Tips From Land Experts on Closing Year-End Deals

With stress running high and people busier than ever, closing deals in December can be difficult. To find out how some agents flourish during the holidays, we reached out to some of our elite Accredited Land Consultants to find out their top tips for closing land deals in December.

Be Where The Buyers Are

Did you know that 78% of people do their holiday shopping online? Every year, more and more people go online to make purchases. With such an increase in screen time, sharing your properties on social media and in targeted ads is a great way to get your properties in front of potential buyers this time of year.

“The holidays are one of the better times to market your properties as families get together, shop on their phones, and flip back and forth on Facebook,” said Drew Ary, ALC, with Ary Land & Home/ Keller Williams Advantage. “In fact, 78% of people do most of their holiday shopping online and 54% of purchases will come from smart phones and tablets. Share your property listings and do some live videos about purchasing the ultimate Christmas present! Tell them to plan for tax season and use that extra money to make the most memorable investment there is to make!”

Communicate

Communication is always important in the land industry, but it is especially important around the holidays. As the calendar fills up, you run the risk of double booking a showing, client meeting, or other events. Clear communication is important with your staff, clients, and friends and family.

“Elevated communication is key. Each day matters when it comes to deadlines, so putting together a closing schedule early and keeping everyone in the loop at each step is essential,” said Kenny Schum, ALC, from Murray Wise Associates, LLC. “Make sure you know each stakeholders holiday travel schedules and business hours early and plan accordingly.”

Know Why They Buy (Or Sell)

While the popular misconception is that December is the slowest month for real estate sales, the looming tax season and the natural desire to get things done before the end of the year creates a whole new client base. Knowing who and why people buy will help you in closing land deals in December.

“Year end is busy for real estate brokers, buyers, sellers, and investors because it is a natural deadline for decisions,” said Ben Crosby, ALC, from Crosby & Associates, Inc. “Taxes are a major reason for these decisions. Buyers either want a purchase on their books before year end or after the new year. Sellers make the same decisions based on their best tax strategy.”

Be Prepared

Knowing that this time of year is hectic can actually be your secret weapon. Use the months beforehand to plan, schedule meetings, and layout what needs to be done before the holiday mayhem hits.

“Scheduling closings during the holiday season can be tricky,” said Phil McGinnis, ALC, of McGinnis Commercial Real Estate Co.  “I prepare all year to be able to call in favors at holiday time to get my closings fit in. Lawyers, paralegals, and the whole team of surveyors and appraisers usually don’t mind helping out if they have been helped out throughout the year.

De-Stress

Holidays have a way of packing on the stress. Working around the clock while trying to juggle all your other Christmas activities can drain even the toughest agent quickly. Make sure to take some time for yourself.

The holidays can be a tough time to close deals. However, with the right mindset, preparedness, and open communication with those in your office and in your life, closing land deals in December will be a breeze!

Don’t have your Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation yet? Learn about the requirements for and benefits of earning this prestigious 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.

Farm Bill Passes House and Senate, Heads To President Trump’s Desk

After passing both the House and Senate, the Farm Bill (also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act), is headed towards President Trump’s desk for his final seal of approval. The President is expected to approve the bill, saying yesterday that the bill is in “very good shape”.

The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the House, passing by 369-47, after being passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

If this Farm Bill gets President Trump’s final signature, the bill will renew crop insurance and expand the acreage of the Conservation Reserve Program. The bill will also allocate $225 million towards “Agriculture Trade Promotion and Facilitation”, which will help ease the financial impact on farmers during tariff wars. Overall, the Farm Bill is expected to cost $867 billion.

Environmental Protection Agency and Army propose a new definition of the WOTUS

 

On December 11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army proposed a new definition of the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS). This proposal is the final step in the process to review and revise the controversial rule following President Trump’s 2017 “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Renewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule” Executive Order.

 

“Our proposal would replace the Obama EPA’s 2015 definition with one that respects the limits of the Clean Water Act and provides states and landowners the certainty they need to manage their natural resources and grow local economies,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “For the first time, we are clearly defining the difference between federally protected waterways and state protected waterways. Our simpler and clearer definition would help landowners understand whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.”

wotus proposal epa signing december 11

RLI Past President Bob Turner, ALC, attended the official signing. “We will finally have clarification of the rules, we will be able to easily determine what is Federal waters and what is not without having to hire engineers, consultants and lawyers to get a determination,” said Turner. “This will allow landowners, farmers, developers, home builders, and conservationist to own, improve, develop, maintain and pass on to future generations with a clear, understandable and implementable definition.” Read more.

