The Risk of Buying Land Without Using a Land Real Estate Professional

Why do we buy land?  We buy land for:

  • Use as an owner/operator
  • Recreation
  • Investment
  • 1031 exchange
  • Development
  • A legacy
  • Retirement…..

How many types of land are there?

  • Agricultural – farms and ranches
  • Confinement operations: hog, dairy, poultry
  • Agribusiness uses: elevators, seed processing plants, etc.
  • Timber
  • Orchards/vineyards (permanent plantings)
  • Hunting/recreational
  • Development
  • Land-in transition
  • Commercial
  • Residential
  • …the list is lengthy!

Land real estateHow, then, do you make an educated decision in the acquisition or disposition of land?  How do reach your land goals and objectives?  Do you know where to start and the questions to ask?

When you work with a qualified land real estate professional, such as an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC), the land professional can assist you in reaching your goals and objectives through:

  • Asking the right questions to determine what those goals & objectives are
  • Once identified, to provide thoughtful analysis and innovative solutions to help you reach those goals
  • Presenting you with appropriate information on current economic conditions at the local, regional, national and global levels; interest rate trends; commodity prices and effect on land values/rents/sale prices; as well as updates on legislative issues that affect your land
  • Discussions to determine if you should/could do a 1031 exchange, DST, or other tax deferment with the sale proceeds based on your goals/objectives, how large a tax consequence there will be…
  • Determining the highest and best use of your land
  • Handling mineral or water rights issues using the proper legal avenues and guidelines
  • Marketing your property appropriately including through the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Land Connections listing site, Lands-of-America affiliation, as well as marketing at the state and national meeting marketing sessions.
  • … again, the list is lengthy due to the depth and breadth of issues for any tract of land.

Minimize the risk with your largest investment by working with an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) who can provide the connections, education, experience, and expertise to guide you through the changing, complex world of today’s land market. Before you consider buying or selling a tract of land real estate, make sure to Find a Land Consultant to ensure you get the best representation possible.

Terri Jensen, ALC land real estateAbout the author: Terri Jensen, ALC, was the 2015 National RLI President. She is currently the VP Real Estate/Appraisal Operations at Upper Midwest Management Corporation. She is a licensed REALTOR®/Broker in Minnesota and Nebraska as well as a licensed appraiser and auctioneer in Minnesota.

land real estate title issues

The Top Three Real Estate Title Issues REALTORS® Need to Know

This article originally appeared in the 2017 Winter Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

Nothing is worse in the eyes of a real estate professional than discovering an issue with the title to real estate on the heels of a scheduled closing. Real estate title issues come in a multitude of varieties, forms and fashions, and depending on the severity of the issue, can stop a real estate deal dead in its tracks, as well as render the title essentially worthless. The good news is that a solution for nearly every issue exists. The remedies available depend greatly on the issues and factual circumstances. In any event, identifying the problem as soon as possible is essential to resolving the issue in the most efficient and inexpensive manner. Before committing to purchase an interest in real estate, due diligence in the form of reviewing a title commitment and current survey is imperative to discovering and resolving potential issues with real estate titles. A thorough review of a title commitment and current survey will reveal most title issues, including three of the most common title issues encountered by real estate professionals: (i) blanket easements, (ii) boundary issues and (iii) errors and omissions in the chain of title. Below is a brief overview of these top three title issues, along with some suggested solutions and practice pointers for the real estate professionals who encounter them.

Blanket Easements

A blanket easement, also known as a floating easement, is basically an easement that is not limited to a specific portion of the servient tract over which it was granted but, instead, encumbers the entire tract. In some instances, the grantor and grantee intend the easement to be blanket in nature. A conservation easement or flowage easement are both examples of easements generally intended by the parties to be blanket in nature. Other times, blanket easements arise contrary to the parties’ intentions and as a result of the instrument granting the easement failing to limit or describe the area over which the easement is located. Regardless of the scenario, a blanket easement generally constitutes a significant title defect, because the easement holder’s rights significantly limit or prohibit the right of the landowner to use and enjoy the servient tract.

Often times, an unintended blanket easement will arise from an instrument containing ambiguous language, such as language conveying an easement over “a twenty foot (20’) wide portion of the Northwest Quarter (NW1/4) of Section Ten, Range Three West, Township Four North.” While, by the terms of the grant, the easement area is limited to a twenty-foot wide portion of the subject tract, the instrument essentially grants a blanket easement over the entire tract because it fails to specify which twenty-foot wide portion of the tract is encumbered by the easement. Blanket easements on this nature create significant title issues, especially from a development standpoint.

Continuing with this example, consider a scenario where the landowner has entered into an agreement to sell the servient tract to a developer who intends to develop a shopping center on the tract, contingent upon a satisfactory review of the title. Assume also the blanket easement is one for the installation and operation of an underground pipeline, and the instrument prohibits construction of buildings, fixtures and other above-ground improvements within the twenty-foot wide easement area.

Since any development within the 20-foot wide easement area is prohibited and the easement area could consist of any 20-foot wide portion of the servient tract, title to the tract is defective because any development is prohibited as a result of the blanket easement.

So what’s the solution? The good news is there may be several, all of which depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding the grant and use of the easement. For example, if the pipeline has not been installed, one solution commonly utilized is to obtain and record an amendment or modification to the easement instrument from the holder that terminates the easement as it applies to the entire tract and establishes the specific 20-foot wide easement area. Additionally, the accommodation doctrine recognized in many jurisdictions generally provides that where an easement instrument does not establish a definite location of the easement area, the grantee does not acquire a right to use the servient tract without limitation, and the owner of the servient tract processes the right to establish its location, provided such right must be exercised in a reasonable manner, with due regard to the rights of the easement holder. If the owner of the servient tract can produce evidence establishing the parties intended the easement to apply to a certain 20-foot wide portion of the tract, the owner may also seek to have a court reform the instrument to limit the easement area to a specific portion of the servient tract. If the pipeline has been installed, the common law in many jurisdictions provides the undefined boundaries of an easement granted for a specific purpose can become fixed by use of the land for the prescribed purpose with the consent or acquiescence of the owner.

