Leveraging Google Maps and Google Earth

It is mind-boggling that Google Earth and Google Maps are free. These programs allow you to get 3D views of properties anywhere in the world, download extensive files with all the information you could ever want about land, monitor natural disasters in real time, and you don’t need to spend a penny to use them. Land experts need to have a wide range of expertise with Google Maps and Google Earth. Whether you’re a Google Earth pro or new to virtual mapping, we’ve got you covered with tips for how to take your Google Mapping skills to the next level so you can better market your properties and more confidently serve your clients.

Before we dive into these two technologies, you might be asking yourself Wait… aren’t Google Maps and Google Earth the same thing? They have a few important differences. Google Maps is a mapping website used more for locating places and getting directions. The graphics aren’t as good, but the traffic and navigation options are up-to-the-second accurate. Google Earth, on the other hand, is used more for virtually visiting properties, with stunning high-def graphics. Both are extremely useful to land experts, Google Maps for navigation and Google Earth for information.

Beginner

Explore The World Without Leaving Your Couch

When you use Google Earth, you can explore 3D versions of various properties and the surrounding area. If you want to explore a property that is way out of driving range, using Google Earth lets you get an in-depth look into the land.

Turn Back The Clock

Want to know the history of a property, but can’t find information on it anywhere? Whether it’s difficult owners or confusing paperwork, being stuck without any information about your property’s history can be beyond frustrating. Google Earth lets you view the exact same property at different points in time. Not only can this help you get a sense of a property’s history, it also gives you a sense about the area’s future land values. As you flip through the years, keep an eye on the properties around yours. Is there a lot of development? That’s a good indicator that land values are on the rise and the land is in the path of growth. Notice little to no improvements made to the land? Is the land looking worse over time? Chances are values could soon fall.

Intermediate

Measure Lot Dimensions

Google Earth’s measuring tool lets land experts measure out everything from lot sizes to how many feet of lake frontage a property might have.

To use this feature, go to the ‘Measurements’ tab in the upper left-hand corner. First, pick your unit of measurement (miles, feet, inches). Then, simply click and drag your mouse around the area you want to measure. The tool in the corner will immediately let you know the area’s measurements. It’s that easy!

Longitude and Latitude

Many rural land properties (especially vacant land), don’t have registered street addresses. This can make it difficult for clients to visit the property. Google Earth allows you to get the longitude and latitude of any location on Earth. Just zoom in on the area, click on the location, and it’ll give you the coordinates. You can use the ‘share’ tool to send the URL to clients or put it on your website.

Advanced

Import KMZ And KML

KML (Keyhole Markup Language) and KMZ (KML-Zipped) are file formats that store important information (parcel information, buildings, power grids) about land via Google Earth. You’ll want these if you want in-depth information about the land.

Before you can access this great tool, you’ll need to download an application like Parlay. This application provides the parcel data layers and files to use in Google Maps. Once you’ve downloaded Parlay, you will see layers of data in your ‘My Places’ tab.

Make A Tour

Why send clients a link to a property when you can give them a tour of it? The tours, called KML tours, can also be narrated by you! Click the ‘Add Tour’ button in the main screen, and when you are ready, press the ‘Record’ button. Create the tour by zooming in and out, rotating the globe, and flying to different locations. Your microphone will record whatever you say (stumble in the middle of your planned speech? Never fear! You can edit the audio once you’ve finished the tour). Click the ‘Record’ button again when you are done.

After writing this article, we still can’t wrap our heads around the fact that this program is free. Google Maps and Google Earth can be some of the most powerful tools a land expert has. We hope these tips will help you make the most of it.

Seth Williams from RETipster has lots of excellent step-by-step videos on Google Maps and Earth. He even shares tricks such as drawing parcel lines with the polygon tool and how to find the elevation of any point on Earth. Check them out!

Want to learn more about Google Mapping? If you are in Texas, you’re in luck! RLI’s Texas Chapter is hosting a Google Earth Mapping for Real Estate course on June 25.

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.

