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.

Everything You Need to Know About Bringing in Outside Parties to a Land Transaction

The sale of property that predominantly consists of land requires an extension to the set of tools you would normally use in a residential listing. Listing land has unique requirements that necessitate additions to the team of professionals involved in a transaction, even prior to marketing the property. In certain circumstances, adding another agent or even another brokerage firm may increase both marketing power and product expertise. Opening title with a title company or attorney’s office aids the Escrow Officer in getting ahead of any title issues. Bringing environmental and biological consultants on board can provide crucial advice when working on developable acreage with sensitive habitats. Once the property is listed and ready to market, a land planner, economic development agency, and surveyor could inform potential buyers about what is for sale, or what could be produced on the property. Each phase of the process during a successful sale has important and legal ramifications if not completely correctly. Below are details on who the professionals are that we most utilize, when we recommend speaking with them and why.

Who: Surveyor/Engineer

When: At listing

Why: If the property you are selling hasn’t been surveyed, it is advisable to recommend the seller have a survey completed with the corners of the premise marked (for larger properties we like to have them stake the corners with 10′ white PVC pipe). This allows you to convey accurate measurements to perspective purchasers, while having the corners visibly marked so that buyers may visualize the boundary when touring the site.  Additionally, a survey will also bring to light any issues involving encroachments, potentially avoiding costly retrades or cancelled escrows when given the foresight to deal with these problems early in the process.

When marketing transitional land, primarily for residential development, a civil engineer who is familiar with the local zoning code can be engaged to provide a lotting study. Having this study, which shows a hypothetical layout for a residential subdivision in accordance with the minimum development requirements of the zoning code and site constraints, can help support value. Similarly, hypothetical site plans can be developed for nonresidential development sites that show potential layouts and building footprints. An engineer may also be able to provide guidance or connect you with the correct contacts at the municipality to gain an understanding on the ability to access public utilities (water, wastewater, stormwater, natural gas, etc.), along with their distance from the property and whether they have enough capacity to support the proposed use.

Who: Land Use Planner / Architect

When: At listing

Why: Engaging a land planner to provide hypothetical master plan layouts that incorporate a mix of future uses for larger development sites can help prospects understand the breadth of the opportunity, assigning value to the portions of the site allocated to different product types. Additionally, if they are familiar with the local municipality, a knowledgeable land planner should be able to provide a plan that will be well received by both the market and local decision-making bodies.

Similarly, (but more typically for infill development projects) having an architect provide a feasibility study highlighting the applicable development regulations for the site (including maximum square footage or density constraints) and a massing report that shows the maximum building envelope along with architectural renderings of what a potential building may look like. These resources can help purchasers quickly assess the scope of the development opportunity at hand.

Who: Land Use Attorney 

When: Prior to engaging the market

Why: To most local elected officials, nothing is more important than land use. For this reason, when working on a transitional land project it is important for the seller to have advice from counsel that understands local politics and the land use regulatory process. This will help assess the reasonableness and likelihood of success for any offers received that are contingent on development. They can also provide valuable insight during the entitlement process and increase a project’s chances of approval.

Who: Real Estate (Transaction) Attorney

When: Prior to receiving offers

Why: Throughout the sale process, the seller should seek the advice of real estate counsel to ensure they are appropriately mitigating risk. This includes reviewing their current situation prior to receiving offers so that the agent can make Buyers aware of any business terms that are unique to this seller’s specific situation throughout the process of developing an offer. Additionally, working with counsel to review all agreements and due diligence material prior to delivery can mitigate the potential for the seller to expose themselves up to unnecessary liability.

Who: Title Officer/Attorney

When: Prior to or at listing

Why: A title review should be completed as early in the process as possible to ensure marketable title. Confirming how title is vested and addressing any encumbrances (i.e. outstanding liens or deeds of trust, lis pendens, easements, etc.) early in the process can ensure you are dealing with a property’s true decision maker, along with providing time to address any concerns long before you have a buyer at the table.

Who: Water Rights Attorney

When: At listing

Why: For any asset where access to water is currently or potentially a critical component of value, having a water rights attorney provide an opinion on the validity and defensibility of any water rights may be necessary to support any assessment.

