location intelligence

Location Intelligence: Now Critical for Land Real Estate Professionals

As an industry, real estate has been relatively slow in adopting new technology. Until a few years ago, if you asked a fellow land real estate professional if they were using new technology in their business process, often, the answer would have been a “not really” or “sort of.” In real estate circles, technology often has the reputation of providing more than what’s been needed to support clients. In other words, a luxury.

The slow uptake of land development tools can also be attributed to the technology of the time not being very user-friendly, too complex, or too expensive. Since many tech companies designed their products without enough input from land real estate professionals, users would often find the software “too difficult.” Moreover, some early technology products were focused only on making land data available online—without adding any value to it.

Today, it is a different scenario altogether. Technology’s social status in the real estate industry has changed from being inessential to being indispensable. That’s because technology is now dedicated to empowering land brokers and developers with tools that allow them to run their businesses more efficiently and successfully without a dramatic change in how they work.

The advances in location-driven technology truly has the potential to change the rules of the game for land brokers. From being a business based on relationships, land real estate has evolved to become a business based on data. And data, as you might guess, is the new oil (i.e. the most important resource).

Consider this as an example: You want to analyze your market area and swiftly zero down on undeveloped tracts of land that meet your land acquisition target criteria. So, how do you do that? With the help of a mapping software application, you can gain instant access to the most up-to-date and unique datasets. Parcel boundaries, owner information, property characteristics, points of interest and so much more are now at your fingertips, ready to be overlaid, queried and analyzed on a map giving you and your team a clear picture of the target opportunities.

Let’s take another example. A client has expressed a desire to buy a ranch or a vineyard property. How do you ensure your presentation clearly establishes you as an expert of specialty land and allows you to prove it on the spot? The same mapping software allows you to populate your map with highly valuable data, including:

  • The elevation and slope of the site to ensure proper water drainage and whether the slope is a S. or S.W. facing slope
  • The water, mineral, and surface data, to critically evaluate agricultural possibilities
  • Accessibility to major roadways
  • Zoning and taxation regulations of the area

A mapping software application allows you to confidently share your new insights with clients in a presentation—in an instantly ready and visually-appealing digital format—complete with attractive point of interest logos, drive time analytics, and more. Clients will greatly appreciate your ability to visualize the property’s potential—and you’ll appreciate how easy it was to deliver it to them.

There’s also an important and often overlooked benefit that’s emerging as a direct result of the land industry embracing location intelligence: democratization. In other words, easy access and affordability now make it easier for all (not just the few) to enjoy the power and resulting confidence that comes from making data-driven decisions. This confidence also spills over to your clients, allowing for deals to speed along to a close.

The good news is, this technology is not just available to the bigger brokerages. Easy access to cloud-based mapping software applications has levelled the playing field for smaller land teams, while bringing about much-needed transparency to the industry. So much so, even the traditional players have started to bank on the power of location intelligence to stay competitive. While there will always be value in your local market knowledge, success in today’s market requires technology.

This growth in the use of location intelligence and the tools that enable it suggests a historic shift in the land real estate industry. It’s now much more difficult to imagine the future of land development without it.

As mapping software applications grow in popularity, we’ll see them become even more advanced in terms of their analytical abilities. Matched with continuing efforts to simplify the processes and automate tasks, this technology will become a very common solution for even the most traditional real estate professional.

Tara Bleakley is Data and Analytics Director for Digital Map Products, a pioneer in geospatial mapping technology and location intelligence. Bleakley has 20 years of experience in the building and real estate industry, including GIS analysis, land evaluation, property owner map analysis and business development. She can be reached at TBleakley@digmap.com.

Drone news

The Latest On Drones

New Drone News

Drones have been around a while now. We are long past the days when legal battles were being fought over whether a drone could be used for commercial real estate purposes. We now have a system put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that allows for reasonable licensing and operation of drones that seems to be working well. The rules have seen a couple of tweaks since they were first published. And there are numerous cities and municipalities that have enacted more specific and restrictive laws to better manage drone operation and use.

All of that is old news. However, there is no shortage of new… news. Drones continue to be used in more creative and innovative ways. Many start-up companies are conceived with new ideas on how to employ drones more effectively to solve real-world problems, save time or money, and complete ever day tasks more safely and efficiently.

Unless you’re combing the internet daily for the latest on drone development and employment you might not have seen some of the recent stories. I’d like to save you a bit of time and give you a few recent articles for your enjoyment and professional development:

Drones: A Life Saving Technology

Whether in search and rescue, first-responder services, or delivery of critical medical supplies, drones are saving lives. A recent report published by DJI asserts that drones saved 65 lives last year alone.

Drones Save Lives

Drones Spark Software Startup

Drones are sometimes a bother to people on the ground who are not familiar with their operation and impeccable safety record. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and developing software to help ease the bystanders’ discomfort of drones.

Drones article

Drone Divisions = Innovation

Start-ups aren’t the only companies in the drone game. Well-established companies are exploring new technologies and ways to integrate them. Ford has even established a drone division and is investigating, among other things, lighting technology for drone identification.

Ford drone division

Drone Defense Systems Popping Up

Amid concern for bad actors with drones, some are developing anti-drone systems. In Tampa, FL a company called Sierra Nevada is developing a mobile drone defense platform for a U.S. Department of Defense customer.

counter drone system

Drones Save Puppies, Too!

