The REALTORS® Land Institute Announces 2021 National Leadership

September 16, 2020 (Chicago, Ill.) – The REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI), a commercial affiliate of the National Association of REALTORS®, proudly announces its 2021 national leadership. Luke Worrell, ALC, was elected by membership as their 2021 RLI National Vice President. Luke joins the 2021 RLI National Board of Directors as a member of the Executive Committee alongside 2021 President Renee Harvey, ALC, of Century 21 Harvey Properties in Texas; 2021 President-Elect Dean Saunders, ALC, of SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler in Florida; and 2021 Immediate Past President Kyle Hansen, ALC, of Hertz Real Estate Services in Iowa.

As Vice President, Luke will serve a four-year term on RLI’s Executive Committee, making him the Institute’s 2023 National President. Luke has an extensive record of service to RLI, having served as Chair of both the Education and Budget and Finance committees, and most recently serving on the 2020 Board of Directors as Treasurer. Additionally, Luke has served as the President of the RLI Illinois Chapter. He has been a member of RLI since 2009 and earned the elite Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation shortly after in 2012.

Luke brings a wealth of industry and community leadership experience to his new position with RLI. Among his many accomplishments, he has twice served as President of the Jacksonville Area Association of Realtors; is the current President Elect of the Jacksonville Kiwanis Club; is the 2021 Chair of the Illinois Farmland Values and Lease Trends Conference; and served a six-year term on the board of directors for the Morgan County Fair Board. Luke was the winner of RLI’s 2018 Rising Star Award, an annual honor conferred on an aspiring leader.

The election also adds two At-Large Directors to the RLI Board for a two-year term. In an effort to give members a stronger voice into the direction of the organization, three elected At-Large Director seats were added in 2017. RLI is proud to announce the election of Drew Ary, ALC, of Keller Williams Advantage in Oklahoma and Geoff Hurdle, ALC, of Hurdle Land and Realty in Tennessee, onto the 2021 RLI Board of Directors. Drew Ary served as Vice Chair of the 2020 Future Leaders Committee and has served on the ALC Accreditation Committee since 2018. Geoff Hurdle has served the past two years as President of the RLI Tennessee Chapter.

RLI Chief Executive Officer Aubrie Kobernus, MBA, RCE, released the following statement upon the election announcement: “Alongside the RLI Board of Directors, I congratulate Luke Worrell, Drew Ary and Geoff Hurdle on their new leadership roles. I look forward to collaborating with them as we solidify RLI’s vision of becoming The Voice of Land and further our mission of offering all land professionals the expertise and camaraderie that are the foundation for becoming the best in the business.”

Click here to download the press release (PDF).

Hay bales on late summer farm land

Why Late Summer is the Best Time for Buying Farm Land

Farmers used to say, “If you are going to buy a farm, do it at the end of summer.” That simple country wisdom comes from years of dependence on the rhythms of Mother Nature. Experience had taught them that a farm–or any kind of land, really–will give you a better picture of its potential and the opportunities and challenges it poses at the end of the growing season but before frost. If you’re looking at buying farm land, here are some things to look out for as the seasons change.

What to Look for in Late Summer and Early Fall

In late summer, the density of the foliage will show where the soil is rich as well as where it is thin and marginal. Whether it’s a stream, stock pond, spring or irrigation well, in most years you can get a true picture of what kind of water supply you can count on at that critical time between the end of a long hot summer and when the fall rains begin.

autumn meado

You will be able to see if there are overgrown areas that you want to reclaim or bring back into production, and the crisp cool days between the first frost of the fall and the last frost in spring are the best time for that kind of work. As fall progresses, foliage will thin and visibility will improve, allowing you to do more work in less time and prepare those areas for the next season.

“The years teach much which the days never knew.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

If soil needs to be tilled in the fall to prepare for the next crop year, you’ll have plenty of time. You’ll also have good visibility into areas where you may want to maintain or create wildlife habitat. In most areas of the country you can plant late-season food plots and get a good start on a long term wildlife plan.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The years teach much which the days never knew”, and so it is with buying farm land late in the annual cycle.  You see the whole picture then: it’s the sum of the good days and bad, the rain and the sun. The way the land reacted to the previous growing season is a great indication of how it will respond to your efforts in the future.

About the Author

Richard ThompsonRichard Thompson is Executive Vice President of Sales at United Country Real Estate. He  began his career as a United Country sales associate in 1975. He later owned and operated an award winning franchise for another national franchise company before joining the United Country management team in 1988. As Executive Vice President of Sales, Richard utilizes the broad range of experience he has acquired in his 38 years in the industry to develop and execute the company’s growth plan.

vacant land real estate

Why You Should Invest in Vacant Land

“The wise young man or wage earner of today invests his money in real estate.” -Andrew Carnegie

Investors looking for relatively secure opportunities should consider devoting some of their money to invest in vacant land. Vacant land investing can give you several ways to profit. Some people purchase land, wait for the value to increase, and sell the property at a higher price at a later date. Others who invest in vacant land generate revenue and seek enjoyment from the property while they wait for the property’s value to increase. There are also many different ways to invest in land.

No matter how you decide to invest in vacant land, you should consider the details before you spend money on any property. Developing a plan with the help of a qualified land professional will make it easier for you to generate higher profits.

The Value of Vacant Land Can Grow Quickly

“Don’t wait to buy land. Buy land and wait.” – Will Rogers.

People have been moving from urban to suburban areas for generations. As families accumulate more wealth or move into retirement, they often want to get away from crowded urban areas so they can enjoy the privacy of suburban and, even better, rural homes. As more people move to the cities, the boundaries of suburbs will continue to reach out further causing a demand for vacant land to build homes on in the future near the outskirts of large metropolitan areas. Even with the recent pandemic there has been an increase in the demand for rural residential land and hobby farms.

