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Top Tips for Owning/Managing Agricultural Land

To get started, we need to show the variances in agricultural land. Several types of land fall within the bounds of “ag land” and we need to simply define these as follows:

LAND TYPES:

  1. Farm – used for growing crops on an annual basis, ie: corn, soybeans, cotton, and wheat.
  2. Ranch – used for grazing of animals for meat production or hay production.
  3. Vineyard – Production of grapes for wine, raisins, or juice.
  4. Orchard – Multiple types, ie: oranges, peaches, lemons, and apples. Also, whole fruit or nut production, ie: pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc.
  5. Timber – Production of timber for uses like lumber and paper.

Agricultural land is used for its ability to produce products that are used in our everyday lives. Timber is cut to produce lumber to build homes as soybeans are grown to produce feed for animals to eat. Without our agricultural production, human life would cease to exist. Keeping our investment, the land, producing at its highest ability, we must manage the variables that we can. Several factors affect production:

  1. Weather
  2. Insects/Disease
  3. Urbanization
  4. Government Regulation and Deregulation
  5. Fertility/Weed suppression
  6. Fallow (idle, neglected)

With all the factors we have to manage, weather is the largest factor, in my opinion, affecting the production of any type of ag land. Snow, droughts, floods, winds, hail, hurricanes, etc. all wreak havoc on properties across the United States. Managing weather is tough, but knowing the limitations of your program and planning for these types of events are crucial in effectively managing land. Feeding cattle before a large snow event or using no-till farming in highly erodible areas are some types of preventive measures growers can take to prepare for adverse weather.

Land also is affected by other natural elements like insects and disease. Insects affect production globally every year from bowl weevils in cotton to pine borers in timber plantations. All insect infestations can be detrimental if not taken care of in a timely matter. Many application methods exist from aerial to ground, but someone with professional experience and licensure should always be involved. Never apply chemicals without looking into the regulations that are in your area. Diseases are common in many ways from rust fungus on wheat to stomach worms in cattle. Also, keep in mind that a professional will be needed when looking into treatments for diseases accompanying ag production.

Urbanization is becoming an increasing concern for ag land that is situated around large cities. Many vineyards are currently dealing with large cities growing and their increased need for water resources. Some are also experiencing travel problems with large equipment as well as growing land prices because of land transitioning from ag use to commercial use. These are pertinent problems that have to be managed because of the direct financial impact they can cause to your bottom line. Managing this factor is tough and can sometimes cause relocation, or can result in change of crops with associated equipment. In the cattle business, it can cause problems with transportation, feeding, fly control, and keeping animals in pastures out of neighborhood yards. A land manager needs to carefully plan years in advance for this is something that we, as growers, can’t stop.

 

Government de/regulation is always something to consider because of our ever-changing legislation.  Some areas see the banning of chemicals that are crucial in controlling insects and weeds. A constant look at current issues, as well as reading and staying close to your legislator, will be the best way to stay ahead of the curve on these issues.

Fertility and weed suppression are another problem that we see in our ag land properties. Poor management of crucial micro/macro nutrients in farmland are detrimental to a farm in continuing production. Another example is weed and grass control in an orchard. Tall grass and weeds use water and without proper control can cause production loss. Management of fertility and weeds is always a factor that can contribute to production loss. However, with the proper professional oversight this can be avoided.

Fallow is a factor that affects ag land in two main areas.  One, continued growth and unmanaged land can cause grounds for breeding of insects and also fuel fire conditions. Insect infestations like we have seen in the south with the aphid epidemic were less in areas where fallow ground was least. Insects need cover to nest and hatch, and large growth can house and help multiply insects for several different crops. When we see the large fires in the west almost all the time, these are well fueled underbrush from mismanaged timber areas. Controlled burning, shredding and plowing can reduce the kindling needed for large scale fires which with proper care your property can be protected from wildfires.  Another thing to remember is there is an equal balance that the manager needs to follow.  Work closely with conservation and extension agencies in your local area to figure out where your equilibrium exists.

