investment

Yes, You Should Invest in Land Real Estate

“I have always liked real estate; farmland, pastureland, timberland and city property. I have had experience with all of them. I guess I just naturally like ‘the good Earth,’ the foundation of all our wealth.” — Jesse Jones, entrepreneur

Real estate investors and buyers alike have always had an affinity for land. There is just something about land that draws in savvy investors. Whether it’s the innate, territorial tendencies we have deep within or the simple magnetism of connecting with nature in a world increasingly becoming cluttered with high rises and highways, our instincts are doing what they do best, pointing us in the right direction!

Whether its amber waves of grain or purple mountain majesties, land continues to prove be one of the most profitable long-term investments from sea to shining sea. The USDA’s 2017 Land Values Summary released in August shows that from 2010-2016 average farm real estate values have cumulatively increased 43 percent or an average of 6.1 percent annually and average cropland real estate values have cumulatively increased 51 percent or an average of 7.3 percent annually—that’s quite a return on investment! It’s no wonder smart investors are flocking to invest in the land real estate market.

RLI 2017 Land Markets Survey

In fact, the 2017 REALTORS® Land Institute Land Markets Survey shows that out of all buyers in land transactions, there was a five percent increase in those who were investors in just one year from 2015 to 2016. With so many different types of land to choose from when investing and so many different ways to invest in land, the possibilities are almost endless. If you aren’t sure where to start, just keep reading.

Hopefully by now I have your attention and you are no doubt wondering “why is land real estate such a hot investment?” There are a lot variables that can be mentioned here but the simple answer is best summed up by Mark Twain as “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” Compared to other investments, land can be purchased relatively cheap if you find a motivated seller. Being a limited resource and non-depreciable, it’s a fairly safe asset when looking for a solid return on a long-term investment.

invest in land

For those looking to invest in land real estate to diversify their portfolio, buy a property to retire on, or just get in on the action, there are a lot of great resources out there. Just keep in mind that when investing in land real estate, it is crucial to consult a professional with the experience and knowledge necessary to conduct these kinds of transactions. Land is a whole different animal than residential or commercial real estate and there are agents out there who dedicate themselves to being experts in this field. The REALTORS® Land Institute offers investors an easy to use search tool to find a qualified local agent called Find A Land Consultant, check it out and get started!

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 with a dual major in Business Administration and Marketing as well as her MBA specializing in Marketing. She has been with RLI since March 2015 leading their marketing efforts.

 

Note: Information in this article should not be construed as recommendations for any course of legal, financial, or accounting action.

young professional

Young Professionals: Earning The Elite ALC Designation

Starting out as a young agent in the land real estate business is usually an intimidating challenge. When I obtained my real estate license five years ago, I started researching ways to gain knowledge and experience in land sales. I quickly found there are plenty of places to learn about the real estate business in general but very few opportunities to learn specifically about the land aspect of real estate. I found the REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) and learned about their Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation. I soon figured out this was an organization I needed to be a part of and the ALC was a designation I sought to obtain. Having the ALC Designation is an honor for anyone and it can really set you apart from your competition.

“Receiving my ALC Designation took my career as a land broker to a whole other level!”

Here is why…

  • Education: The knowledge I gathered from taking LANDU courses offered through RLI helped me greatly. The course content is second to none and the instructors offer “real life” situations where you can put this knowledge to work in the field. The lessons you learn and the people you meet can help you many times over and many years down the road.
  • Networking: Networking with other RLI members and ALCs has led to several opportunities in my real estate career. I have had numerous referrals and joint listings that I can directly tie back to the connections I made at either State RLI Events or at the National Land Conference. I believe meeting another agent at one of these events and getting to know them better on a personal level makes it much easier to be able to put a deal together with them down the road.
  • Credibility: Being an ALC sets you apart from the rest of the “pack” of real estate agents. It gives you credibility when talking with clients and prospective clients. For instance, where I work in Alabama there are over 26,0000 real estate licensees and brokers and of those real estate licensees only 19 are ALCs. This gives a young agent who holds their ALC a real advantage over most of the real estate agents in our state. In 2015, I got the chance to interview with a prominent family for a listing on a ±380 acre timberland listing in Central Alabama. While in the interview, they asked what made me different from the rest of the agents that they had spoken with. I explained to them that I had recently received my ALC Designation and that the work and education that it took to get there gave me the specialized expertise needed to conduct their transaction. A few days went by and they called me and told me I had the listing. Since then, I sold that tract, along with several other properties for the family, and helped with a couple of consulting and appraisal jobs.

“I honestly believe the ALC Designation helped me land what could very well be a career-long client.”

I owe much of my success in my real estate career to the education, networking, and credibility I received through RLI while obtaining my ALC. I truly believe that ALCs are the “Best of the Best” in the land business and the ALC Designation is something that everyone in the business should work towards.

About the author: Calvin Perryman, ALC, is an Associate Broker and Appraiser with Great Southern Land. Calvin is an active member of RLI, serving on the 2017 Future Leaders Committee. He graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelors Degree in Agricultural Business and Economics in May of 2011. Shortly after graduating from Auburn he obtained his real estate license and has been in the real estate business since 2011.

land real estate

Uncovering Motivations to Buy or Sell Land Real Estate

“I want to sell, but I don’t need the money.” This is a common refrain uttered by people who are contemplating the sale of a piece of real estate. If they do not need the money, then why are they selling? Finding the “Why”, the “What”, the “When”, the “Who” is an essential part of making a real estate deal come together.

Several years ago I helped some seller clients sell about 800 acres of beautiful hardwood and pine timberland that had been in the same family for over 70 years. There were simultaneous offers to purchase the land, one came from a hardwood timber company and the other from a small group of land investors. My clients looked at both offers, and immediately rejected the one that had “timber” in the name of their organization. One of the family members told me, “These other people may cut the timber also, but at least it isn’t in my face.” I believe the timber company would have ultimately paid a higher price than the investors did, but the sellers preferred to deal with individuals instead of the timber company. Their motivation was not only money, but also seeing that the land ended up in good hands.

