Five Questions To Help You Find the Perfect Plot For Your New House

If you think finding the perfect house is hard, try finding the perfect land for that house. Finding a property that is in your budget, near your place of work, has passed all the necessary tests, is zoned for the type of house you want to build, and is not cluttered with restrictions can drain a person. We’ve created a checklist of questions to ask to make sure you get the perfect plot to build your dream house on.

1. Is The Lot Buildable?

You’d be surprised how many people don’t ask this question. It’s easy to assume that if vacant land is being sold in a residential area, it is automatically buildable, but that’s not true. Be sure to run a soil test to make sure the (especially recommended if your lot is located near gas stations, body shops, or anything where toxic liquids might be present). Read through all the paperwork that comes with the land to make sure there are no hidden non-building clauses.

2. Are The Other Houses In The Area Within My Building Budget?

If you want to build a $3 million home in a neighborhood of $1 million homes, you are going to run into serious trouble. Building houses with values different than the neighbors can throw the local land values out of whack.

In an article in U.S. News, Neville Graham, a real estate agent with Partners Trust, recalls a client having her construction loan denied because the $2.2 million building and land cost was far more than the average $1.5 million houses in the neighborhood. The client had just finalized buying the land, but now can’t do what they hoped with it. That’s a true land horror story!

3. What Utilities Do I Have Access To?

Different properties have different rules about what utilities you have access to. This includes:

  • Water
  • Power
  • Wi-Fi
  • Gas
  • Waste

There’s nothing worse than someone who buys their dream property, but finds out too late that they don’t have legal access to necessities like water and power.

4. What Are The Zoning Restrictions? / Is This Neighborhood Under Consideration For Re-Zoning?

Local governments establish zoning ordinances to regulate land use and determine school districts. If zoning regulations are changed, they can drastically change what you can build on your land. Zoning restrictions are also important for families wanting to get their children into the best local public schools. Keep a close eye on the local news and government to get a sense of changing zoning laws.

5. Is The Property Close to X?

Location, location, location! We went in-depth into this popular saying in our previous residential real estate article, but it’s so important we had to add it to this list as well. X stands for whatever matters most to have near you. For some people, it’s their place of work. For others, it’s schools for their children. Nature lovers often put gorgeous views above all else, while culture vultures will prioritize being near great restaurants, theatres, and museums. It all depends on what is most important to you.

While finding the perfect property is difficult, knowing which questions to ask will make the whole process a lot smoother. Another way to make the land search easier is by working with an Accredited Land Consultant (). ALCs know everything there is to know about land, and you can use the Find A Land Consultant tool to find one in your area.

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.

Summer Agritourism: How To Make Extra Money Off Your Land

Agritourism — The word sounds like a trendy food you might find at a health food store between acai and kombucha. What agritourism actually is is an activity that brings customers to your land. While this concept might sound confusing, you may already have agritourism happening on your land today. Do you rent your land out for fruit picking, hunting, camping, or fishing? Congratulations, you’re already an Agritourism pro!

Summer is a perfect time for dipping your toes into agritourism. Here are some ways to use agritourism to bring in some extra money this summer.

Horseback Riding

If you have a lifelong love of horses, sharing it with others might be a great way to bring in some extra cash this summer. Renting out horses for trail rides, teaching lessons, or boarding horses on your land are all lucrative options.

While horses can be a huge draw, they can be expensive if you don’t already have most of the equipment. You’ll need:

  • Horses (of course!). Depending on how many riders you are expecting, typically you should have between two to twelve horses
  • Trails or an area to ride the horses in
  • Hay, grass, concentrates, and treats
  • A shovel and wheelbarrow for mucking
  • Saddles, blankets, helmets, and bridles
  • An unlimited water supply (did you know horses drink at least eight gallons of water a day?)
  • The time to feed, care, exercise, and groom your horses
  • Equipment for hoof maintenance (every six to eight weeks)

If you don’t have seven out of eight in that list, horses might not be the most financially-sound agritourism opportunity for you. Once the business is running, you can make extra cash by setting up a shop for visitors with branded gifts and common-sense needs for a day out (like water bottles and snacks).

