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.

vineyard

The Art of Selling a Vineyard

This is part 2 of 2 of an article that originally appeared in the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Summer 2017 Terra Firma magazine.

Although it is somewhat romantic to purchase a vineyard, it can be stressful, emotional or drudgery to sell one that you have put your life and soul into and worked at for years.  A buyer may not have the same passion as the seller.

Vineyards sell for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps the owner has improved it to the point of capacity and wants a new challenge.  Perhaps there is a death in the family and the succeeding generation does not have the desire or passion to continue. Possibly a vineyard has produced some exceptional grapes for wine or juice and a major player wants the label and juice bad enough to pay an exorbitant price for the vineyard.   Perhaps there is financial difficulty that dictates moving on.

Juice grapes hold very little, if any, additional value for the variety.  That land is considered similar to row crop land except that the vines need to be scraped off to make way for a higher and better use.  Unlike merely a few years ago, when grape cooperatives had shares and the shares in the co-op held some value, the co-op shares are nearly worthless in today’s market.  The returns are lower than most any other crop, especially in the western states, and growers are actually losing money in places.  There is approximately a $1,000 to $1,500 cost to pull the vines and remove the infrastructure from a site.  Sellers may take a hit in price for this reason unless the buyer has a higher use for the land.

Table grapes, on the other hand, tend to retain their longevity as a crop.  Disease and urban encroachment are the largest factors confronting sellers of this type of land.

vineyard

Wine vineyards have exponentially more hurdles in the selling process.  Much of it is emotional; however, location within a specific American Viticulture Appellation (AVA) lends higher or lower value to a vineyard.  One in demand can, and usually does, sell at a substantially higher value than the same plantings across the road if they do not sit within the desired AVA.  Red Mountain AVA in southeastern Washington, is one of the smallest AVA’s known. The prices for vineyards and vineyard potential land can command one and a half to two times the price as a similar land parcel merely across the road–simply because of where someone drew the line for the AVA!

When selling, there are specific disclosures required.  The disclosure most often overlooked is the five-year crop pesticide and chemical use records.  There are also production records, income and expense records, labor hour records and sales contracts to disclose.  Much of this type of information is disclosed only with ‘confidentiality agreements’ signed by potential buyers.  Plus, there are state mandated disclosures that vary from state to state.  In addition, some sellers may demand potential buyers to be registered and pre-qualified with a lender’s letter in hand before they will show or release any information about the property.  If there are homes, buildings, or commercial parts to the sale, then, separate disclosures may be required for each endeavor.

One of the most important aspects of selling a vineyard (or any property for that matter) is keeping it clean, weed-free and presentable to the buying public.  First impressions make a HUGE difference when buying a piece of property.  Remember, sellers… Buyers often rely as much on emotional connection to a property as they do on business sense.  A clean and showy place makes all the difference–especially if there is more than one property that a particular prospect is considering.

Vineyard sellers would also be wise to have in their possession (or at least make available or have access to) the weather data, seasonal harvest dates, freeze data and so forth in order for a buyer to make an informed decision about the property.  The varieties, number of acres planted, age of vines, type of root stock (if they are grafted cuttings), row spacing, plants per acre, type of trellis, type of irrigation system, etc. are all pertinent to the sale.  In addition, a recent soil analysis and pH analysis are very helpful to potential buyers and their brokers.  The most important part of disclosures is to BE HONEST!  If there has been a disease or problem in the vineyard, disclose it even if it has been corrected.  Detail any environmental concerns such as being downwind from a processing facility, excessive dust from a gravel crusher, dairy nearby (fly spots on berries), etc.  The more honest, complete and accurate the disclosure is, the less liability the seller shoulders in any transaction.

Also, sellers should think through the end of the transaction.  What are they going to do with the money?  Bank it and pay capital gains, convert the sale into an IRS 1031 Tax Deferred Like-Kind Exchange, split a partnership or family holdings?  Bring in a qualified Certified Public Accountant early in the process so there are no last minute surprises–and be prepared for a long ride.  Vineyard listings, especially wine vineyards, either sell very quickly or may take several years.  If the numbers fit the return profile, they may sell quickly.  If not, it may take a while.  Investors don’t usually jump into the buying process on smaller acreages unless they have other similar property in the area or the holding and profit margin are substantial.  As with most family-owned vineyards, that is not the case.  You may need to take an additional harvest or two before you find the right buyer.  Hang on for the ride!

Flo Sayre, ALCAbout the author: Florence “Flo” Sayre, ALC, has been active in the land business for over forty years and licensed in the real estate industry for over twenty. A member of RLI since 2008, she is the current RLI Pacific Northwest Chapter President and the Chair of the ALC Designation Committee and serves on the RLI Board of Directors.

vineyard

The Art of Buying Vineyards

This is part 1 of 2 from an article that originally appeared in the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Summer 2016 Terra Firma magazine.