Here are a few considerations regarding motivation that I have seen influence the decision of buyers and sellers.

  1. Past Experiences- Past experiences, positive or negative, can play a significant role in the outcome of a real estate deal. I have seen sellers refuse to sell to an adjoining land owner because of some long-running family feud. I have seen buyers refuse to make an offer on a listed property because they had a bad experience with the listing agent in the past. Those little details can mean all the difference between getting your deal done or not. 
  1. Time is of the Essence- Timing can be the most crucial part of a real estate transaction. A buyer may need to identify and make an offer on a replacement property because they are doing a 1031 exchange. On day 45 of their identification period, a buyer may be extremely motivated to try to work something out to avoid paying 15% to 20% in capital gains tax. Sellers may be faced with an immediate expense for a home repair or the loss of a job. If you wait a month to make a decision, they may find alternate sources of funding, and no longer be highly motivated to sale. I learned a long time ago, “The time to business is when someone is ready to do business.” The whole world can change for someone in a day, so don’t miss out on an opportunity because you dragged your feet. 
  1. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)- If you’ve ever seen the look in a buyer’s eye when they missed out on a property they really wanted, you know what I am talking about. They missed one, but By George, they will not let that happen again. In 2015, I watched a professional athlete miss out on buying a property that would have been an ideal tract for him. Instead of paying the asking price and buying a tract he would have enjoyed for decades, he tried to make a lower offer and he missed out on the deal. He was trying to save about $150/acre and did not offer full-price. Another buyer came in one hour after the ball player made his offer, he offered full price, and bought the property. Two years later, the athlete found another property, across the river from the tract I sold, for about $750/acre MORE than the one he had the opportunity to buy before. He overpaid for a property of lesser quality because he did not want to miss out again. 
  1. Feel Goods- Emotions play a big part in many real estate deals. About 2/3 of the properties I sell are related to estate transition, and these farms and land have often been owned by the same family for generations. When it comes time to sell a property, they want to know that it is going to be to someone who will be a good steward of the property that their family has enjoyed for so long. I saw this exact thing happen several years ago when a family hired me to help them sell a property to a board member of The Nature Conservancy. They were convinced that this beautiful hardwood property along a pristine river would be protected in perpetuity if they sold to this type of buyer. Often, older farmers will offer owner financing or will sell at a reduced rate to help a younger farmer get started on their land.

Finding the motivations to buy or sell land real estate from the individuals in your real estate transaction will go a long way to helping you get your deal closed. It is important to ask questions of your customers and clients that will give you the answers you need to find out what really matters to them. Money is not the only motivation for many buyers or sellers, and I have seen a seller be offended by a buyer “showing off” with how much money he has. Your odds of a successful real estate transaction increase when the parties are able to each get what they want, and sometimes it takes more than just money to make the deal come together.

Jonathan Goode, ALCAbout the Author: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Groupand is a licensed real estate broker in Alabama and Mississippi. Jonathan is also a co-host of the weekly radio program, The Land Showand loves to serve people buying and selling land.

residential land sales new home construction

The Evolution of Residential Land Sales in the Northeast

Northeast land values and trends in residential land sales: What has happened and can we see the future? I have been a practicing REALTOR® for thirty-eight years. I started selling real estate while in college and never looked back. My primary market is thirty-five miles west of Boston. The state of Massachusetts is really divided into these parts: Route 128 and inside, Route 495, both sides, to Route 128 and Worcester east to 495; and, then, Western Massachusetts. Massachusetts has a myriad of permits and land use regulations which are some of the most restrictive in the country, in my opinion.

As a young REALTOR® starting out, I did all types of land sales. My marketplace was dotted with family farms. Most of these, as a teenager, I would hunt, fish, and drink beer on (of course with land owner approval, or one of their sons / daughters in tow). When asked to write this, I thought of what story would be best to tell. The approach I’m taking will, hopefully, be applicable across into your marketplace.

In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, land could be bought for forty-five dollars per lot as an Approval Not Required Under Subdivision Control (ANR) lot. An “ANR lot” means that the lot complies with the dimensional requirements for public way frontage and the required minimum lot size. For backland, you could buy a forty-acre piece in the “raw” for ten thousand dollars per lot. Once under contract, you could begin the necessary permitting. The rule of thumb in practice at that time was that twenty percent of the land tract had to be given up to regulatory prescription; in this case, eliminating eight acres.

residential land real estateAt that time, my thoughts were that the entire regulatory morass was put on the landowner to the community’s benefit. Alas, to this day, I still feel the same. New homes were being built for fifty dollars per square foot, the lot included. A finished two-thousand square foot colonial was one hundred thousand dollars, or thereabouts. During the early 1980s, we had an escalating economy and prices on homes and land were rising dramatically. The state of Massachusetts started buying the developmental rights to family farms and paying them not to build, but to continue to farm. In Northborough, two of the biggest farms on the highest point in town, overlooking the new 1974 I-290 highway, were bought. Over five-hundred acres were kept from development and, until this day, serve as a reminder of why some regulations are necessary.

In addition, a certain amount of lots were allowed to be kept for family members in the future. Now, the third and fourth generations of farmers have their homes here and a vibrant farm business has grown, and keeps growing. In 1987, Massachusetts had a banner year selling farms at a price of forty-thousand dollars per lot in the raw while an ANR lot ran about seventy-five thousand dollars each. Then, we had a market adjustment and the local economy all across the Northeast was hit with a slowdown. It was during this time of slow, or no, growth that the regulations were revamped and revised to “protect” the environment and the school district. Zoning referendums were created and placed from community to community, as each town had different and more onerous restrictions in place. From aquifer laws, contiguous uplands, and open space as a minimum fifty percent, to revisions of soil standards, increasing sizes of subdivision roads, and increased setbacks. All of these regulations put a severe crimp on land values.