A Record LANDU Education Week

In 1984 George Straight was launched to the top of the charts with his # 1 song Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind. Now, 34 years later, a record number of RLI Members will likely be launched to the top of the charts in their own markets thanks to one of the best LANDU events ever put on by RLI. With 50 participants involved in nine full days of intense classes, along with evening festivities most nights, there was certainly not a down moment during the week.

Attendees came from all over the United States this year. We had representation from brokers that specialized in selling the Alaskan frontier, the California coast, recreational properties in Colorado, hunting ranches in Montana, working ranches in Texas, timber farms in Georgia, rural developments in Tennessee, commercial properties in Alabama, and citrus groves in Florida. The camaraderie and knowledge alone that was shared amongst just the attendees was certainly both enjoyable and valuable. It’s quite clear just from engaging in conversations with RLI members from across the country why they are some of the top real estate agents in their markets.

The RLI Texas Chapter hosted us to a fabulous evening at the Fort Worth Stockyards. Visiting the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame and Niles City Hall Saloon were wonderful ways to start the evening. A special thank you must be given to Lone Star Ag Credit for the drinks and amazing dinner they treated us to at Lonesome Dove Bistro. What would an evening in the Fort Worth Stockyards be without a night cap at the White Elephant Saloon?

Obtaining the Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation is no easy feat. With 104 educational hours being required, it’s something that can literally take years to accomplish. LANDU did a fabulous job of condensing these hours into the nine days that we were in Texas, without cutting corners on the quality of the education. I’ve taken real estate classes in multiple states across the country, and I must say that the instructors we had at LANDU were by far some of the best instructors I’ve ever had. It was an honor to learn from them and hear about their years of experience in the real estate industry.

In the Transitional Land Real Estate course, we discussed the financial aspects, physical attributes, and the governmental, legal and economic factors that can greatly impact a piece of development ground.

This carried over smoothly to Land Investment Analysis where we analyzed data to calculate the net present value, net future value, internal rate of return, and multipliers and ratios for different properties when determining the highest and best use of those properties.

In the Land 101: Fundamentals of Land Brokerage course, we discussed the tools and techniques that are involved to strategically market and sell both vacant land and rural properties.

Agricultural Land Brokerage and Marketing was certainly educational in that it brought to light all the different economic factors that can affect the value of agricultural land.  It also taught us how to analyze and calculate the income potential of farm land.

The Tax Deferred 1031 Exchange class educated us on the different tax laws that exist for our clients, and how we can help them defer taxes on their investments.

Even though I’ve been a licensed REALTOR® for 16 years, the topics that were covered in the Transitional Land Real Estate class, Land Investment Analysis class, and Tax Deferred 1031 class each gave me tools that I literally put to use in my practice within the first three days of being back in my hometown.  Being able to pass along my knowledge and expertise to my clients will certainly separate me from my competition, and I have LANDU and RLI to thank for that.

As George Straight says in Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind… “Good memories don’t fade so easy.  Does Fort Worth ever cross your mind?” I think I speak on behalf of the majority of the attendees that participated in this year’s LANDU Education Week when I say that the good memories will certainly not fade so easy from the fun times we created getting to know one another, and when Fort Worth crosses our minds we’ll think of the eventful evening we had together that night thanks to RLI.

 

Justin Osborn is a real estate broker with The Wells Group. Justin is a member of RLI on the Future Leaders Committee working towards earning his ALC.  He currently resides in Durango, CO.

Residential Land Real Estate 101: Back to the Basics

The demand for residential land real estate continues to increase, but its important to recognize that residential is one of the trickier land types. If you Google residential land, you’ll find articles about houses (but not the land they are on), vacant land, farmland, and various reality shows. Residential land overlaps with other land types. One of the most common overlaps is residential and vacant. Many undeveloped residential lots can also be categorized as vacant lots, and many vacant lots can be transitioned into land fit for residents. Since residential land is such a broad term, many people are hesitant to get involved in a field with so many gray areas. Today, we are going back to basics to learn the need-to-know information about residential land real estate.