Camping Land

If you have vacant land that you don’t need to keep in pristine condition, you might consider renting it out for camping. Camping is one of the most minimal-effort ways to rent out land (except for getting calls from that one person who gets lost every five seconds on their way to your property), and many are willing to pay top dollar for beautiful camping sites. You can charge extra for forest, mountain, or waterside property.

Using land for camping does come with its drawbacks. As mentioned above, you shouldn’t rent land out for camping if you need it to stay in perfect condition. Campers can leave behind lots of trash (plastic bags, old food, and even human waste!). Not only can this be bad for your land, it can attract predators like bears that you wouldn’t want near your family. Consider investing in a Porta-Potty and looking into the waste management options needed to run a campground. 

Tours

Visiting farm land has always been a popular field trip for school children, but there is also a growing interest from hip foodies who want to know how their food is raised. Giving tours of your land is a great way to teach people about farming and sell some of your crops along the way. If you sell your local grown food at a farmers market or local restaurant, those would be great places to promote that tours of the farm the food came from are available.

U-Pick

People are happy to pay extra for the experience of picking their own apples, berries, or other fresh crops. In summer, crops like corn, cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes are all in high demand.

U-Pick crops come with some surprising benefits. There are reduced labor costs, no transportation costs for the U-Pick crops, and entry fees ensure income even if people don’t pick anything.

If you are willing to work weekends and don’t mind the extra clean-up from people on your land, U-Pick could be a great way for you to make some extra cash this summer.

Vineyards

Who doesn’t love a nice, cold glass of wine during the summer? We could use a glass right about now! Wine tours are a summer staple. If you own a vineyard, consider tours, tastings, or interactive events to get wine lovers to your property. You can also pair your wines with your own cheese, fruits, or vegetables. Double the sales!

Even in the most well-planned agritourism plans, accidents happen. Tourists who aren’t used to rural life have the potential to injure themselves on your land. Because of this, you should have guests sign a waiver that protects you and your land. For a more in-depth look into the legality of agritourism, here’s a helpful PDF.

Agritourism is on the rise in America. Farming video games such as Stardew Valley are getting young and urban people interested in agriculture. A rising interest in how food is grown is also bringing more people to the farms. Hopefully, this article jump-started your creativity into thinking of how you can incorporate agritourism into your land this summer. If you are interested in purchasing a property to be used for agritourism, make sure to near you that is qualified to advise you on the transaction.

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.

wildfire

How To Protect Your Land From Wildfires

Any land expert will tell you that wildfires are an occasional occupational hazard of the job and increasingly common natural disaster encountered by landowners. Without the right protection, wildfires can be the deadliest part of working with land or owning land. Last summer, over a million acres of land and 43 lives were lost to the devastating wildfires in California. While people are still figuring out how to prevent natural disasters, there are steps you can take today to protect yourself and protect your land from a wildfire.

Take Away the Tinder

No, not the dating site. During the wildfire season, be sure to regularly sweep away fire-happy materials such as dried leaves and pine needles around your property.

Create ‘Fuel Breaks’ On Your Property

Fuel breaks, such as gravel pathways or driveways, can act as a barrier to keep fire away from your property. An easy way to add a fuel break is by replacing woodchips or dried grass that is frequently used as pathways and instead use gravel or another fire-resistant material.

Decorate With Safety in Mind

Use fireproof or fire-resistant materials whenever you can. Here is a short list of some fireproof and fire-resistant materials to consider:

  • Stone
  • Concrete
  • Treated limber plywood
  • Mineral wool
  • Potassium Silicate

These materials might not be as elegant as real wood, but they’ll help keep you safer in the face of danger.

