Answering Common Questions About the ALC Designation

The Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation is one of the most prestigious and difficult to earn designations in the land industry, so it makes sense that those pursuing it have a lot of questions both leading up to and while going through the process. Every week, we get calls concerning how to earn the ALC, so we thought we’d dedicate a post to some of the most frequently asked questions.

What exactly is the ALC?

The Accredited Land Consultant Designation is given by REALTORS® Land Institute to those land experts who have completed RLI’s rigorous and strict education, experience, and ethical requirements.

Having that gold ALC pin shows clients that you have an unparalleled level of expertise and experience in the land industry. Check out more reasons why a client would choose to use an ALC over any other land professional in our guest post on the Land.com blog. In addition to their impressive resumes, ALCs are also highly respected for adhering to the ALC Code of Conduct and the NAR Code of Ethics.

Becoming an ALC doesn’t just mean bragging rights for your clients. It opens the doors for additional networking opportunities and discounts on everything from the National Land Conference to classes.

Your wallet will thank you in the long-term, too. Did you know that according to a recent RLI survey, the average ALC earned $373,925, which is approximately $100,000 more per year than the average earned by non-designee respondents? Knowledge is power, and in this case it’s the power to better serve your clients which in turn means more business and more clients.

What are the requirements to get the ALC?

Required Courses (56 hours — Must take all three):

Specialty Courses (32 Hours – Pick two courses):

Elective Courses (16 Hours – Pick one or pick another from Specialty Courses)

Other requirements include:

  • Experience. A minimum of 2 years of experience in land sales or brokerage or a minimum of three years of comparable real estate experience.
  • Volume. A minimum of 5 closed land transactions totaling $10,000,000 OR 25 separate land transactions of which no more than 20% involve residential parcel sales (more specific details on the different types of land sales here)
  • Knowledge. Pass the cumulative ALC Exam.
  • Application. Submit a comprehensive portfolio
  • Recommendation. Submit recommendation letters and approval by the RLI Board of Directors.

Who is the main contact for me during this process?
If you have any specific questions about the above requirements or your qualifications, please reach out to Aubrie Kobernus at akobernus@realtors.org or 1-312-329-8837.

There’s a final exam? Do I have to remember everything from every single class?

The final exam only covers the three required courses that you completed and will be using to apply towards the education requirement. These include the Land Investment Analysis, Land 101: Fundamentals of Land Brokerage and either the Tax Deferred 1031 or Transitional Land Course depending under which requirements you began your coursework.

If you took the 1031 Class before the education requirements changed, no need to panic. You can still take the cumulative exam that features the 1031 Tax Deferred Exchanges course instead of the Transitional Land Real Estate course.

Do I have to be a member of RLI to become an ALC?

You don’t need to be a member of RLI while you are working towards the education and transaction requirements (although you do get a discount on classes if you are!), but you do need to be an RLI Member when you submit your final portfolio and for as long as you hold the elite ALC Designation.

If you have more questions about RLI membership, we’ll be posting an article called ‘Answering Common Questions About RLI Membership’ in October. Keep an eye out for it! For now, make sure to check out our RLI Member Benefits.

I have another designation and/or prior education in the field, is there any way I can skip some classes?

There is! RLI has a Fast Track program where people with the following designations or education will qualify them to opt out of taking all courses under the education requirement other than the three required courses.

  • CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member)
  • SIOR (Industrial & Office REALTOR®)
  • CRE (Counselor of Real Estate)
  • AFM (Accredited Farm Manager of ASFMRA)
  • ARA (Accredited Rural Appraiser of ASFMRA)
  • RPRA (Real Property Review Appraiser of ASFMRA)
  • AAC (Accredited Agricultural Consultant of ASFMRA)
  • MAI (Member, Appraisal Institute)
  • CAI (Certified Auctioneer Institute)
  • CPL (Certified Professional Landman of AAPL)
  • SR/WA (Senior Right of Way Professional of IWRA)
  • AICP (American Institute of Certified Planners)
  • Those who hold either a bachelor’s or master’s degree, with a minimum overall GPA of 3.0, with a major in real estate, development, forestry, or a program related to a land business specialization, may also apply for consideration for Fast Track to the ALC Designation Committee. Fast Track will only be granted to the applicant upon approval by the ALC Designation Committee.

You will need to provide proof of your designation before being approved for Fast Track option.

Achieving the ALC Designation isn’t easy, but nothing worth getting ever is. The ALC Designation is highly respected and sought after all across America. Our numbers are growing every day. Will you be the next one?

If you have more questions about the ALC, contact us at 1-800-441-5263 or rli@realtors.org.

About the Author: Laura Barker is the Membership and Communications Specialist for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

Hidden Talent: Property Value from Untapped Sources

Everyone has a hidden talent. For some, it is a performance skill such as singing or playing an instrument. For others, it’s a marketable skill like welding, baking, or artistry. And for many, it’s something simple but impressive – magic tricks, stunts, or the ability to cram 23 marshmallows into your mouth without choking. Whatever your particular talent, those who are meeting you for the first time can’t see that talent on the surface. You must spend time with someone and get to know them before unlocking what’s inside (People don’t cram marshmallows in their mouth for strangers). But these talents make people fun far beyond simple socialization. They make people unique and interesting.

Land is no different. And while I have never seen land sing or bake, I have seen many pieces of land with their own hidden talents, that is, attributes that make for hidden value sources for owners and sellers. Finding and taking advantage of these hidden talents can provide higher cash flow, a higher selling price, or even intrinsic benefits to landowners and sellers alike. Here are just a few examples of places to look for, and hopefully find, hidden value in you or your client’s property.