Who: Well Driller 

When: At listing

Why: In regions that are dependent on groundwater, it is advisable to discuss the site with a local well driller to determine the feasibility of developing a well at the property, the condition of existing wells (if applicable), and any known issues with the groundwater resources in the area.

Who: Environmental Consultant 

When: Prior to or at listing

Why: Unresolved soil and groundwater contamination can be devastating to the value of a property regardless of the source. Having a consultant provide a desktop report prior to listing the property can help educate you and the seller about any known issues in the area. If there are reasons for concern, an environmental consultant can help develop a strategy to address the concerns and provide certainty to a buyer. If the owner has a previously completed Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), a report that looks at the current and historic uses of the property to assess if they may have impacted the soil or groundwater beneath the property and could pose a threat to the environment and/or human health) a consultant can review the report and help summarize what was found previously, as well as what additional investigation (if any) may be warranted.

Who: Biological Consultant

When: At listing

Why: The existence of sensitive plant and animal species, or habitats could substantially impact the cost to develop as well as the actual developable acreage of a site. Asking an expert if there are any known species in the area along with any reasons for concern by having an informal site visit completed to look for any indications of sensitive species or habitats will provide increased certainty when engaging the market.

Who: Consulting Forester 

When: At listing

Why: As detailed in the Should I Invest in Timberland Real Estate? post by Clint Flowers, ALC, a fellow RLI member, developing a solid timber management strategy is critical to the successful investment in timberland.  Additionally, if a consulting forester is engaged earlier and familiar with the property, they can help prospective purchasers assess the opportunity and determine if it is the right fit for their investment criteria.

Who: Escrow Officer

When: At listing

Why: Having a trustworthy and capable Escrow Officer as part of your team will help keep a transaction on track. An Escrow Officer can often work with Title in advance of a transaction to address any issues that may need settling prior to getting the property into Escrow. This type of preparation can limit last minute issues and help ensure a smooth transaction from start to finish.

Who: Economic Development Agency (public and/or private) 

When: At listing

Why: For development opportunities and transitional land, economic developers should be made aware of the offering as early as possible. Not only are they a potential source of a buyer, but they can typically provide guidance on incentives, approval processing, and general market expertise. Leveraging their involvement can save time and increase the likelihood of a project getting approved.

Who: Other Brokers/Agents 

When: Prior to listing

Why: Fielding the best team on every deal is fundamental to our success in business. When given the opportunity to work on a project outside of our unique area of geographic or product expertise, a referral is not always possible depending on our relationship with the client. However, partnering with the right team of real estate professionals to provide the expertise you lack will improve your learning curve, expedite the sale process, and (most importantly) ensure you achieve the best possible results for your client. RLI has a vast network of agents across the country with extensive expertise in the various sectors.

Who: Appraiser 

When: Prior to listing

Why: When analyzing a new opportunity, speaking with an appraiser knowledgeable in the market can help establish the most defensible approach to valuing a specific asset along with developing a defensible baseline value. They may also be able to provide verified comparable sales to support your analysis.

As you can see, much of this work is recommended to be completed early in the process. Understanding these aspects of a property and addressing any areas of concern sooner than later can:

  • assist with establishing a defensible asking price of the property;
  • ensure you present a comprehensive offering to the market;
  • help you address buyers questions early and knowledgably, and most importantly;
  • and decrease the level of uncertainty around a property and reduce the likelihood of surprises during escrow that may lead to avoidable delays, price reduction requests, or failed escrows.

While this list has been assembled primarily from the perspective of a listing agent, a buyer’s agent could also benefit from using this as a guide to assist either their clients with due diligence or their own preliminary investigations to determine if a site fits their client’s acquisition criteria. The list is not meant to be comprehensive but, in our experience, it addresses the vendors, consultants, and professionals we engage with most frequently. Establishing a stable base of knowledgeable experts can expand your capabilities and allow you to more effectively guide a client through the process of buying or selling real estate.

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:
 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 serves on their 2019 Future Leaders Committee.

