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.

Five Books All Land Agents Should Read

What’s better than settling down with a really good book? The only problem we can think of is that there are so many great books out there about the land industry that there’s not enough time to read them all. For this article, we’re sorted through hundreds of books to find the five best books that can help land agents learn more about the industry, learn new skills, and study the success of other great land agents.

The Land Flipper: Turning Land Into Dollars by E.B. Farmer

This book was at the top of Accredited Land Consultant Lou Jewell’s list of his favorite books about land. It is an excellent introduction to the land industry and includes step-by-step chapters following the entire land selling process. Some of the chapters include:

  • How to find, negotiate and buy land with very little money out of pocket
  • Dividing land in order to multiply your profit.
  • Techniques for improving the land in order to make it attractive to buyers
  • Cheap, easy ways to market and sell your land

If you know a new agent who just started selling land, this book could be a great “welcome to the industry” or “welcome to the brokerage” gift.

Buying and Investing in Land: A Guide for Land Purchase: How to Buy Land the Smart Way and Learn How to Avoid Land Scams — Even if You Are a Beginner by Dianne Ronnow

This book shares the secrets to success of the wealthiest land sellers and investors. It also exposes the biggest scams in the land industry that even the most experienced land agents have fallen for and teaches you how to avoid being tricked. Whether you’ve just started your career as a land agent or have decades of experience under your belt, this book can be a great addition to your land library.

How I Turned $50 into $5 Million in Country Property – Part Time: And How You Can Do the Same by B.K Haynes, ALC

When a book is written by an Accredited Land Consultant, you know it’s going to be a read worthy of your time! B.K. Haynes, ALC, channels what he’s learned from over fifty years of buying and selling land into a comprehensive look at buying, selling, and investing in rural land.

The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino

This book, found in William Burruss, ALCsGoodReads, may not be about buying or selling rural land specifically, but the lessons about salesmanship, hard work, and success are essential for land agents. The book even comes with a suggested reading structure so that you have time between chapters to reflect on and think about the different books.

Buying Rural Land: Tips and How-Tos by Tom Brickman

Looking for a quick read? Tom Brickman’s e-book is a collection of short essays and articles about rural land. Brickman shares what he’s learned from 40 years in land. The book covers includes “to-do” lists for buying and selling land, what to look for when inspecting a property, and tips on developing people skills. The best part of all? It’s free!

We’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great books for land agents. If you know of other books that helped your career in land, be sure to mention them in the comments section. Happy reading!

Want to learn about the land industry in a more hands-on way? Be sure to check out our upcoming LANDU courses to learn about everything from Transitional Land Real Estate to Land Investment Analysis.

About the Author: Laura Barker is a freelance writer based out of California for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She has been with RLI since October 2017.

commission split handshake

Navigating Commission Splits – How, When, and Why

If you’re successful in the land business, you work hard. You put in the time, the miles, the blood, and the sweat that it takes fighting the elements Mother Nature throws at you along the way… but we do it because we love it. And when you’ve done what it takes to build a business like ours, you don’t want to give hard-earned money away when doing commission splits. When you share your commission with an outside broker or agent, you want it to be earned and you want to achieve a mutually beneficial goal: closing. And not just any closing, one that satisfied your client’s goals.

commission splits time money intersection

The 50/50 Split
One of the most contentious topics I encounter amongst real estate agents in the land industry is commission splits. When to split, when not to, how to, etc. In my experience and in my own business, there is rarely a default split. We strive to be fair and competitive in the splits we offer, but we do typically pay relative to how involved or uninvolved the other agent was. Speaking from a listing agent perspective, while there are exceptions, in a 50/50 split scenario, we expect agents to:

  • have procured our listing(s) for their client or customer;
  • when required, show the property to those prospects; and
  • handle any and all paperwork that follows.

The Referral
If an agent calls and requests us to locate a property for their buyer and also show it for them or assist them with the showing, that acts more like a referral and that is typically how it is paid. What’s a normal referral split? As with most things in the land business, it depends… but we typically see a rate of 20-25% of the referring side. The total percentage is typically scaled based on the size of the referral, work required, etc.

money commission split

The Key to Successful Commission Splits
The key to preventing problems when doing commission splits is clear communication right from the start. Don’t operate under assumptions. If you do, you may learn later that the split structure being paid by the listing agent is different than you imagined. If you’re the listing agent, don’t be surprised if the split expected is more than you envisioned paying… especially to an agent that needed an abnormal amount of help from day one.

So, as a listing agent, before showing or negotiating tracts with selling agents, be sure to communicate clearly with them how compensation is structured. If you’re the selling agent, understand the responsibilities required of you as a selling agent to earn a strong split and determine how you will be compensated appropriately for your efforts before you invest a lot of time, effort, and miles to avoid being disappointed or frustrated later.