1. Mineral Rights

Oftentimes, people can’t see beyond, well, what they can see. What is contained below the surface is sometimes the most valuable part of the property. Mineral rights can be very lucrative depending on location or resource to be mined. This may be a value a buyer wants to tap right away or at some point in the future after an alternative use. For example, here in Florida there are pieces of land that are used for cattle grazing and then later for mining of phosphate. Still later, some of the phosphate land is reclaimed for reservoirs or even single-family homes. In a unique case, there is even a luxury golf course build on an old phosphate mine near Tampa (checkout streamsongresort.com. This may be one of the best examples of hidden value I’ve ever seen.) Mineral rights are tricky and investing in them somewhat speculative. But properly considered, their value is not to be dismissed. For a better understanding of mineral rights, try the RLI course on the subject.

2. Conservation Easements

This one gets a lot of debate. Some people would argue that this isn’t hidden value, as putting a conservation on your land restricts the use, therefore devaluing it. And while I don’t disagree that selling prices for encumbered land are necessarily lower than their unencumbered counterparts, the real question lies in property use. I’ve seen cattleman pursue easements that remove their development rights – but only on land their family has been running cattle on for 100 years that they would never think of selling. These easements include what are called “compatible use agreements” which allow them to continue running cattle at a reasonable volume. Money in their pockets, they continue to operate as they always have. It is important to understand not only your rights but also your obligations as the owner of easement land. But if those line up, the opportunity could be an attractive one.

3. Mulch

This is definitely a much smaller scale example but still worth mentioning. Do you have an area of trees on your property that you think is worthless? Hire someone to clear those trees and turn them into mulch. I have personally had clients who have collected thousands of dollars from just few acres of pine or cypress. You don’t have to have a section full of 15-year-old pines to realize value from trees. This is certainly not a good retirement plan. But for smaller areas with no real merchantable timber, mulching is an excellent option that will provide some income.

4. Leasing – Hunting, fishing, camping, ATV riding

Again, not a lottery ticket here, but you don’t always need thousands of acres to provide a recreational area for someone. I’ve seen people lease as little as 10 acres for people to ride ATVs or dirt bikes on and as little as 100 acres for people to hunt on. Usually, these are vacant land pieces within 30 min or so of a city for people to just enjoy the outdoors. Sometimes referred to as “play land”, pieces like these provide the city-dwellers an opportunity to get away, get dirty, and enjoy some fresh air. Some landowners even provide limited use of their land free of charge to non-profit organizations. Not only is this great community involvement, but could also provide an opportunity to deduct the fair market value of that use for tax purposes (Not offering tax advice. Consult your CPA J).

Whether your property can swish an over-the-shoulder 3-pointer or do a double back flip off the diving board, it’s got something valuable that isn’t obvious. Take some time to find that value for yourself or your client for maximum property benefit.

What? Oh, me?? I play the piano. Happy to bang out Don’t Stop Believin’ for you anytime.

This post is part of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee content generation initiative. The initiative is directed at further establishing RLI as “The Voice of Land” in the land real estate industry for land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here.

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

Shift Your Brokerage into High Gear

This piece was originally featured in the Summer 2018 edition of Terra Firma Magazine.

Five years ago, I was a hobby farmer in Western Ohio, on the prowl for a new career. After 19 years in the automotive industry, working my way up from lot porter to salesman to GM and president of a dealer group, I was ready for a change.

I was eager to apply my background and experience in consumer marketing to a new line of work, one that preferably highlighted my passion for land. Should I get a broker’s license or go to work for a management company or call up a trust department to see if they had any openings? I honestly had no idea how to proceed. Fortunately, my wife, Jessica, made a brilliant suggestion: Call the publisher of that magazine I was always raving about, and see what he had to say. You probably already have an inkling of how things turned out.

I lobbed an email to The Land Report publisher Eddie Lee Rider, and that very day I got a call back. The sales guy in me immediately liked this. Not five minutes into our initial conversation, we both sensed an opportunity. My gut told me to sign on with the Magazine of the American Landowner. After a heart-to-heart with Jessica, that’s exactly what I did.

Almost immediately, I recognized that the tenets of marketing and branding that build successful dealer groups also applied to the successful marketing of land. I guarantee the lessons I learned as I worked my way up from the mailroom to the showroom and finally the boardroom can better your book of business.

 Consistency is Key

One of the principle tenets of automotive marketing is that reach without frequency equals wasted money. Eddie Lee hammered home this very same point to me. “If someone wants to buy a one-time ad, tell them not to waste their money,” he says. “Selling land isn’t about when a broker is ready to market a listing. It’s about when a buyer or a seller is ready to pull the trigger.”

“Consistency is key” is especially true when marketing land and your services. A well-crafted branding message, delivered consistently, creates top-of-mind name recall. In my humble opinion, this could well be the factor that generates that all-important phone call from a potential buyer or a motivated seller.

 There is No Off-Season

Many industries target a certain time frame to ramp up marketing. Car sales is not one of them. It may seem as though dealers are doubling down when they do a “year-end clearance,” but that’s just one of many arrows in their quiver. How many times a year do you see ads about factory incentives? Or special dealer financing? By the time you factor in all the limited-time offers that are pitched – President’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Back to School, Black Friday, New Year’s Eve – a far more sophisticated strategy emerges. Automotive dealers market 24/7/365.

So if investors who buy and sell land have no off-season, why should you?

Yes, we both know that as the calendar year wraps up, so does deal pace. I equate this to an auto dealership’s year-end clearance. But if your own marketing slacks off during the off-season while your competitors are busy reinforcing their branding, guess who gets the cold call in the middle of winter? Guess who hits the ground running when the snow melts or school lets out? Not you.

As entrepreneurs, our instinct is to keep our powder dry when things slow down.

Yet the decision to buy or sell a legacy property is often a family decision that is discussed and debated during the off-season, a.k.a. the holidays. Does it really make sense to pull back your marketing at the exact moment you need to be building your business?