About the Author: Cynthia Bynum started in Real Estate in 2003 as an investor and acquired her license in the State of Texas in 2009. She was raised on Eagle Mountain Lake and is quite familiar with properties in Parker and Tarrant Counties. Joining Trinity Territory Brokerage firm was the best move for her career. Her specialties range from representing buyers and listing residential properties to commercial, land sales, property management, foreclosures,  and leasing.

The Best Advice Top Agents Ever Got

A few words can change your life. The advice you get from your mentor, friend, or family member can even change the course of your career forever. Accredited Land Consultants Geoff Hurdl, ALC,, Bill Burruss, ALC, and Terri Jensen, ALC, share the advice that helped shape their successful careers in land.

Know Yourself to Know Others

Understanding yourself is an important part to succeeding in the land industry. You need to know your own strengths and weaknesses in order to improve your weaknesses and play up your strengths.

“Doing the best that I can and to ‘know myself’ have been the underlying themes to my leadership skills,” says Bill Burruss, ALC, winner of RLI’s 2018 Land REALTOR® of America Award.

“These two pieces of advice were instilled by my parents and reiterated by my teachers in high school. Respect for others was also a strong value. It could be argued that I was taught to live The Great Commandment, to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’. I believe to be successful you have to know yourself. Both my parents and teachers would challenge me by having me evaluate myself regularly. This forced me to understand what I did well, and where I had problems, and ultimately make the needed changes to achieve my goals.”

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

There are lots of ways to make money in real estate. Instead of trying to excel in every single field, Geoff Hurdle, ALC,  winner of the 2018 APEX Wrangler Award, found success by focusing his time and energy on the things he knew the most about.

“My father taught me there were many ways to make money in real estate,” says Hurdle. “One of the most valuable things he taught me was to stick with what you know.  I learned the value of that advice when I strayed from it. It cost me, a lot. I went back to what I knew and I have not looked back again!”

Respect and Hard Work Are Everything

Land real estate is a people business at its core. Respect for your fellow man can help you go far. Burruss also learned that the land industry is one where hard work and a love of land speak louder than race or gender.

“Respect was all about my generation, growing up in the ‘60s. I went through integration in the 7th grade. Within four years, women were hitting the streets in waves wanting equal pay and better job opportunities. Before I became a REALTOR®, I was hired by a person who was gay and then one who was African American. When I started real estate, my broker was female. The reason I got into leadership on the national level was by invitation from the Virginia Association of REALTORS® President-Elect, Nathan Booth, who was the first black president of a REALTOR® state association. All of these people had a great love for their fellow neighbor that I want to replicate. All of them are great because they are great, not because they are female, African American, or gay.”

Terri Jensen, ALC, with National Land Realty also highlights the importance of the three R’s. “Respect for self; respect for others; responsibility for all that I do,” says Jensen.

Hard work is also essential for success in the land industry, as Dan Murphy, ALC, with M4 Ranch Group explained in his 2018 Terra Firma article Getting To The Top: Finding The Apex Of Success.

“Each of us in the industry knows that we only eat what we kill. This industry makes no payment for a second place finish,” says Murphy. “If the transaction does not close, we don’t get paid. Our success at M4 Ranch Group in 2017 is without fail directly tied to the strength, intelligence, and the never-quit attitude of Team.”

Communication Is Key

Making sure that you are not just heard, but understood ensures that you and your client are on the same page.

“If you don’t know the answer to a question, let the client know that,” says Terri Jensen, ALC,. “Do let them know, though, that because of your years of experience, education, and expertise, that you probably know someone who can answer the question.”

The land industry is so massive and there are so many roads to take that it can be easy to feel lost. Listening to advice from land agents with decades of experience can help guide you in the right direction.

Looking to find a mentor in the land industry that can give you the advice that will change your career forever? Becoming a member of the REALTORS ® Land Institute gives you access to a national network of over 1,300 land professionals to connect with and learn from.

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.

 

 

Five Tips for New Land Professionals

The timber business has always been in my family. Growing up, my dad owned his own timber brokerage company. It was something I was really familiar with. Being on land, buying, selling and trading it, were all things that I was accustomed to. But it was a career path my dad said I should never take.

