How To Increase The Equity Value Of Your Recreational Land

My days are spent working with buyers and sellers of recreational and tillable land. So when I was approached about writing an article about recreational land it was a no-brainer. My fellow Minnesota agents and I do seminars every year at our state’s Deer Classic and the topic is “Land Buying & Selling 101”. During each seminar, we do a Q&A and we typically find many of the questions are about building equity in a current property or future property.  Although I live and work in MN, this information will hold true for many recreational properties and almost any place whitetail deer call home.

In my opinion, the cheapest and most effective thing you can do to grow equity and value to your property is purchasing some trail cameras. Buyers are always asking me to see trail camera photos from the property for sale.  When we check the analytics of our listings, it is proven that a listing with good trail camera photos vastly outperforms a listing without them. In addition, I personally advise my new buyers to go buy a thumb drive and save trail camera photos from day one, even if they have no plans of ever selling. It is great to be able to show a buyer 2-10 years of trail camera photos and allow them to see the quality and quantities of deer using the property.

The next low cost and high return item would be “road appeal”.  Much like curb appeal on a house, that first impression of a property will have a lasting effect. Start at the entrance of property; even if your property is not completely fenced, installing a simple yet sturdy gate that is lockable with a chain and adding a “no trespassing” sign, will add appeal for a buyer.  This low-cost item gives buyers a good sense of security and sets the tone of what they are going to see when viewing your property.  If you have spent any time on a farm you know there is a good chance of coming across an old junk site.  Removing these items can be time-consuming but in the long run, it will be build value in your property and make it more marketable when it comes time to sell. Clean up any trails you have on the property so when touring the property it is easy to navigate.

A property that is mainly used for whitetail deer hunting in a managed neighborhood is highly sought after. Creating a so-called managed neighborhood will take a great deal of work as well as time but will give you an abundant return.  I’m not going to discuss how a so-called management group should be run as that is an entire article in itself.  Ideally, you want your property to be in the center of this management group. Reaching out to all the neighboring landowners of your property is where you start.  Once you get them on board with a management plan ask them to reach out to their neighbors and so on and eventually you will have a large area of landowners all working towards the same management goals.  Sounds easy, but I can tell you it is not. This will take a lot of time and you will most likely have some people that will not want to participate and that is ok. The goal is to try to get as many on board as possible and work on growing the group.  This typically will take years, but keep in mind the value you are adding to your property.

The next few items are more labor-intensive and cost more money to complete and maintain. If you watch any hunting show or spend any time around an avid hunter you know that food plots are a huge factor when it comes to hunting whitetail deer these days. Just remember when it comes to food plots bigger isn’t always better.  Making sure you locate the food plot to maximize the hunting and access on the property is more important than the size of the plot. Having several well-placed food plots and keeping them maintained every year will be not only be a great increase in value, it will also help make memories when hunting season comes around.  In my opinion even more important than a food plot is water on a property. Not all properties will have flowing water on them.  Even those that do may not have the water in ideal locations for hunting. If your property is lacking a water source I personally would add this feature before I would add a food plot.  This can be as extravagant as hiring an excavator to install a pond in a location for natural run off to hold water or as simple as taking a 55-gallon drum and cutting it in half and digging it in the ground.  I personally use a product made by a local company that holds 100 gallons of water and has a trough for the water to sit in and allows all kinds of wildlife to drink from it. I have 5 of these on my property and they are all located in great travel and staging areas I hunt. I do have to fill them a few times a year but since they are mobile they give me the option to relocate them.  Since they are portable I can make location changes based off of my hunting observations. I can’t do that with a pond made by an excavator.

A good trail network will allow you access in and around a property.  The extent of the trail network needed will depend on the topography and makeup of the land. I personally deal with the rolling bluffs of Southeast Minnesota so creating access from the bottom to the top is almost a must if you want to get the most for your property.  Most landowners do not own excavating equipment so I highly suggest asking around to find out who others have worked within the area to do such projects. It is in your best interest to do your research and get references prior to hiring someone.  A quality bulldozer operator can accomplish a lot in a short time. Most first time buyers are nervous about what it will cost to create a good trail network.  I have even encouraged sellers in the past to invest in a trail network as it I knew it would make their property more marketable and they would see the return on their investment.