Finally, who doesn’t like a feel-good story about a drone saving a puppy?

drone saves puppy

The drone story is no longer about when and how we can use them. These days, the story is more like “what will they think of next?” And that question continues to be answered with more and more interesting and creative solutions. I tend to view the current drone world like the early days of the Internet or the introduction of the smartphone. I don’t think we’ve really even scratched the surface of the total drone capability universe. When it comes to drone technology, development, and news, it’s not so much keeping up as it is hanging on for dear life.

This post is part of the 2018 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: Caleb McDow, ALC, is a land specialist and vice president for Crosby & Associates in Winter Haven, FL. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE), the CCIM Designation, and is a licensed private pilot and drone operator. McDow joined RLI in 2014 as a Military Transition Program (MTP) member. He is an active member of RLI, serving on the 2017-2018 RLI Board of Directors and as Chair of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee. He also regularly shares his expertise on real estate issues for various industry blogs.

A New Generation Takes On The Land Industry

Think about how much has changed from 2017 to 2018. Prince Harry got married. Elon Musk sent his sports car blasting into space. Peace talks between North and South Korea are in the works. It’s incredible how much can change in a mere twelve months.

Now think about how much can change in a generation.

The new generation of landowners and farmers are facing an entirely new world. The global market offers new clients, but also new competition. The internet and social media have created endless opportunities for marketing and networking. Solar energy and legal marijuana are new crops bringing in millions of dollars. These are just a few of the many things new farmers and landowners will face as they start their legacies in the land industry.

New Tech

The biggest difference for new farmers and landowners is the rapid increase of technology. Long gone are the days of typewriters and rotary phones. Now, drones, virtual reality, social media, and incredibly advanced farm technology are the name of the game.

In a recent Land.com article courtesy of RLI Member, Luke Worrell, ALC, talks about how technology has changed the land industry for both clients and land experts. “Now, we communicate with our clients in a variety of ways including email, text, video conferencing, and social media to name a few–we don’t simply have to rely on phone and mail marketing. We have learned the unique way each client wants to communicate and are therefore more relevant to them because we are speaking their language.”

How are new landowners and farmers adjusting to the onslaught of new technology? The answer is by applying old-fashioned rules to new platforms. Land experts are already known for their people skills. Social media lets this generation of land experts take these skills online to reach a wider audience than ever thought possible at a lower cost than possible for previous generations. Social media and online networking require a sort of fearlessness to promote yourself and reach out to new people. We can’t think of a single land professional who doesn’t already do that in real life!

The Future Leaders Committee at RLI is dedicated to finding the very best of the latest technologies, services, and trends in the industry for RLI members – just check out their new Member Technology and Resource Center. Keep an eye on them to learn about the latest in the industry!

New Clients

As the world around us changes, so do the clients we serve and their needs. Thanks to technology, clients have more access to information than ever before.

“The internet has played a huge role in redefining the ways in which land-seekers and land-sellers can connect with one another,” says Worrell. “This has created a shift in the characteristics of land buyers. Buyers are now more sophisticated because they have access to so much information! Modern technology allows buyers from all over the nation, and even the world, to learn about land for sale thousands of miles away without leaving their screen.”

Clients aren’t always within driving distance anymore. Although most clients like to visit a property before taking out their checkbook, in-person trips aren’t a must-have anymore with things like virtual reality for showing land properties. The Information Age of buyers can now find all the data they need to know from their living room.

New Crops

If you told farmers twenty years ago that marijuana would be one of the most profitable crops, they might think you’d helped yourself to a little bit of that crop yourself. While marijuana is still federally illegal, farmers in states like California and Colorado are pioneering the new legal industry.

Even more traditional crops are getting an upgrade. Pork, an American staple that has been around forever, has become more cost-effective. Vitamin-rich feed has created bigger, and therefore more profitable, pigs.

All In The Family

The good news for young farmers is that statistically, they’ve got generations of land wisdom behind them. Unlike many other industries, the land industry is one where the passion is often passed down through generations. This inter-generational business allows millennials to teach new technology to older generations, who in turn can pass on the tricks of the trade.

What Doesn’t Change

While lots of things are changing in the land industry, there are just as many that stay the same. Good people skills and a strong work ethic never go out of style.

It still comes down to the people and earning their trust,” says Allan Worrell, ALC. “Be honest. Don’t backstab. Your clients have to believe in you as a person before they would ever want to do business with you. Don’t give them a reason to question your integrity. I’m reminded of the wisdom contained within John Wooden’s famous quote, ‘There’s no pillow as soft as a clear conscience.’ If you can go to bed at night knowing that your principles were not compromised in your land dealings that day, it will serve you well in this business.”

The elder Worrell also points out the importance of getting involved with groups like the REALTORS® Land Institute. “Get involved in professional organizations within your local communities and those that go well beyond your sales territory. Organizations such as the REALTORS® Land Institute provide the education, tools, advice, and networking opportunities that are the foundation for all land professionals to become the best in the business.”

The newest generation of land experts is facing a brand-new world of technology, clients from around the world, and ever-improving crops. While new farmers and landowners will face new hurdles, they have the wisdom and support from previous generations to help them and vice-versa.

Laura Barker is a Marketing Assistant Intern for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

Social Media And The Land Professional

First, we need to lay out the difference between marketing and branding.