So you think you want to own a vineyard, do you?!?  There is much romanticism in buying and/or owning a vineyard.  However, let’s take a look at the facts and attempt to put some sense into the process.

Vineyard land or vineyard potential land is not all the same.  First, one must get some questions answered.  What type of grapes is the buyer interested in growing: table grapes, juice grapes or wine grapes?  If it is wine grapes, of which variety?  Does it have irrigation water, and is there enough water for a sustainable crop?  Which way does the air drain?  By that, I mean, is there a slope or is it flat land?  If the land is flat, then one needs to do substantially more research before committing.  Land with a slope (even in any direction) allows for natural air drainage – either up or down the hillside.  If there are undulations in the land (hills and valleys) there could be cold pockets subjecting spring bloom to potential frost.  In the industry, these are referred to as “frost pockets”.

Juice grapes are hardier than wine grapes or table grapes.  Their growing season is short enough to allow them to be grown in nearly every northern state in the US.  Table grapes have both a longer growing season and a tender blossom.  They are grown a bit mid-line across the US to the more southern areas – usually in the foothills to valley floors in the eastern and western coastal inland areas of the US like California or the Carolinas and Georgia.  Both of these varieties strive for high production and quantity, needing substantial water for finishing.

grapesWine grapes, on the other hand, are much more temperamental.  They need some water, but not too much.  There is a very fine line between not enough and too much water for irrigation.  A smaller berry, starved slightly for water, produces a better quality wine in the end.  Slopes are nearly always preferred for wine grapes, regardless of variety.  Red varietals can take colder winters than the whites and are more susceptible to some diseases.

One should make note of the local weather patterns, spring and fall freeze dates and frost-free growing days.  Also, take note of the types of crops grown in the surrounding area.  Know the standards of practice for spray application to the neighboring lands.  Grapes are very much negatively affected by certain sprays, causing bloom drop and loss of production.  Bees are an important factor to consider as well.  Grapes do very well in areas where orchards and nut groves are prevalent for pollination.  The bees tend to linger longer where there is ample blossom time and fresh nectar.

Take a look at the soils.  Vines do not like to have wet feet, so, well drained soils are a major factor.  Have the soils tested for nutrients as a part of your ‘due diligence’ prior to closing the sale.  Know and understand the nutritional needs of your chosen varieties, and if the soils need amending to reach the plant requirements, find out what the cost will be to reach that goal.  You may determine that a nicer looking property may cost you more than your second choice if the cost to get the soils amended to optimum levels is cost prohibitive.  Find a crop consultant in the area who specializes in grape production to help you with your research.  You may also find a Land Grant University with agricultural specialties in the area that has a team or department with ties to the vineyard industry.  Always look for local, regional or state grower associations for advice and/or assistance.

Have a financial plan!  This is one of the most frequently miscalculated and misguided parts of the farming business in general.  Vineyards do not produce the first year, or the second year, and possibly not even the third year.  Know the cost of trellising, planting, pruning and training the vines before production.  Determine if hand picking or mechanical harvest will be done.  If you are not sure, plan for both.  Height, row spacing and end-row turnaround space are critical.

Plan out plantings in phases so that you can optimize the land and the expense calendar.  Order the vines from a reputable nursery.  ALWAYS ask for the patent and copyright certificate for the vines you purchase!  If the nursery says they don’t have one or that you don’t need one, go elsewhere.  Permanent plants are patented and copyrighted just like photographs, parts and paintings, and there are substantial fines and penalties associated with ‘patent infringement’ in America.  It is also against the law to make cuttings of patented plants for expanding your own growing area.  Just be aware!  Most of all…plan for disaster years; they will happen in agriculture, regardless of the crop.  One cannot control Mother Nature!

Next, know the varieties and the demand.  Remember, the ‘sipping public’ changes flavor trends often and suddenly.  Reds are always popular; however, popular taste may vary from light to heavy, oaky to clear, and whatever other flavors can arise in the process of fermentation, or whatever the marketing ploy is at the time.  Whites can vary widely from dry to sweet; there are cooking varieties, sipping varieties, and dessert and aperitif whites.  It is important to know the market, the demand, and watch the industry trends before getting financially buried in the vineyard business.

Get to know the other growers and vintners in the area.  They will be your biggest resource and greatest fans.  Wine growers, unlike hop growers, are extremely generous with sharing information about practices, operations and what’s new.  Plus, they’ll give you advice–solicited or not!

You have done your research, completed your due diligence, developed a master plan, and found a circle of friends, consultants and advisers…now, you must have a passion in order for your plans to meld into your life and future.  If you don’t have passion, one can give up or give in and the project can easily fizzle at the first bump in the road.