Different Types Of Clients

You might think that people buying residential land real estate and those buying houses are the same. Actually, they often have very different goals. Home buyers typically want their property to be move-in ready. Residential land buyers, on the other hand, typically want a blank canvas to build their dream house on. While both groups are searching for land to live on, the specific type of land will vary based on the client.

Location3

Everyone has heard the old saying location, location, location, but what does it actually mean? It means two properties that are identical in every single way (amenities, quality, size) can have wildly different values based solely off the location. The ideal location is different for every client. For example, families with young children are often willing to pay extra for residential land in districts with excellent schools. Be sure to know the priorities of your client and how those priorities may affect the types of properties they would be most interested in seeing.

Don’t Assume Anything

One of the most common mistakes made when buying residential land real estate is assuming things will be included. For example, many people assume that most residential land will allow you to build most types of housing, included manufactured housing (also called mobile homes). However, many properties include strict regulations on what type of residence can be built. Many areas do not allow manufactured homes.

One way to avoid this problem is to stay on top of local land news. Are there zoning changes on the horizon? Are land values on the rise? Are there plans for new roads that could impact the access to your property?

Another way is to run your own tests. Before buying residential land real estate, you need to go through a series of tests. Environmental tests can determine any potential damage from previous owners. These tests are extremely important because if the soil has been tainted from previous owners (a former gas station or auto body shops, for example), housing can’t be built there.

Having a surveyor look at the boundaries can also be a lifesaver, especially for plots that have had many previous owners. You don’t want to build on land that legally belongs to your neighbor!

The Ups and Downs Of Nature

Nature has a huge role to play in the value of residential land real estate. Properties near oceans, rivers, lakes or parks tend to hold their value because beautiful views and the proximity to outdoor activities (such as hiking, fishing, and hunting) are always in demand. But be careful if the property is near a possible natural hazard (volcano) or at a high risk for a natural disaster (earthquakes, floods, etc.). These risks can cause values to plummet.

Budget

When buying residential land, make sure your client’s budget is similar to the prices of the neighborhood houses. Construction loans are frequently rejected if the cost of the land combined with the cost to build is higher than the average home prices in the neighborhood.

The lines between residential land real estate and other land types are blurry. There is no one set of rules about what qualifies or what doesn’t when it comes to residential land. While this land type might be confusing, residential land real estate is always in high demand. We hope this article has piqued your interest about residential land real estate.

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.

Choosing (And Using) The Right Client Relationship Manager (CRM) Software

Picture this: It’s Friday afternoon, 3:00pm. You are scheduling your next week’s business activities, setting priorities, and putting a plan in place. You’ve had a pretty successful week – got a contract on a large listing, met a new prospect who is likely a buyer for a couple of projects, went to a successful networking event, and called 25 new prospects on big land tracts. You’re feeling good. But as you begin to plan, you look down and see business cards scattered on your desk, a wrinkled legal pad with half-legible notes, and a desk calendar sprinkled with coffee stains. You breathe a deep sigh and wish that you were better organized.

Does this sound like you? Perhaps it’s not as bad as all that. However, I think we can all admit that we have been there. Things get busy and we run our business with pen, paper, and our own brains. But in the long run, all 3 of those things will fail you. There should be (and is) a much better way.

Client Relationship Manager (CRM) software is the extra brain that every successful business operator needs to keep their business at peak efficiency. A CRM is far more than a list of clients. Used properly, a CRM is your contact database, your personal assistant, your calendar planner, and your goldmine of information. It will remind you to follow up with a new client, call a prospect you should’ve heard from by now, or get in touch with a past client at regular intervals. We’ve all got way too much flying around in our heads to remember it all. Handing off a lot of that responsibility to a CRM is a great way to free up brain space and time in order to focus on the most important aspects of your business.

Many of you are already using a CRM at peak efficiency. Great! Stop reading now and go make it rain. But many of you are not using one well, or worse, not using one at all. I submit that in today’s market with all of the available technology, speed of information, and industry competition, it is more important than ever to be the person most engaged with every prospect you want to do business with. Your CRM will keep you honest and consistent with that engagement.