Hunters from Minnesota we are used to hunting in extremely cold weather.  In my opinion, the old saying “you’re not a real hunter if you sit inside a blind” has gone out the window in the last decade. Box blinds are here to stay and the more hunters that hunt out of them the more buyers want them on their property.  As an example, our state’s Deer Classic event this year included at least 7 different manufacturers of enclosed deer stands. If a manufactured stand is not in your budget you can also build it out of lumber, just make sure it is clean, sturdy and safe. From there adding quality sturdy ladder or hang-on stands will also increase your property value. Stands are something every hunter wants and if you have created a great location for them and they’re of good quality you will always get your money back out of them plus you get to enjoy them while you own the property.

“Has this property been surveyed?” is almost always asked when I’m showing a potential buyer a property.  In my territory, the land is not flat and often times you can’t see from one corner to another.  Spending the money to hire a professional surveyor to mark your property boundary corners as well as points between the corners will make a buyer more comfortable when purchasing your property.  It also allows you to easily establish or maintain your property line. This can also be helpful when doing any logging, adding a trial system, food plots, water locations or even hanging stands and posting your property.  With anything, I would suggest getting a few quotes on this project and asking around on who someone would recommend. If you are not in a time crunch to get this done I would recommend asking the surveyors what time of the year they are least busy as they may give you a better price during their slow time versus their peak time. In my area, the downtime is during the winter.

These next three improvements are much more expensive but can add some serious value to your property. They are not going to be good for all buyers and will require more thought than the previous improvements I have mentioned.  These three items, in no particular order, are 1) adding a driveway, 2) bringing in power and 3) drilling a well.  A couple questions you need to ask yourself or your group of owners are “Will this improvement be something almost all future owners of this property see value in?” and “Could it be any cheaper to do it later versus now?” Adding a driveway that is easy to travel won’t get cheaper with time and will always make the property more enjoyable and user-friendly.  Bringing power to the property will also be worth your investment. This can become costly if you are having the power brought in a significant distance.  However, I have talked with clients that had power brought to their property for almost free and I have met clients where it was going to cost them $10,000 or more to get power to their property. So this one can get tricky, if the cost to bring power to the property is extremely high and you are not going to use it for a length of time it might not be an investment you will want to add to your property. The last of the three items, drilling a well can vary in cost all over the country. Personally, I know the cost is pretty significant in Southeast Minnesota.  However, when I tell a buyer there is a well on the property they all understand what cost went into it and they see the value. I do not see the cost of these three items getting any cheaper by waiting.

Now we are going to talk about the biggest decision that can add value but at the same time affect the marketability to the greatest number of future buyers of your property.  I get people all the time that ask if they will get their money back out of a cabin if they built one.  My advice is to keep it simple, yet clean and functional, don’t get elaborate or install high-end finishes if you want to make sure you get your money back out of it. It is best not to overbuild as it will limit future potential buyers. As soon as you make a cabin or house addition to a property you immediately take some future buyers off the table. The goal is to not eliminate too many of the remaining buyers by building something that is either too personal or elaborate that it would shrink your potential buyer pool so small you will not see your return on your investment.  Don’t get me wrong if you want to build a custom log home on your reactional land and you enjoy it for 20+ years, go for it. You will get your return out of the use and enjoyment.  If you have a short-term plan for the property then stick to something simple.

As you can see there are many different ways you can increase the equity in your recreational land. These improvements may take years or even decades and can vary drastically in cost but they are all great ways to increase the equity value of your property while enjoying it.  I will leave you with the one thing I always ask while giving my seminars. “In a show of hands how many of you have ever made any memories on your 401k or stocks or bonds?” No one has ever raised their hands, but I can promise you every single landowner in America has made memories on a piece of land they have invested in. Owning land is one of the best financial investments you can make in your lifetime and the memories you make on it while you own it will be your favorite return on investment.

About the Author: Bob Stalberger, ALC is the Land Specialist in Southeast MN for Whitetail Properties Real Estate. Stalberger is the Realtors Land Institute Minnesota Chapter President and a recipient of the Apex Awards 2017 Top Twenty Producer. Bob specializes in selling hunting and farmland and has been an ALC since 2016.