Like countless brokerages coast to coast, The Land Report shifts into high gear as spring turns into summer. Yet we consciously produce our biggest issue of the year, which features The Land Report 100, so it comes out in December. Why? Because we practice what I’m preaching. Our must-read content is on coffee tables and in private jets precisely when families gather for the holidays.

Effective marketing is a full-time, year-round commitment. The consistent marketing message that you deliver, even during spells of lower activity, builds brand equity and name recall. These are priceless.

Marketing is Not an Expense. It is an Investment. Treat it as Such.

Best practice dictates you establish a marketing budget and commit fully to it. Budgets create limits; you can’t have a presence everywhere. So, do your research, negotiate well, and pick your platforms based on their position within the industry. Only invest in favorable brand association. Demand added value for your marketing dollars. Above all, challenge your marketing partners to deliver your message effectively and specifically to the right audience. Trust but verify.

Please note that I said “platforms.” Do not put all your eggs in one basket, be it print, online, or direct mail. And that includes my own title, The Land Report. Do you go to the trade shows your target buyer attends? You’d be surprised how many of those events take place during the so-called off-season. How about hosting your own event, even if it’s just a cast-and-blast for a handful of key clients. Again, money well spent.

Fish where the fish are. By that, I mean make sure you connect with your target market in person, online, via direct mail, and in print. That’s a sound investment.

Branding is Not A Slogan. It’s the Truth.

I’ve always been a big fan of Ford’s slogan: Built Ford Tough. It’s confident. It’s catchy. And it hammers home the fact that more than a century after Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company, Ford is very much an industry leader. I know that for a fact because I spent the majority of my career with the blue oval.

Let’s apply that marketing savvy to your business. If your brokerage has been around for a while, what are you best known for? A specific land use? A certain market? A specialized expertise? Spell it out in an honest, straightforward manner. At The Land Report, we call ourselves The Magazine of the American Landowner. It’s confident. It’s catchy. And it hammers home the fact that we share the stories of America’s leading landowners.

But what if you’re new to the business and just starting out? What drives you? What inspired you to launch your business? Are you a longtime local? Then put those deep roots and your local ties to work for you. Maybe you relocated to the land of your dreams. If so, doesn’t your trailblazing decision make you the ideal candidate to pave the way for others who might want to do so? Do you love to hunt? Is life better on the back of a horse?

Consider these questions and write down your answers. Look at it closely. Refine it. Hone it. Buff it. THAT is your brand.

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Market Your Brand

The landscape of marketing choices for land professionals has never been more diverse. Traditional advertising is gone. Kaput. Once upon a time, advertising featured an “offer” that was deliverable through standardized channels. Today, it’s all about experience marketing. When I got my first paycheck in the automotive industry, Facebook, Google, and YouTube didn’t even exist. By the time I left, key influencers were creating billions of impressions with blogs and podcasts that reached consumers via their iPhones, a product that debuted in 2007. This avalanche of new technology has created exciting opportunities for small business owners to create and control marketing and branding. Use it to your advantage.

I’m a big fan of Instagram. The visual-forward nature of this rapidly growing platform and its ability to integrate video and drone footage gives a broker the unique opportunity to conduct virtual showings on multiple listings from a handheld device. If you are a land broker in 2018, an active Instagram account is a must, not an option.

Finally: hashtags, hashtags, hashtags. Marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuck insists that for real estate professionals, the most effective way to grow your Instagram following is through the use of strategic hashtags. This means the use of a minimum of 10 hashtags per post. I recommend including hashtags featuring the state where your listing is located as well as the type of property – i.e., #farm, #ranch, #timberland, #hunting. Keep the hashtags relevant and watch the interactions with your posts build.

Thanks to Jessica’s suggestion, I’ve been on board with The Land Report going on five years now. Even better, I’m applying insights and ideas that I gained in one of the most competitive industries to my new career. I sincerely hope that one of these kernels of truth helps you take your book of business to the next level in 2018 and beyond.

P.S. If you want me to share more, reach out to me at davidz@landreport.com. I’ll even help you set up that Instagram account you’ve been putting off. 😉

About the Author: David Zawalich lives in west central Ohio with his wife, two kids and a Wire Haired Pointing Griffon named Zeke. His love of land and the outdoors was sparked as a child in the wilds of northeast Pennsylvania. He employs his unique vantage point as a landowner and marketing professional as the Associate Publisher of The Land Report.

Social Media Beyond Facebook Part Two

Facebook isn’t the social media giant it once was. Yes, it still has the most active users of any social media site, but it is losing users (especially in the younger generation) fast. Since the land industry thrives off of social media marketing, we wanted to see what different sites had to offer land agents.

In part one, we covered social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. In this week, we’re going to look into LinkedIn and Youtube.

LinkedIn

Keep It Professional

On platforms like Instagram and Twitter, there’s room to be a little goofy. The #farmhumor thread is hilarious! LinkedIn is more formal, so your profile should reflect that. If you have a professional headshot, LinkedIn is the perfect place to show it off.

If you are looking for inspiration, check out these ALCs LinkedIn pages:

Chris Miller, ALC

Lou Jewel, ALC

Kyle Hansen, ALC

Bill Eshenbaugh, ALC

These ALCs write and share content about the land industry. This shows potential clients that you are tuned in to the latest industry news. Bill Eshenbaugh’s in-depth articles have helped him become a leader in the land industry.

Get Referrals

LinkedIn is the best social media platform to give and receive referrals.

“Your greatest opportunity here may be to get referrals from other professionals,” says Tim Hadley, member of the 2018 RLI Future Leaders Committee in his recent guest post for RLI.  “If a busy residential agent stumbles across a land listing, they may try to figure it out on the fly. However, if you are top of mind as the land expert in your area, it would behoove her to send it to you and collect a referral fee from the expert.”