I’d like to offer three tips for choosing a CRM as well as three tips for using one – and using it well.

CHOOSING A CRM

Tip 1: Keep it simple.

Many CRMs have intricate functionality and can perform high-level categorization and analysis on your contacts, prospects, and pipeline. These features are great. But make sure you will actually use them before you select a CRM that does so much. You might get bogged down in all the functionality and lose sight of the goal.

Remember that the CRM is supposed to serve you. Not the other way around.

Tip 2: Don’t break the bank… at least at first.

Do you want to spend thousands of dollars on a CRM? There are many available. Do you want to get one for free? A few of those exist as well. If you’ve never used a CRM before, start with a free one (Zoho and Insightly are free for 1 or 2 users). You might not get every bell and whistle but as discussed above, you don’t need them. Once you are accustomed to using a CRM effectively you can always upgrade. And you’ll be far better prepared to select among alternatives since you will have some likes and dislikes from your free experience.

Tip 3: FORCE yourself to use it.

When first starting out with a CRM, you will be tempted to use all of your old methods as a crutch. As you encounter frustrations and growing pains, you will tend to shy away from the CRM – only using it when it’s convenient. This is no good. Select a system, spend a few days playing around with and getting used to it, then COMMIT. If you encounter issues, use the help function. Or use Google. Figure it out as you go along and deal with the pain up front. You want to get that machine good and oiled up so that it’s smooth sailing once you’re past the indoctrination period.

USING A CRM

Tip 1: Do it right from the beginning… or at least from right now.

If you’re just getting started or only have a couple of years in the business, make this a high priority for yourself. Properly creating, growing, and maintaining a quality database can be tedious, but it’s far more tedious to get 10 years down the road and try to do it all at once. Maybe you’ve been in the business for many years and use a spreadsheet, a notepad, or even a Rolodex (anyone??). All of that should be converted into a digital CRM. YES, it will take time. YES, it will be painful. But the benefits you will reap when it is complete far outweigh the work of getting it done.

Tip 2: Once you figured out the basics, try a new function or capability.

Once you have pushed through the transition, you should be pretty comfortable with the functionality – at least the basics. When you’re feeling foggy, learn something different about the software and find a new way it can help you. You may discover that it can tell you something interesting about your business operations. What’s your average time from listing to closing? How often do you really call that important client? How many new calls do you make on a weekly or monthly basis? By exploring different functions you will more deeply understand your contacts, your process, and your overall business.

Tip 3: Change to a different software after 3-5 years.

OK, this may sound crazy but I really do believe it is beneficial. As technology continues to develop, newer, better, and less expensive options will always be available. If you shop around every few years you may find a product with functions you’ve always wished your current CRM had. Furthermore, moving to a new system will force you to look at your information and clean it up. It’s kind of like moving into a new house.  You might finally decide to throw away that box of stuffed animals you’ve had since you were six. By cleaning up your database once in a while, you will keep it streamlined and relevant – making it more useful in your business.

A well-maintained and properly utilized CRM can make a struggling business good and a good business great. With very little effort, anyone can introduce a much higher level of structure to their business, keeping the pipeline full and the clients happy.

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

 

Top Six Find a Land Consultant Profiles

ALCs have so much on their plate. Between meeting new clients, keeping up with land news, and closing deals, updating your Find a Land Consultant profile can seem like a low priority. However, those profiles could be your secret weapon for landing your next big client. The Find a Land Consultant profiles are the first thing many potential clients and other land experts see when they search your name. To get a better understanding of how to make the most out of your profile, we picked some of the top profiles to see what sets them apart.

Best Bios

Kyle Hansen, ALC, the RLI 2018 Vice National President

Kyle’s biography paints a clear picture of his career in the land industry. He talks about how he got into his current job, his involvement with RLI, his awards, and his background. He separates each topic into his own paragraph. This is a great way to make your profile easy to read, and clients will have no trouble finding the information about you they need.