Despite tremendous efforts by landowners, builders, and REALTORS®, these regulations are now a way of life, to this day, in all our urban areas. When the “powers that be” implement new zoning, it has a tremendous effect on land values. In the mid-1990s, another piece was passed known as The Rivers Bill. This bill precluded development within two hundred feet of any listed stream and tributary in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Some of those listed were two feet wide at maximum and the only relief was if it dried up for three or more consecutive days so could you film it.

Now, we have arrived in the late 1990s. With ANR lots at $110 per lot and raw land at sixty thousand dollars per lot, finished two thousand square foot homes are sold from $350 to $375 thousand (or around $175 per square foot) all in, inclusive of land. The builders then decided that in order to make money and increase their corporate financing, they would build bigger homes. Starting in late 1999, prices rose and house sizes were 2,800 to 3,200 square feet. Around this time, I did a seventy-lot former gravel pit, where pricing ran from $399 thousand for a 2,700 square foot colonial to $475 thousand for a 3,400 square foot colonial.  Now, twenty years later, those resales sell for $680 to $800 thousand with no new lots in sight. In my primary area, we have reached build out. There are no longer any fifty to one hundred lot subdivisions, only five to ten lot ones are available from the I-495 area eastward to the sea line of Boston.

New home construction residential land salesIn addition, for the last ten years, builders have taken advantage of a law in Massachusetts called Chapter 40B. This law was created in 1969 to increase affordable housing throughout the Commonwealth. However, it did not get any traction until 2005 or so. This law allowed for an increased maximum density for apartments, as long as twenty-five percent of the units were for people who meet the affordable income limits as defined by the State of Massachusetts. Thousands and thousands of apartments have sprinkled the highways and byways, as this law allows you to bypass local planning boards and apply directly to the State.

While many benefits are apparent, the adverse impact comes on the older two to four family units as they have to compete with sleek new more modern apartments offering dry cleaning services, gyms, pools, and all the other upscale benefits. Demographics within these units are primarily young urban singles or couples, with older divorcees, and a transient population waiting for newer homes in the Central Massachusetts market. Many are buying duplex halves and, now, the communities are putting moratoriums in place as more and more of these units are built. These two thousand square foot duplex halves are selling in the mid to high four hundreds.

However, no one realizes, except the REALTORS®, how the marketplace has changed. The millennials prefer new construction. Most don’t want to have to change storm windows or paint their new homes. They just want to live in a new home with little or no exterior maintenance so they may enjoy their free time. Yet these communities who have implemented moratoriums are crimping their ability to buy new, and restricting the value of the land owners’ equity. You can still buy an ANR lot in western Massachusetts under one hundred thousand dollars, but the access to corporate headquarters and city services is a day trip away.

As for the rest of the Northeast, in every major urban area within thirty-five miles of an airport or big city, land prices and residential land sales tell the same story. Land prices are escalating higher and higher to the point of spiraling out of control. Installing new roads are costing a thousand dollars per linear foot. Remember the seventy lots in Northborough neighborhood? Well, I just sold the eighty-one year old owners last remaining four acres for one million dollars and the builder is getting five ANR lots. Homes of three thousand square feet will start at $750 thousand and we expect them to all sell upon release.

What a difference three decades make. When I attend the RLI meetings I hear similar stories from across the country and realize the truth in the phrase that “The Land Is Under All,” and it’s our duty to protect private property rights. By virtue of our profession, the duty falls on all REALTORS® to fight restrictive zoning and ensure that our elders can retire with the equity they expect and deserve. All of us in the business of buying and selling real estate have an obligation to participate in the public process for new zoning. We have an obligation to be cognizant of all underlying land use and we must defend and protect the ability to adapt our land use to meet the new requirements of the marketplace and the next generation.

For more information on land value trends and residential land sales, check out RLI’s annual Land Markets Survey. Read more on the demand for land and the increase in demand for residential land real estate.

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

About the author: Michael L Durkin, ALC, CBR, has been recognized as one of the Top REALTORS® in the country by many of the major companies: Top 300 Coldwell Banker; Top 10 GMAC Real Estate; and Top 80 RE/MAX.  He has twenty-five years’ experience in his office and is an author and former radio host for WTAG. He has served on the NAR Land Use and Property Rights Committee for a total of ten years.

Teaming Up To Transform Your Real Estate Business

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – unkown

What is the best way to achieve the highest level of success in your land brokerage career? The answer to that question varies greatly depending on your definition of success. Many brokers would like to see an increase in income earned, number of transactions closed, quality agents hired or retained, or any combination of other metrics used to define success. There are many definitions of success that do not have their own column in your firm’s P&L sheet, such as: spending more time with family, creating a steady stream of income, or dominating your local market. Figuring out the best way to achieve those goals is a real challenge for real estate salespeople.

“If you want to succeed, buckle down and work harder. You need to make more calls, set more appointments, and spend more time in front of decision makers.” This is good advice, but at a certain point in your career it becomes unproductive to pour yourself into more of the same. You can reach a plateau where spending more hours at work does not yield the desired results. In economic terms, this concept is called “The Law of Diminishing Returns.”

In 2013, my co-worker, Robert King, ALC, and I candidly discussed our goals for the year and how our numbers were tracking to date. Robert shared how his goal for the coming year was to increase the size of his average transaction to raise his total commissions earned. At the time, Robert was closing forty land transactions per year and was one of the top producers for Southeastern Land Group. The next year, he and Randall Upchurch teamed up and formulated a plan to increase their business and target a market segment that was largely under-served in Alabama. They focused on marketing and selling poultry farms across the state.

Poultry is the leading agricultural product in our state, and both Robert and Randall had previous experience with poultry operations and real estate brokerage. In 2014, they formed PoultrySouth to focus on marketing poultry farms. It took only two years for Robert to not only increase his commissions, but he was also able to more than double them as a result of teaming up with Randall. This is a perfect example of how two REALTORS® Land Institute members can partner to totally transform their business.