Marketing is generally trying to sell a particular piece of property.

Branding is building brand awareness. Think of the tag line “nothing runs like a Deere”. That isn’t meant to sell a particular piece of equipment it is meant to be favorable and memorable for their company.

Now, we can go over some of the many social media platforms and what each is best used to accomplish.

Facebook is the online equivalent of a backyard BBQ. It is an informal place where everyone is at least a friend of a friend. There is a lot of opportunity to market a parcel but remember that it is better to post something intriguing that makes them ask you about it than to go straight into salesman mode. You wouldn’t walk around a BBQ asking “Who wants to buy farm land?” But someone who overhears you talking about touring a cool farm may ask “Where was that?” And it leads to a very natural marketing conversation about that piece of land.

This is an example of how branding can lead to an opportunity to market a specific deal.

LinkedIn is a more formal place to show your professional knowledge. Here is where you have a chance to build your brand. Your goal is become the ag economist of choice. Your greatest opportunity here may be to get referrals from other professionals. If a busy residential agent stumbles across a land listing they may try to figure it out on the fly. However, if you are top of mind as the land expert in your area, it would behoove her to send it to you and collect a referral fee from the expert. The idea is to show how specialized your expertise is and the value you add to a transaction.

Twitter is like a crowded club where you pop in and out of conversations and stay with the ones you find interesting. It is generally better to just do some branding and if they are interested in a particular deal they will contact you through some other means, like a simple phone call. If you create interesting content, people will like your post and possibly share it to their friends. Think about President Trump. He may be controversial, but he adds content consistently that all fits with his brand.

Instagram is similar to Facebook but is nearly all picture-based. It is an effortless way to tell your story. Take that great sunset picture over a pond. Don’t let a gorgeous sunrise go without taking a shot and sharing it. How better to show you spend your days on the land than to share pictures of land? This is a very easy way to build your brand. Then, if someone ask where it is, you can do a little marketing.

YouTube host videos. Remember that people only watch short videos unless there is a super compelling reason sit still for five minutes. A 45-second video with subtitles is better than a rambling 5 minute video. Most videos are played on mute so make sure to add subtitles to grab attention.

Insights for Land Pros

My lowest level and most effective use of social media is as an excuse to Call People!!!!

So, if you see someone on Facebook just got a new car you can click “Like” or you can call and say congratulations. I will venture to say clicking “Like” will not lead to a meaningful conversation. However, a call may very well end up talking about why I need four-wheel drive when selling land. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to see how we can end up talking about the land market next when I’m calling to say congrats on the new car.

Next, you must be consistent with when you add content. If you don’t engage with people, they quit seeing you in their feed. Put it on your calendar to work on Facebook at least five minutes at a time, twice a day to start. LinkedIn moves a little slower, so I suggest adding one or two good pieces of content every week. You need to make it a habit on a small scale before you can become a social media tycoon.

There are less than 100 REALTORS® with more than 50 videos on YouTube today. That means if you can commit to making one video per week, in one years’ time you will be near the top of the list out of all the members of NAR. This shows the amazing opportunities that are available for very little or no cost. What else could you do at such a low cost to be in the top 100 nationwide with no cash out of your pocket? Not much.

I hope this gives you a few ideas that you can implement in your business.

This post is part of the 2018 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 and to bring valuable information to land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here.

About the Author: Tim Hadley is an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Gladstone, MO. He joined the REALTORS® Land Institute in 2017 and is currently a member of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee. #cowboyrealtor

Time Out-Sourced

As a broker, what activities do you enjoy doing the most? Is it meetings? Researching property? Cold calling? <–(FAT CHANCE). Beyond enjoying, what activities tend to get you the most business or make you the most money? I’m sure we have many activities that we enjoy doing far more than others. I have many of them. For example, I absolutely hate collecting all of the minute information related to a new listing. Tax info, parcel numbers, future land use, water, sewer, etc. It is certainly important for me to know all of that information. But the process of collecting it is time-consuming and tedious. On the other hand, what I enjoy more than anything is riding property with a client. Not only does it teach me the finer points of the land itself, but it fosters the client relationship in a unique way. This also takes time. You can’t be in a hurry when getting to know your client. For me, it’s one of the most important things to focus on for current and future business. When considering the resources that you put towards your business everyday time is both the most demanded and the most precious. It is your most valuable and least available resource.

This is not the first time I have written about protecting your time. Visit What is Your Time Worth? Part 1 & Part 2 for some background. For this article, I will focus more specifically on saving time when doing one of the most important things in the business: PROSPECTING.

I’ve learned a lot about prospecting over the years. I’ve utilized many resources and heard from or read many different experienced brokers on the topic. A website and blog authored by Bo Barron was particularly helpful in my early days of brokerage. Most recently, I heard Michael Bull, CCIM, speak at the REALTORS® Land Institute National Land Conference. Michael led an incredible session on broker success strategies and gave me one of the best tips I’ve ever heard about prospecting in commercial real estate: “Prospecting is not part of the business. It IS the business.” With this idea as the backdrop behind spending your time wisely, let’s look at how to maximize your available time for true, focused prospecting.

Here’s a quick real world look at the aim and process of my prospecting system. I look primarily for high-quality farmland. If I can find willing and reasonable sellers who own irrigated farmland, I can usually sell it pretty quickly. Below is a rough breakdown of my process. When I first started, I did all of this myself.