Boundary Issues

Boundary issues are common title issues that generally result from the true boundary being located somewhere other than where the owner believes it to be. The discrepancy in boundary line locations may also be the result of natural forces, such as accretion or avulsion caused by waterways. Other times, boundary lines may change as a result of the owner’s action or inaction. Boundary line issues attributable to the owner include changes in the location of boundary lines that result from adverse possession or agreements with adjoining landowners. Additionally, some states recognize the doctrine of boundary by acquiescence, which is similar to adverse possession and arises when adjoining landowners tacitly agree to recognize a boundary other than the true surveyed boundary shared by the parties.

Determining whether boundary issues exist before purchasing real estate is an absolute necessity because unresolved issues can eventually result in the record owner being divested of title to all or a portion of its property, as well as the improvements located thereon. The only means for confirming whether a boundary line issue exists is a current survey. A survey, however, is only as good as the surveyor who prepared it. When selecting a surveyor, keep in mind that, like real estate attorneys, not all surveyors were created equal. Thus, it is equally important the surveyor selected has sufficient experience, is licensed in the state where the property is located and is of good repute. Along those lines, consider retaining a surveyor who is a member of the National Society of Professional Surveyors and familiar with the area where the property is located.

If the current survey reveals a boundary issue, several methods for resolving the issue are available. An obvious solution to the issue is for the landowner to either convey or purchase the encroachment area. Another common solution is a boundary line agreement between the adjoining owners, whereby the owners agree to the true location of the boundary, regardless of the parties’ past or future actions, or the existing location of boundary markers (such as drainage ditches or fences). An easement agreement may also be utilized if the encroaching fixture or improvement will remain in its current location. Alternatively, a quitclaim deed from the adjoining owner may also be used to extinguish any interest the adjoining owner may have acquired through adverse use or acquiescence. If a quitclaim deed is utilized, however, encroaching fixtures or improvements should also be removed in conjunction with the conveyance or the issue will likely resurface at a later point. If these remedies are unavailable, boundary issues may be resolved by a quiet title action or an action for a declaratory judgment.

Chain of Title Errors and Omissions

Title issues commonly arise from errors and omissions in the chain of title and are often the result of sloppy drafting and undocumented conveyances. Incorrect and invalid legal descriptions; mistaken, misnamed and omitted parties; and ineffective acknowledgements are common examples of chain title issues arising from careless drafting. Chain of title issues caused by undocumented conveyances are commonly the result of undocumented intestate transfers between family members, as well as failures to open a probate estate for a decedent/landowner. Some chain of title issues are not substantive issues or constitute title defects—other times, the result may be a complete failure of title.

In many instances these issues can be corrected through a correction instrument, modification agreement, or scrivener’s error affidavit. Because these corrective measures generally require one or more of the parties or their attorneys to execute the remedial instrument, time is very much of the essence. If the issues are not discovered until many years after their creation, the remedies available are significantly limited. Below is a list of some practice pointers for real estate professionals to avoid or remedy chain of title issues:

  1. Use a Valid Legal Description. An instrument purporting to affect the title to real property must contain a valid legal description, which are usually in the form of a platted, lot and block description or a metes and bounds description. Tax parcel numbers and property addresses are generally invalid legal descriptions. Most importantly, if the legal description is referenced as an exhibit, don’t forget to attach the exhibit.
  2. Attach the Legal Description. It is easy to make a typographical error when retyping a legal description. An instrument affecting title to real property must contain a valid legal description, and in order to be valid, a metes and bounds legal description must “close.” Often times, errors or omissions in retyped descriptions can result in the legal description failing to close, rending the instrument ineffective. If possible, copy and paste the legal description from another instrument in the chain of title, a title policy or a survey. If you must retype the description, have someone read aloud the original legal description used by you while you follow along reading the retyped description you prepared.
  3. Correctly List the Parties. Always review the chain of title to ensure the current grantor is the same party listed as the grantee in the immediately preceding conveyance instrument. For individuals, driver’s licenses and birth records should also be reviewed to confirm correct spelling is used and ensure the parties’ names are listed correctly. Also, be sure to include suffixes such as “Jr.” and “Sr.” and confirm whether the individuals are married. With respect to corporations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships, review the entity’s filings with the appropriate secretary of state’s office to ensure correct spelling. As for trusts, the trust documents should be reviewed to confirm proper names and spellings. If the applicable state law provides for trust certificates, also consider having the trustees execute and record a certificate of trust verifying the names of the trust and the trustees.
  4. Use a Proper Acknowledgement. In some cases, a defective acknowledgement can render the instrument ineffective. Arkansas for example has a form acknowledgment set by statute. Be sure to review applicable state law to ensure the instrument’s acknowledgment conforms to any state-specific requirements.
  5. Correct the Record. As noted above, many issues can be resolved by correcting the errors and omissions in the chain of title via a corrective instrument. However, before preparing a corrective instrument and tracking down the requisite person or persons to sign the instrument, check with a title insurance underwriter to confirm the corrective instrument will have its intended effect.

At the end of the day, the question is whether the title to the property will be insured in connection with a conveyance. Accordingly, consult with an underwriter to confirm your plan and form of corrective instrument will result in an insurable title.

About the author: Timothy W. Grooms is a founding and managing member of Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he concentrates his law practice on real estate and general commercial lending transactions.  He is a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL) and a Fellow in the American College of Mortgage Attorneys (ACMA).  He serves as counsel to numerous real estate industry groups and is a frequent lecturer to title, banking, real estate, real estate brokerage, and construction industry groups and industry regulators.

About the author: R. Seth Hampton is an associate with Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC in Little Rock, Arkansas.  His law practice primarily focuses on real estate, agriculture, commercial finance, regulatory compliance, and business succession and estate planning for farm families and closely-held agribusiness corporations.