Controlled Fires

Fire doesn’t have to be your enemy. Controlled fires are frequently used by forest management to get rid of underbrush to give budding plants more room and nutrients. Controlled fires are frequently used on properties with pine trees, as pine trees are resistant to fire.

By using controlled fires to burn away the debris, there will be less fuel for any potential wildfires to feed on. This will significantly reduce the damage to your land.

Trim Your Trees

Dead or low-hanging branches are the most venerable to wildfires. Be sure to always trim these branches, especially the trees near your house or farm. Then make sure to remove what you trim from the property.

Put Yourself First

Not to sound like your grandma, but in cases of natural disasters, you have to put your safety first. If a wildfire catches you by surprise, follow these steps after calling 911:

  • If you are trapped inside, move towards a central room away from any exterior walls that might collapse on you.
  • If you are outside, the wind is your best friend. Look where the wind is blowing. If the wind is blowing the fire away from you, run into the wind. If the wind is blowing the fire towards you, run perpendicular to the wind.
  • Get to a place that’s already burned over. The fuel has already been burned up, so the chances the fire will return are slim to none.
  • When escaping the fire, take downhill routes whenever possible. Thanks to updrafts, fire moves faster uphill.

We hope these tips will help keep you and your property safe from future wildfires. When going about your day-to-day life, remember that huge wildfires can be started by the simplest things, like leaving a campfire burning on a dry day or leaving a lit cigarette by old trees. Make Smokey the Bear proud!

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

Disney World: The Greatest Land Story Of All Time

The story of how Disney World’s land was bought is as fascinating as any of Walt’s fairy tales. Who would have guessed that buying the land for such a wholesome place like Disney World would be such a wild ride? This is the story of one of the most successful transitional land sales in American history and what we can learn from it today.

In the 1960s, Walt Disney was looking for a place to build a second Disney park. Disneyland in California was a success, but Disney didn’t like the businesses that cropped up around his theme park. He wanted more control over the surrounding land for his next park.

disney world

Disney had a laundry list of requirements for the new land. Not only did it need to be plentiful and affordable, the land also needed to have pleasant weather year round so guests could enjoy the park 365 days a year. It also had to be near a major city with strong infrastructure and highways.

He looked at land in California and New York, but the properties were too small or the land was too expensive. Finally, Disney found exactly what he needed near Bay Lake in Orlando, Florida.

Florida had everything Disney was looking for in a location. The landowners at the time were happy to sell their swamp land, which they thought had little to no value. So, Disney and his associates bought the land through shell corporations with names like M. T. Lott (you can’t make this stuff up!).

The reason Disney used shell companies was that he knew the prices would skyrocket as soon as he was revealed as the buyer. If land sellers knew a millionaire wanted their land for a project that would be even bigger than Disneyland, they could set their prices as high as they wanted.

disney world castle landAs more and more land was bought under shell companies, locals became suspicious. They didn’t believe someone named M.T. Lott was actually buying up the land. Rumors swirled about who could be buying up this land. Some people believed it was NASA buying land to support the nearby Kennedy Space Center. Other names floating around were Ford, the Rockefellers, Howard Hughes, and of course, Disney.

Disney successfully bought 27,000 acres of land for cheap via his shell corporations. He might have been able to buy every single acre like that had he not slipped up in an press conference when editor Emily Bavar asked him point-blank if he was the one buying up the land. Disney was so caught off guard by the question that it was clear he was the buyer. As soon as it was revealed who was buying the land, prices shot up. Some land even skyrocketed up to $80,000 an acre!

When the Florida government found out who was buying all the land, they gave Disney the right to make decisions about zoning. This pleased Disney, who didn’t like to answer a lot of outsider questions. The Disney team transitioned the land by adding dirt to the swamp land, making it easier to build and walk on.

Today, Disney World takes up twice as much land as all of Manhattan. A sizeable amount of that is undeveloped. As per Disney’s request, around a third of the land is protected wetlands.