Randall is grateful the partnership has worked so well and, as he recounts their success, he does not take it for granted. “By working together the past three years, Robert and I have helped our clients close twenty-five poultry farms for a total of about fifty-five million dollars in sales. We currently have six pending farm deals, and are working on others.” Robert explains the upside of their partnership this way, “The benefit of two minds working through the issues of real estate transactions is a multiplying effect, not merely additive.” King continues, “Having slightly different perspectives focused on the same goal is a win-win for agents and clients. Additionally, we have seen the unexpected benefit of being able to multiply our effective handling of listings. Randall and I could probably only manage twenty-five or thirty listings apiece. Together we are able to handle one-hundred or more listings, while providing good service to our clients.”

The financial success of the partnership at PoultrySouth has opened doors for Robert and Randall to add cattle to their personal herds and each have purchased additional acreage for their family farms. The benefits from their business have overflowed into achieving goals for their families and farms. They are the perfect example of how real estate teams are supposed to function.

How do we achieve the positive outcomes we desire in our careers? One way is to align yourself with like-minded people. The power that comes from working together to achieve a common goal cannot be overstated. Fletcher Majors, an ALC from Alabama, has done a great job fostering an atmosphere of cooperation at Great Southern Land, both internally and with outside agents. In early 2015, Fletcher and three of his agents worked tirelessly to help one of their clients sell 6,477 acres in forty-five different tracts to thirteen different buyers in a single bid sale. Calvin Perryman, an ALC who works with Fletcher, explains why they believe in the team approach, saying “We often use a teamwork approach on special projects as well as everyday listings and appraisals. We believe having multiple opinions and ideas along with additional boots on the ground helps us better serve our clients.”

Each winter, nature demonstrates the power of teamwork when we see the V-shaped formations of geese as they fly south from Canada to warmer climates. The flock is able to survive by travelling great distances with maximum efficiency because of the cooperation of all the individuals. Each member of the flock benefits from the cooperative efforts of the group. This collaborative effort only works because each individual is clear on the objective, their responsibility, and they expend the effort to achieve the desired result.

There are many ingredients to creating a great team, but there are three essential elements that this article seeks to address. In order to form a great partnership, you must ACT like a team.

Agreement- “Can two walk together unless they are in agreement?” This question was posed by Amos, a shepherd turned prophet, that lived about 750 B.C. This question is still relevant millennia later. For a partnership to be effective, the partners must hold a common vision and agree on implementation of their strategy. The objectives must be clear so that everyone knows what they are working toward and how they will achieve the desired result.

Communication- Operation without communication leads to frustration. Sharing frequent updates, addressing problems jointly, and asking accountability questions helps ensure that the partnership stays on track. No member of the team should blindly assume that everyone has the most recent information or is acting on it. There will be hiccups in every partnership, but as a mentor often told me, “Communication covers a multitude of sins.” Receiving information makes people feel important and in the loop, so, be sure to share all that is appropriate with your teammate to increase the chances of mutual success.

Trust- The single most important ingredient to a well-functioning team is trust. Working with people that you know unquestionably have your best interest at heart frees you to focus on the challenge before you, and not on defending yourself from the people around you. Trust is very difficult to manufacture or bestow, and is generally built gradually and methodically through shared experiences. Trust breeds loyalty. Loyalty begets a willingness to work hard and take risks together. Working hard and taking calculated risks together is the formula most successful entrepreneurs use to achieve their goals.

RLI’s 2016 ALC-to-ALC Networking Award was recently presented to three ALCs from Hertz Real Estate Services in Iowa. ALCs Kirk Weih, Troy Louwagle, and Kyle Hansen teamed up to close a $12,263,100 transaction on 998 acres. This size and type of transaction requires that teammates have a lot of trust. Kyle’s advice for creating this type of success is, “Remember why you are working with another broker. It isn’t because they provide the highest referral or pay the best commission; it is because they can provide the best service to you and your client. We are in business to provide the best product and experience possible. To do that, you need to work with the best brokers possible. That’s why I like to work with Accredited Land Consultants and agents that I trust. That is what our clients deserve.”

A quick search in the “Book” category on Amazon.com for “Team” returns about 310,000 entries. With that much written on the topic, the best this article can hope to do is highlight a few essentials to creating positive teamwork for land brokers. There are dozens of free resources on teamwork available at the National Association of REALTORS® website. We face a challenge when we take a competitive vocation and ask individual agents to work together; however, good brokers know this is the formula for long term success.

“Our industry is unique in that it helps to have salespeople that are fiercely competitive, and yet be able to work well as a team. In many land brokerage companies, the agents are independent contractors and not traditional employees. In that type of relationship, you mandate only what is necessary and encourage your group as much as you can,” says Dave Milton, ALC and President of Southeastern Land Group. Dave adds, “For agents to succeed in this business, brokers have to do all you can to create an atmosphere of trust that leads to a strong team. The best way to help new agents launch their career is for them to team up with someone more experienced. Hiring the right kind of people is the best way to ensure buy-in from existing employees and protect the continuity of your team.”

A wise writer of antiquity once observed, “Two are better than one for they get a good return for their labor.” My hope is that by hearing other brokers involved with RLI share stories about the success they have had by teaming up, that you will find new ways to foster teamwork in your land brokerage business. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Here’s wishing you all the best as you “Go together!”

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

Jonathan Goode, ALCAbout the author: Jonathan Goode, ALC, is an active member of the REALTORS® Land Institute. He is a Co-owner of Southeastern Land Group, LLC (SELG) and is the Responsible Broker for the company in Mississippi. He is passionate about helping people buy and sell land.

Washington D.C. land real estate

The Four New Realities of Washington, D.C.

Usually I give a brief update on land real estate public policy issues of interest to REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) land professionals and the landowners they serve.

However, the election of Donald Trump to the highest elected political office in the land has scrambled the usual political dynamics of Washington, D.C. – the rule-book has been thrown out and we are in uncharted waters.