The Six Most Common Mistakes When Buying Residential Land Real Estate

You’ve probably heard home buying horror stories before. Everyone knows someone that got stuck in a mortgage they couldn’t afford or finding out too late that their dream house was crawling in termites. Residential land buying mistakes are very different from home buying ones, but both have lasting consequences. Here are some of the most common mistakes made when buying residential land and how to prevent them.

1. Not Working With A Professional

Why spend all the money on a land expert when your neighbor Bob down the street has bought residential land before? Maybe Bob doesn’t have much experience in the field or any certifications, but he’ll do it for half the cost!

Even though it might save you dollars and cents in the short term, not working with a land professional could cost you serious money down the road. ALCs have a world-class education in land and years of experience under their belt. They know the ins and outs of the industry. All of the rest of the mistakes on this list can be avoided by working with a land expert.

2. Not Stepping Foot On The Property

Google Earth is an amazing tool. You can use it to view the history of any property and tour the neighborhood. However, no online tool can replace the experience of actually seeing a property in person. You and your agent can best spot any issues with the land that might be too small for Google Earth to pick up. Walking around a property can also help prevent our next mistake…

3. Assuming ‘Buildable’ Means The Same Thing Everywhere

In some areas, the word ‘buildable’ simply means your city or county permits you to build on the land. This definition has nothing to do with the land type. It only means that you are allowed to build on it. In other areas, it means the land type and characteristics are good to build on. It’s kind of like how ‘sweet tea’ means tea brewed WITH sugar in the South while the same words means tea with sugar added AFTER the tea has brewed in the North.

This is an uncommon issue in the land industry, since most sellers give their buyers the information they need to distinguish between the two. However, there may be some vague listings and possibly less than honorable people willing to take advantage of people who don’t know the difference.

4. Not Knowing the Lingo

Land lingo can be confusing. Not knowing the language of residential land buying can end up in you buying the wrong property or buying in the wrong place. Here are some words you will definitely need to know to get started:

  • HOA/POA. Home Owners Association or Property Owners Association are groups dedicated to the upkeep of common areas of a property and protecting the property’s values.
  • Restricted subdivision. This is a type of subdivision where deed restrictions are put in place by the initial developer to protect property values. Homeowners will be required to follow these restrictions.
  • Unrestricted subdivision. In unrestricted subdivisions, these areas do not have POA or HOAs that enforce restrictions that protect property values. However, they are not excluded from state or county-imposed deeds.

5. Skipping The Tests

We know, we know. No one likes shelling out extra money when buying land is already so expensive. However, these tests are the key to making sure you aren’t stuck with a property that has environmental hazards, the wrong soil type, or any other disaster waiting to happen. These tests include (but are not limited too):

  • Title searches
  • Soil tests
  • Land Surveys
  • Environmental tests
  • Appraisals

6. Thinking All Fees Are Included

Fees and extra costs are like cockroaches: if you see one, there’s probably ten more hiding somewhere close. In an article for realtor.com, Chris Chapin, a REALTOR® with Douglas Elliman, points out all the little costs people forget about.

“There are substantial expenses for getting land ready for construction,” Chapin notes. “You will need a survey, permits from the municipality, and health department approval. The site must be cleared, graded, and excavated. Departments of local, county, and state governments can be involved, all with associated fees, of course. The process from identifying a parcel for purchase to receiving the certificate of occupancy can take a year or more.”

Staying informed on the land industry and working with a land expert are two of the best ways to avoid these common mistakes. We hope this article can help you avoid and overcome the most common mistakes when buying residential land.

Make More Money Off Of Your Timberland

Timber prices are at a record high. The tragic wildfires of last summer and trade disputes as well as an increase in demand for new residential housing have all caused the price of timber to skyrocket. With low supply and high demand, timberland owners are sitting on a potential gold mine. To make the most off of the high prices, you’ll need to tread carefully. Here’s how to make the most out of the booming market.

Check The Timber Mills

Is your local log mill looking for a particular kind of log? Many mills are willing to pay extra for logs that meet their specific standards and may dock your pay if they do not. Some mills even pay less for logs that are larger than usual. This means you are getting less money for more timber! Scope out the pricing of your local mills to find out where your tress will make the most money.

Long-Term Gain

Patience is the name of the game when it comes to timberland. Prepare to lose money for the first few years because you will need to spend money planting and taking care of the trees. Since timber doesn’t provide immediate returns, many people might be hesitant to invest.