November 2018 Land Sales Summary

Based on data shared through the Lands of America Comparable Sales Program, there were 162 properties listed as sold by REALTORS© Land Institute Members in November 2018, an increase of 6 percent over the previous month. This represents approximately $90 million and 21,000 acres of land and rural real estate sold across 131 U.S. counties and 25 states. November 2018 sales activity by REALTORS© Land Institute members participating in the program decreased by 14 percent compared to sales volume from the same period in 2017.

Pat Karst with Wabash, Indiana-based Halderman Real Estate Services & Halderman Farm Management and Travis Hamele with Portage, Wisconsin-based United Country – Hamele Auction & Realty jointly recorded the most individual sales during the month.

Listed as sold on November 12, John Pearson with Pearson Real Estate Company, Inc. registered the month’s largest sale by overall size. The 6,442-acre Flying T Ranch (East Unit) is located in northeastern Wyoming’s Campbell County. The ranch includes about 12 miles of the Belle Fourche River, with most of the river flowing past the ranch headquarters and through the east pastures of the ranch. Of its total acreage, 4,641 acres are deeded, with the remainder held under State and BLM land leases.

The LandGuys’ Scott Whittington, ALC, notched the most expensive sale with the November 1 purchase of the Atherton Grain Facility in Illinois’ Bureau County. The silo is licensed to store up 4.5 million bushels and includes 20 grain-storage tanks. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Bureau County ranks seventh in the state for the size of its overall ag economy, with corn grown for grain and soybeans being the county’s biggest crops. __________________________________________________________________________________

The Lands of America Comparable Sales Program includes almost 260,000 individual sales records dating back to March 2000. The program was put together to offer one centralized, nationwide location to assist in valuating properties. Sales information is shared on a voluntary basis by individual program participants. Please click here to learn more about participating in the Lands of America Comparable Sales Program.

Should You Start A Christmas Tree Farm?

One of the surefire signs that Christmas is around the corner is seeing those beautiful green pine trees popping up in every household. If you are thinking about growing some trees of your own, ask yourself these five questions to see if a Christmas tree farm is right for your property.

1.Do You Have The (Right) Land?

With the average Christmas tree farm squeezing in 1,500 Christmas trees per acre, these trees can take up a fair amount of land. If the property you own doesn’t have enough room, you can always sublet land from a neighbor. Since Christmas trees take a long time to grow, make sure to work with a land expert in your area to make sure you get the best deal for this long-term commitment.

Soil type is another factor to take into consideration. While different trees do best in different soil types, well-drained, loamy soils are a good bet for almost every type of Christmas tree. Soil that holds onto water will drown the trees.

2. Do You Have The Time?

Christmas trees are low-maintenance, not no-maintenance. Not much has to be done in the first four years of growth, but after that, the trees do require upkeep. Once the trees start to mature, you’ll want to shape the trees to help them maintain that gorgeous conical shape everyone loves.

3. What Trees Will You Grow?

There are dozens of types of Christmas trees. Which ones will you grow? Here are some of the most popular according to the Farmers’ Almanac.

  • Balsam Fir. This tree is incredibly fragrant and will fill your house with that classic Christmas tree smell.
  • Douglas Fir. The way this tree grows gives it a natural fullness and conical shape.
  • Fraser Fir. People love these trees for the unique silver color underneath the needles.
  • Scotch Pine. Tired of sweeping up needles every day? Scotch pines are famous for not shedding and retaining water after it is cut, making it a great low-maintenance tree.
  • Colorado Blue Spruce. The ice-blue color of these trees makes it popular with people looking to do a little something different this Christmas.

4. Are You Looking For A Crop That Will Turn A Fast Profit?

Certain crops reach maturity quickly and have a high regrowth rate, making them great if you need cash in a pinch. Christmas trees are not one of those crops. From seed to fully-grown tree, the average Christmas tree takes anywhere from eight to ten years to reach maturity. And that’s only if everything goes right. Make sure you can afford to not make money off this specific crop while it matures.