Step 1. Find high-quality properties located in certain agricultural areas

  • Search aerial imagery visually
  • Look for crop circles, irrigation

Step 2. Match likely properties from imagery with tax parcel info

  • Find property on tax assessor website
  • Collect owner’s name and address

Step 3. Search public information websites to find phone numbers for owner

  • Google owners name
  • White Pages, Intellus, etc.

Step 4. Enter information into Client Relationship Management (CRM) database

  • Click, type, copy/paste, repeat
  • Ensure accuracy, categorize new prospect
  • Log task for follow up call to prospect

Step 5. Prepare form letter to mail

  • Enter address info on form letter, fold, and insert
  • Address envelope, lick stamp

Step 6. Follow up call

  • Pick up phone, dial number
  • Talk
  • Sell
  • Make money

That’s a lot of steps. And all of that work took time. Time, time, time! And on the days I had meetings or other obligations, I got further and further behind.  I felt like I was always playing catch up with my property research and other administrative tasks – and the phone calls often left undone. Then came the MOMENTOUS day I discovered the world of Virtual Assistants (VAs).

VAs are real people who will undertake just about any task that can be completed with the use of a computer and phone. They work remotely from anywhere in the world. They can’t pickup your dry cleaning or drive you to an appointment. But when it comes to administrative and electronic tasks, they are some of the best in the business. With a little training and direction, they will amaze you with their ability to complete tasks quickly with great attention to detail. A quick Google search of “Virtual Assistant” provides many different clearinghouses to choose from or you can hire a freelancing VA directly. Hourly rates vary depending on experience and skill level, as well as whether they are US-based or overseas. However, you can get solid virtual support for between $8-$20/hour. It may take some trial and error to find a good fit, however, once you get comfortable with the process you will wonder how you ever lived without it.

The one thing I will admit is that it was difficult at first to hand things off. I had a certain way I wanted tasks done and was hesitant to just let someone else do it for me. Yet before long my VA was churning out info and products for me faster than I could keep up with the important things. So now, my process looks like this:

Step 1. Open CRM and see all the wonderful work my VA has done for me.

  • Properties researched
  • Owners name, address, and phone number, already in database
  • Tasks for follow-up calls already entered
  • Letters ready to print

Step 2. Give letters to in-house assistant to collate, address envelopes, and mail

Step 3. Same as Step 7 above

The process that once took me about 30 minutes per prospect/property now takes about 30 seconds. I skip straight to the most important step of getting on the phone with people to build relationships and get busy listing and selling property.

I will also note that the combination of a VA with an in-house Executive Assistant (EA) or Administrative Assistant (AA) is an incredibly valuable combination. Whatever the EA can’t do because it requires a physical presence (such as mailing letters) the EA or AA can do. My preference is to map out the vision and set expectations for the in-house assistant and then let them use their own skills while leveraging the VA as necessary to get the job done. My focus is on the output, and I do my best not to get too involved in the process.

As with anything you introduce into your business, all of this takes time: setup, training, direction, etc. And of course, none of this is free. A certain cost is associated with outsourcing of all kinds. You will need to make a determination on what is an appropriate level of outsourcing and cost for yourself and your business. However, in the long run, the time saved and the additional revenue generated is more than worth the time spent up front. As a suggestion, if you’re new to Virtual Assistants, start small. Outsource some non-time critical tasks on a pay-as-you-go basis, assess the results, and gradually increase. You will likely have to make yourself uncomfortable (like I did) with letting go of certain things, but once you reap the benefits, I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.

Ultimately, the buck stops with you. As a licensed real estate agent you have both a capability and a skill set that you cannot outsource. There are very specific things about your job that only you can do. Yet there are hundreds and thousands of other things that someone else can do for you at a fraction of the cost of your time. I encourage you to really asses yourself and your business to see where you can leverage other people and divert your most precious resource to the most important of tasks.

To learn more about this topic, check out McDow’s companion podcast below:

This post is part of the 2018 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: Caleb McDow, ALC, is a land specialist and vice president for Crosby & Associates in Winter Haven, FL. He holds a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE), the CCIM Designation, and is a licensed private pilot and drone operator. McDow joined RLI in 2014 as a Military Transition Program (MTP) member. He is an active member of RLI, serving on the 2017-2018 RLI Board of Directors and as Chair of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee. He also regularly shares his expertise on real estate issues for various industry blogs.

All About Transitional Land

Transitional land. It’s a new word for a concept that’s been around for ages. Even though many people sell transitional land every day, there is still a stigma surrounding this risky land type. What many people don’t know is that transitional land can turn out to be gold mines. Disney World is one of the most famous examples of a successful transitional land. The land started off as swamp and was transitioned into the happiest place on Earth! Transitional land can be a huge risk, but, if researched and marketed correctly, could turn into a land sale that might change your life or even the world.

Transitional land is a property that is in the process of changing from one form of land use to another. For example, a hunting property might be transitioned into farmland if someone discovered a soil type perfect for their specific crop. Farmland could be transitioned into residential land if it’s located near a big city. Transitional land is often shaped by the needs clients and the current state of the land market.