Keep Your Information Up-To-Date

LinkedIn is one of the first places people search to find professionals, so make sure your information is current.

“LinkedIn, especially, is made for business-to-business relations and is the most business-centric social platform online right now,” says Nobu Hata, Director of Member Engagement for the National Association of REALTORS®, in his guest post for RLI. “Complete your profile with a current pic, and don’t forget your contact information and website!”

YouTube

Create playlists

Playlists make your page easy to navigate, especially if you have a lot of content.

One example of a great playlist is the Get the Most Out of Your RLI Membership playlist on the REALTORS® Land Institute’s YouTube page. You can watch the tutorial in five-minute videos, or if you want, you can watch all at once.

Good voiceovers

Nothing ruins a great video like a terrible voiceover. If your voiceover is shaky, keeps cutting in and out, or is muffled, you’ll lose viewers before the video hits the five second mark. You don’t have to have a voice like Morgan Freeman or Robert Redford to do a great voiceover! Here are some tips to make your voiceover ever better:

  • Make sure to use the best recording equipment you can get your hands on
  • Try to find a local studio or set up an empty room to act as one for your recording to eliminate echo and bad feedback in the recording – this will save you a lot of time editing down the road.
  • Soothe the vocal chords beforehand with tea or water.
  • Speak as if someone on the other side of the room can hear you. Speaking clearly and loudly (without sounding like you are yelling at the listener!) will get the best results.
  • Talking fast in a natural reaction to stress or just wanting to get something over with on the forth take (or the fifth or the sixth…). Try timing yourself when you practice to see if you are zooming through your voiceover.

Keep It Brief

Ever see an interesting video, but decide against watching it because it’s twenty-two minutes? When making content for your YouTube channel, focus on making videos ten minutes or, preferably, less.

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

Social media marketing is always evolving. Just when you feel comfortable on a certain platform, a new one pops up. We hope this two-part series gave you an inside look at different social media sites. If you haven’t read it yet, make sure to check out part one where we dive into using Instagram and Twitter to improve your social media presence as a land agent.

 

About the Author: Laura Barker is the Membership and Communications Specialist for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

Conservation and Land Real Estate

Conservation is by no means a new concept, but in the last several decades it has increased substantially as farmers have become more conscious of their impact on the environment. There are many different conservation practices being utilized today, and they work in different ways to control different potential problems such as erosion, chemical runoff, and retaining excess soil nutrients.  These practices increase sustainability, overall soil health, and improve water quality in local watersheds. Some of the most common practices associated with commodity crops are grass waterways, buffer strips, cover crops and land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Grass Waterways

Grass waterways are a site-specific control measure implemented throughout a field, primarily on steeper parts of the field where water flow concentrates. These waterways are seeded to perennial grasses and farmed around, providing water a place to flow with continuous vegetation to hold the soil in place eliminating erosion on sensitive areas of the field. Waterways can vary in length, width, and are typically placed in between two hills or areas in a field with a high concentration of water flow during rain events.

Buffer Strips

Buffer strips are vegetative swaths placed along the edge of a field or surrounding a ditch or body of water. Buffer strips provide a “catch strip” for nutrients and soil particles as water runs off the field and before it enters a body of water. The vegetation slows the runoff, allowing time for soil and nutrients to settle in the ground where they can then be utilized by the plants inhabiting the buffer strip instead of running off into a neighboring water source.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are typically a hardy winter small grain crop that is seeded into a standing crop or seeded after harvest to provide vegetative cover over the winter months. Cover crops also uptake and hold excess nitrogen further preventing them from exiting the soil and entering a body of water. The benefits of cover crops include reduced erosion, increased organic matter, and reduced nitrates/excess nutrients from exiting the soil. Cover crops also increase soil tilth with their extensive root systems that move throughout the soil, creating pores for water and carbon dioxide to move freely. Common cover crops include oats, wheat, barley, and tillage radishes. Cover crops that are not killed by the cold will be planted into and then sprayed in the spring, blanketing the soil and increasing water retention.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

CRP is an incentive-based government program administered by the United States Farm Service Agency. This program establishes a rental rate based off region and soil types and pays farmers for taking environmentally sensitive acres out of production while still generating revenue on those acres via government compensation. The acres are taken out of crop production and enrolled in a pre-approved program that locks the land in a contract and ensures it will stay seeded for a number of years. There are many different options for implemented practices such as seeding switch grass, prairie strips, and native grasses that protect soil and filter pollutants by plant absorption. In addition to their stewardship characteristics, they also provide excellent habitat for upland game, pollinators, and other forms of wildlife.

Conservation continues to grow in popularity throughout the agricultural community and more advanced programs continue to be developed to reduce our impact. Conservation improves our local and national ecosystems, supports premium appreciation, and is our responsibility as farmers and stewards to protect the land for the next generation to prosper.

This post is part of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee content generation initiative. The initiative is directed at further establishing RLI as “The Voice of Land” in the land real estate industry for land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here.

About the Author: Molly Zaver is the Vice President for the Peoples Company. She is a member of RLI’s Future Leaders Committee as well as the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

From Inside The Beltway

With the biggest legislative achievement of this Congress behind us – tax reform and the preservation of 1031 like-kind exchanges – there are other issues that are circling the congressional runway, jockeying for position and waiting to land.  While not having a direct impact on the land professional, these broad issues could have far-reaching secondary impacts on land markets, real estate development and the economy.

Farm Bill Introduced But Passage Unlikely in 2018

A 2018 farm bill proposed by House Agriculture Committee Republicans passed by the Committee in April set the groundwork for tense debates on farmland conservation and forestry — and a much more partisan battle on nutrition assistance — as Congress tries to act before the current law expires at the end of September. However, this legislation is unlikely to pass in 2018 due to a decreasing window of opportunity to act on a very controversial proposal.