5. Think Beyond the Tree

You can also sell greens, garlands, and wreaths alongside your trees. Holly, poinsettias, and pine cones are also extremely popular with decorators and crafty people. This text is from our 2019 updated Timberland course:

The land can be used for specialty products such as Christmas trees, boughs for holiday wreaths, mushrooms, honey, or maple syrup. Additionally, the land can be used for other wood products, such as saw, firewood, wood chips, decorative wood, greenery, cones, and seeds.

Christmas trees are a staple of the holiday season. We hope this article helped you decide whether or not your land is right to start your own Christmas tree farm or an agritourism business.

Whether you are looking for land to grow Christmas trees or any other kind of crop, be sure to always work with a qualified land real estate professional, like one that can be found on the Find A Land Consultant search tool, to get the best deal for your hard earned money.

Want to learn about growing trees for profit? Be sure to check out our Timberland course, which will be available to take in 2019!

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.

Selling Land in a Down Market

Selling rural land in a good market is fun. Lots of fun. Buyers are throwing money at you, sellers are happy with how quickly you sold their property, and you have some extra money in your pocket. You hope these days will never stop. But in the back of your mind you know that “all good things must come to an end.” Sales can be the best job in the world when it is good, and a very difficult career path when “no one is buying.”

I started my real estate career in January of 2008. Do you remember what was happening in real estate in 2008 and the years that followed? It was “the worst real estate market in 50 years.” I had the luxury of not knowing what a good market was. It was slow going for me to build a business from scratch, but I didn’t have to fight through the emotions of having a few great years, and then going into a deep slump.

Every year I was in business was my best year ever, up until 2016. In 2016, I made about 1/3 of what I earned in 2015. It was my first down year in my career. That year we welcomed a son into our family, and that involved a lot of time at home and kept me from being out in the field. I had some demands on my time because I served on several boards and was the president of the RLI Alabama Chapter. And it didn’t help that we had one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent history that year. My personal circumstances and the local market climate all added up to a big bust for me that year. But I learned a lot, and this article contains some of the lessons that were impressed upon me by my circumstances.

Here are some practical lessons that helped me get through some tough times, and I hope they are helpful for newer agents in the industry.

  1. Trim Debt- I don’t mean to sound like Dave Ramsey here, but there is a lot of freedom that comes from not being under the huge burden of large monthly payments. This isn’t always possible, especially for the business owner, but trim the debts where you can.
  2. Spend Money on the Things that Generate the MOST ROI. When you are flush, you will throw marketing dollars at anything that moves. When times get tough, it makes sense to invest those dollars in the places that will make you the most money. Revisit your online advertising plans, magazine ads, infrastructure, and business systems to see where you can squeeze more out of what you’re putting in.
  3. Be Diligent- When you get discouraged it is easy to slough off on work and go hunting or to the movies. Make the calls, send the emails, put in the face time that will generate the business you need. Down markets are not the time to take it easy.
  4. Be Active- The success of your business hinges, to a large degree, on how active you are. This principle is amplified when fewer people are buying. The activity also helps buoy your spirits, and makes you more productive and positive. Be proactive and do things that engage you spiritually, physically, socially, and mentally. I had to constantly fight the urge to withdraw and sit at home and mope. So much of the battle for making sales is fought between your ears. I am a fan of the concept of “What you think is what you become.” To a large degree, your thoughts shape your actions, and actions often shape outcomes.
  5. Be Generous- “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” is a famous quote from Jesus in the scriptures. Whether you are religious or not, this principle is true. Giving of your time, talents, or resources to others takes your mind off you and focuses on the needs of someone else. Trust me, it just works.
  6. Have Something Positive to Say- “How is the land business?” You will get asked this question 20 times a day. How you answer it will determine how much new business and what opportunities come your way. Don’t lie, and don’t manufacture stories to impress, but have something positive to say. Talk about a recent listing, showing, or offer if you don’t have recent sales to discuss. People want to do business with positive people.
  7. Always have 1 Property that is a DEAL. When someone asks you if have any deals, you need to have something to say. This is the chance to make a sale on something that is a really good buy or has some upside. Be ready to present a prospect with something that could make them some money.

I know this list is pretty elementary, but the lessons here helped me get through some difficult times. So much of selling is based on the vibes that people get from you. Find ways to be positive and better yourself. You need all the extra encouragement you can get to get it done. I have found Zig Ziglar to offer some helpful, time-tested perspective on sales topics like this.