I always wanted to do what my dad did, so when he sold his business I wasn’t sure where to go with my career. I ended up going to the University of Alabama and graduating with an environmental degree. And soon after, got a job in Mobile, working for an environmental company where I did safety and environmental consulting. I continued that line of work for about four years before I decided to go part-time with them and obtain my real estate license.

I had been looking for a different career opportunity for a while. Somewhere where I could grow and be my own boss. So, in April of 2016, I went to work for National Land Realty (NLR). The opportunity came up through a mutual friend who happened to be a broker for NLR. And I went full speed ahead with only the knowledge and experience in land I had gained while growing up. But it was a challenge I was driven to overcome.

Starting out at NLR as a Land Professional, the first listing I got was in Choctaw County, Alabama. I never really knew how many people were interested in buying land until I got that listing. I ended up generating over five sales on five different properties from that first listing. Closing on that first deal made me more motivated than ever before.

My biggest challenge thus far has been gaining trust within my clients. But trust comes from hard work and doing exactly what I say I’m going to do. Like making sure I talk to the previous landowners, spending more time on each deal… It’s about going above and beyond. And not being afraid to get out there and get muddy.

As a younger and newer Land Professional, I want to offer advice to others out there who are just starting out and want to reach that next level. Here are my top 5 tips on how to get there:

  1. Be persistent.

If I could only offer one piece of advice, it would be to always be persistent. You have to go out and get the business. You can’t just sit around and wait for it to come to you. You’ve got to go dig it up each and every day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask other professionals for help and don’t take no for an answer.

  1. Network, network, network!

Networking is key in the land real estate business. It’s about keeping your name in front of people – creating your personal brand. So, make sure to attend all the outdoor events you can. Get on different outdoor committees and even go to city council meetings. Don’t be afraid to stop at your local bank, coffee shop or co-op store to market yourself and your business. You want to create a culture of, “That guy knows what he’s doing.”

  1. Find a mentor.

Finding someone who’s been in the industry for a while and can show you the ropes can benefit you greatly when you need that extra bit of knowledge on a certain topic or just a boost of motivation. A mentor can also help you see areas where you may need some improvement.

  1. Go above and beyond.

To be successful and get to the next level, you’re going to have to put in the time and the effort. Working longer hours, making those extra phone calls, going to those late-night meetings – all these will pay off in the end.

  1. Be honest and thorough with clients.

Always keep your word with a client. Spend that extra time with them going through each step of the process so they feel confident. You’ll be able to gain their trust and build a relationship with them that could last for decades to come!

Forrest During is an RLI member and land professional at National Land Realty who specializes in acquisitions, sales, recreational, timberland, and conservation properties. This post was originally published on the National Land Realty blog in August 2017.

The Value of Finding a Mentor in the Land Industry

This article was originally posted to the National Land Realty blog

Getting started in the land industry can be daunting. From knowing about the latest land laws to networking to juggling a work/life balance, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Having a mentor in the land industry can help you succeed as a land agent in more ways than one.

Wisdom You Can’t Learn In A Classroom

Although land education is extremely important, to the point of being necessary for agents that want to maximize their earning potential, there are some things you can only learn from experience — such as how to deal with difficult clients or learning how to balance your time as a land agent. These are things you can learn from mentors. A mentor can also guide you away from mistakes they’ve made in the past and learned from, saving you from making those same mistakes as a newer agent.

The benefits of mentorship can go beyond knowledge in the land industry.  A mentor can also guide you towards success beyond a dollar sign.

“‘Successful’ to me was an individual who worked with integrity, spent time away from work with friends and family, was healthy, financially very well off, and had a process and system to their business,” wrote land expert Jacob Hart in a guest post for RLI. “I have learned you can make more money than you can count. However, if you do not have a passion or dreams to go after with that money, more is actually less.”

A mentor can do more than just help you succeed in the land industry. They can help you define and thrive for success in life as well.

Networking

The land industry is a people-driven business, so networking is essential for a successful career. However, meeting new people can be hard, especially if you live in a remote location or are networking when new to the industryFinding a mentor in the land industry opens the door to meeting their partners, colleagues, and clients, which could grow your own client base. Your mentor will know what events are best to meet clients and other land experts. They can also connect you to people on social media or add you to their social media groups.

