an experienced partner for the same reason the seller wants experience. There’s a lot more likelihood you will get the property sold. Establish a network of people (RLI is an excellent place to start) you can work with on specific properties. Get a partner for each property type: farms, ranches, recreational, timberland, commercial, etc., and for separate geographical areas. In Texas, for example, selling property in West Texas is different than selling in East Texas so get someone who knows the territory. Often when you cross a state line things change, so having a partner in the state will be helpful. Also look for opportunities to gain experience. Work with other agents in your office on large Listings. Help them gather information and build a package or prepare a listing presentation. If your company does auctions, help show buyers around on inspection day. Your focus should be to do everything you can to add that deal as one you worked on as part of your experience.

Selling someone else’s land listing is a great way to get the credibility to win more listings. Get to know the players in your area, tour their listings when you have the opportunity, know the inventory in your market so you can work with buyers. It doesn’t take many sales at this level to make a big difference in your resume.

land listing ranch

Sometimes you will find yourself in a presentation where it appears you are not really much different than some of the others you know you will be presenting against. The level of experience is close to the same, they’ve had some nice sales of similar properties and you have too and you both use almost exactly the same marketing tools. If you know the competitor that well, you probably have an idea how they will present and how you can present differently. If you think they may just show a website or publication, you dig deeper. Know how many visitors the website has or how many subscribers the publication has. Know the kind of followers the source has and why they are the kind of people who might buy the seller’s property. Show examples of properties similar to the seller you’ve sold or that others have sold through that source. If nothing else, prove that you pay more attention to detail and are more thorough that your competitor.

Consider An Auction To Land Large Listings

There is no better example of differentiation than trying to convince a seller to give you a conventional listing when they have a reason they need to sell at auction. That scenario literally defines differentiation. Remember, differentiation is giving the seller something they want that your competitor can’t do for them. While every property is not right for auction, many of the deals that do go to auction are large properties with a motivated seller. When I had my brokerage, the biggest sale in my market almost every year would be an auction. I wanted that business but, even with auctioneers charging a significant upfront marketing fee, I was never able to win a single listing from an auctioneer. The seller simply had needs that could only be met by the auction method. For example, auction allows the seller to choose the day the property will sell.

Auction allows the seller of a prime property to get more than they might have listed it for conventionally because the seller does not have to disclose his asking price first. Auction allows the settlement of ownership dispute or estate liquidations with more transparency. Auction provides a cleaner “as is” sale without contingencies, and auction compresses the marketing period and accelerates the sale time.

“Don’t act like an amateur and expect to be paid like a professional” – Jared James

All those things are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a conventional broker to do. The only way you can win part of that business is to find a good proven auctioneer to work with and offer auctions yourself. It’s unlikely that you will be able to recruit the kind of auctioneer you will need as an associate. You will probably have to work on a co-op basis, with you finding the auction and bringing them in to help negotiate the contract and do the sale. Experience is extremely important in the auction business. A failed auction can cost you credibility and take years to recover from. Do your homework.

Choose an auctioneer that has a history of success and fair dealing then work hard to hold up your end of the bargain and form a long and lasting partnership.

Nail The Presentation To Land The Listing

All these things should come together in a formal presentation. Remember, your presentation is the seller’s first glance at your work as it relates to their property. It’s hard to spend the time and resources preparing when there is a chance you might not win the listing, but you have to. It’s game day and not a time to hold anything back. Your goal should be to have the most professional presentation the seller is going to see put together in a way that highlights the seller’s property and your differentiation.

By now, I hope it’s evident that winning the best listings is a long-term commitment. It won’t happen by accident. Create a plan with a timeline for getting the training and education you will need to deliver the highest level of service. Form and maintain a strong network of professionals by specialty and geographical area, build an exceptional listing presentation and learn to express your value in terms of how you are different, and how and why that difference will help get the seller’s property sold. Aim for excellence every day. It’s hard work but, in the end it’s well worth it if you’re winning large land listings.

This article was originally published in the REALTORS® Land Institute Summer 2020 Terra Firma Magazine.

Richard Thompson, United CountryAbout the author: Richard Thompson began selling land in 1974 and joined the management team of United Country Real Estate where he now serves as Executive Vice President in 1988. He participated in hundreds of land transactions as an agent and broker and assisted with many others nationwide in his current role. His experience includes farming wheat, soybeans, cotton, milo, rice, hay and cattle which helps him connect with a broad range of sellers. His specialty is listing and seller representation.

The Future Of The Land Brokerage Industry

As nearly all businesses are forced to pivot quickly in order to meet consumer expectations amid the Coronavirus pandemic, a glimpse into the land brokerage industry — which has been evolving rapidly due to technological advancements and changing consumer behavior—is extremely relevant today.

Technology’s Disruption of the Land Brokerage Industry, and the Coronavirus Pandemic Acting as a Catalyst

Prior to COVID-19, technology was already making a noticeable impact on both our businesses and personal lives. Technology has forever changed communication, shopping, banking, education, entertainment, and, recently even how we visit with our doctors. But we didn’t fully understand how suddenly the benefits of technology would shift from being a convenience to an absolute necessity.

Most of the world came to a screeching halt a few months ago. Meanwhile, the innovative, forward-thinking businesses have proven they don’t need to stop their dribble to pivot; they’re going straight to the hoop for the score. Those effectively wielding technology are dominating the marketplace, whether we like it or not.