There will be down markets ahead. No one knows exactly when, but markets are cyclical. I hope this article provides some ammunition to help you prepare and fight the war you’ll fight within.

Jonathan Goode, ALCJonathan Goode, ALC, is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and broker with Southeastern Land Group. He is licensed in Alabama and Mississippi and was the 2018 Alabama Land Realtor of the Year. You can hear him on his weekly radio show and podcast, The Land Show.

Land and Congress: Just The Facts

It seems like the more news there is, the harder it is to find out the facts. Important news about land legislative issues, such as tariffs and WOTUS, can get lost in a sea of opinion pieces. Let’s take a look at the simple facts surrounding five of the most pressing issues in the land industry.

Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule

WOTUS is one of the most controversial land legislative issues in the land industry. This law was written to clarify water resource management but sparked a debate about property rights.

“Many (wetlands) are already covered under the Clean Water Act,” said Russell Riggs, RLI’s Government Affairs Liaison for  the National Association Of REALTORS® (NAR) and Senior Regulatory Representative for NAR, in an interview with REALTOR® magazine. “This expands it beyond navigable waterways to little streams, ditches, and isolated wetlands that were never really intended to be covered by the Clean Water Act. WOTUS would sweep in thousands of smaller water bodies under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency and now you’re talking about all kinds of different permitting, regulatory burdens, as well as infringements of property rights.”

Many land organizations, including RLI, opposed the rule and have been avid advocates for its repeal and reform. In response to the land industry, the Trump Administration put the rule under review. At time of publication, WOTUS has been revived in 26 states.

Russell Riggs will be speaking on key land legislative issues at the 2019 National Land Conference in Albuquerque, NM, giving an update on the latest legislation affecting the land real estate industry.

The 2018 Farm Bill

On September 30th, 2018, the 2014 Farm Bill expired. The Farm Bill expired because Congress couldn’t reach an agreement on the many influential land legislative issues that this bill governs, such as:

This bill covers dozens of incredibly important and complex land legislative issues. Changes made to this bill will impact every corner of the land industry. Landowners, investors, and consumers will all be impacted. It’s important that your representatives in D.C. hear what you have to say about the Farm Bill. RLI has a strong voice in D.C., thanks to our member-driven Government Affairs Committee and by keeping members informed on the latest land laws in blog posts, social media, and D.C. Updates.

Update: The Farm Bill Passed

Tariffs

Tariffs are a tax a country puts on a product made abroad. The intention is to motivate Americans to buy local products at a cheaper price. At the time of publication, there is a ten percent tariff adding up to $200 billion on Chinese imports. President Trump is expected to raise tariffs in the future.

In retaliation, China imposed tariffs on American products, including soybeans, pork, milk, fruit, and many other crops. Soybeans, in particular, have struggled. The Chinese tariffs have driven soybeans prices down and some soybean farmers are struggling to pay the bills.

“Farmers see that pain right now,” said American Soybean Association CEO Ryan Findlay in an interview on CNBC. “You have to have the prices to pay the bill — and the prices aren’t there right now.”

During a record production year, many farmers are storing soybeans in the hopes that the trade war will soon end.  The long-term impacts, good or bad, are unknown right now.

Bailout

To help ease the economic stress of the ongoing tariff war, the USDA authorized a $12 billion bailout plan for farmers.

Farmers who met the criteria would receive incremental payments from USDA programs. The first $6 billion was distributed in late August. Additionally, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) set up the Food Purchase and Distribution program to buy $1.2 billion in American goods that were impacted by the tariffs.

Endangered Species Act

In an 8-0 vote, the Supreme Court ruled to limit which habitats can be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The central point of the debate was if lands where endangered species weren’t currently living, but might one day, protected under the law.

“Only the ‘habitat’ of the endangered species is eligible for designation as critical habitat,” the chief justice said highlighting how the scope of the law as written now is limited. “Even if an area otherwise meets the statutory definition of unoccupied critical habitat because the secretary finds the area essential for the conservation of the species, [the law] does not authorize the secretary to designate the area as critical habitat unless it is also habitat for the species.”

Staying up to date on land news is tricky, especially when so many key land legislative issues are always being updated or debated. We hope this article offered a no-nonsense look at the current state of several pressing land laws. If you’d like to get more involved with the Advocacy side of RLI, consider applying for our Governmental Affairs Committee and make sure to check back regularly to our DC Updates page for the latest news about the latest legislative issues affecting the land industry. Remember – your voice deserves to be heard in Congress!