Your Field of Expertise

Mentors are especially important if you specialize in a unique type of land or service.
If your specialty is in land auctionsvineyardstimberland investment, or mineral rights, not just anyone can be a mentor.

vineyard

There are so many benefits of having a mentor that we couldn’t list them all in one article. We hope this article has inspired you to seek out a mentor to help carve out a path for a successful career in the land industry.

Interested in finding a mentor near you? You can use RLI’s Find a Land Consultant tool or get in contact with one of our RLI Chapters to get started finding land experts who have expertise in the same field you’d like to be involved in or who are in your area. We may be biased but we also recommend becoming a member of the REALTORS® Land Institute. The biggest membership benefit we hear about from our members is the networking and camaraderie that their RLI membership continues to bring them year after year which basically makes the membership pay for itself because of the referral and knowledge sharing opportunities.

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.

What RLI Is All About – A Personal Story

Our daughter, Jess, and her husband, Brian, are Air Force and were being transferred from Maryland to Texas for a brief six to nine month period. Her husband was stationed in Alabama for three months prior to that and our daughter and 19-month old grandson lived with us during that time period. Jess was responsible for finding a rental home in Texas.  She had planned on making a two to three day trip for house-hunting, signing a lease, etc.

Just like everyone else, we started with online searches for rentals.  No sooner would we find something that looked ok, we would call and find out it was already rented.  Consequently, I recommended she not make a trip and save the $1000+ for a house-hunting trip that would probably end up being wasted time.

So, next steps – Mom to the rescue, as I am an ALC and can network with other land REALTORS® all over the country.  A search through RLI’s Find a Land Consultant tool helped me to find someone in the area that Jess and Brian were being transferred to, and a call was made to RLI Member Michelle Rushing, an agent with United County/M & M Ranch Land Investments.

Michelle was super to work with! From providing information on available rentals and information on rentals we asked her about to even answering texts and emails when she was away from the office at a class! Then, Jess finally found a rental that looked promising and was available; completed the lease application, etc., but the leasing company wouldn’t finalize the lease until she walked through the house.  Creativity again by Mom, I called the leasing company and asked if a proxy could walk through the house on our daughter and son-in-law’s behalf. The company said yes. So, I placed yet another call to Michelle, who graciously agreed to do this for us. She provided great information on the home, the neighborhood and surrounding area, and Jess and Brian were able to move forward with the lease!

I cannot say enough about the willingness of Michelle as an RLI member. I later discovered Michelle had just joined RLI two weeks prior to my call, and she was impressed that she had already received a referral call from the Find A Land Consultant on the RLI website, just because she had invested in being an RLI Member! This to me is part of what RLI is all about – networking, helping each other, and trust in each other… even when members may not have met each other before.

Special thanks to Michelle and I hope to meet her at an upcoming RLI class or event!

About the Author: Terri Jensen, ALC, served as the 2015 RLI National President and is currently a Broker with National Land Realty based out of Minnesota. Of 18,000+ REALTORS® in Minnesota, Terri is one of only 14 to have earned the elite ALC Designation (Accredited Land Consultant).  This designation, through the REALTORS® Land Institute, requires rigorous experience, education, and expertise in the areas of real estate, auction, appraisal, 1031 exchange.

land real estate

Land Brokerage Relationships You Need

Land and decisions about its ownership or stewardship of it, have been a defining factor in the history of the United States. The promise of having a stake in the land brought so many to our shores. LAND, that one asset, is highly diverse, uniquely fixed, and limited in supply… 

“Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for ‘tis the only thing that lasts, and don’t you be forgetting it! ‘Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for…”  –  Gerald O’Hara to Katie Scarlet, GONE WITH THE WIND

RELATIONSHIPS ARE KEY IN LAND BROKERAGE

As you establish yourself as a Land Broker, one of a select group of people who are willing to brave the elements and ford the streams, my best advice to you centers around RELATIONSHIPS. These important associations will help you today and over the years in your career of land brokerage. The depth they will provide to your practice will help you establish yourself as a Land Expert. Build this team and be loyal to them, and demand loyalty back! If you cannot call them when it may be inconvenient to them from time to time, find someone else to work with. As with most businesses, team effort is essential.