The Value in Using a Land Real Estate Expert

“Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization. REALTORS ® should recognize that the interests of the nation and its citizens require the highest and best use of the land and the widest distribution of land ownership.”Preamble to the NAR Code of Ethics

Accurate, reliable and timely information is vital to effective decision making in almost every aspect of human endeavor, whether it be for personal or business gain. It is absolutely essential for making the most informed decision. As one of our responsibilities as licensed real estate professionals we are to “protect the public.” In the absence of accurate information, people will make bad decisions. Being a member of the REALTORS® Land Institute provides the public with the information that you and I are considered as “the land real estate experts.”

Being the Expert
In today’s world of more highly educated adults and, more specifically, the millennial sector, the qualification of being more than fifty miles from home with a brief case doesn’t qualify a person as an expert. As part of today’s college educated society, the process for making a business decision in a specialty area outside that of your educated profession is to hire an “expert.”

When a client hires an expert, the most important quality they look for is someone who presents themselves as a professional. A potential client will evaluate a REALTOR® on how articulate they are, their personal appearance, and the degree of comfort they demonstrate with the specific area of expertise.

Most likely you’re already fluent in several specific areas of real estate. You may know a little bit about several different types of real estate, but stressing overall knowledge doesn’t let you stand out from your competitors.

Alternatively, consider your unique interests, experience and passion for a specific area of agricultural real estate. Look at your business and calculate where the source of the majority of your transactions comes from.

In essence, what is it about real estate that attracts you and gets your juices going? Do a strong and precise evaluation of what you know best, what you wish to know more about, and what will get traction in your area. Then, focus on those issues that come out at or near the top of the list. In order to gain the edge, you will need to acquire all of the detailed information that is available in that area. Sources can be online, seminars, and/or professional meetings with networking opportunities. Accurate information is crucial to nearly every professional and academic discipline because facts are the only way humans can ascertain truth. With that said, the purpose of this article is to emphasize the importance of providing accurate information to our clients and some processes to attain that information.

Communication of information is key
Based on nearly forty years of experience in farm land sales, management and consulting, I have prepared what I consider to be a comprehensive checklist of detailed information that is the basis for listing a property for sale or when representing a buyer, it’s used to acquire the right information. One of the most frustrating issues for me is when I am evaluating a property for a potential buyer and the listing agent provides only a general summary of the information and, in some cases, inaccurate information.

I would like to illustrate a perfect example of why using a land real estate broker with specialized expertise in these types of transactions—preferably an Accredited Land Consultant—is necessary. A while back, I received information on a farm, provided to me by a farm broker, that was not his listing. That fact was disclosed, which is the correct process. The property included a nice residence and several outbuildings. The large barn had been refurbished into a family party facility and the farm did contain some tree and berry crops. The information packet from the listing broker contained significant information about the improvements but very limited information concerning the crops, soil types, crop varieties, historic crop yields, and lease history.

I use this as an example to illustrate two things: First, in my opinion this is not providing the seller of the property appropriate fiduciary service on selling their farm. Second, as a farm buyer’s agent, I will either pass up the farm right away or have to spend significant time acquiring the appropriate detailed information required to make an informed decision for my client.

The “rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey always said, is that the broker whom presented this property to me did end up doing the work researching the appropriate detailed information. However, he had a very difficult time of acquiring all the usual crop history, even though he attempted, because it was a bit difficult working with the listing agent. Again, the farm broker worked very hard and did the best he could.

Again, I use this example for a few reasons: First, you would not be providing your client (the seller) “expert” service, because as a result of not providing adequate detailed information, many potential buyers will simply pass on the deal. Second, as a member of the elite RLI you would not be appropriately representing our society. Third, you will be losing deals. With the technology available today, your goal should be to provide 95 percent of the information which a potential buyer will need to make an informed investment decision. I use 95 percent because no two investment experts think alike so there will always be some unique information that every potential buyer will request.

Where do you get the information?
First, start with a very detailed interview with the seller, the current tenant, and the respective Farm Security Administration (FSA) office. Be certain to get a letter signed by the seller giving you permission to access their information at the FSA office.

Second, verify the information provided. Even though the information is provided by the seller, I have found that sometimes their memory may not quite be totally accurate.

Third, you can use websites available for aerial, soils, topo, land-use, water permit registrations, drainage, and FSA information. I have a list of websites that may be of interest and am happy to share if you drop me an email.

Fourth, contact your fellow ALC colleagues for information about areas which you may NOT be real knowledgeable. The MOST valuable resource of information for my business is the tremendous network of colleagues that I have created through all the years of being a member for professional agricultural organizations like RLI. That is why I feel so honored to have earned the ALC designation this year and to become a member the most “elite land experts” in the nation. I have known many of the ALCs for years and am certain that when I call on one of them for assistance, there response will always be “what can I do to help you out?”; which would always be my response as well. However, if I have the opportunity to list a property which is outside my area of expertise, I contact one of my ALC colleagues whom I know is an expert in that particular type of real estate and refer the listing to them. For me, that is providing me the “expert” quality service to my client.

The network of professionals you create by attending the annual meeting, your local chapter events, and attending education classes will continually expand that network knowledge base for you to draw from. Having been in the business for many years I have been blessed with having done sales, management or consulting work on more than forty different crops in the thirty-nine of the fifty states. There are many other members with similar experiences and we all are your best resources to draw from for information.

Accurate, reliable and timely information is the key to “protecting the public,” which is a responsibility of our real estate license, providing our clients the top level “expert” fiduciary service, and will bode well for building a very successful business. The best information resource you have available is your fellow RLI ALC members. As a reminder, always make certain to use a disclaimer statement on all of your brochures.