However, timber has historically produced strong long-term returns. Many financial websites, such as CNN Money and Investopedia, recommend investing in timber as a way to diversify your portfolio. The returns tend to move countercyclically to other markets, providing your portfolio with a safety net. Not only is investing in timber a smart financial move, it is a good investment in your land. Timber is a hearty, relatively low maintenance tree that will produce steady returns for years.

To Cut Or Not To Cut?

When you cut your trees doesn’t only impact your current crop, it will also determine the growth and health of the next generation of trees. With prices at a record high, it can be tempting to cut down your trees as soon as they mature. Try to plan harvests around times that would benefit the saplings as well as when your timber is at its highest value.

Best Practices

Taking care of your timber now will result in high-value trees down the road. Regular thinnings, regeneration harvests, and timber stand improvements (the culling of undesirable trees and saplings) are all practices that result in healthier (a.k.a. more valuable) trees. Healthy trees mean healthy saplings and a whole new generation of high-value trees. It’s a never-ending cycle of profit!

Sky-high prices and an increasing demand have created a modern day gold rush. Although it can be tempting to chop down all your trees and cash in on the craze, long-term planning is the best option for you to make the most money off of your timber.
To learn more about timber, be sure to check out the newly updated LANDU course Timberland Real Estate on August 1st being hosted by the RLI Alabama Chapter.

This article was originally posted to the National Land Realty blog.

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 Great Grazing Debate

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word ‘holistic’? Daily meditation? An all-kale diet? Yoga retreats that cost more than most houses? For some people, it’s holistic planned grazing (also called HPG), a system that supposedly increases the health of your land. Like anything that has a lot of supporters, it also has doubters. So, is this method going to save our lands? Today, let’s explore holistic planned grazing and if it is right for your land.

Holistic planned grazing caught the attention of the land community after a 2013 Ted Talk by Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean ecologist and farmer. He claimed that, contrary to popular opinion, reducing the number of animals on the land actually made the land condition worse. He concluded that the natural grazing patterns of animals is actually better for land.

Savory’s TedTalk, which currently has over four million views, sparked a debate in the land community. Some blogs, such as GrainNews, are singing the praises of HPG. Others, like the Sierra Club, are more suspicious of this new method.

So, what exactly is this practice that is causing so much controversy? Simply put, holistic planned grazing is a pattern of grazing that mimics how wild herds would have grazed on the land before it was cultivated. In theory, this practice will help the land return to a more natural state. HPG will be different for every landowner based off of their amount of livestock, type of land, soil type, and your overarching goals for improving the land.

Holistic planned grazing isn’t just letting your cattle out into the fields and hoping for the best. In fact, it requires quite a bit of planning and tracking. Timing is key when it comes to holistic planned grazing. Have your livestock stay in a pasture for too long and you run the risk of overgrazing. Too short a stay and the land will not reap the full benefits.

Many farmers who have tried this method have reported positive results. In one study, organic dairy farmer Dharma Lee tracked the health of their land over three years. Here is what they noticed:

  • A 120% increase in the number of grazing days per year, from 76 days to 167 days per year, which translated into an annual savings of $27,300 for them.
  •  A drop in feed cost from 60% to 48% of the total cost of production.
  • Improved profitability, with a gross margin of 41%.
  •  Increased carrying capacity of the land, with a 68% increase in grass harvested by cattle on the pasture.
  • A significant improvement in livestock health, with a key indicator – mastitis – dropping from 73% to 3% within the herd.

You can read the full study here. Other landowners have reported similar results in their land.

“Holistic management is a method of managing livestock in rapid rotation to increase greater production, sustainably, and profitably,” says Jennifer Sandy, a cattle rancher.

As we mentioned earlier though, not everyone is a fan of holistic planned grazing. American ecologist Dr. John Carter believes that HPG relies too heavily on personal anecdotes and not enough on science. He also points out that the study ignores the negative effects of intense trampling on a land’s water storage and plant productivity.

So, is Holistic planned grazing right for your land? That depends on a number of factors:

  • Are you trying to improve the health of your land?
  • Do you have the time/resources to plan and carry out moving your cattle?
  • Can your land recover if your livestock occasionally over or under graze an area?
  • Do you want your landscape to mimic its original growing patterns?
  • Do you have enough livestock to cover the land? And if not, does it make financial sense to invest in more livestock?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, HPG might be great for your land. Be sure to watch the original TedTalk, see what other landowners have to say, and work with a land expert in your area before making your final choice. Since it is a newer method, only time will tell if holistic planned grazing is the future of land or just a passing trend.