There follows a list of members you would do well to identify for your team in the land brokerage business. Try to find three folks you can work with in each category, but be sure to find at least one. These contacts will help you to know your market and the players in it.

LAND APPRAISER. Identify and meet with and interview this important member of your team. Talk with him or her about the average sales prices of lots and acreages. Keep track of this as you continue to keep in touch with this individual and chart it.  This information is all-important as you evaluate land in your market. This information can support that you obtain from your local MLS system (if you have one). Be sure to use the MLS to chart the land currently on the market, too. Also ask your land bankers, they know about deals that didn’t go on the market!

LAND BANK. The land bank is very important in the land business. Here’s why: Down payments and interest rates. Any property over five (5) acres (with or without a home on it) is considered “non-conforming”. Conventional lending services will make a loan on vacant land, however they want 20 to 50% down. On the other hand, the Land Bank asks 15% down on a 20-year program. (This program is based upon demographics, so your market area may not apply.) Note: Most Land Banks have in-house Appraisers. Check with your local Farm Credit and get to know those loan officers. They are a wealth of knowledge.

investment

ATTORNEY. Who can do business without a good attorney these days? Interview as many as you can find who specialize in land transactions. Talk with them about land, what they think about it, what brought them to specialize in land transactions, and how available they can be for you and your clients.

Try to identify at least three (3) attorneys you can work with and recommend to your clients. Remember, a land attorney should be very knowledgeable in subdivision laws, easements, timber contracts, mineral rights, extensive title searches, and land financing. There are definite nuances in the land business and your attorney needs to know about them and be available for consultation, even at night.

CPA/ TAX ACCOUNTANT/FINANCIAL PLANNER.   There may be tax consequences in all land contracts. These professionals can help you identify them and can be a valuable resource to you and your clients especially if they specialize in 1031 Like-Kind Exchange work. They can explain how to figure the “tax basis” in your transactions.

SURVEYOR. A surveyor is a big help in determining the “highest and best use” of a property. Do the same thing with surveyors as you did with other team members. Take the time to interview and select as those you enjoy working with and can recommend to your clients.

Be sure the surveyor is up-to-date on zoning and subdivision laws in your market area. Find at least one who not only is available, but will work with you. That is important. I call my surveyor at night if I need to.

land surveyor

ENVIRONMENTAL PROFESSIONALS. Take the time to get to know your environmental health department professionals. Be sure to meet and spend time with the Health Department Director and Staff. At a minimum, learn from them:

  1. How to set up a septic system
  2. How to fill out septic applications; and
  3. How to understand and fill out well permits.

In addition, 1) learn how to do your own soil analysis, 2) know how to get a water sample if a property has existing well or wells, and 3) get copies of soil maps and system application forms so you will have them handy when needed. In a rural land transaction, the septic permit is all you need to close. Remember, the septic permit may take 2 to 4 (or sometimes more) weeks to obtain, so be sure to start the process as soon as you are under contract.

SOIL SCIENTIST. Soil scientists are an invaluable asset to your team because they can approve sites that a Health Department cannot. They can suggest alternative systems (probably considerably more expensive) and even override a Health Department decision.  Most counties do NOT have a soil scientist on staff, so you will need to do some detective work to find and establish a relationship with at least one. A soil scientist can teach you how to evaluate soil, a lesson well worth learning.

ALC Shadow over dirt

SEPTIC SYSTEM INSTALLER. In the land business, where septic systems are common, what would your team be without at least one reliable septic system installer on board? Identify and interview several and select those you can work with and refer to clients.  From your contacts, learn the different types of systems, their costs and how they are laid out. Go to an installation site and observe for yourself first-hand how the system is installed. Support your own research with a collection of information and brochures from various manufacturers whom your installer can recommend.