The bill strikes a good balance by holding the bill’s cost close to the total spending levels of the current version. Doing so allowed the Committee to protect crop insurance, tweak the safety net for cotton and dairy producers, and reform conservation and crop programs.

On the other hand, the committee wasn’t able to boost spending on farm programs that some groups say are more needed than ever, given the tough farm economy.

Significant changes in conservation programs reflected Chairman Conaway’s interest in seeing these programs work more effectively to preserve land that helps agriculture.  The legislation would eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program — the biggest conservation program in the country, with about 72 million acres enrolled — and move some of its initiatives to an expanded Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

The bill would allow an additional 5 million acres, 29 million acres in total, into the Conservation Reserve Program, which takes land out of production for 10-year periods.

On forest policy, the proposal would allow for bigger and faster forest-thinning projects, through a 6,000-acre exclusion from certain reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, to reduce wildfire risk. It would also remove a requirement for consultation under the Endangered Species Act if a forest management project does not harm a listed species.

Infrastructure: All Talk and No Action?

Infrastructure effects all parts of the American economy, from good roads and clean water to flood protection and mass transit. Both President Trump and Congress have floated proposals that would provide resources to fix aging infrastructure, such as roads and water treatment plants; and develop new and transformative projects, such as modernizing the electrical grid and high-speed rail.  All of these kinds of activities would have a positive impact on land markets.

President Trump’s plan would incentivize and stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in new investment over the next 10 years, shorten the process for approving projects to 2 years or less, address unmet rural infrastructure needs, empower State and local authorities, and provide for intensive workforce training. The plan addresses more than traditional infrastructure — like roads, bridges, and airports — but addresses other needs like drinking and wastewater systems, waterways, water resources, energy, rural infrastructure and public lands.

The proposal introduced by Democrats in the House would offer 5 times the amount of federal infrastructure funding over the President’s plan.  Their plan would boost local economies and generate billions of dollars in new economic activity without adding to the deficit.  Our infrastructure plan will invest in American iron and steel and new American-made green infrastructure materials to support good-paying jobs, and ensure opportunities for small business owners.  Our plan will ensure projects advance quickly, while maintaining key environmental protections and labor standards.

Both plans are similar – both seek to leverage federal resources to empower the private sector and state and local governments to develop these projects. Both promise to shorten and ease the permitting process and both promise extensive worker retraining.

Would you like to know another similarity between the two plans?  Nothing has happened to either of them since they were published.  Yes, the President has pushed federal agencies to ease permitting restrictions and some individual bill have been introduced, but at this time nothing substantive in this area has been accomplished.

If I were a betting man (which I am most decidedly not) I would not place my hard earned money on a massive infrastructure spending bill moving through Congress in 2018.  Just like with the Farm Bill, Congress is running out of time and lacks the focus to get something like this across the finish line – neither party wants to give their opponents something to brag about in the upcoming elections.

If you would like additional information on any of these issues, please contact me at 202-383-1259, rriggs@realtors.org.

This article originally appeared in the 2018 Summer Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

 

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

Time Zappers

The biggest problem with time zappers is that so many of them are necessary to succeed in the land industry. Driving might eat up a lot of your time, but how else are you going to get a good sense of a property? Today, we’re going to look at how to deal with time zappers so that you can get back to focusing on what really matters: getting your clients an amazing deal.

Social Media

Social media is a double-edged sword. On one side, social media can be a great (and free!) way to show off your expertise, network with other professionals, and gain new clients. Social media is a great marketing tool, but it can also rob you of your time with endless updates, videos, and photos.

The Solution: Using programs such as Hootsuite or Informz can help you plan out posts days or even weeks in advance. It’ll cut the amount of time you spend on social media in half.

If you struggle with Facebook breaks turning from five minutes into a half an hour (hey, it happens to the best of us!), try setting a timer for yourself. You’d be surprised at how quickly those ten minutes will zoom by.

Answering The Same Questions Over And Over (And Over And Over…)

How many times a week do you answer the same few questions (what type of land do you sell? Where are you based in? Do you specialize in x?) over email, phone, or in person?

The Solution: Links are your best friend. Include links to your website on your business card, Find A Land Consultant profile, and anywhere else you or your listings are posted. More and more people (especially younger generations) will search the web for answers before calling you. Make sure your vital information (such as website, e-mail, specialties, and phone number) are available for any potential clients to find on their own. Also, always carry around a few business cards with you. You never know when you’re going to run into your next big client!

If you aren’t comfortable giving out your personal e-mail or phone number, you could always create a contact form. This allows people to send you their information and questions without spam cluttering up your inbox

Looking at properties far outside of your jurisdiction

Are you licensed to sell land in more than one state? Awesome! Do you find yourself exhausted from trying to stay up-to-date with land sales in multiple states? Less awesome. Land experts are known for traveling long distances for clients, but similar to social media, there’s a fine line between working hard and spreading yourself too thin.

The Solution: Being licensed in multiple states is great. The key to making the most of your time is knowing your own limits. Ask yourself:

  • How much time am I spending on each property?
  • Do the long drives out to far-away properties tend to end in sales? Are these properties worth the cost of gas/my time?
  • How much time will it take to complete the CE requirements for each state I’m licensed in?

Driving

A huge chunk of time for land experts is spent on the road. This is a non-negotiable in the land industry. Google Earth is great, but nothing beats walking around a property yourself. It’s the only surefire way to spot issues with the land.

The Solution: Not much can be done to change the time on the road, but you can change how you use it. You can listen to podcasts such as Let’s Talk Land or stream lectures on land issues. You can make your truck a university on wheels!