The Orange County Appraisers office has appraised Disney World’s property value to be over 1.3 billion dollars.

There are so many amazing lessons we can take today from this transitional land story. Here are just a few:

  • Transitional land can be extremely profitable.
  • Even land that some consider ‘low-value’ can become profitable when put to its highest and best use.
  • When selling land, it can pay off to do a little digging to find out who your client is!
  • Have a clear list of what you need out of a property.
  • The perfect land for you might not be in the first place you look.
  • Prepare yourself for tough questions ahead of time if you have to do a press conference.

Sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction. In the case of the transitional land sale that turned into Disney World, we hope this wild story reminds you to always dream big. If you are interested in learning more about transitional land real estate transactions, check out our newly updated Transitional Land Real Estate LANDU course by checking our Upcoming Courses page.

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

Land – The Original American Dream

Land has always been a staple of the American dream. From the Homestead Act of 1862 to the ongoing battle for Amazon’s second headquarters, Americans have held the desire to own and prosper from their own land close to their hearts. While owning private property today is different in many ways than land ownership in the 1800s, many of the same benefits still remain. Owning private property comes with a lot of hidden benefits that are good for you now and for years to come.

Before we dive into the benefits of private land ownership, let’s distinguish what exactly separates private property from public. Private property is land that is owned by individuals or corporations. The owner of a private property has the right of use, lease, and occupation over the land.

Public properties, on the other hand, are owned by public authorities. This land does not belong to any one person. That means the use and occupation of public land is decided on by committees and political groups instead of individuals. Owning private property makes it much simpler to decide what to do with the land. Let’s take a look at some other benefits of private land ownership.

Your Land, Your Choice

The most obvious (and biggest) benefit to owning private property is the freedom to do what you want with your land.  Of course, you still have to follow local and federal law, but how you use the land is largely up to you. This is a huge benefit if you’ve been eyeing some land as a potential transitional property. While sales can be extremely profitable, attempting them with public land can be difficult and can take years. Since public land doesn’t belong to one person, there will be lots of debates, meetings, and compromises over the best use of the land. There will be so many voices that yours might get lost.

Supply and Demand

Land is a limited resource. You can’t just create more land. That’s why land real estate in areas like California and New York are so expensive. There is only so much land to go around, and everyone wants some. Even when the market is bad, people will still need land to grow crops, raise livestock, and build homes.

In the current economy, you might not even be thinking about putting your private property on the market. Especially since owning property now can be seen as insurance against the next economic depression. Plus, keeping your land in good condition ensures that future generations will have a limited resource to profit on in tough times.

Long Term Increase

Historically, some investments in land have had better returns than the broad equity markets. Farmland investments averaged 10-13% total returns over the past two decades. It is also an excellent way to diversify your stock portfolio. Farmland values do not always mimic the market, so if other stocks plunge in value, you won’t lose all your money. People who invest all their money in a certain market or stock tend to risk losing it all when the market turns.

Tax Benefits of Private Property

Depending on the type of land you own, you could be entitled to certain tax benefits. For example, with vacant land, you can elect to add your expenses to your land’s cost bases. This will significantly decrease your taxable gain.

Here’s a great example of this theory in action from Inman.com:

Jean purchases a vacant lot for $10,000 in 2009. During 2009-2013 she elects to add $5,000 in carrying costs to the lot’s cost basis. In 2013, her adjusted basis in the lot is $15,000. She sells the lot for $20,000. Her taxable gain is only $5,000 ($20,000 sales price – $15,000 adjusted basis = $5,000).

Although private land ownership comes with tons of benefits, it has been on a slow decline for years. This is a result of many factors. Some people are wary of investing in land real estate after the housing crash of the early 2000s. Huge companies like Google gobbling up thousands of acres of land also doesn’t help. We hope this article inspires you to take advantage of the many benefits private land ownership has to offer. If you are interested in owning your own piece of land, make sure to Find A Land Consultant to assist with your purchase. Land transactions require the specialized expertise of an agent with education and experience in the field.