Flo Sayre, ALCAbout the author: Florence “Flo” Sayre, ALC, has been active in the land business for over forty years and licensed in the real estate industry for over twenty. A member of RLI since 2008, she is the current RLI Pacific Northwest Chapter President and the Chair of the ALC Designation Committee and serves on the RLI Board of Directors.

Accredited Land Consultant Pin

Promoting Your ALC Real Estate Designation

No matter the industry, separating yourself from the competition is a critical component that can’t be overlooked. We RLI members know what an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) is, but does the public? I don’t believe they do. Isn’t our duty to educate the public? We are the elite members of the REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) and we need to inform the public about WHO we are, not just WHAT we do.

I would like to share some ideas/thoughts that fellow ALCs have shared with us which are working well for them.

Don’t just market specific properties, market yourself! Tell the public who you are, how you got to be an ALC. Let them know about the rigorous requirements you had to meet to obtain the designation and how you can use your expertise to assist a client with their current real estate needs.

Educate everyone around you. Let your colleagues, clients, friends and family know what RLI is and how this amazing group of land professionals have helped you in your career. Let clients know that you have a huge network of experts to assist you in meeting their needs. Let them know having your ALC Designation, sets you apart from the other millions of real estate agents. Get them to ask themselves, why use anyone else?

Establish connections. Develop a sold group of bankers, accountants, attorneys and financial advisors that you trust. Help the client with full process of their land sale or purchase. It’s more than just buying and/or selling; it’s helping them understand each step and how it will affect them financially.

Write land articles, blogs, post videos etc. These are great ways to position yourself in the industry as the expert you are and share your knowledge and expertise. It helps build a brand with the public that you are the go to person for all their real estate needs. Be the star you are!

These are just a few things that you can do to promote your ALC designation and set yourself apart as being the one they will come to when they think about selling or buying real estate.

I will leave you with this thought. Another MN ALC gathered some data and found out these staggering facts. There are 23,565 licensed real estate agents in the state of Minnesota and of those agents, there are only 13 are ALCs–in the whole state of Minnesota! I am proud to say that I am 1 of those 13 ALCs and I need to educate the public to again get them to ask the question… WHY USE ANYONE ELSE?

Quick fact: According to a recent Nielsen study, only 33% of buyers trust what a brand says about itself; however, 92% believe what their peers say about a brand! What does that mean to you? If you are an ALC you are the best recruiting tool to motivate and promote your peers to grow and join RLI. As the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers. The more RLI members, the more networking, awareness about the ALC, and organizational growth there will be–which benefits all ALCs!

wendy forthun, ALCWendy Forthun, ALC, is an experienced broker and 1 Stop Realty’s Vice President. Wendy joined RLI in 2006 and earned her Accredited Land Consultant designation from RLI in 2013. She has successfully marketed her esteemed designation to help grow her business.

THE REAL (E)STATE OF PRINT ADVERTISING IN THE DIGITAL AGE

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

More than one real-estate agent, borrowing from humorist Will Rogers, has advised, “Put your money in land, because they aren’t making any more of it”.

When it comes to where to advertise that land, the adage does not hold so true. Plenty of media vehicles are launching all the time—a vast, renewable resource of print, broadcast, outdoor, online, mobile and social-media outlets to explore. A marketer could be forgiven for wondering exactly where to invest the finite resources of an advertising budget.

The trick lies in putting the money where it matters most, where it will connect with people who’d be most interested in that new-model car, custom shirt maker or ranchland for sale. While data-rich digital platforms offer new ways to target individuals, traditional media, such as newspapers and magazines, remain a vital part of a successful marketing budget and continue to offer distinct advantages.

In the midst of the digital revolution, newspapers and magazines continue to deliver, and so does print advertising. A wealth of research shows that the printed-and-published-on-paper word still resonates today, extending to favorable demographics, longer interaction times, greater trust and other indicators that make a positive environment for advertisers. The combination of print and digital often make an ideal partnership, particularly in real estate marketing, where print advertising introduces a property and peaks interest, even among people who may not be actively looking, and digital draws prospects in further with virtual tours, slide shows and all the important specs.

newspaperIn 2015, consumer neuroscience researchers at Temple University released a study that explored how people responded to print and digital advertising. They concluded that each medium had its strengths, with digital grabbing sustained, focused attention and print ads engaging better emotionally.

The study, produced for the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, included test subjects looking at advertising in print and on digital screens, while receiving functional MRIs of their brains. While looking at paper ads, the MRIs revealed more activity in the areas of the brain associated with desire and motivation, indicating subjects had a more positive, subconscious response for the item being advertised—a great way to kick off the sales process.