Terri Jensen, ALC, RLI 2015 National President

Terri’s profile reads like a resume. She includes the need-to-knows (years of experience, places she has worked, awards she has earned) and fun facts about her (out of 18,000+ REALTORS® in Minnesota, she is one of only fourteen to earn the ALC Designation). Little facts like that are a great way to let potential clients know how you stand out from the crowd.

Best Service Specialties

Norma Nisbet, ALC

Many people use the Find a Land Consultant tool to find people with expertise in specialized fields. For transactions that require a specialized education (such as 1031 Exchanges), clients want to make sure they are getting the best in the business. Norma Nisbet, ALC, lists out all her service specialties, including commercial land, timberland, and marketing. Having an organized section lets clients find exactly what they are looking for quickly.

Best Contact Information

Jeramy Stephens, ALC

Contact info can be tricky. Yes, you want potential clients to be able to reach you, but you also don’t want your phone to be blowing up with spam calls at all hours of the day. Jeramy Stephens, ALC, navigates this by including his work e-mail, cell phone, and fax number. He also includes a link to his company’s website. By providing primarily work contact information instead of personal, you’ll be able to reduce spam calls during your down time. Once you’ve made personal contact with the client then it is up to you if you want them to have more personal contact information.

Best Photo

John Dean, ALC

Having a recent, high resolution picture makes your profile look professional and polished. John Dean, ALC, does a great job of this. When adding your photo, remember that it needs to be under 20mb and should be high resolution.

Including a photo in your profile may seem like a trivial thing, but studies show it can drastically increase the chances of people viewing your profile. In fact, a recent study by Inc.com shows that LinkedIn profiles with pictures got twenty-one more views than those without one.

Best Regularly-Updated Profile

Randy Hertz, ALC

Anytime you get a promotion or an award, there are lots of platforms to celebrate on: Facebook, LinkedIn, the dance floor. You should remember to also update your Find a Land Consultant profile. Awards and promotions are a great way to show clients your hard work and talent. Randy Hertz, ALC, keeps his profile up to date with new skills, accomplishments, and roles and different companies.

We hope these six profiles will inspire you to take a second look at your Find a Land Consultant profile. And keep your eyes peeled, you might be featured in the next edition of Top Find a Land Consultant Profiles!

Want to learn more about how the Find a Land Consultant tool can help you? Find out how users find agents and more here.

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.

LANDU Week header

Record Number of Land Real Estate Professionals Gather In Texas To Gain Expertise

June 11, 2018 (Chicago) – The Realtors® Land Institute (RLI), an affiliate of the National Association of Realtors®, is proud to announce a record-setting number of land real estate professionals in attendance at their annual LANDU Education Week. Fifty attendees from fourteen states gathered in Arlington, TX, last week to gain top-notch expertise through RLI’s Land University (LANDU) Education Program. Twenty-one of those students completed all six courses being offered towards the elite Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation.

LANDU Education Week“We couldn’t be happier with the turn out or more excited to be getting so much great feedback about our newly updated courses, especially as this is the 30th anniversary of RLI’s Land University (LANDU) Education Program. We are so proud of all the students that took a valuable step towards furthering themselves as industry experts by coming out to complete the course work,” said RLI CEO Aubrie Kobernus, MBA, RCE.

LANDU Education Week

 

Attendee Greg Good, Agent, Clift Land Brokers / Clift Land Auctions, said “The week was intense but the classes move quickly with excellent instructors engaging each class. I thoroughly enjoyed the courses and the opportunity to meet and connect with other students within our industry from across the country. It’s well worth the time and investment.”

2018 LANDU Week

LANDU Education Week attendees were among the first to experience the newly updated courses which feature increased attendee interaction as well as new takeaway resources that will help them to implement the expertise they have gained after returning to their businesses. By the end of this year, RLI’s education program overhaul will include updating a total of ten courses with fresh, relevant content and the addition of a Recreational Land Real Estate course to meet the changing needs of land professionals in the industry.