One last testimony: I contribute a very large percentage of my success in the farm land brokerage, management, & consulting business to the networking relationships that I created through the REALTORS® Land Institute. Whenever I have called a colleague for help the answer has ALWAYS been, providing they knew the answer, “How can I help you?” In the cases where the person did not know the answer, they always knew someone to contact. I am willing to share my listing due diligence information checklist if you happen to be interested or if I can help you with any type of project, please contact me.

This article originally appeared in the 2017 Winter Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

About the author: Fred Hepler, ALC, has been involved in the land business for over forty-two years and is a licensed broker in multiple states for over twenty-five years. He has experience in selling, managing, and/or consulting in thirty-nine states. He is a past president of ASFRMA where he held numerous positions on committees at the state and national levels and is now looking forward to becoming more actively involved in RLI.

A Guide to Real Estate Mapping and Analysis Tools

This article originally appeared in the 2017 Winter Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

Smart land agents will embrace technology advances and use them not just to survive but to thrive. Others may cling to their brochures and rolodexes, hoping that they can continue to be successful because things were better in the old days and that’s how things have always been done. Unfortunately, history and my experience have shown that nostalgia and longing are rarely good business strategies, especially when it comes to real estate mapping.

Real estate technology innovation is booming. The first wave focused on residential real estate with companies producing solutions like Realtor.com, Zillow, RedFin and StreetEasy. The residential market was ripe for disruption because the Internet was a natural place to expand listing services, engage people through interactive digital marketing and differentiate the realtor’s business with better information, not just lawn signs.

Innovation in residential real estate led industry leaders in other markets to more broadly adopt technology. However, the uptake has been slower despite promises to make their businesses and the lives of their customers better. For many decades, there’s been no reason to change workflows or processes because immense wealth has been created without disrupting the status quo. However, in the past three years we’ve seen a sea change in technology.

It’s now far easier to use and delivers bigger benefits more quickly. Buyers expect an interactive, digital experience and marketing automation. How do you make sense of all the hype, especially if you are a small business owner who is not tech savvy? Above all, where do you start?

Drones: No Longer Just for Dramatic Video Shoots

The excitement around drones has increased immensely in the past year and with good reason. New Federal Aviation Administration rules have reduced uncertainty on who can fly and where and, more importantly, the technology is at a point where anyone can now use them for a small investment.

Drones used to be used exclusively in marketing real estate. A drone mounted camera can produce cost-effective shots of a property. For large, high-end homes or big expanses of land, dramatic videos let you immerse yourself and experience tree top flights. Today, that immersion comes in the form of virtual reality-like 3D interactive experiences that let you fly around and view the scene from any perspective. In the University of Oxford example, shown below, the drone flew multiple paths over the city. The raw video imagery is used to create a full 3D model of the buildings, including exquisite detail for the build frontages, rooflines, gargoyles and chimneypots. You can literally fly down the streets and lanes, and land in any courtyard to explore the buildings.

The same data feeds used to map Oxford can be used in land management to create terrain surfaces which show perspective and hillshading. This can be used to detect slopes, hollows, banks and hidden landscape features which are not obvious in aerial or satellite imagery. Low level drone flights also create very high resolution data which can show changes in vegetation and land development with high degrees of precision such as in this montage below where we not only can see where a new road has been laid but also changes to the height of vegetation and small hollows where water is ponding or eroding the land.

Immersive scenes are immensely valuable for supplementing existing online marketing. What’s more the video data can also provide new perspectives, often quite literally. I recently worked with a land broker who was selling a large tract of land along California’s Mendocino Coast.  She had a drone fly over the pasture and old growth forest, up fern filled gullies and fishing ponds. Only after did she realize that the views of the homestead from the private vineyard were missing. They had flown the house and grounds but had not flown towards the house over the vineyard. The great thing was that even though the drones had flown different routes, we could still recreate a full 3D model of the house and grounds. Rather than have a static video, our client created a virtual fly through along the rows of grapes glistening in late summer evening sun, and then up and over the house to show the full grandeur of the setting. Better still, her clients can take the same virtual tour or browse a set of interactive snapshots she has created. She didn’t need to organize another drone flight. Everything she needed to properly promote her ranch was in the data files the drone had collected, we just needed to process it.

Data in the Cloud – Everywhere for Everyone

We’ve all experienced Google Maps and Google Earth. They have changed how we find and view maps and land data. The revolution Google drove is for online data. Today, there are millions of map layers from every corner of the globe forming a Living Atlas of the World. Local, regional and national Governments, private companies and even crowdsourcing volunteers are publishing authoritative and personally collected data into open libraries which anyone can use.

In the United States we have Federal Government data on everything from cropland to wilderness areas, maps of geology, soils, landscape, forest, flood zones, wetlands and hundreds more. Every one of these is freely available to use for analysis and overlay. In many rural areas, the data is better and more useful than cities.

One of the most valuable data sets is satellite imagery. Every frame of Landsat data, which has been imaging our planet since 1972, is available online. This is a valuable source of land surface change information and provides insights into seasonal changes in vegetation, soil moisture, crop growth and much more.

Many satellites have collected data which has been used to collect a high-resolution terrain model of the world. Since this data is also open to everyone, land owners and consultants can use it to understand more about the property throughout the buying process. One common use is gaining an understanding of soil drainage, as it has an important impact on crop production together with water and fertilizer use. Terrain profiling tools, like those shown above, can provide detailed analysis on changes in topography, drainage direction and soil moisture variations. In the example, we can see how the land slopes across the mile-long profile. Even small features of a few feet can be understood by tracking the profile against the aerial imagery. It is possible to identify old stream beds and even the site of a small quarry and ditch.

Sketching, Markup and Marketing

Many land specialists just want simple tools to access land parcels and property data. Open map and data standards mean that many communities are sharing their parcel data as online map services or files. Desktop and online software allow you to upload and fuse these files, trace parcels lines and find out ownership details like those shown in this suburban example below. Map services are simple, syndicated data feeds which create layers for each one you open in free real estate mapping applications like Google Earth or ArcGIS Earth. These “services” are more than pictures. You can query them, see attributes and, in many cases, use them to draw property boundaries by sketching straight onto the map.