Print and digital go hand in hand in other ways, too. A Wall Street Journal reader study found that subscribers read the print edition in the early morning (six in ten read the newspaper in print, according to the 2015 Ipsos Affluent Survey), later logging on to the paper’s website from a desktop or laptop during the workday and checking in throughout the day via their mobile devices.

Broader audiences display similar behavior. According to the Pew Research Center, citing a Nielsen Scarborough 2014 Newspaper Penetration Report, more than eight in ten people read the newspaper in print—fifty-six percent of people in print alone—with the remainder including online and mobile platforms through the day.

With morning tending to be the most popular time to pick up the newspaper, even in a world of twenty-four-hour news cycles, a print paper still provides an environment for advertisers to present their own big news. Reading the print edition is an engrossing interaction, a lean-in experience, with people engaging forty-five to fifty minutes a day with the print edition of The Wall Street Journal. In today’s content landscape, that is an incredible length of time to hold an individual’s attention.

Magazines have also retained vibrancy in the digital age. Samir Husni, the director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University Of Mississippi School Of Journalism has tracked trends in the industry for thirty years. Husni was happy to discover that during the first quarter of 2016, one-hundred and ninety-nine new titles launched, seventy-seven in January alone, compared to one-hundred and ninety-one which had debuted during the same period in 2015. In a blog on his website, Husni said, “One thing that I’ve noticed this year in following magazine media and the marketplace, no one is saying that print is dead anymore. That mantra has vanished.”

So who is the print reader? Demographics trend favorably to being able to make bigger purchases, with affluent, well-educated people indicating they read newspapers.  A 2016 Ipsos study revealed newspaper readers have an average net worth that is thirty percent higher than total affluents–$1.64 million compared to $1.27 million. The same distinction holds true at The Wall Street Journal, where print-only readers report net worth of $1.8 million, twelve percent higher than total brand readership. Wall Street Journal print readers have net worths that are sixty percent higher than television viewers.

Environment counts in real estate and it counts in advertising, too. A Pew Research Center study found numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Economist, ranked high in consumer trust across differing political philosophies, outpacing newer digital news outlets like BuzzFeed and Yahoo News.

With readers, right demographics and environment in place, today’s advertisers use print to capture attention and craft the right image and digital to drill down the details.

In addition to capturing the attention of people who are looking for real estate and those who originally were not, print ads also elevate the brand identity of the brokerage and sales agent.

These objectives would be difficult to achieve in a digital-only campaign, as online, people tend to search for specific things or enter actual web domains—behavior is more directed. Print showcases the property, hooks the prospect and directs him or her further down the sales funnel with digital listings, virtual tours, property slideshows and agents’ websites.

In this era of information overload, another way print is evolving is through creative executions. A clean, simple style—not too wordy or crowded with different elements cluttering the layout—works best to draw the reader’s attention and spur action. According to researcher GfK MRI Starch, the qualities that work best in successful print ads are:

  • Simplicity: A minimalistic design with not a lot of clutter. Copy that is equally simple to read.
  • Boldness: Judicious use of vivid color to grab attention.
  • Clarity: Memorable, direct headlines and similar body copy.
  • Contrast: Visual play of light and dark tones to create sharp contrast.

According to a recent study of Wall Street Journal readers, more than eight in ten read the weekly Mansion section, appearing in the Friday edition. Further, a 2014 Wall Street Journal proprietary study conducted with Ipsos Media CT, revealed twenty-two percent of The Wall Street Journal’s print readers had contacted a real estate broker as a result of a Wall Street Journal real estate ad.

As for what real estate advertising stood out best in the section, according to Starch, top-scoring ads featured ample use of white space, putting the headline, copy and key images in crisp isolation. Of special note, contact information was easy to see and not buried at the end of a copy block, as real estate advertising, more than anything, is a call to action to visit the website and contact the broker.

Starch’s best real estate ads also featured compelling, professional photography. Layouts that featured one, dominant photograph, or a main shot with one or two minor images, scored well.

In a 2015 REAL Trends survey, done in partnership with industry image and virtual-tour maker Virtuance, found ninety-four percent of agents “felt passionate” about using professional photography, believing it attracted buyers to their websites and burnished their brand images.

Headlines, sometimes as simple as the property’s name or address, or maybe a few descriptive details, succeeded in their simplicity, directness and ability to grab readers’ eyes. Copy urged readers to take action, often directing them straight to the property’s website for details and video.

Successful print ads look a lot like strongly performing digital ads, which were even sparser and cleaner—one key image, a headline and a caption often sufficing. As for mobile ads, with minimal screen space comes more simple layouts and little copy.

Real estate marketers have more tools than ever to sell a piece of land, and print complements a broader campaign that might begin with a sign on a fence post and end with an online 3D showcase.

One does not replace the other, as history has shown. The popular media of Will Rogers’ era—newspapers, magazines, billboards and radio—are still with us, but today they work in harmony with digital, satellite, virtual reality and whatever is to come.