2018 LANDU Education Week

Newly updated courses that were offered at the 2018 LANDU Education Week included Land 101: Fundamentals of Land Brokerage; Land Investment Analysis; Transitional Land Real Estate; Tax Deferred 1031 Exchanges; and Real Estate Mapping Technologies & Techniques. RLI will be hosting additional updated courses online throughout the year.

To learn more about the camaraderie, expertise, and resources available to land professionals through the Realtors® Land Institute, view their member benefits.

 About the Realtors® Land Institute                 

The Realtors® Land Institute, “The Voice of Land,” continually strives to maintain its status as the acknowledged leader for all matters pertaining to the land real estate profession. RLI endeavors to remain the essential membership organization for the extraordinary real estate professionals who broker, lease, sell, develop, and manage our most precious resource: the land. The Realtors Land Institute, provides the expertise, camaraderie, and valuable resources that are the foundation for all land real estate professionals to become the best in the business. For more information, visit rliland.com or call 800.441.5263. It’s the best time to join the best!

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.

online auction

Online Auctions: How Internet & Technology Are Changing Auctions

When you think of auctions, do you think of using the internet?  Hopefully, by the time you are done reading this article you will have a better understanding of how the internet and technology is creating a new world of “online auctions.” Before I explain how online auctions are changing the name of the game from the live auction standpoint, let’s first get Wikipedia’s definition of an auction:  “An auction is a process of buying and selling goods or services by offering them up for bid, taking bids, and then selling the item to the highest bidder.  (“Auction,” n.d.).” I like the Webster definition of auction better since I am in real estate and it explains the word auction as “A sale of property to the highest bidder.”  (“Auction,” n.d.).  With those definitions and the help of the internet, we have “online auctions.” Like many others that are reading this, I myself have always been interested in buying and selling, or just knowing the value of something! Currently, I am writing this article while watching and bidding on three auctions online. I am bidding on a 1935 John Deere Model A tractor in Arizona, while watching a farm sale of equipment line-up in Oregon and a real estate sale in Nebraska, all with the comfort of a cup of coffee.

What are Online Auctions?

When people think of online auctions, most people think of Ebay.  Ebay is an auction company in some ways, but when they have the “buy it now” option, that is not an auction because how many other people would like to “buy it now” too.  Ebay has set the stage for online auctions in the minds of people that are new to auctions.  Also, another thought that people might think of for online auctions is waiting until the last minute to bid.  Today, that doesn’t exist as much, and is referred to as “sniper bidding.”  The reason it is less popular today is because of the wide reach of the internet giving more and more online bidders stronger signals.  Sniper bidding was just someone that had the fastest internet, and if two or more bids were sent in simultaneously with one second left, the bid with the faster internet would overtake the slower internet bid.  If you are curious about your internet strength when doing online bidding, go to the website www.fast.com and test your strength of internet there.

A “soft close” is what most online auction companies use today. I will explain these in more detail later in the pro and con section of this article.

There are some basic tips for a new buyer or seller in the auction world, but let’s first look at the history of auctions.

Auction History & Importance

If you are new to the auction world as a buyer and seller, it is important to remember the basics of an auction before heading into a sale. Even though an auction may not be your first choice for shopping, I would urge you to attend an auction to see if you enjoy the atmosphere.  Also, by going to an auction and looking at items to buy without having a set price tag, it is quite different compared to normal shopping, not to mention the energy and rush of bidding on something and winning or losing will leave you feeling energized.  Besides, you are not going to walk into Wal-Mart and buy an antique decoration or mid-century furniture piece right off the shelf.

Going to a live auction allows a greater understanding of what goes on for an online auction.  On Wikipedia, live auctions have a long history, “having been recorded as early as 500 B.C. According to Herodotus, in Babylon auctions of women for marriage were held annually. The auctions began with the woman the auctioneer considered to be the most beautiful and progressed to the least. It was considered illegal to allow a daughter to be sold outside of the auction method.” Today, auctions are held everywhere and for everything. With the help of the internet, a buyer from Mexico can connect and purchase from a seller in Iowa, with just the push of a button. It is definitely a smaller world then we realized. Most auction companies have been around for quite a long time, and have auctioneers that know the value of items, in which that value hasn’t been registered on paper or online.

