Do These Old Land Rules Hold Up?

The business of buying and selling land is one of the oldest known to man. Over time, certain rules and sayings were established as the keys to success in the land industry. Some of those rules about land have stood the test of time, and some have not. For all the new land agents in the industry, we’re going to look at some of the most popular rules in the land industry to see if they still hold up years later.

1. Land Is Always A Good Investment

Yes – But Only For Smart Investors  

Investing in land has always been a great way to diversify your portfolio. Plots of land are often passed down generation to generation as a reliable investment. There are lots of great investment options depending on your level of risk and timeline, such as the “buy and hold” method or . Vacant land can give huge returns if held onto for the right period of time or improved.

However, investing in land is not risk-free, especially for people that aren’t land experts. There are more factors impacting land value (such as international trade, , and new land laws) than ever before. Unlike other investment options, land is not guaranteed to earn interest. If the land isn’t transitioned to its highest and best use or is not in high demand when it comes time to sell, you will lose money.

Many old rules about land investing, such as the importance of timing and being familiar with the market, still apply. There is a lot to take into consideration with investing in land, such as zoning, topography, taxes, etc. If you are not a land expert, be sure to work with a land professional before investing.

2. In-Person Networking Is Key To Success

Yes – But It Doesn’t Always Have to Be In-Person  

Nothing can replace in-person contact. As Jonathan Goode, ALC, with Southeastern Land Group said in his article Ten Lessons For Land Agents From A Decade In The Dirt, “20% of what we do is about land, and the other 80% is dealing with people.” In an industry where trust and people skills are the backbone of success, networking remains as important as ever.

However, for the first time in history, technology allows us to network, socialize, and promote ourselves without leaving the house. Social media has made it easier than ever to connect with people from the comfort of your couch. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter let you meet other professionals, advertise to potential and current clients, and learn about the latest land news. In-person networking might still be essential to success in the land industry, but social media allows us to stay connected as well.

 3. Timber Is A Good Option for Retirement

Yes and No

While many people generally agree on the benefits and drawbacks of investing in land in general, the rules of land surrounding investing in timberland have been much less sure. A Washington Post article called “Thousands of Southerners Planted Trees for Retirement. It Didn’t Work” sparked a debate within the land industry. The article follows a farm owner who diversifies his family farm by planting pine trees. He lost millions when the 2009 housing crash hit and resulted in the decline in pine prices.

Some read this article as a declaration of the death of timberland investing. Others argued that the article ignored the fact that the recovery of the economy resulted in lumber prices returning to their pre-crash values.

In his article “Is Pine Timberland Still A Good Investment?”, Jonathan Goode, ALC, wrote that both sides had good points. He notes the glut of timber in parts of the Southeast and that people did lose significant money, but that no investment is foolproof. People that invested in the stock market around the housing crash would have also lost a ton of money. He mentioned that even in the worst market, there is room to make money off of timber.

“The good news for small to medium-sized investors is that you can avoid some of the problems that have plagued institutional buyers,” says Goode. “Timberland Investment Management Organizations (TIMO’s) are given the difficult task of going and Finding a large package of timberland to Purchase on behalf of their client, Manage the fund for 10-15 years, and then sell with guaranteed returns.”

The meat of the Washington Post story is less about the history of timber and more about the unpredictability of the market. There are things you can do to make sure your land is safe, such as and , but there is little you can do about the market. With any investment in land or other asset, there will always be risk.

 4. Working With An ALC Is The Best Way To Buy And Sell Land 

Yes!

A lot of things change in the land industry, but some things never do. Working with an Accredited Land Consultant ensures that you are working with the best in the industry. They are land experts with an incredible network of other professionals, years of experience, top-notch education, and some of the hardest working people you’ll ever meet.  The ALC Designation has been around for decades (under several different names) and has served generations of land experts with the tools for success in the land industry.

As years pass, even the most trusted rules about land can crumble and be replaced by new ones. However, some other land rules have stayed the same for centuries. Only time will tell which rules about land from today will still hold up tomorrow.

Interested in becoming an Accredited Land Consultant? Sign up for LANDU Education Week in Denver, CO, for the chance to complete the Education Requirement portion of the designation.

About the Author: Laura Barker is a freelance writer based out of California for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She has been with RLI since October 2017.

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