“Situations with poor communication can put your clients’ best interest at risk and hurt professional relationships.”

By communicating clearly, you’ll end up with relationships that prove much more fruitful over time rather than ones that leave you both angry and jaded about doing future business with each other. Handled correctly, splitting commissions with other agents can be one of the most profitable investments you’ll ever make. It can create professional friendships that have potential to produce for you both throughout your entire careers and quickly ramp up the scale of your book of business. This invaluable return is something found regularly in the roster of the REALTORS® Land Institute. Like my Dad tells me to this day, “Don’t lose dollars counting pennies.”

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.

waterfront river land listing

Listen to the Land: Listing Advice

This article on land listing advice was originally published in the Summer 2016 Terra Firma Magazine.

Some years back, a long walk in a fallow field changed my career path forever. Peanut hulls, gobbler tracks, and flint flakes dotted the river-silt loam around my boots. It was March, right when Eastern North Carolina starts to warm. The soft dirt slowed me down, and I accepted it as a vehicle to better observation — of crows raising cane in the hardwoods, of deer crashing through a cypress slough, of wood duck squeals, of the muddy Roanoke River hissing along cut banks.

This property was four-hundred acres of fields and hardwoods set to be developed into twenty acre strips, river to road, like someone cutting tenderloin into steaks with their eyes shut. I was working for the developer, fresh from a long jaunt as equal parts boat captain, writer, rod and reel wholesaler, and boat salesman. I was young and ready to make some money. The rush was on for waterfront land, and this developer found a niche cutting up river and marsh-front farms in off-radar towns. But surely not this farm, I thought, bending over to pick up the base of a quartz spear point.

As luck would have it, the marketing plan didn’t work. The grand opening had few attendees. Only one of the twenty lots was reserved. Several of the migratory investors cited dissatisfaction that the only place to buy a snack was a Red Apple gas station thirty miles away. The developer, who had picked up on my outdoor affliction and who did not often put on boots, called me into his office.

“What should we do?” He asked me, having never sold fewer than all his lots in a single day. He was on seriously foreign turf.

“I could sell the whole thing to someone for a hunting place,” I said.

“Hunting? Would they pay me enough?” He asked, chewing on a giant cigar. “I need to get one point two out.”

“Yes sir,” I said, crossing both sets of fingers in my pockets.

“Well, then, you got your first listing,” he said.

carolina river

It’s a good story for me, one that hits home because it finally turned my avocation into a vocation that could put food on the table. The “listing” moment and the drive home from closing were like lightning bolts hitting pine bark – burning out all the job doubts I’d had until then. But many years later, looking back, I see new things –so many other critical lessons learned from that one sale that had very little to do with me.

I sold the farm to a sporting investor who had a mind for everything from deer, to dirt, to conservation, to equity-share sporting clubs. You could say that we “rescued” or changed the life course of that four-hundred-acre farm forever, but I believe that the farm did the work. Location, habitat, proximity to water and wildlife corridors, soil, floodplain, and agriculture – all of these things played specific roles in scratching plan A and trading off for the ultimate end user. Each element saw its higher and better use by keeping the property intact as a joint equity hunting property.

Strangely enough, the real credit goes to the developer. Instead of banging his head against the wall, he was willing to take a new approach. He listened to me and he really listened to the land and let it guide him toward a better solution. Here was a guy in a Tommy Bahama shirt, with his loafers on the desk, making a quick decision based on a very sophisticated hybrid of economics and land stewardship.

In that sense, a huge part of land listing and marketing is letting the property be what it is rather than forcing it into a box or flaunting it for something it’s not—which means that someone, most likely a land owner, may have to concede their original vision. It sounds corny, but it’s critical as a good broker to “feel” the land and how it fits with wildlife and the surrounding neighborhood.

If you have a good sense of the land and surroundings, you’re ahead of the game with the seller. I think it’s important to stick with what you believe when you meet with a listing client – whether you’re discussing price, preservation, the property’s long term potential, or lack thereof. Not sugarcoating things with the listing client or the end user always yields more solid footing, and in my experience, more closings.

A good friend of mine came to Charleston yesterday, and we rode my skiff out to a newly listed property in the Santee River called Cane Island. Mottled ducks traded across the river in the late light, and all sorts of birds moved before roost – roseate spoonbill, least bittern, glossy ibis. It was a bird and fish paradise, and we clinked bottles to that, talking about the value of Cane Island as a fish and waterfowl haven and a no-brainer conservation easement play.

river land

Riding back upriver, my friend talked about his own properties in North Carolina, one of which he was beginning to develop. “You know those old hay fields north of town,” he said, “I’m about to ruin them, I guess.”

“Nah,” I said, “That farm is naturally on the residential path.”