The COVID-19 pandemic may accelerate the trend away from urban lifestyles. Anyone living in New York City during the pandemic, for example, has seen the challenges of surviving in a crowded city. As resources become increasingly scarce and increasing numbers of contagious people make going out in public unsafe, more and more people are wanting to get out of urban centers.

The sudden interest in rural land should increase property values. If you already own vacant land, you can profit from the growing interest in hobby farms and recreational land.

Not everyone will want to live in rural areas exclusively. Those who can afford to purchase rural retreats are more likely to do so now that they’ve seen the difficulty of living in cities during a pandemic.

Developing Vacant Land Can Increase Its Value

“Landlords grow rich in their sleep without working…” -John Stuart Mill

Undeveloped, vacant land becomes an undeniable investment opportunity when you’re willing to spend time and money adding buildings, infrastructure, and other features. For example, you can increase the value of vacant land by installing the utilities that most people look for when buying homes. A piece of land that no one wants becomes much more desirable once you add electrical lines, water, and sewage.

Other features that may increase the value of vacant land include:

  • Houses and cottages.
  • Barns and sheds.
  • Ponds and lakes.
  • Meadows and trees that attract wildlife.
  • Tree Stands.

Vacant Land Can Generate Revenue Before You Sell

“The best investment on earth is earth.” – Louis Glickman.

If vacant land already has some desirable features, you can use it to generate revenue while waiting for the property’s value to increase. You could earn money from land with fertile soil and a water source by renting or leasing your land to farmers. You can also make money from transitional land by:

Pay careful attention to a property’s features before you buy it. Without trees, water, and other desirable features, you probably can’t make much money from it while you wait for the value to increase.

vacant land

Use a Qualified Land Agent When Investing in Vacant Land

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” – Mark Twain.

It’s often challenging to determine which pieces of vacant land make suitable investments. Ideally, you want to get a return on your investment as quickly as possible, but with land you usually make more when you play the long-game. At the same time, you don’t want to sell too early and miss the opportunity to boost your profit.

You can make money from vacant land while you wait for the value to increase, but that depends on whether people find the property attractive. Without fertile soil, water, electricity, trails, and other features, you might not earn enough money to cover property taxes and additional costs. You can also enjoy the land while you own.

You can significantly improve your chances of success by working with an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC).

Don’t make the mistake of assuming any real estate agent can provide the same services as an ALC. ALCs don’t get their credentials until they have an exceptional level of experience in the land industry doing land transactions. They also need to complete a rigorous education program and pass exams to hold the designation.

Before you start investing vacant land, find a land consultant in your area who can help you focus on finding properties that match your needs. Your ALC may already know about a few properties that you can purchase within the next few weeks.

land survey

Everything You Need to Know About Getting A Land Survey

Before purchasing or selling land, you should have a professional survey the area. A land survey tells you a lot about the property. Without a land survey, you can’t make informed decisions that will help you understand what the property offers and its full value.

The Top Benefits Of A Land Survey

Crucial information that you will learn from a professional land surveyor about a property includes:

  • A property’s precise boundaries.
  • The specific locations of structures, additions, and improvements.
  • Any slopes or other geographic features that could affect the land’s use.
  • The location of easements and utilities.
  • Whether any of the land is in a floodplain.

How Land Surveyors Do Their Jobs

Surveying land means taking extremely accurate measurements over long distances. Today’s surveyors use technology to improve accuracy and save time. Surveyors often choose their tools according to the project’s needs. Popular tools include:

  • Theodolites, optical instruments used to measure angles.
  • Altimeters that measure slopes.
  • Total stations, electronic distance measurement devices that also help when leveling surfaces.
  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that can use satellites to take extremely accurate measurements.
  • 3D scanners that can capture changes in elevation.

Modern land surveyors also use software developed to combine information from several devices. The software makes it possible to create detailed land survey reports that are easier for ordinary people to read.

land survey

Why You Need The Benefits Of A Land Survey

Some of the benefits of having information from land surveys are pretty obvious. For example, you need to know the precise property lines before you can determine a plot of land’s acreage and value. Some of the benefits, though, aren’t so obvious to people looking to buy or sell land.

Deciding Whether Land Fits Your Intended Use

A property’s features determine what you can do with the land. If you want to start a vineyard, then you may need sloped land that drains well.

Even the direction of the slope can matter. People who want to start orchards, for instance, need to pay close attention to whether sloped land faces north or south. When growing apples during autumn, you want trees to grow on a northern-facing slope if possible. During the spring, your trees will get better light on a southern-facing slope.

Knowing Where You Can Build Structures on Land

Building structures like houses, barns, and sheds can improve the land’s usefulness and value significantly. You can’t, however, just start building a large structure without knowing things like the land’s slope and the location of underground pipes and utility lines. The moment you break ground, water could come gushing from the hole making a costly mess. Suddenly, you have to delay your plans and spend money repairing the broken pipe.

A land survey provides the information that you need to choose the right locations for your structures. What you learn about your land could help you save money and finish your construction project faster.

How To Find A Credible Land Surveyor

You can’t accept anything less than perfection from your land surveys. A survey that doesn’t correctly identify the location of underground electrical wires could have serious consequences when you start adding structures to your property. Inaccurate measurements could also lead to lawsuits with neighbors who want to protect their property lines and leave you short-changed on your acreage.

Don’t take any chances when hiring a local land surveyor. Instead, talk to a qualified land expert who can recommend credible land surveyors in your area.

Qualified land consultants work with qualified land surveyors frequently to ensure the land transactions the handle go smoothly. They know who you can and cannot trust to do a good job. Also, they know enough about land surveying that they can spot the difference between decent and excellent surveyors as well as work with a surveyor to make sure all of your needs are best met.