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

Pond Management: Why is My Pond Filling Up?

I hear this question all the time when it comes to pond management and it’s a good question: Why is my pond filling up? Actually, your pond is designed to fill up. I used to work for a coal mining company and we would construct sediment ponds. They were designed to collect run off from the mine site and allow the sediments to settle out of the water before discharge into a stream or creek. Recently, I was fishing in a large pond, about 20 acres in size. The pond had a concrete dam which was about 30 feet high on the exposed side. You could actually take your fishing pole and touch the bottom of the pond just about the dam. This pond had 50 years to fill up!

When creeks are running at high velocity after a rain event, the fast moving water carries soil particles in suspension. The following picture shows fast moving water in a creek channel filled with soil particles.

The faster the water velocity, the larger particle size the water can move.
As the water enters a pond or impoundment, the water velocity slows down allowing the soil particles to settle out and they simply drift to the bottom. The following picture shows a distinct difference in the water color. The water entering the pond is full of soil particles (including red clay).

This is nothing to be alarmed about… the pond is just doing it’s job. The only thing you can do when it comes to pond management to alleviate the problem is build a series of smaller ponds (detention ponds), this allows the water entering the last and largest pond to be practically free of soil particles. Enjoy your pond… and get out and fish!!

Kent Morris, ALC, is a Registered Forester and Associate Broker who has experience in fields such as timber appraisals, harvesting, thinnings, and timber sales. He writes articles about these fields and more in his blog Land Blog…Get The Dirt!

How To Start Your Own Vineyard

Who hasn’t secretly (or not so secretly) dreamed of opening their own vineyard? The idea of walking through rows and rows of plump purple grapes sounds heavenly. Plus, all the free wine you can drink! Pour yourself a glass of merlot or chardonnay and let’s learn all about starting your own vineyard.

What Do You Want Out Of The Vineyard?

Before you start looking into grapes, ask yourself what you want out of the land. Would your vineyard be more for personal use, or would you like to make enough wine to sell to local stores and restaurants? Do you want to just grow grapes or produce your own wine on site? These questions can help you figure out how much land you’ll need and how much you can expect to spend.

Pick The Grapes

There are dozens of types of grapes, each with their own unique aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and climate where they grow best. Here are a few popular types of grapes and what they are best for:

  • Riesling grape. These grapes do best in cool climates. Vineyard owners love the flowery, sweet scent these grapes give off.
  • Cabernet Franc grape. This is a popular black grape around the globe. It can be used to make its own wine, or to be blended into other wines for a more complex flavor pallet.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon grape. This is one of the world’s most used red grapes. This late-budding grape is able to avoid most frost. It can do well in many climates with the taste varying based off of the climate. For example, in cooler climates, you can expect more crisp flavors like mint and cedar, while the grape takes on a sweeter, jam-like flavor in warmer climates.
  • Chardonnay grape: This grape produces a mild flavor and is easy to grow, making it a fan favorite among growers. It can thrive in many types of soil, but does best in chalk or clay.

How Much Can You Spend On Your Own Vineyard?

If you want to open a vineyard just for fun or are planning on growing grapes in your backyard, this step might not be as important for you. If you are planning on making money off of your grapes, this is important. It’s hard to give a general estimate of how much you can expect to spend, because there are dozens of factors that are different for every single vineyard owner. Here are just a few of the many things to consider while making your budget:

  • timing of the first harvest
  • when you can expect to see an ROI
  • labor costs
  • irrigation needs
  • machinery needs
    • fruit crusher, distilling, sanitizing, siphoning, bottling equipment, etc.
  • shipping costs
  • overhead to run the business and marketing costs

According to a study from Sierra Nevada Foothills, the average twenty-acre property can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here’s a comprehensive budgeting plan for those of you interesting in opening a vineyard of fifty acres or more.