Map services also now support social media and online storage sites like Facebook, Photobucket and Flickr. Photos which have been captured with your GPS on your smart phone or tablet contain location data that these sites use, so that these photos can automatically be positioned with your map. Tools to change the color, transparency, outline and shape of any symbols allow you to create high quality digital and print materials with no additional software, as shown below.

You can drag and drop spreadsheets with property addresses or GPS coordinates onto a web browser automatically turn them into online maps. A few clicks, and no coding later, the same spreadsheet can become an interactive property promotion or marketing resource. Rather than creating and mailing out paper books, land specialist can now email links to their properties, so clients and prospects can browse them at their leisure. Since the real estate mapping services which underlie these apps are dynamic, they automatically change when new entries are added to the spreadsheet. Better yet, web analytics tools embedded on your website can tell you how many people are browsing your properties and which ones are the most popular. Having real time listings, web analytics and links to your CRM means you can better market your properties and keep your clients coming back for more.

The Real Estate Digital Revolution

The full impact of the digital revolution in real estate is yet to be seen. The huge improvements in the simplicity of building web apps, promoting properties through interactive marketing tools and using different map layers, are producing a strong movement towards empowering the consumer and land specialist alike. Today, buyers expect to be able to access online information and experience the property without having to visit in person. They are more discerning buyers with many choices for who they do business with.

Real estate mapping, analytics and marketing in the real estate industry are moving on, and fast. Shouldn’t you be making the most of it?

About the Author: Helen Thompson is responsible for global marketing strategies in the commercial business development team at Esri. Her twenty years of experience in applied spatial analysis has helped advance the understanding and use of spatial technology in business and society. She is a graduate of spatial science and computing at the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology and geography at Plymouth University.

 

Be An Intentional Real Estate Networker

It happens to all of us!  We attend a conference and we are pumped to network — fully armed with a new box of business cards, excited about the all the like-minded business leaders we are about to meet.  We meet energetic people who are passionate about land transactions, and start to collect brilliant ideas – and business cards – to bring home like souvenirs.  Let’s be real, we are so blown away by the talented associates we meet along the way, we think that there is no way that we will forget that face and the incredible value they provided during the brief interactions.  When we get home, the face, value and promised follow-up morphs into a big stack of ambiguity.

land real estate professionals networking at the 2015 national land conferenceWe know that our biggest strengths are often our biggest weaknesses and too many outstanding connections is a problem I am happy to tackle!  I am taking steps to be more intentional about my networking and more importantly, my follow-up. Join me in my quest to be an intentional networker!

Have a Networking Mission and Goal
Is your mission to build your referral business or to attract talent? Be focused about this mission and then set a goal to achieve this mission. Networking is lead generation and you are already a pro. Determine how many people you want to meet and track this number each day. What we focus on expands!

Identify and Leverage a System
Before heading to any networking event, create your system for follow-up. If a connection is a brief encounter that involves a business card, write a quick note on the back of the card so that you have context for any follow-up or notes that should be added to your database. Leverage an assistant or technology to track your follow-up. Using Evernote or assigning yourself Outlook Tasks are great ways to ensure you do what you say you will do when you return home.

Digitize Your Business Card Collection
The dreaded stack of business cards does not have to be a dread.  Technology is your leverage! Check out these tips from PC World on how to digitize business cards. Transfer these contacts to your phone AND your database.

Use Your Database
Your database is not just for clients, it’s for your network too. Add a tag or bucket for RLI Referrals for all of your new connections. Create a monthly touch campaign for your fellow RLI members from afar that includes fun tips about your city, a recap of key takeaways from your last RLI Chapter training or updates about your business. You will be front of mind when one of your contacts has a client interested in your area.

land real estate professionals networking at the 2016 national land conferenceWork Your Calendar
If it’s not on our calendar, it doesn’t exist. This goes for networking too! Before attending any networking event, make a list of the people you want to meet. This could be an actual name or it could be that you wish to connect with someone from a certain state. Leverage the RLI Membership Portal to collect contact information. Then, reach out to these associates ahead of time to schedule a coffee break to connect one on one. Don’t forget, conference events are perfect for meeting new people.

Be Social
Keep in touch and stay front of mind by connecting with your new contacts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and other social channels. A “like,” retweet or comment will keep you in the networking game — even from afar. More importantly, engage with your connections through all the benefits being a member of RLI offers you.

There will always be a new opportunity to implement these best practices to help with more intentional networking.  Stay connected!

About the author: Holly Priestner, Director of Talent Acquisition at Keller Williams, has never met a stranger, literally. Her enthusiasm for people and their stories enables her to connect people to resources that can make both their professional and personal dreams come true. This is advantageous when recruiting top talent to KWRI, with recruits quickly recognizing that their goals matter to Holly and that she cares about their happiness and success. Attend Holly’s webinar Elevate Your Elevator Pitch hosted by the REALTORS® Land Institute on March 8.

ALC Shadow over dirt

Why Use an Accredited Land Consultant?

When it comes time to buy or sell a property, having the best in the business representation is invaluable. Using an Accredited Land Consultant guarantees clients that they are represented by the most knowledgeable, experienced, well-connected, and trustworthy land professionals in the country.

What is in ALC?
An Accredited Land Consultant, or ALC, is a land real estate broker or agent who has completed a rigorous Land University (LANDU) Education Program through the REALTORS® Land Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of REALTORS®. All ALCs have met a high level of experience and transaction volume requirements ensuring their expertise when it comes to conducting and closing real estate deals. On top of having a proven and unparalleled level of expertise and experience, ALCs are required to adhere to the ALC Code of Conduct, which assures high ethical standards, in order to maintain their elite status as an ALC and ensure their clients best interest take priority.