Find a land consultant in your area to help you hire a professional land surveyor who knows how to provide the detailed, accurate services you deserve for your money.

rural home

Will Americans Trade-In Their Urban Lifestyles For Rural Ones In The Wake Of COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic will encourage a lot of people to rethink their urban lifestyles. In a time when social distancing and self-isolating play crucial roles in health, consumers living in urban centers find it nearly impossible to follow the rules for safety and are realizing they are at a much greater risk of being impacted by such an outbreak. The COVID-19 pandemic will, however, only add to subgroup of the population moving away from large, crowded cities to homes with more open lands in rural areas.

In fact, in a recent Virtual Round Table discussion about COVID-19’s Impacts on The Land Market, Accredited Land Consultant Lisa Johnson with Horsepower Real Estate out of Junction City, OR, predicts that there will be a lot of demand and says that right now there isn’t a lot of inventory to meet it. “We’re still seeing a lot of people calling from the larger metro areas… that, whether its 5 acres or 100 acres, they just want somewhere to go.” Read more insights from Lisa in the COVID-19 Impacts on Rural Residential Hobby Farms RLI blog post.

New York City at the Epicenter of a Pandemic

It didn’t take long for New York City to become the COVID-19 pandemic’s epicenter. Millions of people commuting on a public transit system and passing each other on crowded streets helped the virus spread quickly.

Millennials Were Already Moving to Suburbs

Fear of future pandemics will likely encourage more people to leave cities and settle in suburban and rural areas. Those moving away from cities, however, are not starting something new. They’re continuing a trend.

Drew Ary, ALC, with Ary Land Co in Coweta, OK, said in the COVID-19’s Impacts on The Land Market Virtual Round Table that he is seeing a similar trend in land sales with “an increase in anything outside of 45 minutes of a major metropolitan area.” He also noted that the inventory and interest rates are low and thinks “we’ll continue to see an incredible increase in demand for these types of properties. Read more insights from Drew in the COVID-19 Impacts on Rural Residential Hobby Farms RLI blog post.

As Millennials get older and start families, many of them realize that they cannot continue to afford living in large cities. The median home cost in New York City exceeds $680,000. In LA, the median home cost is nearly $690,000. Few families can afford to spend that much money on housing. A growing number of Millennials and other young people see suburbs, mid-sized cities, and rural areas as cost-saving alternatives with other perks of their own.

Knowing that they will have to spend half a million dollars more on housing to live in big cities, a lot of people don’t mind moving. Moving to smaller cities, suburbs, and rural communities often means that they can purchase larger homes, access better public education, and avoid higher rates of crime – not to mention improve their mental health. Add the fear of another pandemic, and it becomes easy for people to reconsider living in places like New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

rural home

Technology and Remote Work Opportunities May Influence Decisions

Improved technology and a growing number of remote work opportunities may also influence people when they decide where to live. Living in New York makes sense when it’s the only place where you can find a job. When work becomes decentralized and remote, though, employees can effectively make more money by living in cheaper areas.

Data from the Pew Research Center show that internet access has grown considerably in rural and suburban areas over the last two decades. In 2000, only 42% of people in rural places used the internet. During the same year, 56% of suburbanites accessed the internet. In 2019, 85% of people in rural communities and 94% of people in suburbs said that they use the internet.

Despite improvements in technology, many business leaders have shown reluctance to remote working. The pandemic has forced them to reconsider this outdated idea, which could lead to a significant paradigm shift that embraces the value of working remotely.

Companies have already undertaken the hardest parts of setting up remote teams. Stay-at-home orders meant that businesses had to review and adopt software applications designed for remote workers. With these technologies now in place, some companies may decide that it makes sense to keep their employees remote to decrease overhead instead of bringing workers back to their offices. By keeping workers at home, companies may have to spend slightly more money on technology. However, in return, they can save a lot of money on overhead costs associated with real estate, energy, and insurance.

The combination of better internet technology throughout the country and an increase in remote work opportunities will make it even easier for ambitious people to move away from crowded cities.

rural home

Are Employers and Employees Rethinking the Future?

No one knows how people will respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once researchers develop a vaccination, employers and employees might go back to life as usual. Alternatively, they could be reconsidering their urban lifestyles as a way to prepare and protect themselves from future potential outbreaks as the world economy continues to globalize. If they feel less certain about the future, there is a good chance that many will leave crowded urban areas for places that offer more room to spread out.

If this pandemic has you thinking about moving to a more rural area to put some land between you and your neighbors, as well as allow you to source your own food, make sure to Find A Land Consultant and use the Land Connections property listing site to help find the perfect property to meet your needs.

Farmland

The Basics of Farmland Investing

Despite concerns in other areas of the economy surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, now is still a good time to invest in farmland because the market is neither too saturated or thin. In fact, many investors are moving to investing in farmland as a safe haven. Plus, farmland has consistently yielded returns greater than 10% over the last five decades – so it is a proven good long-term investment.

If you’re interested in investing in farmland, you will need to learn the basics first though so you can make smart choices.

Top Reasons to Invest in Farmland

Investors point to a lot of different reasons when they explain why they choose to put money in farmland real estate. Some of the most popular reasons include:

  • The option to hold onto land until it becomes profitable to sell.
  • Transitioning the land to suit an emerging, high-profit market like organic produce or hemp.
  • Making money by leasing it to farmers.
  • Adding diversity to investment portfolios.
  • Scarcity. They aren’t making any more of it.

With the right approaches, farmland investing can give you an exceptional, one-time profit or provide a long-term source of income. Either way, it’s a relatively stable option that fits well into most portfolios.

What to Consider Before Investing Farmland Real Estate

Like any investment, buying farmland real estate comes with some risk. That means you should do some research and hire an expert land agent in your area before you invest in farmland. Learn about the following factors to make sure you choose land that’s likely to increase in value.