Prepare The Land

When choosing the property for your vineyard, be sure to pick a plot that is on a slope. Grapes do well on slopes because of drainage. You’ll also want to make sure the property has plenty of access to sunlight, because too much shadow can be deadly for budding vines.

You’ll also want to do a soil test. The soil should have a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, but no higher than 7. Vineyard vines are unique because they struggle to produce grapes in soil that is rich in nutrients. Because of this, you’ll also need soil that has quality drainage.

One Last Piece Of Advice

Patience is the name of the game when it comes to owning a vineyard. It can take at least two years for a vineyard to produce fruit, and turning a profit on wine can take even longer. Similar to green energy or timber, vineyards require a lot of money up front and can take many years to start making money.

Owning a vineyard doesn’t have to remain a daydream. If you start setting aside money and grow grapes on a property where you can maximize profits, you can make the American dream of owning your own vineyard into a reality.

If you want to learn about the art of buying and selling vineyards, check out these great RLI articles from the Summer 2017 Terra Firma magazine written by expert Accredited Land Consultant Flo Sayre. And if you are looking for a qualified agent to help you buy or sell vineyard land, be sure to use our Find a Land Consultant tool.

Laura Barker is a Marketing Assistant Intern for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

Wind Farms and Solar Panels: The (Near) Future of Green Energy and Land Real Estate

Many people talk about “green energy,” such as wind farms and solar panels, like it’s as futuristic as flying cars. What these people don’t realize is that wind and solar energy is already taking the world of energy by storm. Companies like Disney and Google are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on wind farms and solar panels. Farmers are also turning to green energy sources to cut back on their energy bills and make extra money off of their land. Let’s take a look at how the land industry is being shaped by green energy.

Even the biggest fans of green energy will admit that wind farms look kind of creepy; like an alien colony landed on Earth. While they can be strange looking, their ability to convert wind into energy is impressive. The average 10-kilowatt wind turbine produces around 16,000 kilowatts annually. In comparison, the average U.S. household consumes about 10,000 kilowatts of electricity each year.

Not only can you power your house (and then some) with a single wind turbine, you can also get a pretty sweet tax break. The federal renewable electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC) is a per-kilowatt-hour tax credit for the electricity generated by your wind turbine that is sold to an unrelated person. This tax credit flies under the radar because so few individuals own wind turbines on their land. In 2016, wind farms produced a tiny amount of American energy (only around 5.6 percent), but if more people knew about this tax break, those numbers might skyrocket.

Another benefit to having a wind turbine on your property is kissing energy bills goodbye. Once the wind turbine has been paid for and installed, you can use the energy it generates instead of buying it. Imagine never paying an energy bill for the rest of your life!

While wind turbines have yet to reach their full potential, solar panels have become the stars of the green energy scene. Did you know Disney is planning to build a solar farm? It will lower the theme parks greenhouse gas emissions by 57,000 metric tons, the equivalent of taking over 9,000 cars off the road. China has invested $86.5 billion in solar. Even small farmers are getting into it. In 2017, nearly a quarter of all California farms generated onsite solar energy

Solar panels can be a great way to cut down on costs long term. Many people balk at the high prices of installing solar panels, but over time they make money. Every kilowatt your panels produce will offset whatever you would normally have had to buy from an outside company.

So, should you invest in wind turbines or solar panels for your land? While green energy is great, it’s not always the best option for everyone. Here are some things to consider:

  • Is your state supportive of green energy? Some states are pushing green energy by offering huge tax breaks and rewarding bigger companies for using solar energy. For example, in Illinois, the Future Energy Jobs Act requires Illinois utilities to get at least 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. If you live in Illinois, you could make serious money selling green energy to companies.
  • Will green energy make more money than your current crops? While the values of crops and livestock fluctuate, the value of green energy is strong and there is a growing demand for it. However, if solar panels and wind turbines would make less money than your current land use, it might not be worth it.
  • Do you have the money for the down payment? Wind turbines and solar panels will save you money in the long term, but they do cost a fair amount to install.