For transitional land to be successful, you need to determine the best use for your land type. If you are new to land types, here are just a few examples:

  • Agricultural/farm land
  • Commercial Land
  • Ranchland
  • Recreational land
  • Residential land
  • Timberland

Each of these land types of land real estate require different soil types and amenities. For example, if someone is using recreational land for hunting ground, they would need land where animals could feel at home. Someone developing residential land would want the opposite.

Once you have determined what land type is best for your property, it’s time to hit the books. This is where transitional land gets tricky. Selling transitional land requires an in-depth knowledge about the state of the market and different land types. In her Transitional Land: Finding the Highest & Best Use article, RLI’s Marketing Manager Jessa Friedrich explains how selling a transitional land property is a completely different world than traditional properties:

“In traditional real estate brokerage, the agent lists an existing property with a known use and markets that property to the users for that type of property. What makes Transitional Land properties different is the need to determine the market value accurately and then market the property according to its highest and best use, which is different than its current use, in order to increase the property’s value and thus the profit.”

The biggest risk of selling transitional land is thinking it will be exactly like selling other land types. Since transitional land is such a unique type of land sale, you’ll want to be sure to work with a land expert. Land experts will help you determine the best land use for your land type and help you get the best market price.

The first thing you and your land expert will want to do is determine what the best use for the land would be. Here are some questions to help guide your decision making:

  • What soil types do I have on my land?
  • What would be the most cost-effective use for the amenities on my property?
  • What sort of crops do best on my land?
  • Can my land support livestock? If so, what types and how many?
  • What land types are in high demand in my area?
  • Do I want to invest in transitioning the land myself, or should I search for buyers who want to buy my land as it is?

The actual ‘transitioning’ of the land depends on what your client wants. In the Disney World example, Disney bought the land with no modifications on it to keep the price of the land low. If your buyers have a similar mindset, that makes things easier for you. Some buyers want to buy the land that’s already been transitioned. In these cases, you need to be sure there is a significant demand for that land type. You don’t want to spend a lot of money and time if no one will buy the transitioned land.

Many land sellers are still cautious about selling their land as transitional land. There is so little information out there about transitional land that it is understandable to stay in familiar territory. However, transitional land has the potential to be extremely profitable. It requires extensive research and working with a land professional, but if you are willing to put in the hard work, you may make it big on your next land sale.

To learn more, check RLI’s schedule of upcoming courses to see when their next Transitional Land Real Estate course will be offered or check out this RLI Hot Topic Webinar Recording on Diamond In The Rough: Transitioning Land for Development.

Laura Barker is a Marketing Assistant Intern for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

Top Tips for Growing Your Client Base

There are lots of articles for real estate agents on how to grow their customer base. But what about land agents? Land agents can have an even harder time finding new clients. Rural areas make it harder to meet new people, and transportation to networking events can take hours.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t meet new people and grow your customer base. You just have to think a little more creatively than your urban-dwelling friends. If you want to grow your client base as a land expert, your current client network and online networking can be key to success.

  1. Think Like Your Ideal Customer

Who is the ideal client for you? What are they looking to buy/sell? How much money are they willing to spend? What are their hobbies and interests? Where do they shop? What is their lifestyle like? Would they find a land expert on the Internet or by word of mouth? Walking a mile in their shoes is a great way to understand what clients are searching for and to know where to find them so you can get in front of them. Also, having an idea of what you want out of a client can help you figure out what they are searching for in a land expert. By thinking like your ideal client, you can tailor your marketing plan to cater to them.

  1. Network Online

In-person networking can be hard for people living in rural areas, and even harder for people who work in your specific area of expertise. What are the chances of someone who also specializes in mineral rights being within a driving range of you? Online networking lets you connect with people around the country without leaving your home. There are plenty of opportunities to network online, from social media sites and discussion forums to blogs and online courses. The REALTORS® Land Institute offers ALC-to-ALC interactive webinars to bring together ALC designees to network and share their knowledge.

We have a ton of great articles about networking on our blog, like Accredited Land Consultant Calvin Perryman’s article Effectively Networking for New Land Professionals and using social media as a networking tool in our article Seven Land Real Estate Tips.

  1. Divide Time Between Current and Potential Clients.

It can be easy to want to spend all your time focusing on potential clients. The idea of meeting new people is exciting. However, spending all your time searching for potential clients can take time away from your current clients. This can hurt their experience with you, and they might not want to work with you again.

Splitting time between finding new clients and working with your current ones makes sure you don’t lose the clients you already have. Giving your current clients get excellent customer service and the best land for their money ensures they will sing your praises to their friends.

Word of mouth can be worth its weight in gold. In fact, many land experts make some of their biggest sales with people recommended to them by former clients. Another great tactic is to find a way to incentivize your current clients to bring your referral business. Offer to give them a $50 gift card to Bass Pro Shop as a ‘thank you’ for each new client they refer to you.

  1. Have A Portfolio

On your website, you can include a tab that shows off your successes – and your clients’. This can include land you’ve sold, testimonials from satisfied clients, and awards or certificates you’ve earned for your work. Be sure to include pictures of the land you have helped clients sell or buy. You can also include any articles about land you’ve gotten published that establish you as an industry expert.

(Psst, did you know the REALTORS® Land Institute accepts submissions for blog posts? If you’d like to share your knowledge, contact RLI’s Marketing Manager, Jessa Friedrich.)