We know there’s no way to cut any of these time zappers out of your life for good. Social media, long drives, and crazy hours are all things that come with the job. However, by using these tricks, you’ll be able to able to make the most out of the most precious resource a land agent has: time.

About the Author: Laura Barker is the Membership and Communications Specialist for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

The Characteristics & Attributes of Land

Unlike homes in certain residential developments across the country, no two parcels of land are the same in my mind.  Sure they may have similar views or produce a similar crop, but there are likely many different attributes that each property might have that are not visible from just a site visit online or from studying a map of the property.  In order to completely grasp these attributes to their fullest extent, there are a number of important questions that must be asked prior to making an investment in land.

Conservation Easements

Is the land encumbered with a conservation easement?  This should be one of the first questions asked when looking at land in my mind.  While some landowners may be looking to permanently conserve the land while getting a healthy tax benefit, others may want to have the opportunity to develop it at some point down the road.  I’ve seen lots of common sense conservation easements over the years that do not hinder the use of the land in a significant way, but I’ve also seen some bizarre conservation easements that can greatly affect the overall market value of a property.  Consider the long-term effects of a conservation easement and if they’re right for you and your heirs.

While most parcels of land do not have conservation easements, some might have rules, restrictions, or covenants that the owners must abide by.  It’s imperative that this be investigated so that you know what can actually be done on the property.

Hunting Properties

Buyers of hunting properties, especially in the West, often look at proximity to public land.  While many landowners consider it a luxury to border National Forest, a lot of recreational buyers consider it a negative if there is a public trailhead nearby.  The last thing any outdoorsman wants is to purchase a gorgeous high-country elk hunting property bordering the National Forest, just to the have the public legally walking on the other side of the fence in blaze orange come hunting season.

In states where public land is more rare, it’s quite common for a hunting buyer to look at smaller properties that are adjacent to large cattle ranches or large farms full of crops, as these will typically hold and attract a significant amount of wildlife.  If the neighboring properties are all 80 – 160 acre parcels with homes, then there is a very good chance the hunting opportunities will be very limited compared to if the neighboring properties are a peanut field on one side and a cattle ranch on the other.

Waterfront Properties

Avid fly fisherman will often look for two types of properties.  Those with deep enough pockets strive for acquiring a long stretch of river, often at least half a mile, to hold enough holes where they can fish without feeling pressured from neighbors both upstream and downstream.  Those looking for more affordable options will often look in ranch communities or platted subdivisions that offer fishing easements for its members or property owners.  These fishing easements can range from 1 – 6 miles of premium fishing habitat with very little pressure, as most property owners in these types of communities are typically absentee owners who have a primary residence is another state.

When purchasing waterfront land it’s important to obtain a floodplain map.  These can often be found through FEMA, but I encourage you to have the land surveyed so that you have the most up to date accurate elevations.  If you’re ever planning on building, be sure to do your proper due diligence and investigate insurance options prior to your purchase.  Flood insurance certainly isn’t cheap and it must be considered prior to purchasing land in low-lying valleys or along waterways.

Farmland

If farming is the primary purpose for a land purchase, knowing the soil type and the annual precipitation is going to be imperative.  If water rights are applicable, details of the water rights and the method of delivery for those water rights will be imperative to understand.  The length of the growing season and cuttings per year must be considered as well with farm ground.

Access

Access is another key component when comparing different parcels of land on the market.  While most properties around the United States have decent year round access, it is not unheard of for there to be no year-round access.  I’ve seen properties that can’t be accessed in the winter unless it’s via snowmobile, and I’ve seen properties that can’t be accessed after a heavy rain due to all the clay.  Vegetation and soil type can vary from region to region, and it’s important to know how those can affect the access during the different seasons of the year.  Along with access must come the conversation of access easements.  It’s certainly not ideal to cross a neighbor’s property to get to yours, so this also must be investigated if it does not appear that the property has direct access off of a road.

Utilities

Location of utilities and infrastructure should be a given when it comes to looking at land, especially residential home sites, but I’ve seen several buyers purchase land over the years because of a fabulous view it offered and didn’t give any consideration to the costs of pulling utilities to the property.  While solar has certainly gotten much more popular over the past few years, the majority of the public still desires to be tied into the electric grid.

Domestic water should certainly be another characteristic that buyers consider if they plan on living on the land.  If purchasing land in a rural area, it’s wise to talk to the neighboring landowners with improvements and see what the depth, yield, and quality of their water wells are.  (Some states have this information posted online on their Division of Water Resources website).  If you see a water trailer or a pickup truck parked next to their house with a portable cistern, this should be a red flag as it likely means they are literally hauling water for domestic use.

Residential

When dealing with residential homesites it’s important to consider the direction in which the land lays.  For example, a prime home site in the Rocky Mountains will often have good southern exposure for generating great natural light in the cold winter months.  On the other hand, a home site in the Texas Hill Country would ideally be more east facing and have a lot of mature trees on its western boundary, providing a good amount of afternoon shade over the home in the hot summer months.

Another question one should consider when looking at land is the long-term potential of that land generating an income.  There are a variety of ways to generate income from vacant land.  A few examples include the following:

  • Income from leasing the mineral rights
  • Income from leasing the pasture for grazing
  • Income from leasing the land for crop production
  • Income from leasing the water rights
  • Income from leasing the land for storage (RV’s, boats, etc…)
  • Income from leasing RV or tiny home sites
  • Income from leasing the land for wind turbines
  • Income from a hunting or fishing lease
  • Income from recreational activities (mountain biking, ATV-ing, etc…)
  • Income from harvesting timber

Wildfires

With the wildfires that unfortunately spread across many states this year, another important factor to consider when purchasing land is the likelihood of the land burning and the long-term effect it could have on the property.  Is the land a healthy forest with little undergrowth vegetation, or is it full of dead timber that is likely to go up in flames?  What are the neighboring properties like that border it?