Wind turbines and solar panels are the future of the energy business, and that future is not as far away as you might think. Green energy has a lot to offer landowners, from tax credits to additional income. As the cost of installing green energy sources becomes more and more affordable, we will see the full range of benefits green energy has to offer the land industry.

About the author: Laura Barker is a Marketing Assistant Intern for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

In What Ways Do Soil Types Affect Land Use?

Soil deserves a lot more attention than it gets. Few people talk about how much soil types affect land use The right kind of soil can help a land owner grow great crops or build houses that last a long time. The wrong kind of soil can result in stunted crops or houses being swept away during floods. While soil types might not seem important at first glance, they just might be the factor that makes or breaks your land property.

Because of the unique chemical make-ups of each soil type, the practices used on a plot of land must be matched to the land’s soil type. Each soil type is unique and has its own benefits and drawbacks. Some are best suited for crops, while others are better for buildings houses and barns on.

If you are new to soil types, here’s a quick Soil 101 on the different soil types you could find on your land real estate:

  1. Clay. Clay soil has excellent water storage. Thanks to this, it holds onto plant nutrients and is great for roses, leafy vegetables, peas, and tomatoes.
  2. Chalky. This low moisture soil is typically found over limestone beds and chalk deposits. This soil type is not ideal for planting crops, as it can result in stunted or yellow plants. However, finding this soil type on your land doesn’t mean you can’t use it at all. Adding acid-rich materials (such as peat or manure) can help balance out the more destructive elements of this soil type.
  3. Loamy. Loamy soil is a combination of sand, silt, and clay. It’s a favorite among farmers, thanks to its high calcium and PH levels. You can grow just about anything in this soil type.
  4. Peaty. Dark brown or black in color, this soil type has a high water content that is great for crops that require a lot of moisture. However, it does dry up quickly in the summer, so Southern farmers might want to be careful with this soil type.
  5. Saline soil. You’ll probably find this soil type if you are living in an extremely dry region. Its high salt content makes it a poor choice for growing most crops.
  6. Sandy. This free-draining soil dries out faster than any other soil type on this list. Any nutrients that crops may need can be washed through the soil during wet weather.
  7. Silty. Silty land has small particles and is smooth to the touch. It has great moisture retention, but drains poorly. Similar to peaty soil, this soil type can be great for crops that need a lot of water, but crops that don’t will likely drown.

With all these soil types, how on earth is anyone supposed to know what soil type is right for their land?

There are three options for finding out what soil type your land has. One is to get a soil map. You can go to the USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Services (NRCS) page. They have soil maps and data for more than ninety-five percent of the nation’s counties. All you have to do is click on the link and zoom into your zip code (like you would in Google Maps) or type in your address. Click on the ‘Soil Survey Area’ tab on the left-hand side and you will be given a record of what types of land are in your area.

You can also ask local soil experts who are familiar with the soil types in your area. Soil experts, also referred to as extension agents, can help you figure out what type of soil you have on your land and what sort of improvements can be done to your soil. This personalized help is great for land owners who have multiple soil types on their land property.

Soil testing gives you an exact breakdown of what is in your soil. In the fall 2015 edition of Terra Firma, Kirk Goble, ALC, explains the benefits of soil testing on page twenty nine.

“The soil test lab report provides valuable information on the makeup of the soil, its pH (acidity or alkalinity), and cation exchange capacity (CEC),” says Goble. “CEC is a determination of the ability of the soil components (primarily clay and humus) to allow for the absorption and transport of soil nutrients from the soil to the plant roots. It is essentially a measure of the soil’s ability to hold nutrients and feed the plants.”

After testing, you’ll be given advice on what crops are best suited for your soil type and recommendations on how to improve your land. “Fertilizer recommendations are based on the results of a proper soil test,” says Goble.