Before the pandemic, it had been predicted that 40% of both blue- and white-collar jobs would be lost to technology over the next 15 years. Since the onset of COVID-19 and the shutdown of our economy, it’s become clear that loss of American jobs to technology will occur more rapidly than originally predicted. And the real estate sector is no exception.

future of land brokerage industry

Long before Coronavirus had become a household name, massive disruption had been going on in the residential real estate sector. Companies effectively leveraging technology, data, google rankings, artificial intelligence, and social media were covering ground faster than Murder Hornets. That’s why we must learn from these residential companies.

They are changing the industry’s message with marketing slogans such as “Real Estate, Made Simple” and “Finally, the Way Real Estate Should Be.” Some of these businesses are demonstrating how the residential real estate industry has been ripe for disruption.

On a related note, businesses in general are seeing consumers demand more transparency. Consumers expect relevant, accurate, free-of-charge data to be at their fingertips to assist them with their decision-making process. If businesses are unable to meet their expectations, they’re on to the next vendor.

“…86% of real estate agents will be replaced by robots over the next 20 years.”

A recent Oxford University study predicted that 86% of real estate agents will be replaced by robots over the next 20 years. This statistic could be scary, but it’s not all doom and gloom. The real question is, will you be part of the 86% pushed aside, or will you be part of the elite 14% who are taking the time to learn how to stand out, stay relevant, and remain valuable? If real estate professionals can better serve clients by providing exactly what they need on a personal, emotional, and technological level, while saving them time and money, we become invaluable.

As real estate brokers, our path ahead may not be as easy as it has been in the past, but it’s important to seek opportunity in every challenge; do not sit victim to the changing circumstances. Be coachable and seek mentoring from others who can provide valuable tools and insight into changes and updates in the land brokerage industry.

As consumers take the lead in communicating what they want from land brokers, it’s important to go above and beyond to protect our brands and reputations, at all costs. Take caution: enabled by tools like Yelp, Google, and Facebook reviews, the service industry is being placed under a microscope more than ever before. Consumers will have access to how well or insufficiently we’ve performed, and they’ll base their buying decision on that information, and for many of them, that information alone.

The Bottom Line

There is no way to slow the pace of technology. We must embrace the impact it’s making in every industry, especially in new ways of connecting and presenting valuable information to our consumers in the land brokerage industry.

They are the ultimate shot caller, deciding who wins and who loses. Only those companies that can reach and provide the best consumer experience will win. Participation trophies in the land brokerage business are a relic of the past.

This article was originally published in the REALTORS® Land Institute Summer 2020 Terra Firma Magazine.

Aaron Graham, ALCAbout the author: Aaron Graham, ALC, is Partner and Chief Innovation Officer with National Land Realty. He’s a licensed real estate broker in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. Since he entered the real estate business after retiring from a successful NFL career, he’s brokered over $300,000,000 of land transactions throughout the Midwest.

RLI 2019 APEX Award Winners

Getting To The Top: Tips From The Nation’s Top Producing Land Agents

The Realtors® Land Institute is excited to share top advice from the winners of our 2019 APEX Awards Program, sponsored by The Land Report, as the top producing land agents in the country for 2019. The APEX Awards Program is designed to recognize the excellence and performance of the best in the business by distinguishing agents with these prestigious production-based awards.

Andy Flack, ALC

“To be successful at anything one must become knowledgeable, whether by education, experience or both. At the same time, persevere, be consistent, and exhibit high integrity and a hard work ethic. Excellence in all facets of your profession. And also, successful people know that ‘no’ is a powerful word and a complete sentence.”

– Andy Flack, ALC, HomeLand Properties, Inc., Huntsville, TX, APEX 2019 Top National Producer and APEX 2019 Broker of the Year in Timberland Sales

Ryan Sampson, ALC

“Listen to what your client’s goals are and, once you truly understand them, work your behind off to make them a reality. You are only as good

as your client’s success.”

– Ryan Sampson, ALC, CCIM, Eshenbaugh Land Company, Tampa, FL, APEX 2019 Broker of the Year in Commercial Land Sales

Dean Saunders, ALC

“My best piece of advice is to stay client focused and help them accomplish their goals. In the words of the late Zig Ziglar ‘You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.’ So our job is to really understand our clients’ goals and objectives, and to help them meet those goals and objectives.”

–          Dean Saunders, ALC, CCIM, SVN Saunders Ralston Danzler, Lakeland, FL, APEX 2019 Broker of the Year in Ag Land Sales – Ranches

Steve Bruere

“Collaboration and abundance are two things that are a huge part of our culture at Peoples Company. There is no shortage of opportunities to pursue and, when you open up communication with others in the industry and within your own office, it creates more opportunities for everyone. This recognition is more about the collaborative culture at Peoples Company and a reflection on our team more so than an individual achievement. Most of our auctions have 10 to 15 of my colleagues involved. It’s truly a team effort and wouldn’t be possible without the abundant culture and collaborative efforts at Peoples Company and others in the industry.”

–          Steve Bruere, RLI Member, Peoples Company, Clive, IA, APEX 2019 Broker of the Year in Auction Land Sales

Marty Domres, ALC

“I personally don’t think there is one single piece of advice that I can give. There are several things that need to happen to be successful. The first piece of advice, is to learn everything you can learn about real estate, learning is a never ending process. The more you learn the better you get! Persistence definitely pays off! Don’t give up! Concentrate on building long term relationships. You have to be useful, by providing information, a product, or a service. I can’t tell you how many times property deals have come back to me. Last, always be honest! If you don’t know, tell the client you don’t know, but you will get back to him with an answer as soon as possible! These are the things that have worked for me. I hope this advice helps you!”