Gallardo, MartiAbout the author: Marti Gallardo is Global Head of Advertising for Real Estate and Vertical Markets for The Wall Street Journal.  She and her team work with real estate professionals on smart marketing solutions, helping them connect their luxury and investment properties with qualified prospects. RLI members can save big on print advertising opportunities with the Wall Street Journal as part of the Member Advantage Program (MAP).

Social Media and the Land REALTOR®

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

I’ll be straight with you all: If you haven’t figured out how to use Facebook or Twitter – and built a sizable audience by now – don’t worry about it.  The saturation of sameness of real estate social media is palpable and, frankly, your audience might not be there.  However, from beginners to advanced users, there are ways to leverage social media in your business.  Here are some tips:

First, audit your audience

Before you use social media you must know whether or not you even have an audience there.  Go online to your social media accounts, subtract all your friends and family. Now, is your target audience for your marketing there?  If you’re an agent dependent on referrals from residential agents, are your partners there?  How much time do they spend there?  Researching what you have will determine what you will do on social media, so do a deep dive into your audience.

Audit yourself

If you’ve started accounts on Facebook or Twitter, is your website, contact information and status as a REALTOR® or ALC obvious?  Too many agents don’t take the time to complete their profile and add a current picture of themselves to the public elements of their social media, which is akin to not having a profile at all.  Whether you choose to use social media actively or passively, make sure a potential client can get ahold of you should they stumble upon your social media accounts.  Chances are, your social media will outrank almost any of your other web presence, so it’s just plain good business.  Use a Google Voice number generic email address (info@yoursite.com) to track the effectiveness of your accounts and to keep the spam emails and phone calls to a minimum.  Don’t forget about your website.  Does it have the “Like” and “Tweet” buttons anywhere on it?  Make sure your website is shareable on social media, especially if you’re creating content on your site that’s WORTH sharing.  More on that later.

Review and recommendation websites are social too!

Cementing your reputation by starting profiles on Google (google.com/business), Yelp (biz.yelp.com) and LinkedIn is something everyone should do.  LinkedIn, especially, is made for business-to-business relations and is the most business-centric social platform online right now.  Complete your profile with a current pic, and don’t forget your contact information and website!

Consider “groups”

In an effort to keep business away from personal lives, Facebook groups have become a major source of networking among professionals.  Most local and state associations, real estate designations and certifications and offline networking groups have a presence on Facebook.  “Search” on Facebook’s search bar for your local association or group.  NAR has a national group that can be joined here.  Make it a habit to go through groups – especially real estate groups – to see if an agent has a need.  The more active the group is, maybe post in it once a day.

Use Twitter like a media resource

Twitter isn’t for the meek and takes an active commitment to make its use worthwhile.  One of the best ways to quickly build an audience to engage with it is to follow local journalists, television news-people and pay attention to what they have to say.  Are they talking about real estate value?  Are they looking for stories on community development?  You can have meaningful conversations with people who move the needle in your local markets and grow your sphere while doing it.  Follow the more active residential agents in your area who are almost always looking for land and commercial real estate partners, as well!

Use video as a marketing platform

In my mind, the most relevant social platform available to a land agent is video, preferably on YouTube.  Whether you’re speaking on camera about tips to buy and develop land, using it to convey the size and scope of a land offering or re-envisioning what that land can be via digital mock-up recorded on video, the options are many.  The one thing about video that makes it stand out against its brethren is that it’s not viewed as a “toy” and a time-suck like Facebook and Twitter can be, plus YouTube’s little red “play” button has universal – and multi-lingual – appeal.  To wit, look no further than this video, created to be a vision of a potential mixed use development.  Parking videos like this on YouTube and then your website ramps up your organic search engine optimization. They are “social” in that anyone can share it to their social media if wanted, plus they can be viewed on a laptop or a smart phone alike.

Pay-to-play with social media and Google ads

Residential real estate is experiencing a bit of a paid marketing renaissance when it comes to effectiveness online and on social media due to the business models of online media and their need to make money.  The key to optimizing paid media, however, is to have content worth the click – from the internet browser’s point of view. As mentioned above, a social site with social content turns your website into an online destination, regardless of where the ad is placed – social media, Google, or otherwise.

Did you audit your audience?  Also mentioned above, that audit will determine where you should spend your ad money.  If it’s social media, direct your ads to those who have “liked” elements of your local market or even your city’s social media presence, or other businesses in the area complimentary to yours.  If it’s Google, explore the search trends of your market here: google.com/trends/ and direct per-click ads to the relevant audience.  Ads are not for the meek.  It takes investment in a high quality website and content to really leverage it properly.  Talk to a local small business online expert in your town for details.