  1. Send Out A Survey.

Your current clients are a great way to figure out what you can improve on and what you excel at. Sending out a survey (SurveyMonkey and Google Forms are free and easy ways to create surveys) asking clients what they liked and what could be improved on is a great way get feedback. Plus, don’t be shy about asking for testimonials in the survey. Just make sure to get their permission to use them on your website and promotional materials upfront. Here are some examples of questions to ask:

-Was the website easy to navigate?

-Are the pricing/services clear?

-How did you find out about our services?

-Is there anything we can improve on to make your experience even better?

-Please provide a testimonial I can use in my marketing:

Growing your client base is hard in any field, but is especially difficult for land experts. The good news is that modern technology can overcome a lot of the difficulties of being in a rural location. Add that to good old-fashioned people skills with your current clients, and you’ve got a recipe to bring in new clients from all over America.

Upfront Marketing Money: Partner With Your Clients

It is well known in the auction industry that about 90 percent of Auction Companies partner with their clients by charging upfront marketing money. Why is this not part of the traditional sales model? Is it due to the amount of competition? Is it fear of losing the listing to someone that doesn’t have the courage to ask for the much needed marketing money?

Whatever the reason, this topic is so dear to my heart due to seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on marketing for an auction, just for the property to sell at 65 percent of the last list price to a neighbor. I have been involved in many successful auctions and many not so successful auctions. Yes, auctions work in certain situations and they are the quickest, most effective way to determine fair market value on a given day. With that said, my goal in writing this article is to help my “traditional land selling friends” provide exceptional service to their clients by selling properties the first time around. I believe this is done by heavy market exposure, paid for by your clients.

How many of you agree that the best chance you have of selling a property is during the first six months? Have you ever asked your seller for upfront marketing money in order to help sell their property in the first six months? If not, you should immediately make some adjustments to your listing presentation and offer both a basic and a premium marketing package, then see what your clients choose. In my opinion, it should be part of your discussion, more importantly on the $500,000+, unique/hard to sell assets.

Most agents are afraid to ask for upfront money. They are worried that they may get a hard “NO” and get run off the listing appointment. This is so far from the truth. In fact, asking for upfront money solidifies your ability to do your job and shows a willingness to execute. Worst case scenario, the seller decides they do not want to invest in the sale of their property and you offer them the basic package, which is the package the next agent they interview will offer. In other words, if you are looking at a $2,000,000 property that is really going to take a specific buyer and your client/seller refuses to invest a few thousand dollars to help the sale, what does that tell you about their motivation?

Here is a quick “upfront marketing” script:

With this being a very unique property with a limited amount of buyers, we really need to hit the ground running with marketing. The best opportunity to sell this property is in the first six months of advertising before it becomes stale on the market. Over the years, we have seen hundreds of similar properties go to auction because they were not marketed properly in the first place. And the crazy thing about Auction is the seller ends up paying one to two percent of their reserve upfront. In order to hedge our bets, we should come out strong and hit every marketing avenue we can. With that said, would you be comfortable paying $7,500 upfront to market your property? We will credit you back every dollar you spend on marketing against the commission at closing. Basically if its $1,000,000 Listing at X% commission, charge $7,500 upfront, the net commission will equal $1,000,000 x X% – $7,500.

Below are the packages we offer…

Your Everyday Agent Marketing Package: NO COST

  • A 4×4 Generic LAND FOR SALE sign
  • Professional Drone Still Photos
  • Advertised on Local MLS, LandsOfAmerica.com, Zillow, Trulia, LandWatch, LandandFarm, LandBrokerMLS
  • One Targeted Facebook Boosted Advertisement

Mediocre Marketing Package: $2,500

  • A 4×4 Custom LAND FOR SALE sign and 2×3 directional
  • Professional Drone Still Photos and Video
  • Advertised on Local MLS, LandsOfAmerica.com, Zillow, Trulia, LandWatch, LandandFarm, LandBrokerMLS
  • Three-month showcase ad on LandWatch.com or LandsOfAmerica.com
  • Flyers distributed local to property at major gathering places
  • Email blast to top land agents across all of the US
  • Two Targeted Facebook Boosted Advertisements

Blitzkrieg Marketing Package: $7,500

  • 4×4 RANCH FOR SALE SIGNS (one on property and one on nearby Hwy) and (3) Directional Signs
  • Professional Drone Still Photos and Professionally Edited Video
  • Three-Month featured AD on Landwatch.com
  • Three-Month Platinum AD on LandsofAmerica.com
  • Website designed specifically for the property
  • Bi-Monthly Email Blasts to all of the top land agents across the US through RLI
  • Ads on LandsofOklahoma, Landwatch.com, LandsofAmerica.com, LandandFarm, Zillow, Trulia, LandsofOklahoma, LandFlip, Realtor.com, LandBrokerMLS, DuPont Registry, WSJ.com, craigslist, etc
  • Ad in High Plains Journal
  • Cover on Open Fences Magazine
  • Cover on Homes and Land Magazine
  • Local Newspaper Ad
  • Flyers distributed local to property at major gathering places
  • Four Targeted Facebook Boosted Advertisements

Now that you have seen my basic guide to upfront marketing money, I want to make sure everyone understands that asking for upfront marketing money doesn’t happen on every listing. There are many listings that I sell with a very basic advertising package paid for by yours truly. In addition, depending on the listing, I may adjust the packages and remove a few items to lower the cost. Another tip is having a “Marketing À La Carte” menu. This allows you to offer several options to your clients at a set cost. At the end of the day, make sure you are always using the marketing dollars to promote the property, not yourself. Do not charge the client more than the hard cost of the advertisement and be authentic. Your clients will appreciate it for years to come and become your “raving fans.”