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.

Top Crops for 2018 and How To Make More Profit On Them

Crops can be profitable for a variety of reasons. Some are staples of day-to-day life, some flourish in specific climates, and some are popular because they are trendy (think superfoods like kale and avocados). Today, we’re going to take a look at what makes these five top crops so successful and how you can make even more money off of them.

When choosing our top crops, we’ve factored in three key things:

  1. Profitability (of course!)
  2. Demand (both historic and recent)
  3.  Value (current and predicted)

Of course, some of these crops might not be right for your specific land and the current tariff war has temporarily lowered the value of some of the crops on this list. But we think these five crops are excellent investments in the long term.

Corn

What Makes It A Top Crop: Corn is in everything! It’s used in animal feed, plastic, penicillin, sugar substitutes, whisky, ethanol, and so much more! While the demand may fluctuate, there will always be a need for corn.

How To Make More Money: At the Illinois Soybean Association event, successful corn farmer Randy Dowdy shared his secrets to success, saying “The difference between a good farmer and a great farmer is timing and attention to detail.” Dowdy kept a close eye on his expenses to see what his return for investment was, and was able to determine from that what he could cut back on.

Dowdy is also a huge fan of minerals. “You want 300-bushel-per-acre corn? If it takes a certain amount of nitrogen, a certain amount of phosphorous, and a certain amount of potash to make a bushel of corn, my question is, how much magnesium, molybdenum, copper, iron, sulfur, calcium, manganese, phosphorous, potash, boron and zinc does it take to make a bushel of corn? Yields are based on limiting factors,” Dowdy said. If all this sounds close to a foreign language to you, it’s a perfect example of why it is so important to find a qualified expert to help with your land transaction. You’ll need to consider everything from ROI to soil type when determining if this is the right crop for your prop.

Pork

What Makes It A Top Crop: Technically, pigs aren’t exactly crops, but they are still in high demand. A strong demand and high prices make pork a great “crop”.

How To Make More Money: Make your own feed. Feeding pigs can be a huge money drain.  Here is a great recipe for making your own pig feed.

Raising the most in-demand pigs ensures you can get higher prices for the same amount of meat. Some popular ones are the American Yorkshire Pig, Berkshire pigs, and Durco pigs. We have lots of other helpful tips in our recent article on how the Pork Industry Brings Home the Bacon.

Sorghum

What Makes It A Top Crop: The USDA predicts that sorghum will return $74 per acre for the 2018-2019 year. While this is a lower return than some of the other plants on this list, in many high-altitude areas, hearty sorghum can be more profitable than corn. Other countries like China buy tons of sorghum as a cheap feed source or to make alcohol.

How To Make More Money: Don’t invest all your money in sorghum just yet. Recently, China imposed a 179% tariff on sorghum. Previously, sorghum was the number one import from China. While this crop has hit a rough spot internationally, it still has a ton of potential. We suggest waiting until the tariff war dies down though before growing this crop.

Soybeans

What Makes It A Top Crop: Even in the face of a tariff war, America is the leading soybean producer and exporter in the whole world. Similar to corn, soybean has a lot of uses, such as animal feed, cooking oil, biodiesel fuel, and more. Plus, as consumers become more health conscious, it is also often a great way to get plant-based protein.

How to Make More Money: Similar to sorghum, we wouldn’t recommend buying soybeans right now. In the future, check out the tips from Dan Arkels, winner of the 2014 Illinois Soybean Association yield contest, from his article on agriculture.com:

  1. Get the right soil. Arkles recommends soil that holds water well and has excellent drainage. “My soils are black, tight, and deep Muscatine-Sable type of soils,” said Arkles.
  2. Plant early. Early planting allows soybeans have an increased flowering period. “A soybean plant is light-sensitive, and it will flower as late as the season allows,” he says.
  3. Weed management. Did you know that around fifty percent of waterhemp seeds are viable nine days after flowering? Removing waterhemp plants before the harvest prevents future waterhemp.