So whether you are actively or passively leveraging social media in your business – or doing something in between – be social.  Think about whether or not what you’re doing – marketing-wise – is worth someone sharing it on social media.  Have a visible, social profile and reputation and be “out there” if someone needs your expertise.

hata, nobu, NARAbout the author: Nobu Hata is the Director of Digital Engagement for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). As a real estate technology and new media expert, he brings value-added information to NAR members, brokers and associations. Nobu regularly present at the RLI National Land Conference on the latest technology for real estate agents.

Drones: Navigating the Rules and Regulations of Legal Commercial Use

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

Drone. It’s a word that elicits different feelings for different people. Some people love them, others hate them. Some people see their incredible potential while others wish they didn’t exist.  Headlines range from “Drones are saving puppies” to “Drones are ruining my life”. The issue can be polarizing.

As a land professional, a drone can be a powerful and effective tool for your business. The current and potential uses are varied and creative. The opportunity is huge and it’s important to be well-informed regarding the proper use of drones.

As with any “hot-topic” issue, there is a lot of bad information that gets into public view; and having bad information can result in poor decisions, lost business, and even legal penalties. I am writing this article because I want you to be an informed, intelligent, and passionate ambassador for drones and their incredible potential in real estate. As such, I want to provide specific, reliable, and accurate information on how to legally operate a drone in your business. I also want to provide you with resources for further research and up-to-date information.

To achieve that goal, I am going to focus on the nuts and bolts of completely legal commercial drone flying. I’m not going to tell you which drone to buy, how to get the best shots, or what time of day offers that epic cinematic effect. I am going to tell you exactly how to operate within the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) rules and guidelines for commercial drone use.

Below are three basic overarching maxims that are central to all legal, commercial drone operations. These are presented as fact, insofar as they are published in FAA guidance, law, or other official means. So, regardless of what you’ve heard on the news, read on the Internet, or been told by your brother-in-law, here is the scoop:

THE ONLY LEGAL WAY TO OPERATE A DRONE COMMERCIALLY IS THROUGH A SECTION 333 EXEMPTION ISSUED BY THE FAA

The FAA is currently using an EXEMPTION process to allow legal commercial drone use. This process is filling the gap until full-fledged regulations can be finalized and published. Until recent years, “model aircraft” have been used almost exclusively for recreational purposes. In the past decade, inexpensive drones with the ability to capture high-quality video and photographs have flooded the market. This has given the FAA a lot of heartache, because they did not yet have rules in place to regulate “commercial model aircraft”. The exemption process is the only avenue currently available to operate legally for hire.

In order to receive an exemption, you must apply at www.regulations.gov. Follow these instructions for the application process.

This is how it’s done: read through a few petitions, copy someone else’s petition, personalize it to yourself or your company, include the necessary documentation, and submit. It’s not college English class so plagiarism is not only allowed, it is actually encouraged. You want to make it as easy as possible for the FAA to say yes by submitting an application very similar to one that is already approved. When I applied for my exemption, the FAA’s stated processing time was ninety to one-hundred and twenty days. I received my approval in eighty-seven days. It was the first time in my life a government entity had done something faster than advertised. Some people have hired lawyers, others have hired so-called “Section 333 Exemption Companies” to write and submit the application for them. That is unnecessary. The process is simple and the instructions are clear.

THE OPERATOR OF THE DRONE MUST BE AN FAA LICENSED PILOT

After reading number two, you may be thinking, “I’m not a pilot. I’m never going to become a pilot. Why should I apply for this exemption?” The person applying for the exemption DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A PILOT. The person OPERATING the drone DOES have to be a pilot. Of the over five-thousand exemptions granted to date, many of them have been companies or individuals who are not licensed pilots. You can have a pilot working for your company, or contract with one who can legally fly the drone. This will allow more flexible and on-demand scheduling to keep your costs lower. The exemption will require a certain level of drone training and logged flying hours. But any level of FAA license will do – from Airline Transport Pilot all the way down to Sport Pilot.

UPDATE

THE DRONE MUST BE REGISTERED, COMMERCIALLY, AS AN AIRCRAFT

Because the FAA, with the input of the courts, has determined that a drone is an aircraft (Google: Raphael Pirker Drone), it must be registered. For commercial drones, this once meant filling out a paper form (carbon paper included) and sending it, along with other documents, to the FAA. Luckily for all of us living in 2016, in April of this year that process was moved online. In order to register your drone, you must visit https://registermyuas.faa.gov, pay a five-dollar registration fee, label your drone with the registration number provided, and you’re good to go. This is the FAA’s way of finding you when you crash your drone on the White House lawn. Flyers beware!

(As a side note, recreational drones also require registration if they weigh over 0.55 pounds).