The Land’s Previous Uses

A piece of land’s previous uses can play a crucial role in your investment. If a former owner used chemical fertilizers, you might find it challenging to qualify for organic farming. If the land has sat unused for a decade, you may need to add a lot of nutrients to the farmland soil before you can grow crops.

The Soil’s Acidity and Nutrients

Crops only thrive when they’re grown in the soil with the right acidity and nutrients. Before you invest in farmland, get a soil test that measures the acidity and amounts of nutrients like:

  • Aluminum
  • Calcium
  • Lead
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sulfur

Without the right levels, you will either need to grow different crops or amend the soil before planting.

farmland soil

The Farmland’s Soil Drainage

Most crops grow best in soil that drains quickly. For most plants, you don’t want standing water that contributes to rot, blight, and mold.

You can test soil’s drainage by digging a shallow hole, filling it with water, and returning the next day. If the hole still has water in it, then you probably don’t want to invest in the land.

Surface and Mineral Rights

Buying farmland always gives you rights to the land’s surface. You may not, however, have mineral rights. If a previous owner sold the land’s mineral rights, then the mineral rights are not included in your investment.

Owning mineral rights doesn’t matter for some land. If the company that owns the mineral rights decides to extract oil, natural gas, coal, or other commodities from the property, though, the excavation process will disrupt farming and can even limit the amount of land available to farm.

Determine How Your Investment Will Affect Your Taxes

Investing in farmland could increase your tax burden. In most cases, you will need to pay property taxes. You may also need to pay state and federal taxes on income that you earn from the land.

farmland investing

Ways to Get Started in Farmland Investing

If you have a large amount of money, then you can start investing in farmland almost immediately. You just need a qualified land agent to help you find farmland real estate that will earn money.

Most people, however, don’t have thousands of dollars to buy acres of land. That doesn’t mean you cannot benefit from investing in farmland real estate, but you may need to take some additional steps.

Know How Much You Can Spend

You need to determine how much money you can afford to spend on farmland. Even if you need to borrow money, a sizable down payment should increase your profit potential.

Find a Funding Source

Traditional lenders often charge high interest rates that make it difficult for farmland to earn profits. If you get a low interest rate, then a conventional loan might work well for you. Keep in mind that you have alternatives, though.

Crowdfunding gives you a low-cost way to access the funds you need to purchase farmland real estate.

You could also co-invest in land with friends, family members, or business partners.

Use a Qualified Land Agent Before You Invest in Farmland

Make sure you use a qualified land agent when investing in farmland. Land transactions require specialized expertise. One mistake could make it difficult or impossible for you to get a healthy return on your investment.

Find a land consultant in your area and make sure the agent has experience in farmland transactions. Accredited Land Consultants, agents who have earned the ALC Designation, are know in the industry as the most experienced and educated agent in the industry for assisting with land transactions.

There are plenty of good reasons to invest in farmland, but you may need help from a land agent, lawyer, and CPA to make sure you choose a piece of land that will give you a strong return for your money.

industrial hemp land

What You Need to Know Before You Buy Land for Industrial Hemp

The industrial hemp industry is booming, especially as cannabis legalization continues to add new vistas of opportunity in a growing number of U.S. states. The share of agricultural land devoted to hemp quadrupled from 2018 to 2019, growing from 27,424 acres to whopping 128,320 acres according to a recent LandHub article titled Hemp: The Benefits Of The New Mega CropFinding just the right land on which to grow these crops, however, can prove challenging for farmers, real estate professionals, and investors. Let’s examine some of the most important points you must consider if you’re thinking about taking this potentially rewarding (but also potentially risky) step.

Deciding Which Industrial Hemp Products to Produce

One of the first considerations you’ll have to make when working out your long-term strategy is deciding what varieties of the crop you need to plant and raise to meet your goals and demand. Hemp and marijuana are derived from the same plant family, Cannabis Sativa, and are bred and used for different purposes. The primary difference between the two is the content of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid produced by the plant, with hemp being defined as cannabis with 0.3% THC content or less. Your options may include:

  • Industrial hemp – A straightforward hemp crop can provide the raw materials for use in paper, plastic substitutes, fiberboard, rope, fabrics, and even protein substitutes for vegan and vegetarian foods.
  • CBD oil – Oils containing CBD (cannabidiol) are derived from marijuana plants; they may also include hemp-derived carrier oils. CBD oil has become increasingly popular for treating issues ranging from depression and chronic musculoskeletal pain to neurological disorders, cancer symptoms, and even acne.
  • Medical marijuana – Medical marijuana has been prescribed for the treatment of conditions such as glaucoma, nausea, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, and PTSD.
  • Recreational cannabis – States that have legalized recreational cannabis may see substantial profits from taxing this cash crop, just as growers can make considerable money from providing it.

dog cbd oil

Obviously, you must understand your state’s laws on the growth and sale of cannabis before you can make any informed plans about what and how much of it you can and can’t grow. Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill defined hemp as separate from marijuana and allows production in all states. However, states may opt out of allowing hemp production and several still prohibit growing, so it is critical to be aware of your state’s status. In all instances, this is a highly regulated plant requiring careful attention to permitting, testing, transportation, and processing. The compliance requirements are paramount and can be challenging and expensive. In states that don’t permit the use or sale of recreational or medical marijuana, for instance, your options are limited to hemp. If you intend to buy land in a state like Colorado (which spearheaded the trend toward statewide legalization beginning in 2012), you may face no such limits, though local county and municipal laws do pose restrictions, so it’s still always important to check.

Who Is The Target Market For Your Industrial Hemp?

In any business, you must know your target market before you can stand any chance of success. Before you buy land for your future “hempire,” do your research to ascertain which consumer or industrial segments might have a genuine need for your crop. Once you’ve located your prospective buyers, you can market to them directly and effectively.