Despite what many folks might think, selling and purchasing land is not an easy task.  I encourage you to do your proper due diligence and think about one of the most important attributes of all, and that is the family memories that land can offer for generations to come.  Whether it’s eating a meal from the family garden, watching a child harvest their first Thanksgiving turkey, or building a cabin next to the river, the right parcel of land can offer the opportunity to bring families together in a way that unfortunately far too few of people are truly experiencing these days.

This post is part of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee content generation initiative. The initiative is directed at further establishing RLI as “The Voice of Land” in the land real estate industry for land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here.

Justin Osborn is a licensed associate real estate broker with The Wells Group. He is a member of RLI’s Future Leaders Committee.

 

Listen Up! The ROI on NLC

Married people, who can relate to listening to your spouse without really listening? No, just me? For years, I’d heard my husband, Luke Worrell ALC, come back from the National Land Conference raving about how valuable it was – the speakers, the networking and everything in between. I didn’t fully grasp what he meant until I experienced NLC18 for myself this year. It was the single most valuable professional development tool I’ve put in my work belt in a long time.

Luke and I are blessed to work together in the land business that his dad, Allan Worrell ALC1, started and that we now own together – Luke as a land broker and farm manager, and me on our marketing and operations functions. NLC18 equipped each of us with new ways to become more effective and efficient in our roles. Allow us to elaborate…

Networking Opportunities

Luke: The NLC has become somewhat of an annual pilgrimage to me. Like many organizations and activities, you get what you put in, and the NLC has given me so much. The thing I most value about the conference is the chance to come together with colleagues from around the country and network. It can go beyond networking as well; I have made countless genuine friendships over the years by attending this event.

The 2018 conference in Nashville was special to me. Not only was it the first NLC that Allison and I could attend together as business partners, but it held certain symbolic meaning to me personally. My very first NLC was in Nashville back in 2011. I was “green as grass” to the industry and literally knew no one there other than my dad. I was there lacking confidence and not really knowing what to make of everything and everyone. Ray Brownfield held a national position with RLI at that time and was on stage talking about how the NLC held such distinction to him. He cited that networking through RLI has led to great business. I distinctly remember a younger, naïve version of myself sitting there wondering to myself if what Ray was saying was true or something nice he felt like he had to say since he was in leadership….

Fast forward seven years to 2018 and I was in Nashville again, this time winning the National ALC-to-ALC Networking Award for the largest real estate transaction closed between two Accredited Land Consultants. Low and behold, the colleague with whom I partnered and closed that sale was Ray Brownfield himself. As it turns out, Ray was telling the truth back in 2011! Closing on an $8.4 million farmland sale is a huge gift from God that makes for a great story and a feather in the cap to networking at these events. The biggest take away goes beyond an award-winning sale – it is the people. Since that first trip to Nashville in 2011, Ray has become a trusted colleague, a mentor of sorts and a genuine friend. The wonderful thing about the NLC and going year after year is that I could say that about many other members of the Realtors Land Institute. Barring tragedy or the birth of a child (literally the only reason I missed Tucson in 2015!), I refuse to miss the National Land Conference. It is an invaluable experience for me as a land professional, and me on a personal level.

Knowledge Acquisition

Luke: Another obvious benefit of the NLC is amount of knowledge you take away. Over the years, the conference has continued to add high-quality breakout sessions that essentially create a buffet of knowledge. You can pick and choose from numerous choices and tailor your conference experience to expand your knowledge in just the right places.

Nashville was a prime example. I went into the conference wanting to learn more about reaching different types of buyers, other than those I have grown accustomed to. Because of the numerous breakout options available at NLC, I was able to do just that. On one day of the conference alone, I learned about working with foreign buyers on land acquisitions, understanding what motivated institutional investment groups and how to better position myself on social media to appeal to a broader base. Keep in mind I was able to attend all of these sessions in an eight-hour window of time. There isn’t anywhere else I could cover that range of topics in depth in such a short period of time. Over the course of three or four days, the quality of options to learn is incredible.

Allison: Just as Luke was able to acquire new knowledge to help him as a land broker, I was able to expand my knowledge on topics that help me better market our company and address some operational challenges we’re facing. I either participated in a session, met with an exhibitor, or swapped strategies with other attendees on the following topics, and more:

  1. Tools for tracking sales leads and processes within the sales cycle
  2. Tips for how to motivate our brokers and measure their performance
  3. Social media tips and tricks – when to post, what platform to use, how to engage the audience
  4. How to improve our online footprint
  5. Tips for becoming more effective and efficient

For at least three of those topics, I had signed up for various webinars over the past year and cancelled at the last minute because something came up at work that made it fall on the priority list (not RLI webinars, of course – those are can’t miss!). Participating in the National Land Conference allowed me to pull away from the day-to-day so that I could finally devote uninterrupted attention to topics that will help to grow our business.

Public Relations

Allison: You might be surprised to read that Public Relations is one of the value-added benefits we identify for the National Land Conference. But, hear me out. Anything you do to develop yourself professionally is an opportunity for you to demonstrate to landowners, lenders, attorneys and others with whom we all share the agribusiness space, that you embrace the notion of lifelong learning within your craft. That you aren’t just someone who operates solely off of intuition in your little corner of the world.

Tactfully slide into conversation that you just got back from the National Land Conference and that you learned about XYZ topics, compared land market trends with brokers in neighboring areas and invested in developing yourself to the benefit of those whom you serve. In our market in Central Illinois, after Luke returns home from a work conference, I often contact the local radio station and offer him up for an interview on their farm programming show. They usually jump on the chance to fill a timeslot, and it’s a great way to position ourselves as thought-leaders within the ag realm, so it’s a win-win for everyone. Write about what you learned at the conference on your blog and/or company newsletter. Post a photo from the conference on your social media pages.