Given the unusual political environment we find ourselves in today, I thought it might be helpful to identify some of the factors that now make up the new reality of Washington, D.C., and how these factors might impact land real estate public policy issues that land agents and landowners care about. So here they are, the four new realities of Washington, D.C.:

  1. New Administration. The Trump Administration was elected to achieve several big priorities: immigration reform; comprehensive tax reform; construct a wall on the southern border; and repeal and replace Obamacare. Smaller items on the agenda include reforming existing trade agreements and repealing Dodd-Frank. The Trump Administration is still finding its way on how to achieve its policy priorities, but eventually, they will find their footing. When they do, tax reform could be the issue they turn to for a legislative win.  Of all of these issues, tax reform could pose a threat to RLI’s most important legislative land real estate public policy issue: preserving the 1031 Like-Kind Tax Exchange for landowners and investors.
  2. New Congress. While the Republicans have captured both the House and Senate, they did so with small majorities and increased ideological polarization. Practically speaking, this is a recipe for legislative gridlock as congressional leaders discover it is difficult, if not impossible, to cobble together enough members to pass legislation. However, this could work in RLI’s favor.  While legislative stagnation means that some bills RLI members might support don’t get passed, it also means that other bills, such as tax reform that harm 1031s, might never see the light of day.
  3. Executive Order (EO) Governance. A recent trend for presidents is to issue Executive Orders when they are unable to achieve their policy agenda in Congress. This occurred quite often during both the Clinton and Bush Presidencies, then, accelerated quickly during Obama’s presidency. Trump has used them even more frequently to achieve early momentum on some of his key policy goals. While EOs are limited in scope because they only impact activities of the federal government and not broader corporate or social institutions, they can be used in a targeted way to achieve a specific result.  One recent EO directed the EPA to begin the process to rescind and replace the controversial and damaging Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulation. If Trump does nothing else as President, rescinding WOTUS will help land owners and real estate agents more than anything else.
  4. De-regulatory Environment. President Trump has made it clear to all the federal regulatory agencies that they need to establish a process for reviewing and rescinding unnecessary or antiquated regulations. This has also been the subject of several EOs as well. While deregulation of the private sector is an important goal, this strategy has limitations as well.  First, the process for repealing a regulation is cumbersome and time-consuming.  Second, these only apply to regulations that originated in the federal agencies.  For example, the WOTUS and the Clean Power Plan regulations were initiated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), without any statutory direction from Congress, so they can only be repealed by the EPA.  Regulations implemented under the direction of Dodd-Frank or the Affordable Care Act were initiated under the congressional authority, so they can only be repealed or modified by Congress.  Deregulation will unburden land real estate agents and their clients as well as help spur innovation and economic development.

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

Riggs, Russell - NAR Government AffairsAbout the author: In his position with the National Association of REALTORS®, Russell Riggs serves as the RLI’s Government Affairs Liaison in Washington, D.C., conducting advocacy on a variety of federal issues related to land.

Forget the Capital Gains Tax, Full Speed Ahead!

One of my favorite old westerns is “El Dorado”. Yes, it stars John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. Yes it has James Caan and Arthur Honeycutt. And, more importantly, it has Charlotte Holt and the cutest Cary Michelle and, of course, the golden tunes of George Alexander singing the theme song…

In the movie, the bad guy, Ed Asner tries to steal a ranch owned by the McDonald family. In the end, Wayne, Mitchum, Caan and Honeycutt come to the rescue and the ranch is saved. Maybe the best part is when Ed Asner gets shot about a gazillion times at the end. Considering how he treated Mary Tyler Moore about 80 years later, he got what he deserved. The moral of the story is, when the McDonalds thought that they would lose their ranch, the gang came to the rescue and that is what we are going to discuss.

Like the McDonalds, landowners are under attack and now it’s from Congress. Congress is actually considering making changes or even revoking 1031 exchanges. What are these people thinking? Real estate associations, qualified intermediaries, and all kinds of people and groups associated with real estate have been lobbying; however, their efforts may be falling on deaf ears. Maybe Congress should be spending more of its time on spending reform and leave 1031 exchanges alone.

So the million dollar question (before taxes!) is what can a landowner do if 1031 exchanges are no longer part of the tax code to defer taxes. Well, there is good news! If there wasn’t, would I be writing this blog?

There is a great opportunity today for RLI members to assist their clients to defer taxes when the sale of a great property creates a large tax liability. That can be any type of property including a primary residence. Not only is there a way to defer taxes with a 20-year track record of success, but it may also be more flexible than a 1031.

I am fortunate to be one of the few advisors nationwide with access to a proprietary trust that was created by some of the smartest tax attorneys in the country to defer taxes when the sale of a highly appreciated asset creates a large tax liability. The IRS conducted a two-year examination of the proprietary trust and that examination was concluded in Washington DC. Other regulatory agencies have also conducted examinations and had not had any concerns.

Our proprietary trust has a 20-year track record with over 2,000 trusts being successfully created with our largest transaction being over $100 million with a tax deferral of $50 million. The proprietary trust has also successfully passed all 13 IRS audits with no changes recommended by the IRS. Our proprietary trust is on solid legal and tax ground but it is always important for your clients to do their due diligence as well. Because of the flexibility of our trust, almost any situation where there is a tax liability can be an opportunity for RLI members to sell more real estate by deferring taxes. Here are a few of the opportunities where our strategies may be useful.

Imagine for a moment if you could defer your sellers’ capital gains tax, state tax, depreciation recapture, and the Obamacare tax on their hard earned sales proceeds and you can defer them indefinitely. Imagine being able to defer those taxes without 45 or 180 day periods, no loan to value ratios, and your seller can buy any type of property at any time in the future. If it takes a year to find another property, that’s fine.

Imagine that you have a farmer or rancher client that has worked his property for decades and would like to sell and retire. You can sell that property and defer those taxes on his hard earned sales proceeds and give the seller a larger retirement income than if he had to pay taxes first.

Imagine all the times in the past that either your seller’s 1031 exchange couldn’t be completed or 1031 exchanges aren’t appropriate. Being able to defer those taxes today, and without an exchange, provides a great opportunity for your sellers. If you can’t identify a property in 45 days, no problem. If it takes six months, we can still defer taxes. You identify a property and if a problem of some kind occurs and the exchange falls apart, we can still defer taxes.