His other properties include big managed pine tracts south of his town, ones further from the progress stream. Outside the ducks and fish, his passion is quail, and he follows his setter around in the open longleaf on his days off. In a sense, he epitomizes the point by taking one tract to market based on location and timing, and preserving the other for its life in recreation.

Three listing and marketing suggestions stand out that all have to do with “listening” to the property and refusing to compromise:

  • List properties that match you and your skill set, passions, and beliefs rather than taking everything that comes along.
  • Market those listings according to what they are by using platforms that mirror and properly display the property.
  • Recognize when the buyer and property don’t match, and concede.

As luck would have it, my first listing both fit and shaped me. I learned from the experience, and finding a great steward for wild land became my ultimate goal – the model for the listings and buyers that I would pursue. At the time, I just used a simple hunting network via email and phone to locate the buyer.

Today, I would use a marketing venue that fit the property – whether that was the local newspaper or a sophisticated digital platform.

In any real estate niche, the goal should be the same – Find the right buyer for the property and the right property for the buyer. I believe that an honest evaluation of the land is critical to that match.

About the author: Douglas Cutting is the Vice President of Garden & Gun Land and BIC of Cutting Land & Consulting, LLC based in Charleston, SC. Cutting is an experienced outdoors-man and land broker with a diverse background in the woods and on the water.

Four Tips for a Successful First Year as a Land Agent

Becoming a land broker sounds fun. You see all the cool pictures, videos, and listings that agents post online and on social media, so you think “Hey, I like the outdoors, I like to hunt and fish, I know my way around the woods, so I’m going to become a land agent and just watch the money roll in.” As many a land broker will tell you, you are dead wrong. Selling land is a lot like farming. It takes time, money, strategic planning, and at the end of the day, a lot of your success still depends on the weather. Here are some tips for getting over the learning curve as a new agent:

  1. Hope for the best, plan for the worst – Don’t just run out and buy a fancy 4×4 truck, UTV, winches, and tires. Being able to navigate rural lands is important, but don’t spend money you don’t have yet to do it. Be modest, create a budget. Work with your broker to outline how much you should allot to your personal digital marketing, print marketing, networking opportunities, etc. and understand when you can expect those efforts to start taking hold. Don’t spend money you don’t have just to break even later. Economies change much like the weather, and as long as you’re not over extending and you are able to adjust, selling land in a bad economy can be equally or more profitable than selling land in a good economy. Learn how to pivot your business around whatever industry weather changes may come
  2. Educate yourself at every opportunity. If you want to be an expert, don’t just play one online. Invest in yourself and become one. Join professional organizations like RLI and align yourself with industry leaders, working toward meaningful designations like that of the Accredited Land Consultant. Learn from those around you in the industry, from their mistakes as well as their successes. Follow and understand pressing industry issues: income taxes, tax shelter opportunities, current or upcoming regulations, laws, or policies that effect your client base, etc. You will be most successful in this business when you know how to best make or save your clients money.
  3. Network & get referrals. Everybody uses postcards, letters, online gimmicks, etc. to promote. Nothing wrong with that; it’s a necessity we all face, but networking is one of the most fruitful investments of time you can make in our industry. The larger the network of people that understand who you are, what you do, and why you are an expert in your field, the more business will walk in your door without you having to spend your valuable budget dollars trying to procure new clients. Start with your friends and family. They are the bedrock of a strong network and the people that will be your biggest promoters. Add your past clients to that essential list once you start to have them. A major key to successful professional networking is reciprocating. Be generous and genuine in your referrals of other professionals first, without expecting or asking for anything in return, and it will pay great dividends throughout your career. Being an RLI member aligns you with a vast network of land professionals from across the country, so make sure to take advantage of it.
  4. Above all, align yourself with a strong brand. By now, we’ve all heard about branding and how important it is. In this context, it’s not only about having a recognizable logo. It’s about what’s behind the logo: like the leadership and support team. Before you join a company, understand its culture and make sure it aligns with your personality and your goals. Join a company that invests in you, promotes your growth, provides educational opportunities, mentorships, etc., one that is constantly innovating and evolving rather than one that’s just waiting on the next disruptor to emerge and knock them backwards.

At the end of the day, you are not successful in this business because you like land, have a real estate license, and want to be successful. It comes down to what you put into it and being too stubborn to quit when it gets tough. There’s a reason a lot of people in this business wear weather hewn boots and hats – They’ve earned them!

This post is part of the 2019 Future Leaders Committee content generation initiative. The initiative is directed at further establishing RLI as “The Voice of Land” in the land real estate industry for land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here


About The Author: Clint FlowersALC is a top producer with National Land Realty, a member of the REALTORS Land Institute of Alabama, and a member of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee.  He was a NLR Top Producer Nationwide in 2016 and 2017. He also won the 2017 APEX National Broker of the Year award for Timberland.