Live Auctions vs. Online Auctions

Going to school to become an auctioneer was a goal of mine, and to have the world champion chant was in my thoughts. I believe the world champion chant is not calling on the auction block at a live auction, but the brains behind and setup of an online auction, and  its’ software. It is good to know how live auctions work, and not just be involved in the technology side of online auctions.

There are many differences between live auctions and online auctions, but a lot of the auction companies are headed more online, with some companies now doing both live and online. One reason for going online vs. live auction is that all buyers have an equal playing field.

Online auctions mainly break down and remove the physical limitations of live auctions such as geography, presence, time, space, and a smaller target audience. Auctions have evolved from live auctions to online auctions with the help of technology.

I heard a week ago that 80% of homeless people have a smart phone, not a flip phone, but a smart phone. I also know that 95% of statistics are made up on the spot, but if even, let’s say, half of that is true, it is still a big number, my point here is “smart phone.”  So if 80 percent or 40 percent of homeless people have a smart phone which could give them internet access, then I would think the rest of the population in the United States would have internet by now. Anymore, a live auction is more of a one-day auction focusing on a local area, turning into a social event. I am not saying live auctions are bad or gone forever, but there is a place and time for them and now an option to do a hybrid of online and live.  Now with the help of the internet, your potential buyers are everywhere as long as they get approved to bid and have great internet connection. With an online auction, a buyer can go to many auctions on the same day, like I am doing right now, and the quality buyers are online doing their homework.

That brings us to another great point for online vs live auctions. Online auctions are mostly setup 3-4 weeks in advance before the auction closes, so it gives you a significant amount of time to research and do your due diligence before hitting the bid button or putting in a max bid.  This is great because on the same date as a live auction, you might have a wedding or a graduation party you are to attend, but you really want to buy that 1969 Chevelle SS that you already test drove or that chunk of land you looked at two weeks ago. There are auctions on just about every day of the year, making them no longer a one-day event. And there are auctions that you can bid on any time of day, and those are online auctions. So, if you are not able to make it to a live auction, go to 3-5 online auctions at the same time and day.

Every auction is different, anywhere from an auto auction to a livestock auction, or a real estate land auction to a local charity auction, or maybe an equipment auction to a storage unit auction. One thing is for sure, and that is, there will be plenty of energy and excitement at a live auction, a silent auction, or even a seal bid auction. People think that there is not as much excitement on an online auction as a live auction, but I assure you, a person can get very carried away doing online auctions as well.

Pros & Cons of Online Auctions

One of the coolest things about bidding on online auctions is that you can bid from the comfort of wherever you are using your desktop computer, laptop, your mobile phone, maybe even a watch. For example, you could be on a fishing boat or a mountain top and also be buying something on your phone. Also, folks are looking online on their phone and going home or to their office to bid on a desktop computer. The percentage of desktop vs mobile bidding is about the same right now. Online auctions are moving more towards mobile or on a watch, to not miss a bid. Once, I was bidding on an online auction and got outbid, however, I was not by my phone, but did get a notification of “you are outbid” on my smart watch. Luckily, because of this new technology, I did bid again on my watch just in time to win the auction. If it wasn’t for the notice of being outbid, I would have lost the deal. Every online auction I have been a part of, will send you a notification of being “outbid” or having the “high bid.”

Another pro of online auctions is you can put a “max bid” and walk away from the auction and it will continue to bid for you up to the max bid you set. For example, the high bid is at $100 and your max bid is $1,000, if someone else bids $200, your max bid will kick in and bid $300. My favorite thing about online auctions is that there is a “soft close” on most online auctions today. Like I mentioned before, the sniper bidding is less and less today. A “soft close” is, as the seconds or minutes are coming to a close and there is a bid right before the closing, it will add more seconds or minutes to the clock, allowing more bids to come in. A buyer should like this because of not ever having an excuse for missing an item. A seller enjoys the soft close because there will never be a missed bid and, in return, will get the best price. It is going to be interesting to see what comes next for bidding.