Another important aspect of pre-planning is estimating the size of your target market and the volume of its demand for your crop. Many hemp producers find themselves stuck with a massive overproduction problem because they misunderstood how much hemp their buyers actually wanted or needed. Market research is a must if you want to avoid this disastrous scenario.

industrial hemp land

Soil, Environment And Other Potential Problems When Buying Land For Growing Industrial Hemp

Hemp may be a remarkably versatile crop, but it isn’t the easiest plant in the world to grow. For one thing, it’s highly susceptible to mold, which can been known to infiltrate and destroy nearly half of many hemp crops. Even trickier is the issue of making sure that the hemp your land supports has a THC content of less than 0.3 percent. Any deviation above this level makes the plant illegal to sell in states that haven’t legalized psychoactive marijuana products for medical or recreational use, and usually results in having to destroy the crop.

Make sure that your land offers a prime environment for hemp growing. Seek out land that offers good drainage, a non-acidic pH level, and mild temperatures. and a generally humid climate. Arid regions reduce the potential for mold issues compared to humid climates, but will be more likely to require irrigation of the crop. In general, hemp will use approximately 1/3 less input of water, nutrients, and pesticides than a typical corn crop. 15 inches of annual rainfall or supplemented irrigation is a minimum requirement for full production potential.

Even the most welcoming soil and climate can lead to nothing if your land is spoiled by environmental toxins. The cannabis plant is a bio-accumulator that draws elements from the soil, so much that is has uses in phytoremediation, the cleanup of toxic elements by plants. Many hemp products, particularly oils, are processed as concentrates of the plant’s compounds, thus any contaminant or unwanted element is concentrated also, and could rise above allowable limits. That’s why, in addition to checking the nutrient levels in the soil, you’ll also want to have the soil and groundwater tested for lead and other dangerous contaminants before you commit to a purchase.

industrial hemp cbd

The Bottom Line: You Need a Land Expert

As you can see, selecting and buying land for hemp farming forces you to think about a number of factors, any of which could make all the difference between boom and bust. Make the process easier for yourself by both doing your own research to learn about hemp as well as consulting the proper experts, including an experienced land expert, ideally an Accredited Land consultant (ALC) who knows how to advise you every step of the way. Fortunately, RLI makes this step the easiest one of all — just head over to our Find a Land Consultant page!

Happy Hemping!

Kirk Goble, ALCContributing Author: Kirk Goble, ALC, has been a Colorado licensed real estate broker since 1988 and founded The Bell 5 Land Company in 2000. He specializes in farm, ranch, land, and water brokerage. He is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, The Greeley Area REALTOR® Association, and the REALTORS® Land Institute. Goble was awarded the Land REALTOR® of America by the REALTORS® Land Institute in 2013 and is a LANDU instructor for RLI.

ranch cow

Seeking The Balanced Ranch

While Colorado is known for its world-class ski areas, fly-fishing, elk hunting, mountain biking, and music festivals, it’s also home to hundreds of producing cattle ranches that contribute mightily to the state’s economy.

While states at lower elevations may have self-contained cattle operations, where all ranching operations occur on the same property, Colorado is a different story, with multiple properties necessary to form a “balanced” ranch. The ideal combination is a productive home ranch at a lower elevation that has ample sunshine, excellent water rights, a good set of working corrals, adequate housing and shop buildings, and, most of all, productive hayfields that are capable of producing high-quality mountain hay. Secondly, the ranch needs transitional grazing lands for spring and fall pasture, as summer pastures are often not ready for grazing until mid- to late-June. Finally, as spring pastures are grazed off, a balanced ranch needs high-country grazing land. This can be in one of several forms—either in the form of a grazing permit on either Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands or on deeded private ground.

Let’s start the cycle of a Colorado ranch on January 1, for lack of a better date. It is cold and wintry. Cows are heavy with calves and struggle to find good feed and water. The ranchers are feeding hay and breaking ice. Only a month later, in mid-February, many ranchers start calving. Truly, it seems brutal to drop a wet newborn calf in a frozen snowbank, and losses sometimes occur if a ranch hand doesn’t detect a birthing cow in the middle of the night. But there’s a reason for this. The calves need to be strong enough to go up on the mountain.

The mountain? Oh, yes. The mountain. Colorado ranches have a seasonal cycle. Beginning in the spring, when snows melt and shoots of grass start to poke through the ground, the goal is to keep mother cows and their newborn calves off of producing hayfields so that the rancher can grow hay during the summer. The best solution is to bring the cows up to highcountry pastures with lush grass.

A bred cow can require up to three tons of hay to feed her through the winter. A few Colorado ranches produce up to five tons of hay per acre, but most ranches are lucky to get two to three tons. Consequently, it can require up to two acres of irrigated hay ground to feed one bred cow through the winter. Beginning in early to mid-April, ranchers start to move their herds away from their producing hayfields and onto transitional mountain pastures.

Keep in mind that the lowest elevations in Colorado are above 4,000 feet, and few year-round cattle ranches are located above 7,800 feet. While there are 53 peaks above 14,000 feet in Colorado, most ranches are located in that sweet spot between 4,800 and 7,500 feet in elevation. As the snowpack slowly recedes up the mountain valleys, ranchers get ready to move their herds off the home place to spring pasture on deeded mountain land or grazing leases. They brand their calves and castrate the bull calves before the herd goes onto the mountain. Most often, these pastures are in zones of shrub oak, sage, and open meadows at elevations between 6,000 and 8,000 feet. Sometimes the ground is deeded land owned or leased by the rancher, and other times it is BLM grazing leases.

ranchland cow

Of all the lands in Colorado, grazing leases and USFS or BLM permits are often the hardest to find. Many private properties at these elevations have been subdivided into 35-acre ranchettes, and competition is fierce for public land grazing permits. The goal is to find emerging green pastures for hungry cows, keeping them off the hayfields at home while waiting for higher mountain pastures to emerge from snowfields and grow lush mountain grasses. While lush, well-irrigated lowland hayfields can sometimes bring $7,000 to even $10,000 an acre, these middle pastures can command between $1,500 and $3,000 an acre in today’s market. Grazing permits themselves can command a hefty price tag as well. The government says that the permit cannot technically be bought and sold; the value, they say, is in the herd of cows that go with the permit. They can say that all they want, but nobody in their right mind would pay $3,500 for a broke-down old cow unless it came as part of a grazing permit, and many permits trade at high prices.