When you receive your exemption, it will be accompanied by a long list of dos and don’ts that you must abide by. These requirements range from pre-flighting your drone to maximum altitudes you can fly. Here are some of the basics:

  • No flights above four-hundred feet Above Ground Level (AGL)
  • Drone must remain within Line-Of-Sight (LOS)
  • If operator is using First Person View (FPV), looking at the video feed instead of the drone, he must have a Visual Observer (VO) to maintain LOS
  • No flights within five miles of an airport with a control tower or within three miles of an airport without a control tower, UNLESS a Certificate Of Authorization (COA) has been issued and the Operator has coordinated with the airport control tower
  • Must stay five-hundred feet away from non-participating persons at all times

Below is a list of resources where you can stay updated on everything contained here. This an ever-evolving issue. Be sure to check back often for updates and changes.

  • A one-stop-shop for general info on rules, safety, registration, etc.

Now, I’m certainly not naive enough to believe that none of you have ever flown a drone commercially without the required exemption, licensing, and registration. It’s true that thousands of people have taken aerial video and photography this way; and the vast majority of them never face any issues from the FAA. However, I would submit that as land professionals and REALTORS®, we should all strive to operate within the rules. We need to be doing things the right way, every time, all the time.

To their credit, the FAA is taking steps to make things easier for everyone who wants to operate a drone. I have seen at least two examples of LESSENING of restrictions for Section 333 exemption holders in the past few months. These include an increase in the allowable altitude from two- to four-hundred feet and the publishing of a blanket list of drones you can fly once you receive your exemption (previously each petitioner had to list all drones intended for use and provide all documentation for each drone).

So, what does the future hold? Good news! The proposed rules going forward provide for approving drone operators WITHOUT a pilot’s license and WITHOUT a Section 333 Exemption. Applicants for a Drone Operators License (for commercial operations) will be required to complete online education, pass a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) background screening, and pass an FAA knowledge test. These proposed rules are still being vetted, discussed, and debated to determine the final rules. However, the rules are a great framework to lessen the burden of legal operation while still maintaining appropriate training and safety measures. Plans are also moving forward to allow flight over non-participants – as long as the specific drone being flown meets certain industry standards. The timeline on the final rules is uncertain. Yet, industry stakeholders and individuals alike are putting a lot of pressure on the FAA and Congress to get it done.

For now, we have to operate within some tight restrictions, but drone technology, uses, and regulation are all evolving very quickly. If you haven’t already, get ready to join the world of drones – an exciting industry with virtually unlimited potential!

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.

Does Your Forestland Have Curb Appeal?

As with residential property, there are steps a landowner can take to add value and make forest acreage attractive from every angle. As a land broker and professional consulting forester, I’m often asked what improvements can be made to add the most value to forest property.

My response focuses on two different sets of property attributes that affect value. The first set is acquired at purchase and includes characteristics inherent to the property. These are fixed attributes such as location, public road frontage, streams, and topography.

The second set of attributes can be implemented or improved upon, creating an opportunity for “acreage appeal,” which is the forestland equivalent to the curb appeal concept in residential real estate. These are improvements that have the potential to increase the marketability and value of your property above the investment expense. Our firm operates across North America, and these six areas are improvements that seem to be universal regardless of market.

“The importance of working with a professional land manager and broker cannot be overstated.”

ACCESS 

Access is a critical component of value and often the first question posed by potential forestland buyers. Having legal access, of course, is key to marketability and upholding property value. A tract without legal access poses many impediments to potential buyers.

If it is a recreational tract, buyers might be uncertain about their ability to easily enjoy the property. For investment tracts, a lack of legal access can impede the ability to extract value in the form of timber sales or hunting revenue, to say nothing of the potential development value down the road.

The investment buyer is likely to discount the standing timber value to account for these challenges. If your property does not have a recorded legal access you should work with some combination of your adjoining neighbors, a land professional, and an attorney to evaluate your options and make a plan to obtain access.

Once you have legal access, creating or improving internal tract access is another strategy to increase acreage appeal. If internal roads exist, funds are well spent to upgrade and improve these roads to ensure they are easy to drive and stable in various weather conditions. This can include smoothing of the road surface (grading), installation of erosion control measures (water bars), seeding, and replacing damaged culverts.

If you do not have interior roads it could greatly enhance the value of your property to have roads built. New roads should be constructed in a way to provide useful access and in locations that will require the least amount of future maintenance. This involves using the existing topography of the land to minimize the slope of the roads (and erosion potential), and limit the number of stream crossings. Choose crossing locations most likely to withstand storms and require minimal maintenance.

In a similar vein, laying out ATV trails or walking trails also can add value. Being able to showcase a property’s Highlights on an initial tour helps create favorable first impressions. Trails should highlight a property’s unique assets such as water features, views or vistas, cultural features like old home sites, large trees, or favorite hunting spots.