Thanks for reading, if I can ever do anything for you or answer any questions, please call or email me.

This post is part of the 2018 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: Drew Ary, ALC, is an agent with Keller Williams Advantage. Drew has a vast knowledge of raw land, land with improvements, and farm and ranch properties. Above all, he has a passion for selling land and farm and ranch properties by bringing buyers and sellers together through honesty and integrity. Drew spent 10 years in the real estate auction world with roles as a Closing Coordinator, Project Manager, and a large portion as the Director of Farm & Ranch Sales. Drew moved to traditional real estate with Keller Williams Advantage at the beginning of 2017.

The Impact of Legal Marijuana on Land Real Estate

Weed. Pot. The Devil’s Lettuce. Whatever you want to call it, legal marijuana has become a billion-dollar industry in America. Farmers in areas where the plant is legal are cashing in on the fastest-growing crop. Although states are raking in millions in tax dollars, there are still a lot of gray areas surrounding the legality and long-term effects of marijuana. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this controversial new crop.

Marijuana was first made legal for medical purposes in 1996 in California. Over the years, states have slowly relaxed their laws surrounding the plant. Today, more than half of all U.S. states have legal marijuana in some form, and nine states have it legal for recreational use. Even in states where it is illegal, laws are softening. In Illinois, for example, the punishment for being caught with marijuana was reduced from jail time to a fine. The country seems to be making a push towards legalizing marijuana. But will changing laws benefit or hurt farmers?

Pro: Raking In Cash

States that have legalized marijuana are seeing green in more than one way. On medical cannabis, states are raking in anywhere from seven million to 633 million since changing their laws. Massachusetts made one million dollars in just one month on recreational cannabis.

Cannabis cash can help small time farmers, too. While there is a growing debate about the marijuana takeover by some big corporations, struggling areas found economic relief from the plant. After marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2012, the cash-strapped region of Pueblo County made a small fortune off of growing legal marijuana. In fact, they received enough tax revenue to give local college scholarships to every Pueblo student who wanted one!

Pro: Cut Costs

Marijuana plants have a quick rejuvenation rate compared to other crops (especially timber). It’s ready to harvest after 65 to 70 days of flowering. The outdoor production cost of cannabis can range from 25 cents to 50 cents per gram. However, due to the unpredictability of forces such as nature and bugs, outdoor plants only allow around one harvest per year. Indoor plants costs significantly more (an average of $1.25 per gram), but you can harvest them up to five times every year.

Another benefit is that it requires little manpower. Cannabis requires one-tenth of the manpower of other crops, slashing labor costs.

Con: High Cost of Production

Growing marijuana indoors can be costly. It requires light and temperature-controlled climates, which can rack up huge energy bills. The installation costs of these lights alone can be more than many small-time farmers can afford. Marijuana is very sensitive to light and requires a lot of heat.

Marijuana plants are divas. The plant is very sensitive to light and heat, so you need to be ready to spend serious cash on climate control. Even when you are hanging them up to dry, the conditions should be around 68 degrees with 50 percent humidity. If it gets too dry, the product loses its signature taste. If it gets too humid, it can mold.

Con: Marijuana Is Federally Illegal

Cannabis, being federally illegal, has had some serious drawbacks for farmers. Banking is one of the biggest issues. Banks don’t want to break federal law, and often don’t accept money from marijuana businesses. This can leave farmers without a safe place to keep their money.

Con: So Little Knowledge

Marijuana has been around 500 BC in Asia, but our knowledge about its long-term effects is still limited. Not only do we know little about the effects of the plant, but the legal cannabis industry itself is brand spanking new. Laws still vary wildly state by state, so something that works for a farmer in California may not work for a farmer in North Carolina and many successes in the field are largely due to trial and error.

Overall, legal cannabis has a lot to offer the land industry. The tax money it brings to communities can help fund everything from scholarships to helping the homeless. However, there’s a lot we still need to learn about this crop. Only time will tell the long-term impacts legal marijuana will have on the land industry. For now, we hope you enjoyed learning about what legal marijuana has to offer the land industry. It is also important to keep in mind that while there are listing sites out there specifically for cannabis real estate, it is crucial to find a land consultant with expertise in the area before making any decisions.

Laura Barker is a Marketing Assistant Intern for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

land real estate investing

Hottest Markets For Land Real Estate Investing

Land Real Estate Investing: Warmer… Hotter! ON FIRE!

This piece was originally featured in the Summer 2018 Terra Firma magazine.

Land real estate investing can be as intimidating as it is exciting, which is why it is so important to get all the information you need to make the right decision. The 2017 Land Markets Survey*, released by the REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) and the National Association of REALTORS® Research Group earlier this year, showed that 25 percent of recent U.S. land buyers and 12 percent of U.S. land sellers were investors. This indicates a strong investor demand, up five percent over last year – and for good reason! Right now is a great time to be investing in land real estate. If you can find the right property, adding land real estate to your investment portfolio can be a safe bet with a steady return, especially over the long term when investing for retirement. However, finding that right property requires expert guidance and a wealth of information to ensure the best property is found to meet the investor’s needs. Figuring out which markets are hottest can start to feel like a game.