Has this scenario ever happened: You are selling a great property for your seller but he refuses to accept any offer until he finds a replacement property, and six to eight months later he is still looking for one. What if instead, you sell the property now, defer taxes now, get paid now, and, if it takes a year to find that replacement property, everyone is happy.

Say you found a great buyer for your seller. There is a slight problem. The seller is going to have a large tax liability and would like to defer taxes using a 1031. Unfortunately, the buyer has to pay for the property over four years. A 1031 exchange to defer the capital gains tax probably won’t work but our strategies will.

Say you have three owners of a great property that want you to sell the property for them. One owner wants to take the proceeds and run. The other two owners want to defer taxes. A 1031 probably won’t work but our strategies will.

You have a great client who is thinking about selling his high end residential property. He is going to have to pay millions in taxes. You can defer his capital gains tax, state tax, and the Obamacare tax on the sales proceeds. In gratitude, maybe he will buy a ranch or farm from you.

As a long-time partner of the RLI, I have worked with brokers all over the country. We have deferred millions in taxes and we are now also working with large institutional buyers of rural properties. Our Section 453 tax deferral strategies have been utilized successfully over 2,000 times with our largest transaction being over $100 million with a tax deferral of $50 million.

The bottom line is… relax. If Congress is smart, they will leave 1031 exchanges alone and our strategies can be a great Plan B. If Congress ends 1031 exchanges, we may have a better option to defer taxes, and in more situations. If there is a potential tax liability, let’s chat and see if there is an opportunity to defer that tax liability. Your sellers will love you.

Every time I watch a John Wayne movie except maybe The Quiet Man, Wayne comes to the rescue and I always wish that was me. Now is my time to come to the rescue and help your property owners sell a great property and keep more of their hard earned sales proceeds in their pockets while sending less to Washington and their local state capital.

Happy Selling!

About the Author: David is a Partner at Creative Real Estate Strategies, a 2015 Silver Partner of the Institute, and has been in the industry since the late 70s. His years of experience help him to assist land brokers in helping their clients defer capital gains tax, state tax and depreciation recapture taxes on their client’s sales proceeds when either their clients are unable to complete their 1031 or the client would like to sell and retire but still defer taxes. By understanding these tax deferral strategies, brokers have been able to sell more real estate. David can be reached at 713-702-6401 or at David@cresknowsrealestate.com

Public Relations: The Land Real Estate Professional’s Ultimate Weapon

Public Relations has become the most fundamental tool for shaping public opinion, investment markets, company reputations and business outcomes. As a land professional, your career is tied to a commodity with many stakeholders and many opinions on how land is to be managed and regulated. Far from being a “nice to have,” PR defines success—and failure—in today’s world.

Land professionals and Accredited Land Consultants (ALCs) have a right-down-to-the-soil impact on the physical and economic well-being of America. In a high-risk world, land—particularly commodity-producing acreage—offers roots of stability and a solid base for expansion. Land professionals, including brokers, agents, appraisers and auctioneers, together comprise the infrastructure upon which land is profitably conserved, exchanged and utilized.

Public Relations Gets You Known

But who really knows these things about land professionals?

By survey, one of the biggest hurdles a land professional faces is trying to explain what they do, what their knowledge and skills are, and how to care for the land and livestock on that land—free range, antibiotics vs. organic, and so forth. Ninety-eight percent of the general public has no knowledge of agriculture. This is a strong indication that effective public relations is not in play. The objective of PR is to make your business well-known and highly regarded so that you don’t have to repeatedly explain yourself.

If what you do, your purpose and the benefits you provide as a land professional are not clear to your public, some other perception will take its place—one that usually favors a competing interest.

Public Relations is About Reaching Minds: It Manages Emotions and Directs Attention

Public opinion regarding land management, its resources and the concept of stakeholder (the general public) over shareholder (the owners) is being shaped today by social media. And that social media, uncontrolled, has the liability of amplifying emotions over logic, presenting inaccurate data as fact, and omitting balanced points of view. It is a runaway horse, and only the art and science of public relations can manage.

Strong new community realities, such as sustainability; natural resources stake holding; environmental impact management; the control of interrelated natural systems such as navigable waters (Waters of the U.S. or WOTUS) and wildlife habitats—along with many other concerns—have created tension with private ownership. All of these factors influence legislation and can negatively affect land prices. Look carefully at any new legislation that affects land profits or limits sales—or any successful repeal of legislation—and you will usually find a publicity campaign that preceded it.

PR is often confused with activities that are more properly parts of branding, promotion and marketing, or it is thought to be only a plan to put out press releases now and then. While it has high synergy with these activities—even making them more effective—PR has its own precise scope.

It takes only a quick look at the news today to see that we live in highly opinionated times. People with strongly held beliefs and agendas often seek out only the news and information that support their viewpoints, and will disregard conflicting reports. Imagine, for example, trying to sell a fervent Republican on a Democratic candidate—the facts would be flying back and forth, but neither side would be listening to the other. Impasse! PR would need to step in, find the real issues people care about, and either makes a bipartisan solution well known, push a workable compromise, or show one side (or the other) to be the best solution.

PR—not money—is how the world turns today. It’s PR first that determines how the money will be spent.

As simple as it should be, the buying and selling of land will face increasingly complex challenges in the immediate future as more organized groups and government agencies seek to exert influence on how land is managed, transferred and used. Each will be passionate about their position.

Public Relations Creates Agreement

PR is the art and science of creating agreement and cooperation. It achieves this by framing the real issues involved in such a way that both sides might better work together.

Take, for example, the Clean Water Rule. Its stated purpose is to ensure that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined, more predictably determined, and easier for businesses and industry to understand. A visit to the EPA website shows the scope of the rule. But the comments on the regulations.gov website range from fear that individual farms will be decimated to fears that a government conspiracy aims to take over control of farming.

PR exposes the real issues in a strategic fashion in order to gain agreement, and in so doing, a solution often appears that everyone can get behind. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of reframing an issue to eliminate unproductive bias or false data. We want a clean flow of water. We also want viable farms and sustainable lands. Workable resolutions bring about mutual understanding and progress.