Accredited Land ConsultantsExpertise
ALCs understand the value of being the expert on all matters pertaining to a client’s transaction. Land transactions, in particular, require specialized knowledge and familiarity with the industry to competently ensure the client’s best interests are met.  From understanding the various legal aspects of a transaction to applying knowledge of soil types, investment analysis, timberland valuation, recreational or agricultural land management, acquiring land for residential development, and more, ALCs are certified to have the expertise needed to represent their clients.

Experience
As the old saying goes, “there is no teacher like experience.” Which is why to become an ALC, applicants must submit a resume that demonstrates a minimum of two years of experience in land sales or brokerage or a minimum of three years of comparable real estate experience. They must also prove experience in at least five closed land transactions totaling $10,000,000, or a total of twenty-five separate land transactions.

Networking
One key to success that many clients overlook is having a broker or agent that is well connected with other brokers / agents across the country. Whether it is to tap their pool of buyers seeking to purchase a property or to gain additional insights into best practices or specialized knowledge, having a large network of other highly qualified ALCs and best in the business land brokers through the REALTORS® Land Institute is invaluable.

Ethical Integrity
Accredited Land Consultants are honorable land professionals who recognize the importance of land to life. ALCs share in the responsibility to conduct themselves with high morals following the ALC Code of Conduct and the Code of Ethics of the National Association of REALTORS®.

  1. Protect and promote the best interest of clients
  2. Display high moral and professional standards
  3. Avoid exaggeration and misrepresentation of relevant facts
  4. Treat all with honesty and respect
  5. Stay current in industry knowledge and trends
  6. Enhance the integrity and professionalism of the industry
  7. Cooperate with fellow real estate professionals
  8. Follow local, state, and national laws regarding disclosure
  9. Will not condone or participate in discriminatory practices
  10. Support, understand, and champion RLI policies

The ALC Designation gives clients and their brokers the confidence to competently buy and sell land. To find an Accredited Land Consultant, visit rliland.com/find-a-land-consultant. For more information on becoming an ALC, visit rliland.com/accredited-land-consultant-designation.

Jessa Friedrich, MBA, Marketing ManagerAbout the Author: Jessa Friedrich, MBA, is the Marketing Manager for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She has an Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Marketing as well as her MBA in Marketing with a specialization in Social Media.

drone with camera for real estate commercial use

Drones for Commercial Use: Taking Real Estate Businesses to New Heights

As I was browsing the internet today, I came upon a humorous article entitled Santa Delivered the Drone. But not the safety and skill to fly it. The article contained a number of “drone laments”, speaking of the excitement of getting a new drone for Christmas followed by the agony of crashing it on the first day or even the first flight. One Tweet read: “A holiday story: Give nephew drone. Nephew flies drone for like five seconds. Drone falls, breaks. Christmas ruined. Drones are stupid. The end.” This one gave me a good laugh.

It’s true that drones have become a very hot item in recent years. And as the technology has become more widespread and less expensive, drone sales have gone through the roof. The majority of the drones sold cost less than $200 and are best classified as toys. And most people who fly them lack a good understanding of flight principles, wind, and spatial awareness. Thus, the yuletide drone woes come as no surprise.

“The use of drones across all sectors has exploded in the past three years. The FAA estimates that over 600,000 drones will be flying commercially in the US in 2017.”

In real estate and many other businesses, drones for commercial use are definitely not toys. They are valuable and, I might add, critical tools for marketing and selling property. I have personally been using drones for over two years – thanks to my FAA Section 333 exemption. I can personally attest to their value in my business, BUT here’s the latest: my exemption doesn’t exist anymore. In fact, ZERO Section 333 exemptions exist. That’s because in August of 2016, the FAA enacted a new rule enabling people to become licensed specifically as drone operators. Previously, the only way to legally fly a drone for commercial purposes was to hold a pilots license and go through a lengthy approval process to get an exemption. Now, after taking online education and passing a written exam, individuals become licensed as drone operators and can fly completely legally, subject to certain regulations.

drone for commercial real estate use with camera

Due to this new rule, I have been encouraging every land broker I know to become licensed and start flying. You can buy a drone for less than $1,000 that has all the capabilities needed, and you don’t have to be a Navy fighter pilot to safely and efficiently fly your drone for maximum effectiveness. A little practice goes a long way and the more you fly, the more comfortable you will become. I often tell people that I could teach a ten year old to fly my drone in under thirty minutes – and I mean it. With the right equipment, the drone basically flies itself. This small investment of money and time has the potential to have huge impacts on your business.

An overhead view provided by a drone shows how a property fits together, how it is accessed, and the surrounding land and uses. On a large property, you can showcase more about a property in a sixty-second video than an entire morning of driving. Additionally, in the same way that digital photography and online mapping are considered standard today, drone video and photography are becoming just as commonplace. As land professionals, it is important to keep in step with emerging trends to bring the best service and value to our clients.

At the 2017 National Land Conference, I will be leading a breakout session on the use of drones in land real estate. We will briefly discuss how to become licensed as a drone operator but will focus primarily on how to best use this tool to increase value for your clients and increase business for yourself. If you have no experience or interest in drones, I invite you to attend and see if I can change your mind. If you have been flying drones for years as I have, I invite you to come and share your stories, as well as what works for you and what doesn’t. The format will be very interactive and I think everyone will come away having learned something new – including myself!

I hope to see you at the 2017 National Land Conference in Charlotte, NC, from March 31-April 2. In the meantime, if you have any questions about drones that I can answer, please give me a call or drop me an email.

mcdow, calebAbout the author: Caleb McDow is a land specialist for Crosby and Associates in Winter Haven, FL, with a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) and is a FAA Certified Drone Pilot. McDow joined the institute in 2014 as a Military Transition Program (MTP) member.  He serves on the Institute’s Future Leaders Committee and regularly blogs on real estate issues. Caleb McDow can be reached at 352-665-6648 or caleb@crosbydirt.com

Unlock the Door to Your NAR Member Benefits and Resources

This article originally appeared in the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Winter 2017 Terra Firma magazine.