A lot of auction companies are also charging a buyer’s premium on top of the closing price. A buyers premium is an extra charge on top the highest bid and is often a percentage of 2-10 percent.  For example, an item sells for $100 plus a 10 percent buyer’s premium, equaling a final total of $110. This is a con for buyers and sellers both and only benefits the auction house or company hosting. A lot of times the buyers premium goes to the auction company for marketing/advertising or the use of online software. A potential buyer does not like to see buyers premiums because it is educating them to bid at least one bid less. A seller does not care for this either, making its’ item sell for one bid less, which then makes the value not a true market value. Therefore, an auction value sometimes is not a true number of what something is selling for unless you do some more research on the extra charges like a buyers premium. Today more and more items, especially real estate property are selling on auction. In fact, I bought my home on an online auction (www.auction.com) and had a good experience.  Also, the company I work for in real estate, Farmers National Company, did about 1,200 real estate land auctions in the last five years.

Another pro of online auctions is that most of them will allow you to look at items 3-4 weeks before the bidding, enabling you to make a wiser choice and max bid.  Having a budget or number in mind before bidding starts is very smart also. It may seem simple to have a budget and say you’ll stick to it, however, when emotions run high and the item or property you want is on the line, it becomes very easy to surpass your budget. A good example of this is buying the neighbors property, because it is next door, but values might be worth more because of location. An online auction is not as bad in that instance, but in the case of not knowing who your neighbor is or could be, might be worth more. Even though most might believe that a con to buying on an online auction is not knowing who you are bidding against, I believe it makes a person have a sharper pencil with a real value. As an auction company, it also takes a lot of time and responsibility to put on a live auction. From renting the fairgrounds to having port-a-potties to insurance to setting up two weeks in advance to buyers picking up their items two weeks after the auction. If attending a live auction, it is good to come early, allowing you to have time to browse the inventory or property longer. After the auction, the buyers pick up their own items, because they are responsible for the logistics. With online auctions, most of the time and responsibility is done before the auction closes.

The Future of Auctions

I believe that the future of auctions is just starting to get good with online auctions, and we are just now in the early stages. With mostly all folks having internet and a smart mobile phone, for the millennials and the next generation to come, it will be second nature for them to bid online for auctions. Auctions are not a last resort anymore for selling, especially now with the help of online auctions. Some used items that sell for new prices include art work, sports memorabilia, and antique items that are now selling for new records thanks to online auctions. Buyers and sellers are more educated and knowledgeable on values today than they have ever been, meaning you are going to be less able to “get a good deal” anymore. What I am saying is, the dealer price and auction price are coming closer together because there are values out there for anyone willing to do a Google search on pretty much everything that is sold. Just look at Facebook, when you sell something on its marketplace, it tells you that it was sold and for what price. Therefore, I don’t think it would be too long before Facebook would have some sort of online auction selling like Ebay, or maybe even the powerhouse of Amazon. If you search #onlineauctions on Instagram, there are only 4,500 times that have been posted, so it is just starting to get into the social media world. Online Auctions are a win-win for both the buyer and the seller making buying and selling simple and quick to get what you would not get anywhere else.

In the end, you will not be disappointed when you find your dream piece of property at the perfect price. Eventually, you will be frequently attending live or online auctions and finding the deals of the day all around you.  You can become an expert by being knowledgeable in other fields of life, by simply researching something to buy or sell in an auction. This will be extremely beneficial to your brain and your bank account, and you will fall in love with the wonderful experience, prices, and unique items, causing you to have a better view on how online auctions work. I hope these tips help you to become an avid auction-goer and expert bidder in the auction world, especially with online auctions.

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

About the Author: Rodney McConnell is Real Estate Broker with Farmers National Company in Washington State, serving the Pacific Northwest. Rodney is an active member of RLI, serving on the 2018 Futures Leaders Committee and working on his Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation. Rodney is a Territory Manager with 10X Auction in the Pacific Northwest, providing online auctions.

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.