– Marty Domres, ALC, CCIM, Domres Real Estate Investments, Inc., APEX 2019 Broker of the Year in Residential Land Sales

Troy Louwagie, ALC

“Helping buyers and sellers acquire and sell farmland continues to be a people business. Buyers and sellers rely on their Land Broker to be their Trusted Advisor. We do this by providing professional services above and beyond what is asked. This is done by treating people with integrity and honesty. Also, by keeping up to date with what is going on in the land market and by communicating it with your clients at all times. Making this a top priority builds lifelong relationships. If you do these things, everything else will fall into place.”

– Troy Louwagie, ALC, Hertz Real Estate Services, Mt. Vernon, IA, APEX 2019 Broker of the Year in Ag Land Sales – Crops and APEX 2019 Wrangler

Joey Bellington

“I know this advice may sound very basic, but sometimes the basic things are the best things! It is this: always put the interests of your client before your own. As brokers, we have so many different ways we can handle our business – some ways are good, some are bad. Usually   the simplest way for me to stay on the right track is to do my business with integrity, and then simply put my clients’ interests first. When a broker learns to do this well, that is, when they are really building a career they can be proud of, instead of just closing one sale.”

– Joey Bellington, RLI Member, Whitetail Properties, San Antonio, TX, APEX 2019 Broker of the Year in Recreational Land Sales

The RLI APEX Awards Program, sponsored by The Land Report, celebrated its third year with a record 105 applicants totaling a combined $2.65+ billion in qualifying transaction volume and 3,535 sides represented. All land professionals recognized as part of the RLI APEX Awards Program are active members of RLI. The 2019 APEX Top Twenty Award winners were ranked by qualifying production volume. For more information on the award winners, make sure to get a copy of The Land Report, one of the industry’s leading magazines for landowners and land professionals, which will publicize the top winners in their upcoming Spring 2020 issue. All land real estate professionals are invited to join RLI and apply to the prestigious APEX Awards Program next year. Learn more at https://www.rliland.com/national-land-conference/rli-apex-awards-program

This article was originally published in the REALTORS® Land Institute Summer 2020 Terra Firma Magazine.

Subdivision land real estate course

Secrets To A Successful Subdivision Land Development Process

Successful vs Unsuccessful Development Projects

My name is Bobby Mink and I have the pleasure of being one of the instructors for RLI’s Land University (LANDU) Education Program.  Having been around the construction industry for over 40 years, I realize the need for great training sessions like Subdivision Development.  As a residential builder for many years, I had the chance to see the impacts of both good, and not so good development planning. As I was promoted through the management ranks through the years, the importance of great planning and a really good land development processes became painfully clear. There are a few areas that are a part of our Subdivision Development class that make a huge impact on the success or failure of a Subdivision Development.

The Research and Analysis Phase

The first area is the research and analysis phase. I have worked with organizations where every detail was gathered, reviewed, and processed. Those developments generally turned out really well and extremely profitable. I have also worked with organizations where our “gut” says this is a good deal for us. In those cases, the lack of thorough and detailed analysis created for catastrophic subdivisions where profit margin, price and product missed by a mile.

The Contract Phase

The next area that creates a real challenge when buying and developing a subdivision has two parts that really impact the journey. Part 1 is the contract phase. In the organization that had a well-defined process, the company with good systems and processes created a relatively predictable timeline for the development. In other organizations, the “gut” process usually produced a timeline that was missed by a mile.

Pitfalls To Avoid During The Contract Phase
  • Not taking into consideration how long it takes to get all the site inspections done.
  • Not knowing how long it takes to meet with city officials.
  • Not knowing how long it takes and how difficult it is to meet with neighbors and Home Ownership Associations (HOAs).

This lack of process can create an ever-moving target for the investors, the builders, the sales and marketing team, and the community.

Development Phase

Part 2 of this challenge is the actual development or vertical construction phase of the process. In the organization with good processes, there was a defined and managed schedule with scopes of work that moved along relatively predictably. Knowing that unforeseen things can arise, and we can have bad weather, sickness, vacations, or supplier and trade contractor issues, a well-processed and well-scheduled subdivision development can have a somewhat clear start and completion time frame.

However, if there are not good development processes and schedules, this phase can drag on for months longer than planned. Once again, for a builder planning on new houses starts to hit his projected numbers for the year or for a sales and marketing company planning on new homes for an agent to sell, this type of unpredictability is catastrophic. You may not only lose your builder client, but you may also lose your sales and marketing team and risk changes in the development’s codes, inspections, municipality buy-in, and neighbor and HOA challenges all because of a lack of execution and process. And, it is super frustrating and costly for everyone involved.

So, my best recommendation is for land agents to join us for RLI’s newly-updated LANDU Subdivision Land Development class that I teach so you are prepared to execute the best and most profitable developments you can!