WELL DRILLER/CONTRACTOR. A poorly built or maintained well can allow pollutants to enter water directly. The closer the well is to sources of pollution, the more likely the well will become polluted. For instance, if the well casing is cracked and pesticides that are being mixed near the well are spilled, the pesticides can easily leak into the well and pollute your drinking water, so it is essential to take the time to get to know a certified well-driller in your area. A good place to start to look for a well driller is your State Division of Water Quality.  Once you locate reliable resources, and identify those you will want to work with, find out about their pricing structure (most charge by the foot) and get basic knowledge like the typical depth of a well in your area, and now to chlorinate a well.

Your regional DENR Groundwater Section office, county health department or local Cooperative Extension Center can be a valuable source of information on the following topics: New well or spring construction and site selection,  well inspection and maintenance, Certified well drillers, Unused well abandonment, Construction records for existing wells ,Well water testing including— – Advice on appropriate tests to run, – List of certified testing laboratories, – Assistance interpreting test results, – Health risks. Your local Cooperative Extension Center can also provide information on:  Backflow prevention, Water pollution and health risks, Water treatment devices, Groundwater.

COUNTY/CITY PLANNING BOARDS.  Attend meetings of your local board. You will gain invaluable knowledge and insight which you can share with your clients. Get current copies of zoning laws, subdivision laws, zoning maps, flood plain maps, and other information that will be of help to you. Know of plans for the future including zoning changes and annexations, as this will help you anticipate the market. Learn how to establish a new street name and address.

MAPPING STAFF. Get to know the mapping staff in your county. They can help you to identify property, property owners, provide tax maps, topographical (topo) maps, and aerials of property. (Most counties now have GIS systems.) The mapping staff can teach you how to use these tools if you take the time to establish a relationship with them.

REGISTRAR OF DEEDS STAFF. Get to know the folks at the Registrar of Deeds Office. They will help you do your own title search and do the research to discover anything that may affect the title or value of the property including: any type of easement, encumbrances, mineral rights, timber rights, and so forth. Remember: ALWAYS get a copy of the Deed or deeds involved as you do your research. Do not rely on the attorney to do this for you. You are the expert and responsible.

TAX ASSESSMENT OFFICER.  Take time to go to meet the tax assessment officer. Such individuals are helpful in understanding what has sold and trends in sales beyond MLS date.  My agent furnishes me leads from time to time. This member of your team can be an excellent resource and most Realtors do not use them, so you can stand apart if you do.

TIMBER EXPERT. Professional Forestry services can help you as you identify the “highest and best use of the land” and a timber expert is an excellent addition to your team. That person can help you remember which tree is which, learn how to identify prized trees, learn how to “cruise” timber, provide a “certified cruise” and basically learn how the timber market works. You need to know about or how to figure board feet, how a timber contract works, and how to auction timber. TIMBER IS CASH. Your client actually can buy land with a timber contract, cut the timber, and still own the land with no out-of-pocket money. Being able to evaluate timber will help you price land.

timberland real estate

ROAD BUILDER. The construction business has become a more complicated one as environmental and safety rules proliferate and methods and equipment become more sophisticated. The increased complexity of the field makes planning jobs even tougher than before Road construction, grading, concrete work, retaining wall construction and taking preventative measures, which are cheaper than curative ones, can reduce the risks of landslides and increased soil and water erosion. Your road builder can tell you about the importance of aligning a road along a ridge, especially with a south-west aspect, and how it helps to avoid water drainage problems, avoids exposure to excess moisture and frost, and uses sunlight to keep roads dry. Ask him or her about phased construction, such as gradually increasing the width of the track, avoids having to manage large amounts of excavated material and allows for the natural compaction of earthwork by rain.  Road building is a complicated effort and you will want to add a seasoned road builder (or more) to your team. They can let you know the cost of putting in basic access roads to state-specified built roads. This will also help you on a break-up evaluation.

CORPS OF ENGINEERS/SOIL & WATER/ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCIES. All these government agencies are resources for you and may well be involved in any land development project in which you are involved. Get to know them and what services they provide.

LAND CONSERVATORY. Identify the local Land Conservatory decision-makers. They may be aware of purchase programs and incentives that may purchase your listing or a part of it. Tax benefits at the Federal and State level may aid in your sale.