BOUNDARIES 

Well-marked property boundaries are a bellwether for good land management. They signal to the public that this property is frequently attended to and minimize the risk of trespassing, dumping, or squatting. The first step to improving boundary markings is to make sure you have a modern survey description that is accurate. The second step is to mark your boundary clearly with paint. Surveyors have customary ways of marking lines so the exact location of the line and corners can be quickly identified. This is done based on the orientation of the paint and shape or number of painted markings on trees or posts along the line. For example, three painted bars on a witness tree typically denotes a corner in the area in front of the marked tree.

MANAGEMENT

Well-managed properties always realize a premium over un-managed or neglected ones, and buyers can spot the difference from a mile away. Attention to access and boundaries signal active land management, but as a landowner you also should have a written forest management plan for your tract that guides your goals and documents past activities. A little organization With this information imparts a huge degree of confidence to the buyer. Consult with a professional on what silvicultural practices will deliver the most return on investment. There might even be cost share assistance from government agencies.

A good consulting forester will be well versed in these programs and can provide guidance on how to qualify. For the private landowner, there are typically programs for activities such as reforestation, site preparation, prescribed burning, road improvements, wildlife food plantings and pre-commercial thinning operations. Implementing management practices that make good financial sense will enhance the income potential as well as the aesthetics of your property.

WATER 

Though it is typically thought of as an inherent and unchangeable attribute, you often can create water features on a property if there is already a water source available. One of the most common requests we receive from potential buyers of recreational land is for a tract with a pond. If your property has a site that is compatible with building a pond, this can make a huge difference in the value and marketability of the property.

Understanding if you have potential sites to construct a pond on your property and how to go about properly constructing a pond can be an enjoyable experience and a significant value add. Typically you need a reliable water source such as a spring or small stream, soils that will hold water, natural bowl-shaped topography to minimize construction, and earth moving expense.

In some areas, pond construction and permitting is regulated by the state government. That means that the first point of contact should be with your local cooperative extension service to begin to understand what is possible on your property. Once you have determined that a pond is permissible and feasible on your site, carefully select a reputable experienced contractor, and have a plan for managing your pond after it is built. Ponds, like forests, benefit from active management.

OPEN AREAS 

The majority of my work is with timberland properties. As a forest landowner, that’s no doubt your focus as well. However, open areas can greatly enhance a property’s appeal, even to buyers looking for timberland. My advice is always to manage natural openings with good forest management, but not to clear land just for the sake of openings. I say this because tracts that have a lot of open acreage might require added continual maintenance time and expense, which could narrow your pool of buyers.

Natural openings are created during harvest operations when loggers use a specific area for a log landing or loading spot. The resulting opening could be maintained as a food plot with annual or perennial plantings.

Open space can maintain sunlit areas along roads if the vegetation is favorable, and this also has habitat benefits. These open areas allow your road to dry after precipitation, and also provide some habitat diversity to your tract on a landscape level. Opportunities can exist to maintain sight or shooting lanes in thinning access corridors post-harvest as well.

These practices do not remove acreage from timber production but make the best use of every available acre and demonstrate variety in a property. Some of these open areas could be maintained by a hunt club since the openings improve habitat and, thus, hunting. The annual maintenance expense is minimal, and there might also be cost share programs through state or federal sources to assist you.

GATES 

It might seem obvious, but the first impression of a property often is the entrance. It’s why subdivision developers go overboard with gates and entryways before ground is broken on the first model home.

You need not break the budget in this area, but investing in and maintaining gates at all points of access it will provide security while you own the property, and is viewed favorably by potential buyers. After all, why would a landowner go to the expense of putting up a nice gate if there wasn’t a quality piece of land behind it?

New gates should be properly sized to accommodate any future needs. Consider whether there will be future timber harvests, and the width needed to get equipment through the access point. It is preferable to have the gate installed slightly off the main road so you can easily pull in to open it without having to stop on the road shoulder. The gate also should be installed so that it will not sag and drag on the ground, or not align with their latches properly.

Gates often sag or become unaligned due to not burying the pivot post to which the gate is attached deep enough and in cement.  Gates should last a long time, so if you have an old gate, it can be enhanced greatly with a fresh coat of paint.

These are six key areas often discussed with owners and potential buyers of forestland. There are many other opportunities to add acreage appeal. My advice to owners is to consider these broadly appealing improvements first, and then invest in other, possibly more capital-intensive improvements that enable them to reach their goals for the property. The importance of working with a professional land manager and broker cannot be overstated. These professionals can help you evaluate investments in improvements and explain their long-term impact on your property and investment return should you choose to sell in the future.

Chris Miller, ALCChris Miller, ALC, is a land broker and consulting forester for American Forest Management, Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina. This piece was originally published in the July/August 2016 Forest LandOwner Magazine.