Bobby Mink, LANDU InstructorAbout The Author: Bobby Mink is from Atlanta, Georgia and has been in business management for over 20 years. From Builder to Project Manager and General Manager to Vice President of Operations and Development as well as Vice President of Sales and Marketing and Chief Operations Officer. Mink has had the opportunity to manage all types and levels of the building industry as well as managing sales and marketing. Mink has managed and grown several startup home building opportunities using strategic planning, fundamental systems and tactics to achieve the desired outcome and turn around opportunities for struggling companies. He has also used his experience with land development to use great start up processes for new developments being acquired and being brought online. Through his corporate coaching, Bobby has helped solidify corporate structure, communication, accountability, clarity and teamwork for countless organizations. As the owner and Head of Coach for Choice Consulting and Management, LLC, Bobby has had the opportunity to coach business owners on how to grow their companies, set up streamlined processes, effective communication, accountability, increased profitability and customer service by putting in place good, fundamental proven business principles that help individuals and organizations to reach their full potential and inspire that change with passion. Mink has been an instructor for the NAHB for over 12 years. Bobby is the author of his new book “CHOICES’. He is also a John Maxwell Team Member, DISC facilitator, Certified Church Growth Coach and holds designations from the NAHB in CMP (Certified Marketing Professional), CGB (Certified Graduate Builder),  CSP (Certified Sales Professional), GMB (Graduate Master Builder), CAPS (Certified Aging in Pace), MIRM (Member of the Institute of Residential Marketing). If you have any questions on this topic or about this course’s content, I can be reached at bmink@choiceconsulting,man.com or 678-561-2169.

 

 

Wire Fraud – Protect Your Business and Your Clients

Wire fraud is a growing problem for everybody involved in real estate transactions.  This article will discuss Business Email Compromise (which may culminate in a theft by wire fraud); what Business Email Compromise (BEC) is and why it is important for you to know about; as well as what you can do to identify potential problems to protect your business and your clients.

What is Business Email Compromise (BEC)?

phishing imageBEC is also known as phishing or wire fraud.  Frequently, a fraudster poses as somebody else (possibly a known person, a potential client or business associate) to gather sensitive information and/or install malware onto your computer.  Once they hack into somebody’s email, they usually wait in the background of a transaction.  Software is often used to scan the content of emails and alert to an upcoming transfer of money.  Just before money is to be transferred, they come out of the shadows and attempt to divert the money to an account under their control.  Remember that email addresses and telephone numbers can be spoofed.

Why Land Agents Need To Know About BEC

BEC is the most prevalent wire fraud scheme targeting businesses today.  It has been reported in all 50 of the United States and in 177 countries.  Real estate agents, title companies, law firms, sellers and buyers (in real estate transactions) are the most targeted for wire fraud.  Although your email and computer system may be secure, somebody else’s in the transaction may not be.  It only takes one person in the transaction to be hacked to introduce a risk of loss that can affect everybody!

BEC is a fast growing problem and has been described as the modern day bank robbery.  However, it is much more lucrative and the criminals are less likely to be caught.  According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (iC3), from 2015 to 2017 there was an 1,100% increase in reported victims and a 2,200% increase in reported losses.  Between October 2013 and July 2019, over $10 Billion of losses were reported in the United States.  Since some businesses are afraid of reputational damage, the actual losses may be higher than what was reported.  The FBI estimates there is an average of $8 Million in losses each month in real estate transactions in the United States.

The FBI estimates there is an average of $8 Million in losses each month in real estate transactions in the United States. 

As a result of this growing threat, to protect your business and your clients, be suspicious and at high alert.  Whenever the movement of money is involved, assume that somebody’s email has been hacked and you may be communicating with a fraudster!

How To Protect Your Business and Your Clients From BEC

A wire fraud causes numerous damages to you and your clients in addition to a loss of money.  As mentioned above, the fraud may cause reputational damage to a business or its agents.  There is also a considerable impact on efficiency.  A lot of time and emotional energy can be expended trying to get the money back, checking computer systems, changing passwords, etc.

Even though tactics change, there are a few common “red flags” that you should be aware of:

  • Multiple or changed wiring instructions. Wiring instructions are rarely changed because business bank accounts are not frequently changed.  Some bogus reasons that have been given for changed wiring instructions may include: “the account has been closed” or “the account has been placed on hold by the bank and is not effective at this time”.
  • Bad Grammar. Many (but not all) fraudsters are foreign and may misspell words, use a word or phrase incorrectly or not as commonly spelled or spoken in American English.  For example, “authorisation (British) vs. “authorization” (American).
  • Unusual Wire Recipient. Generally, deposits and closing funds are wired to accounts in the name of a settlement attorney, an escrow or title company or the real estate agent holding earnest money.  Any other payee on the account should be considered to be a red flag.
  • Changed or spoofed email address. The changes may be subtle and missed if somebody is in a rush.  For example, instead of Baker@TheTitleCompany.com the email address might be changed to JohnBakerTheTitleCompany@gmail.com or there could be a very subtle change to the name such as John.Baker@yahoo.com to John.Bakar@yahoo.com.  However, sometimes the fraudsters are able to hack into the actual email account and send emails form it.
  • Does the communication make sense in the context of the transaction? For example, is the “settlement agent” asking for a wire so they can send a check for the closing?

wire fraud security

So, What Can You Do?

  • Be cautious if the person on the other end of the emails wants to rush things. Fraudsters want to create an urgency and cause you to rush because that increases the chance you will miss “red flags”. For this reason, it has been noticed that many attempts take place on Fridays and at the end of the month because of the increased transactional volume.
  • Only send information to the person(s) who need it. Be cautious with “reply to all”.  The more people that are on an email string the higher the chance that your email goes to a fraudster.
  • Be cautious before clicking on a hyperlink sent by an unknown person and “hover” over links before clicking to see a preview of where it will take you.
  • Keep all software patches on and all systems updated.