UTILITIES PROVIDERS. Contact the utilities providers in your area including telephone, power and cable. Know who they are, what their service area is, how they work in terms of applications and so forth, what their charges are (if any) for new service, or moving a pole or poles and possibly create a hand-out with this information you can supply to your clients.

utilities

LAND BROKERAGE TOOL KIT

These are must items to help you become a LAND EXPERT if you use them.

  • 300’ tape
  • Surveyor’s flagging tape
  • 4’ surveyor’s stakes
  • Small hand sledgehammer
  • A handful of 10-penny nail (Who is holding the dumb end of the tape?)
  • Machete
  • Really good walking/hiking shoes
  • Beverage container you can wear
  • Insect repellant
  • Professional compass
  • Hand auger
  • Scale ruler
  • Digital camera w/ extra disc
  • GPS locator
  • Calculator
  • Area maps
  • Topographical maps/ aerial maps of subject and adjoining properties
  • Septic/well permits application forms
  • Think about what else you may want to add to this list!

You also may want to contact Ted Turner.  He is the true lover of land. He now is the largest private owner of land in the United States.  He owns over 2,000,000 acres of land.  Does he know something we should know?

Now you are ready.  Happy land brokerage and good luck!

© Lou Jewell, Accredited Land Consultant 2004

Lou Jewell, ALCAbout the Author: Lou Jewell, ALC, has for over twenty-five years has provided expert experience in rural markets in Western Piedmont North Carolina and Southern Virginia. He has over 1,000 successful transactions and has developed over sixty rural subdivisions. A member of the Realtors® Land Institute since 1998, he achieved the prestigious Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation in 2004 and is one of less than 500 ALCs in the United States.

 

 

Dealing with Holiday Stress As A Land Agent

The holidays are a stressful time for everyone, but especially for land agents. Many clients have a tight deadline to get deals closed before the end of the year or even before tax season. With tensions running high and a seemingly endless to-do list, it can be easy to give in to the stress of the holidays. However, there are a few things you can do to deal with holiday stress.

Communicate

Strong communication is always key in the land industry. With so much happening around the holidays, one of the best ways to reduce stress is clear and constant communication to make sure all projects are headed in the right direction.

“As always communication is key, staying in contact with everyone involved in a transaction especially during this busy time of the year can make for a less stressful transaction,” said Calvin Perryman, ALC, with Great Southern Land.

Know Your Calendar and Everyone Else’s

It can be hard enough to keep track of what’s going on in your life, let alone everyone else’s. Keeping your calendar updated with the schedule of those you work with and for is the best way to make sure you don’t miss an all-important meeting or double book yourself.

“When closing a land deal around the holidays it is always best to make sure everyone is on the same page with their schedules,” said Perryman. “Make sure everyone knows when the parties will be out of town, when the attorneys’ offices will closed, and let everyone know your holiday schedule as well.”

 

Turn Your Ride Into Fun

Long car rides can drain you of your energy. To make them more enjoyable, try listening to some great land podcasts to learn on the go. Let’s Talk Land by Lou Jewel, ALC, features great guests and explores a wide variety of topics. Another great land podcast is The Land Show, co-hosted by Jonathan Goode, ALC.

Make Health A Priority

While trying to juggle everything else, people tend to think their health is the first thing they can let slide. Actually, a lack of sleep and poor diet lead to weaker concentration, poor memory, and can cause your stress levels to skyrocket. Be sure to use plenty of hand sanitizer, eat leafy greens, and squeeze in at least six to seven hours of sleep whenever you can. We know that a good night’s sleep can be rarer than spotting Santa Claus around Christmas, but sleep is always a good investment, especially around the holidays!

 

While trying to juggle work, family, friends, and everything else that comes along with Christmas, you can be left feeling exhausted and miserable at what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. We hope these tips help you get organized and healthy for the upcoming holidays.

Is your New Year’s Resolution to learn more about land? Once the holiday stress settles, be sure to check out our upcoming LANDU Education courses.

About the Author: Laura Barker is the Membership and Communications Specialist for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.