While many ranchers commence their calving seasons in February, others wait until March or even April. However, the majority of ranchers know that their calves need to be big and strong enough to make an arduous trip upcountry to their summer grazing pastures. It’s one thing to ease the cows and their new calves off the back side of the ranch for a month or two, onto private or BLM spring grazing leases. It’s quite another to push a bunch of cows and baby calves high up onto National Forest grazing permits at elevations of 10,000 feet or higher. Those cattle might be struggling through half-melted snowbanks in mid-June. They will encounter bears, mountain lions, and coyotes; bogs and poisonous larkspur; downed timber and deadfalls. While there are certainly losses, it’s surprising how many make it home.

Some ranchers are fortunate enough to literally open the back gate and turn their cows onto transitional BLM lands and then up to summer National Forest grazing leases. Others are not so fortunate and have to either truck the cows to the mountain or herd them on long, exhausting cattle drives. For this venture, calves born in February or March, having recovered from castration and branding, often weigh 400 pounds or more and are robust and strong enough for an arduous transition. A two-week-old calf weighing less than 100 pounds, however, will have a tough time of it.

ranch cow

Over the summer, the feed at high elevations can be fantastic. It’s common for calves to gain two or even three pounds a day as cattle graze on grasses and forbs that are often up to their bellies—while the rancher is busy growing hay on the home place.

Who watches over the cows on those summer grazing leases? Often, it’s the job of the “pool rider”. Often grazing permit holders are “pooled” with several other outfits, who together hire one or two cowboys (and sometimes cowgirls) to watch over the herds. The pool riders are equipped with a remuda of surefooted strong cow horses, and their job may be to mend range fence, doctor calves, chop down poisonous larkspur, pack salt, and move cows and calves to new pastures. They get a lot of saddle time, and horses that have spent a summer on the mountain are prized among savvy horse buyers.

Back at the ranch, the rancher and his haying crew are busy irrigating and haying, irrigating and haying, and stacking the hay in the barn in preparation for the coming winter. From time to time, ranchers might jump their horses in the stock trailer and pull them up to the mountain to check on their herds, but often the riding is done by the pool riders and sometimes “day riders” who are for hire on a daily basis—have horse, have saddle, can ride, want to work.

Of course, every ranch has to have a balanced herd as well. Cows need bulls, at a ratio of approximately 20:1. Older cows must be replaced with new heifers. Bulls go to the mountain with the cows and calves, but often bulls older than five years are not welcome in the herd, because they tend to sull up, become loners, and refuse to come down from the mountain, even as snow piles up chest deep. Many is the time that a stubborn old bull has died in a deep snowdrift.

As the days grow shorter, the mountain grasses dry up, and the aspens begin to turn yellow, the older, experienced lead cows know that it’s time to come home. Of course, every day on the mountain is a savings of pasture and hay on the home place, so sometimes the cows are left standing at the gate for a while. Usually, sometime between early October and November, the ranchers bring the herds down from the mountain and back to the home-place for the winter. Calves are sorted off, sold, and shipped to feedlots, usually weighing between 550 and 850 pounds. As the snows begin to accumulate, the rancher starts feeding hay, and the cycle begins again.

This cow-calf cycle of Colorado ranching has been going on well over 100 years. It’s commonly known that in order to run a profitable cattle ranch, a rancher can’t afford to pay much more than $8,000 per animal unit that the ranch is capable of running. Many productive cattle ranches were more treasured as “cocktail ranches” and subdivision developments because of their proximity to ski areas and beautiful mountain vistas. Other ranches still survive as working ranches, but owners have paid unsustainable prices per animal unit— sometimes $20,000 per Animal Unit Month (AUM) or more—simply because the owner is wealthy and wants to own a Colorado cattle ranch. Other operations are subsidized by private land elk and mule deer hunts, tourism, guided flyfishing, and growing other crops like hemp. On occasion, some ranchers prefer to run yearlings on those rich mountain grasses, backgrounding those beef cattle and putting on weight before they’re sent to the feedlot for fattening.

As you can see, a balanced equation is very important for the success of a Colorado cattle ranch. If one of the ingredients is missing—adequate hay ground, irrigation water, spring and fall pasture, and summer pasture—it can make ranching operations far more difficult and costly. Ranches that have all the key pieces in place can rest assured that their operations will run much more efficiently.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 Edition of RLI’s Terra Firma magazine.

Gary Hubbell, ALCAbout the author:  Gary Hubbell, ALC, is a Western States land broker, auctioneer, and personal property appraiser. Based in Western Colorado, Gary is a licensed broker in Colorado and Utah. He has sold farms, ranches, orchards, vineyards, mountain land, hunting properties, luxury homes, resorts, outfitting businesses, and commercial property in a wide geographical area, including Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Telluride, Durango, and many other hard-to-find locations. Gary is very familiar with conservation easement properties, having sold seven large easement properties. As an auctioneer, Gary has sold heavy equipment, livestock, classic cars, antiques, motels, development land, ranchland, guns, farm equipment, and even the World Record Elk antlers in Crested Butte, CO.

farmland for sale

10 Tips for Finding the Perfect Agricultural Farmland for Sale

Finding the perfect agricultural farmland for sale can seem like a difficult process. In truth, you probably will have to spend some time looking at and researching several properties before you find one that you love and is the right fit to meet your goals.