If you discover you are the victim of a fraudulent incident, immediately contact your financial institution to request a recall of funds.  The longer you wait the more likely the funds will be lost forever!  As soon as possible, file a complaint with the iC3 at www.ic3.gov.  You can also obtain internet crime prevention tips and crime schemes at the iC3 website.

James Miller, EsqAbout the Author: Jim Miller, Esq., is an Associate General Counsel for Investment Property Exchange Services, Inc. (IPX1031).  IPX1031, a Qualified Intermediary, is a national leader in 1031 tax-deferred exchange transactions and a wholly owned subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial, Inc. He is also an instructor for RLI’s Tax Deferred 1031 Exchanges LANDU course. For questions or more information on exchanges, call (888) 771-1031 or visit the website at www.ipx1031.com.

soil

Sifting Through The Science of Farmland Soil Health

“Under All Is The Land” – the motto of the National Association of REALTORS® could not better encompass the enormity of that statement so succinctly. Indeed, the essence of all we do is upon, within, and determined by the land; its location, structure, depth, topography, and a myriad of other land factors that dictate and influence our lives and, certainly, our livelihood. We build our homes, cities, factories, and roads on the land, and put the lines and pipes to serve them under it. We till and farm and irrigate the land to feed ourselves and much of the rest of the world. We draw imaginary lines on the land and fight wars over it. Land is literally and figuratively our foundation. Of particular interest to the land brokers who comprise the REALTORS® Land Institute, is that portion of the land we call soil.

“It’s not dirt, its soil!”

“It’s not dirt, its soil!” is an often used distinction between what you plant your crops in and what you track into the house on your boots. While the words are colloquially used interchangeably, the study of soils is a fascinating exploration into the resource beneath our feet. Land brokers, particularly those involved in farm sales, can benefit from some basic soil knowledge. Many farm brokers were raised on farms and work in the ag communities where an understanding of “good dirt” is common. The underlying reasons, those identified by farmland soil science, are important to the users of the land, particularly farmers, and means that those who broker that land should also have a basic understanding of the elements of soil health.

Topsoil is the uppermost layer of soil and comprises the elements that make crop production possible. Topsoil is a very valuable and precious resource – it takes 500 to 1,000 years to create a single inch of topsoil that can be lost in minutes to erosion or improper management. Soil is developed from parent material (rock) over the span of millennia by the ongoing natural actions of weathering: wind, water, heat, cold, freezing, thawing, chemical and biological action, topography, and time. Constant, careful, and deliberate management measures must be applied to property manage our topsoil resource, keep it healthy and productive, and prevent unnecessary loss due to erosion.

The largest man-made environmental disaster in the U.S. was the great Dust Bowl of the 1920s and ‘30s. Because of mismanagement, and a lack of foresight and understanding, a vast area of the central U.S. was devastated by loss of topsoil due to improper farming practices and sustained wind which resulted in economic collapse and the largest relocation of our population in U.S history, as farms went broke and people left the land. This is not just past history that can be acknowledged and forgotten, because without vigilance, it could happen again. In just the last 5 years, virgin grasslands in sensitive, arid areas have been plowed and planted with the expectations of profits from high commodity prices. When those prices inevitably adjust downward, those fragile soils may be subject to excess erosion.

dust bowl dirt

In the wake of the Dust Bowl, the Soil Conservation Service was formed by the Federal Government to research the causes and prevention of massive soil erosion and take steps to train landowners, make relevant law and policy, and buy back and set aside formerly privately owned land for restoration. The establishment of our system of National Grasslands came about by these efforts. Other government efforts that offered landowner incentives to take highly erodible lands out of production produced programs such as the original Land Banking program and the decades-old Conservation Reserve Program, still in use.

The efforts of decades of the soil conservation movement are evident throughout U.S. farmland with the use of terracing, tiling, contour farming, grass waterways, strip farming, retention of crop residues, irrigation management, and numerous other practices that are a part of modern American agriculture.

Soil is very much alive. The makeup of topsoil includes the geosphere (rock and parent material), the biosphere (millions of bacteria, fungi, worms and other life), and the atmosphere (air and pore spaces for water movement, and oxygen for chemical and biological action). A healthy soil is teeming with life. Preserving and enhancing a soil environment that can host and encourage biological action is a goal of proper soil management.

Management and the health of topsoil are critical and include proper tillage methods, prevention of soil erosion, and retention of crop residue to enhance organic matter content. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly the Soil Conservation Service, is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides information, education, services, and assistance to landowners to develop and maintain conservation plans. Most crop price support, crop insurance, and cooperative assistance programs offered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) require that a landowner must have an NRCS approved conservation plan as a condition of participation in the program. NRCS is also responsible for creating and updating the Soil Survey, a valuable source of information in both printed and on-line digital form (more on that later).

nrcs soil texture

It is common for a farmer or landowner to discuss soil types in terms of the soil’s texture, such as a “loamy” soil or a “clay” soil. Soil is comprised of three soil texture types, all based on the size of the soil particles. The three basic soil textures, in order of size from largest to smallest, are: sand, silt, and clay. A loam is a mixture of varying amounts of sand, silt, and clay. Specific soil textures are determined by using a soil textural triangle based upon the percentage of sand, silt, and clay in a particular soil sample (see illustration). NRCS provides an online calculator that is a great resource for calculating soil texture.

Soil health and fertility status is best determined by an on-site sampling of soils, usually in a grid pattern, submitted for laboratory analysis.