Public Relations is Proactive

A recent seminar by Hertz Farm Management, Inc., revealed that most farmers are over sixty-five years of age, and that forty-two percent of them plan to retire within the next five years. Many of them have yet to identify a successor. The number of farmers under the age of thirty-five is dwindling. These factors could change the characteristic of the farm market within this decade—more farms for sale by auction. A land professional who proactively prepares to take on a leadership position will be able to take advantage of shifts in the marketplace—but to do so, requires a PR strategy. Many prospective buyers are investors. They may run their own numbers and valuations, but they look for brokers with strong local savvy—someone who can connect the dots for them and has easily referenced credibility. Keeping yourself in the news, leading thought with insightful articles, and making public your good works are invaluable.

PR releases are written specifically to change perceptions, create strong affinities, forward strategies and form profitable perceptions. They are not fluff pieces full of bragging. Some common errors that show up too often, wasting valuable time and money, include:

  • Written by a committee. You’ve heard that a camel is actually a horse designed by a committee. Don’t let anything you publish sound like it came from a group. No one will read it, and no media will pick it up. Writing has to connect on a one-to-one basis. PR releases with strong points of view and a persuasive story/argument directed at the right public are pure gold.
  • Deliver a relevant message. It is the whole point, really. However, incredibly, it is often missing or overshadowed by less important details. Every PR campaign has, as its purpose, to deliver a specific message and make it stick in the minds of the public. A message is really what the reader comes away thinking, once he or she has read the release.
  • Keep it lean. Factually, you have about 1/125th of a second to grab attention, and from there, every word has to count. Short and sweet communications get read. They stand out from the ocean of verbosity online.
  • It’s not about you. Bad releases often come off as too self-serving and are rarely newsworthy. How great you are is not news, how you can serve your public is.
  • Not written for humans. Releases and web content cranked out to attract the eyes of keyword searchers with sentences built for search engine optimization don’t engage anyone, and make the reader think the writer doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.

Public Relations is Causative—It Gets Results

As a land professional, public relations technology really is your ultimate weapon. You are dealing with the most basic commodity on earth—Earth—and you are living in a time of unprecedented attention on how we manage our natural resources. Your efficient use of PR can help you get out ahead of non-optimum legislation before it happens; influence those who might otherwise oppose you; secure your business leadership; and create a stable future. These benefit everyone.

This article originally appeared in the 2016 Winter Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

Karla Jo Helms, Public RelationsAbout the author: Karla Jo Helms, is the CEO and visionary behind JoTo PR. She has patterned her agency on a combination of her hard-won Public Relations experience, uncompromising high standards and exacting nationwide market research. Karla hosted two breakout sessions and a round table discussion at the 2016 National Land Conference.

real estate auction

Real Estate Auctions Just Don’t Work In My Area

Real estate auctions just don’t work in my area! Oh, how many times I have heard that over the years. I always find that statement amazing as our company has completed over 1,200 auctions in just the last five years and, as near as I can figure, in my 35-year career I have been involved in somewhere around 2,500 land auctions. Auctions have been around for more than 2,000 years. Records handed down from the ancient Greeks document auctions occurring as far back as 500 B.C. At that time, women were auctioned off as wives. Now, those of us that have been doing this a while know of landowners who might be willing to auction their wives or husbands for a well drained 160 acres of land even today.  All joking aside, if you’re trying to enhance your image as a full service real estate professional, real estate auctions should definitely be a part of your business.

What is a Real Estate Auction?

A real estate auction is an intense and accelerated real estate marketing process that involves the public sale of property through competitive bidding. The word ‘auction’ derives from the Latin word “auctus,” which means increasing. Well run, successful real estate auctions can create momentum for future business for you; increasing your income and enhancing your image as the person that can get things sold.

Is every property a good auction prospect? No and not every seller is a good auction prospect. As a real estate professional, it is your job to understand what makes a good auction property and if your seller will be a good auction prospect. I’ll talk more in detail about qualifying the seller and the property a little later in the article but, for now, let’s look at some types of real estate auctions that I have successfully used in my business and their advantages and disadvantages.

Absolute Real Estate Auctions

In an absolute auction there is no minimum bid. The property is sold to the highest bidder, regardless of price. The advantage of an absolute auction is that it attracts more buyers because they know the property is going to sell. The disadvantage is that it provides no safety net for the seller, which makes it difficult to recommend to seller client’s in some situations.

Minimum-Bid Real Estate Auctions

Sometimes called a minimum published bid auction. In this type of auction the lowest acceptable price is pre-determined by the seller and the auction firm. The minimum price is then stated on all the marketing materials. When the bidding reaches the minimum amount, the property will sell.  This is a good type of auction to use when you have a property that might have been on the market for some time and is market weary. The advantages of this auction is that it lets buyers know what the minimum price the seller is willing to take for the property, and it still creates a safety net for the seller; unlike an absolute auction. The disadvantage is that sometimes the inexperienced agent and a demanding seller may set the minimum bid too high and buyers will not be willing to bid.

Reserve Real Estate Auctions

In a reserve auction, the seller reserves the right to accept or reject the highest bid. The owner, with the advice of his agent, determines the price at which he would be willing to sell the property. This pre-determined price is not published or disclosed to the public. Sellers are not obligated to accept any other price than the pre-determined reserve price or above. The advantage to this type of auction is that it provides a safety net for the seller while still giving the real estate professional the knowledge at what price the seller is willing to let the property be sold. The disadvantage is that many prospective buyers do not want to take the time or go to the expense of investigating the property when there is no guarantee that they will receive the property even if their bid is the high bid. Over the years I have had many buyers tell me that “We don’t come to auctions to bid, we come to buy, and so, until I know that the reserve has been met, I am not going to bid.” This can be a problem with this type of auction, so, it is very important that the seller and agent establish a very realistic reserve price.