Use these 10 tips to make sure that the farmland you choose is right for your plans.

land environmental contamination

1. Learn About the Land’s Previous Use

You probably plan to use agricultural land as a farm, ranch, vineyard, orchard, or possibly even a timber forest.

The land’s previous use could influence whether you want to buy the property. Land that has sat unused for decades may not have many nutrients left for your crops. An area that was used for industrial purposes, however, could have toxic chemicals hiding in the dirt and water.

Research the land’s previous use so you can avoid threats and focus on finding a farm with healthy soil.

soil

2. Test the Soil’s Acidity and Nutrients

Before you buy farmland for sale, you should make sure that the soil has the right nutrients and acidity to grow your preferred crops.

Nutrients that you should learn about include:

  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Sulfur
  • Aluminum
  • Lead

Too much or too little of these nutrients could determine whether your crops thrive or fail.

The soil’s pH range also plays an important role in how well your plants grow. Neutral soil with a 6.5 to 7 pH works well for crops like:

  • Beets
  • Alfalfa
  • Clover

Slightly acidic soil with a 5.5 to 6.5 pH makes a great place to grow:

  • Corn
  • Barley
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Cotton

Real estate land with a 5 to 5.5 pH should support:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Blueberries

You can purchase a soil test to measure nutrient levels, or you can reach out to your county’s Extension Office. Many County Extension Offices offer free or discounted soil testing services.

If you discover that the farmland for sale doesn’t have the nutrients and acidity needed for your crops, then you will spend time and money amending the soil before you plant.

flooded field

3. Observe the Farmland’s Soil Drainage

Most crops prefer soil that drains quickly after a rain shower. Well-drained soil helps protect plants from diseases like stalk rot, root rot, blight, and molds. Standing water also creates breeding grounds from troublesome insects, including mosquitoes, aphids, and beetles that eat leaves.

You can improve a farm’s drainage by adding perlite, sand, compost, mulch, or vermiculite into the soil. Again, amending the soil will require time and money. If you want to start farming immediately, buy farmland for sale that already drains quickly.

farmland topology

4. Analyze the Agricultural Land’s Topology

Topology plays a crucial role in a farm’s success. Most farmers avoid land with steep hills because water can wash away necessary nutrients down the incline. If you want to buy land for sale in an arid region, then topology probably doesn’t matter as much. For example, plenty of people raise grapes successfully on hillsides in Arizona.

Just make sure that the agricultural farmland’s topography matches the needs of your crops.

5. Research Access to Resources

electrical power lines rural landSome agricultural land sits in the middle or outskirts of densely populated cities. Most farmland, however, is in rural areas. Depending on the agricultural land’s location, you may not have access to resources like water, electricity, and natural gas.

Some properties can give you a leg-up when it comes to resources needed. For example, a farm with a large pond, might give you access to all of the water you need for your crops.

If you cannot connect to the electrical grid or natural gas, though, you will face challenges using some machinery, controlling airflow through tunnels, and growing crops in hothouses during the winter.

In some cases, you can extend water and natural gas lines from municipal sources to your farm. The project could cost quite a bit of money, though.

6. Know Whether the Existing Infrastructure Meets Your Needs

Agricultural land involves much more than healthy soil. You need a farm infrastructure that helps you grow and sell crops. You can break the most important types of infrastructure into four categories:

  • Roads
  • Buildings
  • Irrigation
  • Electricity

Farmland roads need to accommodate large machinery like tractors, rollers, and cultivators as well as trucks.

Buildings should give you a safe place to store your equipment and crops. Think beyond having a good barn that protects hay from the rain. You may need to even look for buildings like grain silos, packing facilities, and refrigerated sheds that keep produce fresh.

Irrigation infrastructure could include anything from drip irrigation systems that run along rows of crops to overhead systems that sprinkle crops automatically. Before you buy farmland, make sure it has an efficient irrigation system that will give your crops the right amounts of water.

Also, keep in mind that electricity becomes scarce when you travel deeper into a farm’s acreage. Ideally, you have an electrical infrastructure that lets you turn on lights at night to operate equipment in the fields. Don’t expect access on every acre, though – That’s rare.

rural road

7. Determine How Easily You Can Reach The Farmland That’s for Sale

When you look at a map, the farmland for sale may seem to have a location right off a major highway or interstate. In reality, you may have to drive across miles of country road to get from the interstate’s exit to property.

You may not mind driving an hour from your farmland to the nearest major road. Consider, though, that you will need to haul heavy equipment and crops several times a year. The time and expense of driving your car 50 miles are considerably lower than the time and cost of hauling a 6,000-pound tractor along the same route.

8. Estimate The Distance To Distributors, Retailers, And Markets

You will also likely need to consider how easily you can reach the distributors, retailers, and markets that buy your crops. Every hour that you spend on the road is time away from your fields.

Since you want to build an efficient supply chain, look for agricultural land that puts you within reasonable distance of distributors and retailers. A centralized location that gives you easy access to several of the region’s cities and towns could help turn your farm into a successful business.

cell tower

9. Check The Area’s Cell Phone Reception

Today’s farmers need smartphones so they can stay connected to their employees, clients, and distributors. An area without good cell phone reception will make it difficult for you to contact the people who make your business successful.

You can use online tools to see whether an area gets good reception. The best test, though, is to visit the location and see how well your mobile device performs there. If you get poor reception, talk to your carrier about adding nearby cell towers, or if there is no other option you may want to choose a different property that already gets good reception.

oil pump field

10. Research Whether Someone Owns Mineral Or Gas Rights

Buying farmland for sale doesn’t mean that you own everything below the surface. Someone else could own mineral and gas rights. If they discover coal, natural gas, or other materials on your property, then they could have the right to enter your land and start mining.