The soil test lab report provides valuable information on the makeup of the soil, its pH (acidity or alkalinity), and cation exchange capacity (CEC). CEC is a determination of the ability of the soil components (primarily clay and humus) to allow for the absorption and transport of soil nutrients from the soil to the plant roots. It is essentially a measure of the soil’s ability to hold nutrients and feed the plants. Fertilizer recommendations are based on the results of a proper soil test. Variations of soil types on a farm, and even in a particular field, can be identified and accounted for. When the information is translated to geo-spatial formats, current precision agriculture technology using GPS location equipment has the ability to make on-the-go adjustments for varying soil types and fertilizer needs.

A farm broker often needs to provide soil information on a property to prospective buyers. As always, the landowner, manager, or operator is a good first source, particularly if they utilize the services of a crop production adviser who analyzes the soil conditions periodically. A very good general source of soil information is the USDA/NRCS Web Soil Survey, an online resource that provides information on most U.S. soils. A broker can readily create a soils map, from the Web Soil Survey, and accompanying summary of soil capability, average expected crop yields, and more.

The Web Soil Survey has links to a vast amount of soil information, education, and a tutorial on using the survey. A handy green “start” button opens the survey itself. The process is started on the Area of Interest (AOI) tab by defining the subject parcel as a specific area which narrows the parcel search to the level of section, township, and range. Other methods to find and define the AOI are street address, GPS coordinates, and other reference maps, in addition to the Public Lands Survey System legal description. Once the map is zoomed to the general selected area, a specific location is automatically plotted on an aerial map utilizing the AOI tool to define rectangular or trapezoidal parcel boundaries. Once the Area of Interest is defined, a click on the Soil Map tab creates a map of soil types shown on the subject parcel. Once presented with the soil map, a click on the Soil Data Explorer tab provides an extensive selection of soil attributes, analyses, and limitations on use for the area defined. Ag lands would utilize info such as crop production capability classes, expected yields, and erosion susceptibility. One can also find info and potential limitations in regard to septic system leaching fields, road construction, and other engineering and construction topics. Once the map and information is selected, the user clicks on the Shopping Cart tab to obtain the map and report in digital form for download, or in printable form. The information is free, despite use of the term “shopping cart.”

For the brokers who wish to provide basic soils information for a particular parcel, the Web Soil Survey is a quick, easy to use tool that provides the ability to create a comprehensive soil map and report for any listing. This is a good way to work with your clients to provide valuable information on a sale property and impressive data to prospective buyers. More specific information and education can be obtained locally at the nearest USDA Farm Service Agency. Most counties in the U.S. have an office and can direct you to the best sources of information, including a locally or regionally available soil scientist.

A comprehensive understanding of all things soil related would require much study and education, but a great deal of this valuable information can be obtained, analyzed, and presented for free through the programs explained here. Hopefully, you will have gained a bit of historical perspective and direction. If you are a landowner trying to sift through soil science, it is important to Find A Land Consultant with expertise on the subject, like an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC). If you are a land agent and interested in learning more on this topic, make sure to take RLI’s Agricultural Land Brokerage and Marketing and Land 101: Fundamentals of Land Bokerage LANDU courses.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2015 edition of the Terra Firma land real estate magazine published by RLI.

Kirk Goble, ALCAbout the author: Kirk Goble, ALC, has been a Colorado licensed real estate broker since 1988 and founded The Bell 5 Land Company in 2000. He specializes in farm, ranch, land, and water brokerage. He is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, The Greeley Area REALTOR® Association, and the REALTORS® Land Institute. Goble was awarded the Land REALTOR® of America by the REALTORS® Land Institute in 2013 and is a LANDU instructor for RLI.

new land agent

New Land Agents: Overcome These Barriers and Get to Work

Overcoming Expertise Barriers

Decide on your specialty – We believe the best foundation for finding your niche is to go with what comes naturally to you and what you have plenty of life experience with. It’s imperative that you have confidence in your ability to market and represent the real estate and the clients you choose to work with.

mentor

Find your mentorFind someone that does what you want to do, really well, and join them. Rural real estate will throw you a new curve on a weekly and, sometimes, even daily basis.  If you can align yourself with a solid team and/or an experienced Broker within your specialty, you’ll remove the majority of the risk factor and frustration for everyone involved just from their experience and willingness to help.  Nothing is more exhausting than having an inexperienced Broker floundering on one side of a land deal that doesn’t know how to troubleshoot, problem solve, and keep everyone moving in a positive direction, causing one side to do most of the work in the best interest of their own clients.

Take Courses – Organizations like RLI provide courses, like those part of their LANDU Education Program, that can give new agents the expertise they need to get started and thrive in the land industry as an agent. Make sure to seek out these opportunities and to continue learning throughout your career.

Overcoming Cost Barriers

Vehicle/Fuel costs – If you choose a niche that you’re already living, chances are you have the appropriate vehicle.  Just clean it up and make it presentable. Again, if you join a team, they may have a company UTV available for showing properties. Fuels costs can be somewhat alleviated by having a plan in place to pre-qualify your buyers as far as their wants and needs and their ability to finance. Don’t waste your time in a truck with someone that doesn’t have the stack to purchase the properties they’re asking to see.

Marketing costs within a team can be shared and the experienced Broker can advise a new agent on what works and what doesn’t saving a lot of unnecessary output. Your team or established Broker will usually have a marketing plan in place with appropriate websites and subscriptions that come with no added cost to their Brokers.