Sealed Bid Real Estate Auctions

All bids are confidential. Usually, they are submitted to the agent and then opened at a predetermined time and place. This type of auction can also be used in conjunction with the three listed above. The advantage is that if you have a buyer with a very strong personality or presence in an area and other buyers don’t want to publicly compete with him they can do so. The disadvantage is that by doing everything confidentially, some buyers may question whether there really were other competing bids. You also lose the excitement created at a public out-cry auction that often times will cause competing bidders to pay more than they thought they would for a property.

Multi-par Real Estate Auctions

This type of auction works well for large parcels that need to be offered in smaller parcels to attract the most buyers. It allows the bidder to bid on one parcel or any combination of parcels. The advantage is that it allows bidders who want only one parcel and bidders who may want several or the whole thing to compete. The disadvantage is that the buyer who wants to buy the whole parcel does not need to compete until the end. It also requires a very knowledgeable staff to keep track of bids and help potential buyers submit bids that keep them in the winning position.

There are other types of auctions that can be used, but these are the ones that work best for me. As technology has advanced, online auctions and online bidding is becoming more common. However, since I often hold auctions in areas that I don’t have even good cell phone service let alone internet connections, this type of bidding has been a problem for me. These auctions are being used very successfully in the selling of livestock and personal property, and I do see them becoming more common in the land business in the future.

What Makes a Seller a Good Candidate?

Now, let’s talk about what makes a seller a good candidate for a real estate auction. Here is what I consider the top five questions you need to ask as the real estate professional:

  1. Is there adequate equity in the property?
  2. Is the property being sold to settle an estate or divorce?
  3. Has the property ever been listed?
  4. Does the seller have realistic expectations?
  5. Is the seller familiar with the auction process?

A “yes” answer to these questions would be positive towards an auction. A “no” answer would lead to the need for additional questions to be asked before deciding on encouraging the use of an auction.

What makes a good property to auction?

As a general rule, a property that is in good condition and in a desirable location will sell successfully at an auction. Am I saying that only good, well located properties should be auctioned? Of course not! The auction method can successfully be used in the marketing of just about any type of property. It is very important though that you analyze the seller, the property and the market to see if there would be positive demand for the property.

An auction should be a well prepared and carefully planned event. It definitely is not a one man show.

If you do not plan to become an auctioneer yourself, it is very important that you choose an auction company wisely. There is a saying, “There are three types of lies used in the marketing material of a lot of companies, lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Don’t just rely on the statistics presented to you in their marketing material. It is important that you attend a few of their real estate auctions, and don’t be afraid to ask for references from past clients. The entire auction team needs to be competent and professional in both their dress and their actions. Many times you will have people attend your auctions who are considering an auction on their property in the future. A well conducted auction is a great selling tool, but if the auction is disorganized and poorly ran it will be a reflection on you and you won’t get their future business.

Auctions can be a win-win situation for all. The sellers get their property sold at an acceptable price. The buyers purchase the property at fair market value, knowing the price was determined by open, competitive bidding and you as the agent have a happy client and a successful transaction.

I can’t possibly tell you all the things you need to know about auctions in this article. If you would like to know more about auctions and the auction method of selling real estate I would encourage you to take the Real Estate Auctions course offered by the REALTORS® Land Institute. This course will give you a very good background in auctions and how to use them to market real property.

I can tell you from experience that auctions do work and that the auction tool is one you, as a real estate professional, need to have in your tool box.

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

Sam Kain, ALC, Real Estate Auctions LANDU InstructorAbout the author: Sam Kain, ALC, is the Assistant Vice President – Real Estate / National Sales Manager for Farmers National Company in Des Moines, IA. Kain served as the 2005 National President of RLI and continues to be active in the organization as a LANDU Instructor for the Real Estate Auctions course.

Top Four Considerations When Finding a Real Estate Mentor

I listened to Zig Ziglar say once “The fastest way to get what you want is to help other people get what they want.” I didn’t understand this until I had a real estate mentor for a couple years and realized what Zig said was true. Whether you are the mentor or mentee there are great benefits to the relationship that can be established.

When I was looking for a real estate mentor, four things came to mind when I started my search that I felt were important.

The first thing that was important to me was finding an individual who was successful. The success that I was after was not just in the finical category but rather a list that I constructed when planning who I wanted to surround myself with. Successful to me was an individual who worked with integrity, spent time away from work with friends and family, was healthy, financially very well off, and had a process and system to their business. I have learned you can make more money than you can count. However, if you do not have a passion or dreams to go after with that money, more is actually less.

The second thing I looked for was someone who was not going to be a “card holder,” which also meant that this individual I was after probably was not going to be a direct competitor. When someone is a direct competitor, or sees you as a threat to their business or their current way of life, they most likely will not show all the cards and truly want to help you along your road to success. My mentor choice was a couple hours away and almost never worked in my area which also made it easy when it came to referral opportunities on both sides.

The third thing I looked for was time. How much time am I willing to give to my real estate mentor and how much time is he or she going to give to me. I have a very tight structure to mentor meetings. I want this person’s knowledge and friendship, and know I need to appreciate their attention like it is gold when they offer it to me. First, I list out all my sales numbers, transaction types, goals, and executions. Second, I listen to what they have to say or ask about whatever I have documented. I usually try to keep the time with them to one hour or less and write down three to four action items that I am going to do between the meeting and the next time we meet.

The fourth thing I found important was knowledge outside of my typical “sell more farms intentions.” Once I find the money, what can I do with it so I don’t have to go find it again? How do I make it find me? The mentor I was looking for needed to be an investor with lots of tax knowledge. If you are going to make money to waste it, you can skip the making step and save yourself lots of time. I was looking for someone that had answers to investment and savings questions as well.

If I was going to find another real estate mentor, I would use a simple set of questions for myself. What do I want? When do I want it by? Who do I know or can I meet that will help me to best help myself get it? and when am I going to set up and appointment with that person? In my experience, with the right mentor for you and documented goals, there is nothing the land business cannot provide.

About the Author: Jacob Hart, ALC, is a licensed real estate broker and auctioneer in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. His firm, High Point Realty & Auction, specializes in land sales and management of agricultural row crop and recreational ground.  He attended SDSU in Brookings, SD, then studied at the World Wide College of Auctioneering.