In today’s world of rapid-fire technological shifts and constant email churn, it is often the case that you don’t have time to explore all of the wonderful benefits you can enjoy as a National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) member.  By virtue of being an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) designee, you are a member of NAR and can benefit from a plethora of commercial resources and services, as well as partner offers with the REALTOR Benefits® program. Let’s take a quick look at all of the splendid services, educational opportunities, engaging networking, and more NAR is offering you.

Advocacy

With nearly 1.2 million members, NAR is one of the largest advocacy groups in the United States and we put those numbers to work, fighting hard for real estate professionals & property rights at the Federal, State, and Local levels.  Staff works closely with elected officials in Washington to advocate public policy established in the annual Public Policy Priorities agenda, which is informed by members of NAR whose voices are heard across the country.  As a member, you can stay informed with the Federal Issues Tracker, which allows members to see how their businesses are being affected by shifts in policy, and the Commercial Issues & Actions Brief, regularly updating members on issues including 1031 Like-Kind Exchanges, Water Rights, and Flood Insurance that have an impact on your business. The Washington Report is a wonderful source of information on governmental matters touching on real estate. But the fight doesn’t stop at the national level as NAR also provides REALTOR® Party initiatives closer to home, lobbying at the state and local levels to ensure that someone is looking out for our members. RPAC works tirelessly to monitor and inform officials in your corner of the world so they know what their constituents need and can ensure that those needs are met. Members can become involved in our Broker Involvement Program to have an even louder voice in these policy conversations.  Put simply, REALTORS® are heard and respected by government officials everywhere.

Research

NAR has a world-class research arm, providing a slew of cutting-edge work designed to empower members through access to robust case studies and reports. Commercial Real Estate practitioners enjoy expert research and analysis through NAR’s annual Lending Trends Report, quarterly Marketing Trends and Outlook Reports, and the Expectations and Market Realities in Real Estate Report. NAR understands the complexity of all disciplines within the commercial real estate industry and prides itself on providing powerful tools to its members. You also benefit from local case studies, bringing a century of research know-how to your backyard to examine local issues and provide answers. This top-to-bottom research approach is a core commitment and something that will never change.

Education & Networking

NAR strongly believes that REALTORS® should be connected to the best educational tools and the most dynamic real estate practitioners in the world. You already know first-hand about the exceptional education from the REALTORS® Land Institute; you can also dive into resources from the other affiliate organizations (CCIM Institute, Counselors of Real Estate, IREM and SIOR), which offer a robust blend of educational opportunities designed to accommodate even the busiest practitioners. Members can take advantage of online and traditional courses designed to enhance their understanding of the industry, to provide vital continuing education credits, or to polish off a REALTOR® University Master’s Degree. Achieving additional discipline specific designations, including CCIM, CIPS, CPM, CRE, and SIOR, will boost your expertise, and potentially your income.

Publications & Resources

In addition to the superb Terra Firma magazine you already receive, NAR provides you with a host of other print and digital items bursting with valuable information. Commercial Connections, a NAR publication mailed directly to you, provides a treasure-trove of helpful articles and industry-specific coverage. Identifying your specific “Field of Business” in the National REALTOR® Database System (NRDS) automatically subscribes you for this excellent resource and also for the Commercial Digest monthly e-newsletter. Your NAR membership gives you access to ample legal and risk management resources as well as proprietary field guides, both of which can guide you through complicated changes and trends in Commercial Real Estate. NAR’s Library provides free eBooks, Journals, and Audiobooks, a perk for which many ALC designees might not know they qualify. NAR also provides a wide array of templates for business letters, official letter head, and commercial forms through REALTOR Benefits® Partner zipLogix™.

Technology & Data

NAR understands that many of its members strongly desire access to powerful databases with property information, demographics and listing information. The CommercialSearch™ platform is an invaluable access point for marketing available listings, with nearly 500,000 commercial properties to search – all at no charge. REALTORS® Property Resource (RPR), the parcel-centric property database, available as a free benefit to REALTOR® members, provides rich demographic data, property reports and more on all parcels in the United States.  Adding the rapidly expanding Xceligent® Research & Property Data Platform results in a trifecta of complimentary commercial technology that is right at your fingertips.  Our CRTLabs are always working to foresee emergent technologies and the NAR REach® Technology Accelerator Program Companies aligns members with forward thinking companies sure to be at the front of the next wave of commercial real estate technology.

One thing is certain: at the end of the day there is a mountain of member benefits that are yours for the taking. Realtor.org/Commercial is a great starting point on your journey to all of these amazing options. Open a new window in your browser to discover the value and of the array of benefits that you have access to as a NAR Member and begin taking advantage of them right away.

knabb-jacobAbout the author: Jacob S. Knabb is the Communications and Member Services Associate for NAR Commercial, editing Commercial Connections and running social media. Follow NAR Commercial on Twitter @commsource to see his tweets about the latest in the commercial real estate industry.

Recruiting and Developing Our Most Valuable Asset

This piece originally appeared in the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Summer 2016 Terra Firma magazine.

You know it isn’t very difficult for an agent to shine in the real estate profession.  In some cases all they have to do is return a phone call or follow through on something they promised.  I think it is pretty sad that the bar is set that low….

whitetail2You can have a beautiful building and offices, state of the art website and office equipment and you can spend a fortune on PR, social media and marketing.  However, at the end of the day, if your company is not represented by professional real estate agents you are hurting your business, your brand and the real estate profession as a whole.

Make no mistake, when a real estate agent, regardless of who he or she is licensed with, represents himself in less than a professional manner due to his or her poor work ethic, lack of skill or dishonesty, every single one of us in the real estate profession pays the price.