Land real estate allows us to make a living at something we’re made of.  It gives us the ability to spend our work days with people that love the same way of life as we do.  It’s absolutely rewarding and can sometimes be brutally hard. Just be prepared to gather more lifelong friends than you could ever imagine, and be sure you protect and treat every one of them like they’re family.  Submerse yourself in education and always do the right thing and you’ll have an amazing career in land real estate!

Clint Flowers, ALCAbout The Author: Clint Flowers, ALC, is the top producer nationwide at National Land Realty, a member of the REALTORS® Land Institute, their RLI Alabama Chapter, and the Chair of their 2019 Future Leaders Committee. He was the NLR Top Producer Nationwide in 2016, 2017, and 2018. He also won the 2017 APEX National Broker of the Year award for Timberland and was in the 2018 APEX Producers Club.

Lisa JohnsonAbout The Author: Lisa Johnson, ALC, is the Owner/Principal Broker at Horsepower Real Estate. Specializing in Farms, Ranches, and Equestrian Properties in Western Oregon, her and her team of land Brokers are among the top rural agents in the area. Lisa is a member of the RLI Pacific Northwest Chapter, and a 2019 Future Leaders Committee member.

timberland agent

A Day In The Life Of A Timberland Agent

One of the reasons consulting forestry, and now land focused real estate brokerage, has been so appealing to me is that the job is not monotonous. Each day presents new challenges and, while experience helps navigate those challenges, timberland agents are constantly learning and coming across new things. It is hard to describe a typical day because each one is unique. There are certain characteristics that make timberland brokerage a unique specialty.

I worked as consulting forester early in my career before transitioning into land agency. These early experiences prepared me for the more technical aspects of timberland brokerage. Brokers need a strong knowledge to help them allocate value among the component parts of properties. The value in timberland can be thought of as comprising two major components: the underlying or bare land and the timber growing on the land (there may also be improvement value). The agent must be able to quantify the timber portion separately from the bare land in order to form an accurate purchase or selling price.

timberland agent in forest

The first step in this process is accurately describing the timber on the property. This usually starts with a current forest stand map that details the acreages associated with each unique stand. A forest stand is an area of similar species composition and age. We prepare for the initial tract visit with an aerial photograph of the tract, and the first visit involves touring the property to identify the stands and stand boundaries. We then describe those stands in terms of species composition, age, site quality, silvicultural treatments, and any other relevant features. We take this field information back to the office and, using our GIS system, create an accurate and up-to-date stand map with associated acreages.

We then decide if the property requires a full timber inventory (cruise) to accurately value the merchantable timber. Ideally, all merchantable stands of timber will be inventoried prior to a purchase or sell. This gives either the buyer or the seller confidence in the timber value of the asset. If this is not possible, or the party does not want to incur the expense, an experienced forester or broker can provide estimates of the per acre value based on a thorough inspection of the property. Walk through or “ocular” estimates are not as accurate but are significantly lower cost, and may be sufficient depending on the goals of the buyer/seller.

The timber inventory should detail all of the species, forest products, and volumes in each timber category. If the agent is not a forester, they should seek to establish relationships with local consulting foresters in their work area, so that he or she can be engaged to perform timber inventory and appraisal services clients when needed. Pre-merchantable stands, those too young for commercial sale, have value that should be estimated as well. These can be valued if the agent can determine the age, species, and site preparation invested in planted stands or natural stands of timber.

timber forest

Agents specializing in this area of the land business need to have a strong knowledge of timber markets in their work area. They should know the area mills, what products they purchase, how the trees are merchandised (cut up when harvested), and current market pricing of all forest products for the market. In my area of North and South Carolina, I work in five unique timber markets within a 200-mile radius, and the values for the same forest products can vary greatly between each of these markets. If you are going to advise investors on where to purchase land, and help them forecast future timber markets, it is imperative to be networked with consulting foresters, procurement foresters, timber dealers, and mill representatives. These relationships will keep you updated so you can help your clients make good decisions. Armed with a deep understanding of the markets and forest product pricing in the area, a broker can use the timber inventory data to estimate the value of the timber on the property with a reasonable amount of certainty.

Equally important is the ability of the broker to value the underlying land on the timber investment. There are two primary approaches timberland brokers can use to value the land:

  1. Comparable sales. The sales comparison approach is the primary method used for smaller acreages that have less potential for regular (annual) cash flows. The broker should have a strong understanding of recent timberland transactions in their work area with as much detail as possible to estimate the bare land price realized in each sale (the allocation). This allows the agent to make an apples-to-apples comparison of sold tracts to the subject property. Land focused real estate brokers and local rural appraisers can help agents obtain comparable sale information. Professionals are usually willing to share information with other professionals, so be sure you return the favor to those who assist you.
  2. Land Expectation Value (LEV). The Land Expectation Value (LEV) approach involves using discounted cash flow analysis (DCF) to derive the net present value (NPV) of the net income stream produced by a property over time. The LEV approach does require some specific knowledge to complete accurately – primarily a way to project timber growth into the future. Generally, this approach is reserved for larger transactions with many acres and forest stands involved, those likely to generate annual or at least semi-regular cash flows through frequent harvest events. To complete this approach, the analyst will need to understand the client’s investment parameters as well, including likely holding period and required return. Specialized training and knowledge is required to value a property using the LEV approach.

Timberland is a specialty, and this is a very high level overview of the types of task a timberland agent might work on in a given day. The REALTORS Land Institute offers and excellent introductory class, Timberland Real Estate, as part of their LANDU Education Program. I recommend this course as a first step for those who seek expertise in timberland.