Make the most of any conference you attend, leadership role you hold or award you win. You can bet your next commission check that I leveraged Luke’s ALC-to-ALC Networking Award to his advantage! It’s okay to toot your own horn (in a humble, high-integrity way of course) about awards you earn. More than just a plaque in your office, industry awards are tangible ways to show potential clients and business partners that you have the credentials and experience they’re looking for in a land broker.

And for goodness sake, get your ALC designation! Talk about good publicity!

Can you tell that we’re big fans of the National Land Conference?! Taking time out of your territory might seem like a costly endeavor, whether financially or procedurally. But we assure you, it is an investment that pays for itself. If you’ve never been, what are you waiting for? Let’s meet up in Albuquerque for NLC19!

 

1 For those of you who know Allan, rest assured, he hasn’t retired. We honestly don’t think he ever will – he loves the land business too much! He’s just tired of dealing with the headaches of business ownership.

This article originally appeared in the 2018 Summer Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.

 

About the Authors: Luke and Allison Worrell own Worrell Land Services, LLC, specializing in land brokerage, farm management and land appraisals across Central Illinois. Luke is an accomplished Land Broker who has earned the Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) designation. He is also an Accredited Farm Manager (AFM) who manages 84 farms across Central Illinois. Luke is an active leader in many ag-industry organizations, both nationally and locally. Allison leads the company’s strategic marketing and communications efforts. She brings to the business a unique blend of professional experiences from her background with a national pharmaceutical wholesaler, as well as non-profit work.

 

 

 

Social Media Beyond Facebook Part One

A few weeks ago, Facebook’s stock took a historic plunge, losing $119 billion in one day. It’s the largest one-day stock drop in history. Younger generations are leaving Facebook for newer social media sites, while others are fed up with scandals surrounding data usage.

Although Facebook is still a powerhouse, other social media sites are on the rise. In this two-part series, we are going to look at some of the most popular social media beyond Facebook and how to make the most of them to grow your client base as a land agent.

Instagram 

Instagram is a photographer’s paradise. The land industry thrives on this platform, as pictures of beautiful properties rack up thousands of likes. Chris Miller, ALC, gave us some insider tips for having a successful Instagram account.

Make The Photo The Star

“A picture is worth a thousand words” perfectly captures how to be successful on Instagram. Wordy posts that would normally do well on Facebook flop on Instagram. When thinking about what to post, think about what draws the eye: rich colors, sweeping shots of land, and pictures of horses on ranch land.

If you need any inspiration, check out Miller’s Instagram page. It’s an excellent mix of stunning land shots, short videos of properties, and promotional material for his real estate group, American Forest Management.

“I post tract photos of lands I have for sale, I do some iPhone video clips that I create in movie maker which I share to talk about tracts or land-related issues. I also just share really good photos of land pictures or land management activities that I think interest landowners,” says Miller. “I take some great photos from the side of the road or when I am walking a tract and see something interesting.”

Consider Using Apps

There are apps to make photos better, schedule posts for you, and track all your likes and comments. Apps can take your Instagram game to the next level. Chris Miller likes the app Ezy Watermark.

“I use an app called Ezy Watermark to add my company’s logo to my videos and some photos for brand awareness as well.  However, I have heard Instagram favors photos with no text so I do not use this on every photo.”

The Repost app is also a fan favorite with land experts. You can use this app to repost from other Instagram accounts. This is great because it can save you time from having to create your own post while still staying top of mind and providing valuable content to your followers.

Love What You Do

If you always get your thumb in the way, you might want to try another platform. However, if you love photography, like Miller, Instagram might be the perfect social media site for you. “I enjoy photography, especially iPhone photography. So it is enjoyable to me to take the photos and share them and then see how people react to the photos.  I think it helps tremendously with top-of-mind awareness among your following and makes people think of you in land conversations they have or if they have a need.”

Having fun with Instagram also adds authenticity and makes your brand seem more relatable. This helps to generate trust from your audience.

Twitter

Twitter is rapid-fire takes on current news, different topics, and anything else you can imagine. RLI Future Leaders Committee Member Tim Hadley put it perfectly in his guest post for RLI: “Twitter is like a crowded club where you pop in and out of conversations and stay with the ones you find interesting.” But amid all the chaos, there are a lot of opportunities to brand yourself and meet new people.

Tweet Frequently And On Brand

The speed and vast amount of content of Twitter can sometimes feel catholic, but there’s a method behind the madness. Tweeting frequently keeps you top of mind for clients. Tweeting about topics related to land shows off how much you know about the industry and how in the know you are.

Take Mossy Oak’s twitter account for example. They tweet frequently (about two or three times a day). While they post lots of different topics (land news, hunting tips, nature shots, promotions for new merchandise), it is all tied around their brand.

Stay On Top Of The News

Who has time to read through a whole newspaper? Twitter keeps you up-to-date on not just national news, but also news specific to your interests. Check out hashtags to find content on topics you are interested in and you can even join the conversation and share your own expertise using them.

Track What’s Working

One of the great things about Twitter is how easy it is to see how successful certain posts are. Just click on your profile, click the “Analytics” button, and you’ve got a detailed report of the engagement of every single thing you’ve ever tweeted.

Hear What’s Being Said About You

Social media makes it easier than ever to keep track of what people are saying about you, good or bad. Follow your company accounts and hashtags to see what clients are tweeting about you. Google Alerts are also a great way to know when you or your company are being mentioned.

While Facebook is still a great place to network on, there are many other social media platforms that you can promote your brand on, meet other professionals on, and get your name out to potential clients through.

In the second part of this series, we’ll explore LinkedIn, YouTube, and one more surprise social media site!

About the Author: Laura Barker is the Membership and Communications Specialist for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.