Bear with me a moment, I promise this has a point, but I’m going to throwback for a minute here to when I was younger. On the playground we would play a game where you had to close your eyes and try to find something a friend hid – sometimes another friend. All the while, they would yell “Warm… Warmer… Hot… Hotter! ON FIRE!” until you navigated your way to the hidden item and it was found. After reading the results of the latest Land Markets Survey, this game came to mind because it seems like there are quite a few markets getting “warmer…,” some that are “Hot!” and a couple that are just plain “ON FIRE!” As I dug into the data further, this became more and more true — so let’s take a look at what the hottest markets are for land real estate investing.

Time to Plant Seeds – Warmer…

seedWhen most people think about land real estate, scenic landscapes of sprawling farmland are often the first images that come to mind. Most in the land business know that agricultural land has taken a bit of a hit and is only now starting to rebound in many areas. Despite the overall trends, experts in the field say the demand for agricultural land hasn’t decreased much and that there is often a shortage of quality farmland for sale on the market which is driving prices of good, quality land up. Basic economic theory on the law of supply and demand explains why the survey results show a one to two percent increase in the price (or value) of the agricultural land that is on the market, depending whether the land was irrigated or not. So, now is actually a really good time to be an agricultural landowner or investor. And according to RLI’s survey, the price per acre of agricultural irrigated land sold rose two percent, while the price of agricultural non-irrigated land sold rose one percent – a rebound from the price decline reported in the previous survey. Respondents are also predicting a continued increase in agricultural land prices, alluding to a promising future as the market continues to rebound. While the market may not be “ON FIRE!” yet, now could be a good time to plant some investment seeds by grabbing-up ag land as it starts to heat up.

Bang For Your Buck – Hot!

buckIf you are thinking about investing in land real estate, it can be hard to decide where to put your dollars to get the best bang for your buck. Speaking of bang for your buck (hunting pun intended!), recreational land is also a solid type of land to invest in according to the survey. Prices of recreational land went up two percent since the last survey and are expected to go up another three percent. Recreational land sales dollar volumes are expected to increase four percent, second only to residential land at five percent, after already having gone up three percent in the prior period. All of this shows a very strong current market that is only expected to gain steam. Just make sure to ask the right questions when trying to find the perfect hunting land.

Chop, Chop – Hot!

timberIf you are looking for a solid long-term investment, chop, chop, because timberland is where you need to be; so much so, that there is a whole piece in the Summer 2018 Terra Firma magazine written by expert LANDU Instructor Rick Taylor, ALC, on investing in it. So where do the numbers from the survey fall on timberland? The average change in price of timberland sold increased one percent and is expected to increase another two percent. However, a more telling stat from the survey is the three percent increase in expected change in dollar volume of timberland sales compared to only a one percent increase in the previous period. Also, as the demand for new home construction continues to increase, it will continue to drive up softwood timber values/prices. Now, before you purchase yourself some timberland and start chopping away, make sure to read Rick’s article and check out the other pieces on our blog about timberland real estate investing.

Groundbreaking – ON FIRE!

residential land homeAccording to the latest Land Markets Survey, commercial and residential land are taking the industry by storm as potential investment options. In the time between the 2016 and 2017 surveys, the dollar volume of residential land sales grew five percent while commercial land sales followed closely behind at a four percent increase. Another great indicator that these two types of land investments are ripe for the picking is that while land prices are expected to increase by three percent across the U.S., commercial and residential land prices are expected to exceed average with an increase of four percent. Plus, 52 percent of respondents said that residential land has become less available in the last five years. Remember our lesson on supply and demand when we talked about ag land prices? Same law applies here. So a decrease in supply and increase in demand means we should continue to see an increase in price for residential land. You may notice this aligns perfectly with the increase in land prices predicted by survey respondents mentioned earlier. If you are interested in learning more about this hot market, there are some great pieces on the RLI Blog about the increase in demand for residential land real estate.

Hopefully, this piece revealed some valuable information you can use to help make your decision when it comes to land real estate investing.  Finding success in the playground game I mentioned earlier was a combination of needing expert guidance, reliable information, and, of course, a little luck — a lot like investing in land! So, keep in mind that land transactions require specialized expertise making it necessary to find a qualified, experienced, and educated agent –like an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) – to provide reliable guidance and information when investing in a property. Then all you need is a little luck!

*The Land Markets Survey is conducted annually each fall by the REALTORS® Land Institute and the National Association of REALTORS® Research Group as a tool for real estate land professionals in all sectors of the business to use for bench-marking and as an informational resource when conducting business.

The survey is designed to reveal current trends and the current state of land markets across the US. RLI encourages all land real estate agents to participate in the survey to ensure it is accurate in representing the actual state of the land market each year.

All data included in this article are pulled from the 2017 Land Markets Survey and reference the time periods outlined within.

 

Jessa Friedrich, MBA, Marketing ManagerAbout the Author: Jessa Friedrich, MBA, is the Marketing Manager for the REALTORS® Land Institute. Jessa has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Marketing as well as her MBA specializing in Marketing. She has been with RLI since March 2015 leading their marketing, branding, and communications efforts.