As recently as 2019, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld the right of mineral owners to use surface land to access minerals, even if doing so disrupts the surface owner’s business.

Conclusion

land agent

A lot of research goes into finding farmland that matches your unique needs. Before you invest in farm real estatefind a qualified land real estate agent to assist with your purchase who can help you pinpoint the best opportunities. Land real estate transactions require specialized expertise and experience, especially when it comes to finding the right farmland for sale. One discussion could save you from a disastrous decision that costs you time and money.

beach house coastal land

Selling And Buying Coastal Land By The Sea Shore

According to research by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), coastal counties of the US are home to over 126 million people, or 40 percent of the nation’s total population. However, the coastal land accounts for less than 10 percent of the nation’s land mass (excluding Alaska). As an Accredited Land Consultant in coastal North Carolina, I’ve experienced the unique challenges of land transactions near the water, and I’d like to share with you four main areas of consideration for anyone selling, buying, or investing in coastal properties.

1) Waterfront Property Considerations

Whether you are talking about ocean front, sound side, mainland water front, or on a river, you should know about the riparian rights and where exactly the title shows the property’s boundaries fall. This differs in each state, so double check your state laws for exact definitions and restrictions.

Verify that the water is indeed navigable, whether that’s by boat, kayak, canoe, or yacht. There is no such thing as deep water, what is deep to me, may not be deep to you, so there is room for misinterpretation. Determine the depth needed for its intended use(s) and, if possible, the owner should take the boat/vessel to the property as a test to make certain it will serve its purpose.

It’s common along the ocean for there to be an easement recorded for public enjoyment, public use, or for local governmental authorities to perform activities like beach re-nourishment, sand pushing, etc. Since you may own the section of the beach in front of your home to the high tide mark, the public and municipality probably still has the right to use and enjoy that space.  Any homes or buildings that are waterfront may NOT be re-buildable. If a storm damages the structure to a certain extent (determined by local codes and ordinances), you may not be able to rebuild that structure to its original state. You also may find, especially with older buildings, that new setback requirements could affect your buildable space on the land. Always check with local governmental authorities to determine the local rules and requirements.

beach house coastal land

2) Wetlands and Areas of Environmental Concern (AEC)

Due to the sensitivity of coastal watershed areas and wetlands, any proposed development should give consideration to any designated wetlands and how storm water flow and erosion may impact them. There are many types of flora, fauna, and animals that only thrive in wetlands, therefore, regulations exist to protect them. Find ways your plans can incorporate these areas into your design and you’ll probably score some brownie points with the planning department.

If there are wetlands on your survey or plans, you’ll likely need to get the Army Corps of Engineers to come on site for an evaluation to determine exactly where and what kind of wetlands you have. This can take some time, so plan for that during your due diligence examination of the property. There will likely be restrictions on development near wetlands such as additional setback requirements, erosion control measures, and storm water runoff plans. Knowing a good coastal engineer and surveyor will greatly help you get a plan together more efficiently that can be easily approved. If you must disturb wetlands, mitigation banks and conservation easements may be an alternative to achieve your goals. Your engineer should have contacts at a local mitigation bank to work through those challenges.

sunset coastal land

3) Insurance Considerations

Investigate if the county/city/municipality/town is part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements. Participation in this program provides discounts to flood insurance policy holders because their community is working to reduce flooding damage to properties, strengthening and supporting the insurance aspects of the NFIP, and encouraging a comprehensive approach to floodplain management.

Not all communities are part of the NFIP, therefore, property owners won’t be able to purchase Federal Emergency Management Agency backed flood insurance. The only option otherwise is a private flood policy for your structures, which can actually be more affordable and provide better coverage. Compare both types of policies anyway and make sure the coverage works for your intended use, you may be surprised at the extras a private policy offers. This is a great reason to use a local insurance company near your property who understands flood insurance.  Most people forget about the other insurance policy you will probably need, which is wind and hail. Wind driven rain and hail can create damage that isn’t always apparent, but can create a lot of problems. Mortgage companies will likely require it, and proximity to the ocean is a factor, so be prepared. Properties that are 30 miles inland can still be in a wind zone, requiring the additional coverage.

beach coastal property

4) Highest and Best Use 

People love to live near the water, but a land practitioner must remember that not all land is meant to be a housing development. With all of the challenges we’ve covered, you can imagine there are tracts of land that some think are just unusable, which is not the case. Alternative options such as solar, wind, and organic farming are showing up near the water on properties without suitable soils for septic. Depending on your seller’s financial goals, maybe conservation easements or putting land into a mitigation bank would bring a higher sales price. Think outside the box, there’s a buyer for every parcel. Affordable housing options are limited in coastal communities because the higher land prices won’t support a lower-priced product. Zoning restrictions controlling density near Areas of Environment Concern could further limit a developer. Talk to your local planning or zoning office to find creative ways to be able to offer affordable, workforce housing options in your community.  Approximately 446 people per square mile live in coastal counties, and they need goods, services, and retail options. Getting the right mix between tourism in coastal areas creating a short term economic boost and providing year-round jobs and industry is the key to having a robust, year-round economy.

This article was originally published in the REALTORS® Land Institute Winter 2020 Terra Firma Magazine.

Christina Asbury, ALCAbout The Author: Christina Asbury, ALC, is with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage in Sneads Ferry, NC. She serves has been a member of RLI since 2007 and earned her ALC Designation shortly after in 2008. She has served on RLI’s Future Leaders, Education and Government Affairs Committees over the years and is active in her local RLI Carolinas Chapter.