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.

Supreme Court Limits Reach Of Endangered Species Act

In an 8-0 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled to limit the broad habitat protections of the Endangered Species Act. A key debating point was how the law could impact the dusky gopher frog, an endangered species in Louisiana. Environmental groups argued that protecting land that could be used as a habitat for the frogs could save the species, while development companies questioned how the land could be “critical” if the frogs did not live there and could not live there without changes to the land there.

“Only the ‘habitat’ of the endangered species is eligible for designation as critical habitat,” the chief justice said highlighting how the scope of the law as written now is limited. He continued “Even if an area otherwise meets the statutory definition of unoccupied critical habitat because the secretary finds the area essential for the conservation of the species, [the law] does not authorize the secretary to designate the area as critical habitat unless it is also habitat for the species.” Read more.

Top Five Land Podcasts

Between filling out endless paperwork, driving between properties, and finishing continuing education hours, how is the average land agent supposed to keep up with the latest in the land industry? There are a lot of great ways to stay in-the-know, such as following land experts on social media to reading top land blogs like ours. However, the most convenient way to learn about land is increasingly becoming podcasts. You can listen to them anywhere, and most of them are free! To help you sort through the hundreds of land podcasts, we’ve picked our top five favorite podcasts for land agents.

1. The Voices Of Land RLI Podcast

Best For: All Land Professionals

Okay, so maybe we are a little biased but as The Voice of Land, how could we not be the best podcast for land professionals to listen to. From key insights from the industry’s top experts to knowledge shared by our top-notch LANDU Education Program instructors, The Voices of Land RLI Podcast is a must listen!

Highlights:

  • Insights from true land experts on industry trends and land market information.
  • Key knowledge from our LANDU courses.
  • Discover the latest industry trends, technologies, and resources.

Listen now!

2. Let’s Talk Land with Lou Jewel, ALC

Best For: All Land Professionals

The question isn’t what topics are covered in Let’s Talk Land — it’s what topics aren’t covered? Lou Jewell, ALC features a new guest every week to talk about everything from land values to evaluating soil to land laws. As a LANDU instructor and the author of An Insider’s Guide to Land Investment, Jewell brings decades of experience to the table. Each guest brings a unique insight to the podcast, making each episode distinct.

Highlights:

  • Investing in Land with Tom Martinez, Investor
  • What’s My Land Worth? With Ron Loftis, Realtor® and MAI Appraiser
  • Curtis Seltzer Author Books on Land

Listen to Let’s Talk Land here.

3. Successful Farming podcast

Best For: Anyone Who Buys Or Owns Farmland

This podcast focuses on the day-to-day logistics of buying and owning farmland. Host Jodi Henke takes an in-depth look at topics such as seed treatments, soil health, and harvest safety. In between informative discussions, Henke chats with guests about topical issues such as women in farming. The Successful Farming Podcast is the perfect balance between educational and fun.

Highlights:

  • Anatomy of a Seed Treatment
  • Fall Soil Health Practices
  • Disease and Insect Challenges

Listen to the Successful Farming Podcast here.

4. AgriTalk

Best For: Agents Interested In Land Laws + Farmland Market Information

When it comes to farmland market information, AgriTalk is the place to go. They talk about exports, trade, wheat prices, and more. The hosts break down complicated topics such as the ongoing tariff war and make them easy to understand. Not only is the podcast educational, the hosts are also a ton of fun to listen to. They make you feel like you are hanging out with your friends and chatting about land.

Listen to AgriTalk here.

5. The Land Show

Best For: Land Agents in the Southeast

While this show focuses primarily on issues facing landowners and buyers in the Southeast, this podcast tackles topics that everyone in the land business should be aware of. Co-hosted by RLI Member Jonathan Goode, ALC, this podcast gives listeners an inside scoop about forestry, wildlife, leasing, land values, and more.

Listen to The Land Show here.

Podcasts are a great way to learn more about land on the go. These five are just a few examples of what podcasts have to offer land agents. There are hundreds of amazing land podcasts out there — so get ready to crank up the volume and make your next long drive even more productive!

Looking for more land education? Check out the RLI’s for a wide range of designed to help land real estate professionals increase their expertise and grow their business.

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.