Marijuana

What Makes It A Top Crop: While still illegal in some states, marijuana is medically legal in 30 states and recreationally in nine. Its new legality makes it an incredibly trendy crop.  It’s currently the fastest growing crop in America. Hemp, marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin, is still illegal, but there is a huge push to legalize it in Congress.

How To Make More Money: This one is tricky. Since legal marijuana is not federally legal, you want to make sure to work within the law. One way to make more money is knowing all the products that can come from this plant. It has uses in medicine, helping veterans suffering from PTSD, beauty products, and many other uses.

Even the best crops can have slumps. However, we hope this list got you thinking about ways to make more money off of your crops or even new ways that you can make sure you’re getting the highest and best use out of your property. If you’re thinking of purchasing land to grow one of these Top Crops, make sure to Find A Land Consultant near you. Purchasing and managing land real estate requires specialized expertise!

 

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.

Investing in Land 101

“Ninety percent of all millionaires become so through owning real estate. More money has been made in real estate than in all industrial investments combined. The wise young man or wage earner of today invests his money in real estate.” — Andrew Carnegie, billionaire industrialist

When it comes to investing, land has always been a solid choice. Many finance experts agree that investing in land is an excellent way to diversify your portfolio. There are also plenty of famous billionaires who have made their fortune in land. Today, we’re going to break down the basics of investing in land real estate.

Investing in Land vs Investing in Stocks

Before we look into investing in land, it’s important to know how it is different than investing in stocks. When you buy a stock, you own a tiny piece of that company. When the company profits, you profit. When you buy land, you choose exactly what you want to do with that land. You can transition it to another land type, lease it out, or just hold onto it and wait for the value to increase (we’ll get more into these investing methods later in the article). You have a lot more control when investing in land.

Investing In Land

There are many different ways to invest in land real estate, but today we’re going to look at the top three most popular with land experts.

1: You can hold onto the land until the market is great and you can sell it for a profit (also called the buy and hold method). Since it relies heavily on the market, this is usually the slowest way to make a profit. However, if you buy a quality piece of land during a market dip, you can sell it at a profit when the market is strong. Buy low, sell high!

2: You can invest to transition the land to its highest and best use. Transitional land is a booming market. This method will cost more, but if you find the perfect use for your land, you can make serious money off of your transitional land.

3: You can lease the land out to farmers or hunters. This requires more work but can get you a steadier profit. You’ll definitely want to work with a land expert like an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) on the contracts to make sure you are getting maximum profits on each lease.

Benefits of Investing in Land

There are many benefits to investing in land real estate. Here are just a few.

  • Diversify Your Portfolio. Land is an excellent way to give your other investments a safety net. If you invested all your money in stocks, and the stock market drops, you run the risk of losing most of your savings. Investing in land gives you safety even when other markets are down. Over the last twenty-five years, farmland has produced 5 percent annual return on average. Cha-ching!
  • Limited resource. Ever wonder why people pay thousands of dollars for tiny apartments in San Francisco and New York? It’s because land is a limited resource, and desirable land will always be in demand. As Mark Twain once famously said, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”
  • Low effort. One thing many people love about investing in land is that it usually requires minimal effort, especially if you are using the buy and hold method. This is a huge benefit for farmers and land real estate agents who have very little free time.

Drawbacks

Even though there are a ton of benefits to investing in land real estate, there are some factors you need to be aware of. Even though we think investing in land is an excellent idea, our goal is for you to make the best educated choice for you and your land.

  • Taxes can be tricky. States and counties have different laws for taxing investment land. Here’s a great guide to understanding exactly how much you should be paying in taxes for different types of land.
  • Previous uses. Previous land uses can impact the land’s value and what you can use the land for. For example, some land uses can result in environmental hazards that will cause the land value to plummet. Sometimes, it can be difficult to track down the previous land uses, especially if the land has had many owners. Luckily, if you are having trouble finding the previous uses, you can always use this Google Earth hack to see the land’s history!
  • Patience. Depending on your method of investing, you won’t see returns for anywhere from six months to many years. You should only invest money into land that you won’t need in the next few years. No one likes the waiting game, but good things take time!

Investing in land is a great way to build wealth and save up for retirement. Be sure to consult with a professional and know the hottest land markets to invest in before making any big decisions with your savings.

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.

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.