Soil types are incredibly important to land real estate and are far too often overlooked. Soil types affect land use more than most people think. With all these tools at your disposal, you’ll be able to figure out the soil types on your land and use them to your advantage.

About the author: Laura Barker is Marketing Assistant for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and had been with RLI since October 2017.

Investing in Land Real Estate for Retirement: What You Need To Know

Choosing how to save for retirement can be a decision that takes years. After all, that’s the money that you’ll be living on during your golden years. Most people stick to 401ks and stocks, but what many people don’t know is that you can invest in land real estate to save for retirement. Investing in land real estate can be a great way to save money long-term, but with any investment, you need to know what type of land to invest in, what sort of returns you can expect, and what to avoid when investing in land real estate.

There are many benefits to investing in land real estate. One benefit is that if you invest in land in different areas, you will be protected if certain properties are hit by natural disasters or the value of one type of land real estate drops. Geographic and commodity diversity can keep your money safe even in a rocky market. Another benefit is that land real estate (farmland in particular) sometimes have higher returns than stocks do. Most stocks can be expected to produce a six to seven percent return over time), while farmland has produced a steady 11.5 percent annual return over the past twenty five years.

If you are looking for a low-maintenance investment, vacant land is a great option. It is cheaper to buy than developed land, and you don’t need to spend money doing repairs or renovations. While this is an excellent investment to make in the long-term, you will have to be patient. This investment will take time to make money. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the market to make sure you’ll be able to sell it at the best possible price. Consider looking into vacant land properties in areas that are seeing an increase in population or jobs. This land will is likely to become more desirable over time, and you’ll be able to sell it at a higher price than what you bought it for originally.

When investing or buying vacant land, you should always know who you are buying from.Be careful of people who have only owned the land for a short amount of time and seem very eager to get the land off their hands. Vacant land takes times to accumulate value, so it’s suspicious if people only own it for a short amount of time. The owners might know something about the land that makes it less valuable. This is a perfect example of why it is so important to find an agent with the expertise and experience needed to conduct land real estate transactions – like an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC).

Timberland or forestland are also excellent long-term investments. The returns for timberland real estate tend to move counter cyclically to other markets.  Because of this, it will add portfolio diversification, lowering the risk of losing money. Timber is also a hearty crop that can provide you with returns for many years.

You should invest in timber or forest land only if you are planning to retire ten or more years down the road. You’ll have to spend money to plant trees and won’t get returns as they grow, but once the trees reach maturity, they will provide steady returns.

Although investing in land real estate to save for retirement is an excellent option, there are some key factors to look out for. Keep the following in mind while you look at different properties:

-You need to know the land inside out. You need to know everything about the land you are investing in. This means zoning, mineral rights, any environmental hazards on the land, usage restrictions, access easements, taxes on the property, and the likelihood of natural disasters in the area. If you think you are asking too many questions, you are not. Even small issues can end up costing you a lot in the long term. For example, you could have an incredible property with full mineral rights, but if the soil drainage is poor, the value of the land could drop so dramatically that any other positive factors wouldn’t matter at all. Finding an ALC near you can help ensure that you see the whole picture when it comes to investing in a piece of land.

-You need to be crystal clear on the taxes. This was mentioned in the previous bullet point, but it’s so important we added it again. Some properties have taxes that are so high that the taxes eat up any returns you make on the land. Speak with your land agent about this and make sure you understand what your costs will be before investing in a property.

-Are there wetlands on the property? Thanks to Waters of the US (WOTUS) and other laws, if you have wetlands on your property, huge parts of your land might not be useable. This could cause the value of your land to drop dramatically.

Investing in land real estate can be a great way to save up for retirement. Land real estate is a valuable and limited community that, historically, continually grows in value. If you do your research and spread your investments out over a few different types of land, you could have a successful start to saving and creating a well-balanced, diversified portfolio for your retirement.

About the author: Laura Barker is Marketing Assistant for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and had been with RLI since October 2017.