Chris Miller, ALCChris Miller, ALC, is a land broker and consulting forester for American Forest Management, Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

prospecting phone calls

Prospecting Scripts For Land Professionals

Not all REALTORS® love cold calling, but most of those that are successful in the business have learned to do so effectively while making it an integral part of their daily prospecting. Dedicating a portion of your day to cold calling will ensure that you stay sharp on market trends and connected with the owners in your region. There is no better way to keep a pulse on landowner perspectives than by talking with landowners on a regular basis.

A few things to remember before picking up the phone:

  • Plan what you want from the call. Is your goal to get a meeting and/or listing, submit an unsolicited offer, confirm contact info, etc.?
  • Empathize, put yourself in their shoes. What type of land are you calling on and what type of owner are they? What is important to them? You will have a higher success rate if you are able to speak to a landowner about activity in the market and/or topics that are relevant to them.
  • Preparation will lead to confidence. Know the market and data – but, don’t be afraid to tell an owner you don’t know something in response to a question. It is better to let them know you will research it and get back to them, than to guess and get it wrong. This will help to establish trust with the owner while simultaneously giving you a reason to follow up.
  • Enthusiasm is contagious. Nobody wants to have a depressing conversation. You should be excited about what you do. But also, try to mirror the pace and tone of the person you are speaking with. This doesn’t mean copying them, but rather speaking to them how they are speaking to you.
  • Personalize your approach. We are better when we are being ourselves. This could mean adjusting any cold calling script to play to your individual strengths.

prospecting phone and note pad

Below is an example cold call prospecting script for land professionals along with a few variations depending on the nature of the conversation.

Introduction

Good evening/afternoon, this is (name) with (company/firm). May I speak with (owner’s name), the owner of the (land asset) located in (name of city/area)?

The reason for my call is:

Approach 1 (We have buyers)

We have been active in the market and are in contact with several motivated buyers looking for property similar to yours. Would you be interested in considering an offer if one of these prospects would like to submit on your property?

(Wait for response)

  • If they are receptive – Great, it would be helpful to meet and discuss your goals in more detail so that we are able to guide the prospects toward a deal structure that best achieves your desired outcome. What is your availability in the next few days?
  • If they are moderately receptive – I understand this is a big decision and you haven’t had the chance to think about it. At a minimum, could we schedule a quick meeting in the next few days to discuss the market and any specific goals that you have regarding your property?
  • If they are not interested – I appreciate the consideration. Would you like to be kept apprised of market data and see similar properties that we are bringing to market? Is there a reasonable time frame for me to follow up and see if things have changed, perhaps 12 months?

Closing – Going forward, is this the best number to reach you? Would you prefer email? Thank you for your time and I look forward to speaking with you again.

Approach 2 (Recent sale)

We recently sold (name or location of property you recently sold) at a price of (price/acre or another applicable unit) which represented a record value in the market (Alternative – Or use another data point – like the number of offers, quickness of the process, etc. – that may be a motivating factor for another owner) and was shown substantial buyer interest.

Have you considered listing your property to take advantage of the current demand and strong values?

(wait for response)

  • If they are receptive – Great, it would be helpful to meet and discuss your goals, as well as tour the property so that we may provide you with our estimate of value. What is your availability in the next few days?
  • If they are moderately receptive – I understand this is a big decision and you haven’t had the chance to think about it. At a minimum, could we schedule a quick meeting in the next few days to discuss the market and any specific goals that you have regarding your property?
  • If they are not interested – I appreciate the consideration. Would you like to be kept apprised of market data and see similar properties that we are bringing to market? Is there a reasonable time frame for me to follow up and see if things have changed, perhaps 12 months?

Closing – Going forward, is this the best number to reach you? Would you prefer email? Thank you for your time and I look forward to speaking with you again.

Approach 3 (General)

We are active in (your region, specific location of the land, specific land type, etc.) and are reaching out to owners to learn about their goals and so we are able to speak generally about each asset in the market. Do you have a few moments to discuss your property or is there a better time to speak?

(wait for response)

  • If they are receptive(Start asking questions.) Given how strong the values are at this time, have you considered selling? Would it be helpful to your estate planning if we were to provide a broker’s price opinion? Have you considered purchasing more land to increase the scale of your operation? How is everything going with your operation? Would you like us to send you information about activity to keep you informed about market trends? (have several potential questions to ask based on the type of property, specific market trends, and type of ownership).
  • If they are moderately receptive(get to the point) I understand you are busy. I wanted to quickly understand if you have considering selling, buying or are simply holding at this time…. Any information we could provide or questions about the market we could answer to assist you with your planning?
  • If they are not interested(ask to follow up with questions via email. If they don’t want to talk and won’t give you their email, MOVE ON.)

Closing  Going forward, is this the best number to reach you? Would you prefer email? Thank you for your time and I look forward to speaking with you again.

Through the practice of cold calling, you will become more comfortable and capable at gauging the conversation and guiding it in the direction you would like it to go. The bottom line is to pick up the phone and remember, an imperfect cold call is far better than no cold call. Happy calling!

Matt DavisAbout the author: Matt Davis is a real estate broker with Cushman & Wakefield. He is based in San Diego, CA, and assists clients with the disposition and acquisition of investment grade agricultural and transitional land assets. He is also founding member of the company’s Land Advisory Group and Agribusiness Solutions Team. Matt is a member of RLI and has served on their Future Leaders Committee.