One very common real estate business model is to hire as many agents as possible, offer them a large split and let them beat it out.  Meanwhile, whether those agents know what they are doing or not, they may acquire a listing or two simply because a friend or family member feels obligated to list with them.  This approach is strongly why over seventy percent of the real estate agents will quit this profession within two years.  I feel this business model is extremely unfair to the agents; unfair to the public; and catastrophically harmful to the image of our industry.

Forget the representation of your company for the moment and consider the amount of money that exchanges hands along with legalities, complexities and the consequences associated with the sale and purchase of land.  I believe our objective as brokers and leaders should be to hire the best people and support them through training, marketing and structure.  In essence, we pour everything we can into them to ensure they are successful and in turn we will be successful because our relationship will be bilaterally equitable.

Recruiting

Our primary recruiting resources are online companies like, Monster, Indeed and Zip Recruiter to name a few. We target the nearest major metropolitans to the areas we wish to populate. These companies cast pretty large nets in that they often have sub-chapters/boards and communities that extend their radius. Our collateral resources include: our own career page on our website; social media; LinkedIn careers; The Outdoorwire; outdoorindustryjobs.com; AGcareers.com and AgHires.com to name a few.

What we do not do at Whitetail Properties is try to recruit/steal-away other broker’s agents. When you consider that we work in an industry where we work together through co-brokers and referrals, trying to recruit agents away from other brokers does not feel anymore ethical to me than calling another broker’s client. If agents from other companies call us, we are more than happy to talk to them; however, we will never call them first.

The prospective agent’s initial phone interview is with our HR executive (we provide her with the qualifying criteria).  If the prospective agent makes the cut, HR then sets up a second phone interview with our three-person interview panel. We then rate the candidate on a scale of one through ten on a ten-line score sheet.  If the candidate makes the second cut, we then setup an in person interview.  If the candidate gives a good personal interview we sign them up for the next orientation after they’ve obtained their real estate license.  It’s important that they attend orientation before we allow them to represent our company and our brand.

Basic Foundation

There are a lot of real estate companies that will hire anyone who has a pulse and the ability to acquire a real estate license.  I believe that this, along with a lack of training, is why many people stereotype real estate agents as a bunch of incompetent crooks.

We have four basic cornerstones when considering a new agent:  First and foremost, the prospective agent has to be an honorable person; the prospective agent has to be passionate about land and every aspect of land; the prospective agent has to have a strong work ethic; and the prospective agent has to be professional.

We can teach real estate, but in my opinion by the time human beings reach adulthood we can’t make them love land or teach them to be honorable!

Additional Prerequisites:

  • Financially Stable
  • Ability to work full time
  • Self-motivated
  • Accountable
  • Trainable

Developing Superstars

whitetailOrientation

We are accountable for and to our agents.  For this reason, we do not allow our agents to represent our company until they have attended orientation.  At Whitetail Properties’ three-day orientation, our goal is to give our agents everything they need to start their career on a successful path.

Weekly Webinars

Our weekly webinars provide our agents with solid career building knowledge. The topics cover everything from utilizing your sphere of influence to recognizing a property’s highest and best use.  Training is not something that you do once in a while.  Training has to be scheduled and repeated on a regular basis.  The key is to keep it fresh, informative, relative, productive and entertaining.

Maintaining Pro-active Contact

It’s important to maintain regularly scheduled calls with agents in order to review, mentor and coach them.  You see, the agents who contact their brokers for assistance are generally the ones working deals.  However, the agents who typically need help the most are the ones we don’t hear from because they are not working anything so it’s very important that we reach out to them and explore what they are doing and how we can help them

Support

Every member of our staff is employed for the sole purpose of helping our agents become successful and continue to grow their businesses.  In addition to the office and administrative staff, the following employees are at our agents disposal: we employ our own graphic designer, marketing director, advertising team, creative director, production department, IT department, compliance officer, accounting department, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer as well as team leaders and brokers.  Of course we did not start off with such an extensive staff.  We realized early on that in order to grow our business and our agents’ businesses, we had to develop a formula where we employed key staff members for every X number of agents.

Experience

The most important thing we teach our agents is that our client’s experience is the single most important part of their jobs. None of us will sell every tract of land we list, but when our ultimate goal is not necessarily to sell the listing but rather to provide our clients with the ultimate land buying or selling experience, we will sell more land.  In addition, we will receive more referrals and elevate the image of our company and of the industry.

There are too many real estate companies who feel making the sale is more important than working in their client’s best interest; more important than building a relationship; more important than being a professional and even more important than being honest.  This has to change.

Our Most Valuable Asset

Our agents are unquestionably our most valuable assets.  However, we can’t just wind them up and turn them loose. Through explanation and repetition we have to instill our company’s core values in our agents.  Our company’s ideology is the foundation from which we’ve grown our business.  Without a solid foundation based on integrity you are not developing or nourishing your most valuable assets.

As I mentioned before, we have to provide a consistent training program.  We have to take every opportunity to mentor and guide our agents and we have to teach our staff how to best assist our agents to ensure their success.  Along with this, we don’t allow agents to simply “hang their licenses” with us.  If we teach, train and mentor our licensees they become our most valuable assets.  However, if we do not teach, train and mentor an agent, that agent becomes our biggest liability!

We take our obligation to our agents; to our clients; to the public; to the States where we are licensed; and to all of our fellow brokers and agents in the industry very seriously.   Although as brokers we are held responsible and accountable for every one of our agents, there is no possible way that we can be present every single time our agents interact with buyers, sellers, customers or clients.  However, we can pour into our agents on a regular basis to ensure they conduct themselves, knowledgably, honestly, professionally and responsibly.  After all, they are our most valuable assets.

perez-danAbout the author: Dan Perez, RLI Member, is the CEO, Chief Broker, and one of the Founding Owners of Whitetail Properties Real Estate as well as the host of the ever-popular Whitetail Properties television show. Dan is passionate about the land business and driven by hiring and developing real estate agents to become multi-million-dollar land specialists.