Solution

Find a qualified professional, do not go at this alone. You do not use a dentist to do your open-heart surgery, so why would you use advice from an unexperienced land professional, or worse an agent with no experience in land.  The Realtors® Land Institute has a search tool to help you find professionals in your area to help you make these kinds of decisions as well as manage and implement ideas for your specific property. Accredited Land Consultants are just that, they consult based upon years of experience and training from working in the land business. I have numerous clients I help on a weekly basis with finding the right tenant for their farm to helping them find a dirt contractor to build the next bass lake on the ranch. On the ground experience and superior training make the Accredited Land Consultant the perfect professional to rely on.

This post is part of the 2019 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

Clayton Pilgrim, ALC, is a licensed real estate agent with Century 21 Harvey Properties in Paris, Texas.  Throughout his career he has been in production agriculture from on the ground operations to large scale management. Pilgrim is involved in private investing in farms, ranches and recreational tracts throughout Texas and Oklahoma. He is a member of the Realtors® Land Institute, an Accredited Land Consultant and on the board of the Future Leaders Committee. He resides in Paris, Texas with his wife, Kristy and daughter, Caroline.

 

How An Accredited Land Consultant Can Maximize Your Land Transaction’s Value

Now that we’re officially into the Spring selling season there are many sellers thinking about selling their land in the near future.  If you happen to be one of these sellers, then you owe it to yourself to consider interviewing a REALTOR® with the Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation to represent you and your best interest.

ALCs make up less than 1% of the population of REALTORS® across the United States; this is primarily due to the fact that it is not an easy designation to obtain.   Unlike other designations that can easily be earned after attending an 8- or 16-hour class, the ALC Designation often takes years to finally accomplish. With over 100 hours of education required, as well as closed transaction volume requirements, the process is one of the most tedious in the real estate business.

Whether you’re selling a working farm or ranch, transitional land, a hunting or fishing property, timber ground, or a development, ALCs are educated and experienced to represent you in the sale or purchase of your property.

While other real estate agents may be part-time working a few hours a week, the dedication and commitment of a full-time ALC is constantly working for you and your best interest.  Whether it’s their unique marketing tactics to get you the most qualified buyer, their professional mapping standards, or their capability of networking with other professionals all across not only the United States but also the world, ALCs are some of the most committed and professional land brokers in the real estate industry.

As a seller, the track record of ALCs has a direct correlation to putting more money in your pocket and doing it in a timely fashion.

Quite often, sellers of farms and ranches will get to a point in their lifetime where it is just too difficult to work the land anymore, at which point they’ll decide to put it on the market. An ALC can provide the proper contacts for you, as the seller, to consider the tax consequences before you actually put your ranch on the market.  A lot of less educated brokers often overlook this crucial step.

Prior to putting your property on the market, it is important to have a discussion with an ALC about who the target market will be for your real estate.  Often I’ve dealt with sellers that think the buyer for their property will be a working farmer or rancher like them, only to have me educate them that the highest and best use for their 160 acre ranch is no longer a ranch at $2,000 an acre.  Due to the high costs of real estate prices in the city, the highest and best use is now four 40-acre home sites at $3,500 an acre.

ALCs often have a much broader scope of property marketing and advertising than the typical real estate agent. While putting a sign on the property and putting the listing into the local MLS might be sufficient for selling a home in a hot market, selling a ranch or a rural property takes some serious understanding of how to properly market the property to qualified buyers. No two properties are the same; therefore, it doesn’t make sense to have the same marketing approach to every listing.

Every rural property is unique and so are the buyers that are going to purchase them. While harvest information and production numbers might be important on a hay farm for sale on a county road, elevation, topography, and proximity to public land access are important to a recreational property a little further down that same road. The hay farm could be purchased by an investor doing a 1031 Exchange if the numbers are clearly advertised and put in front him, while the recreational property could be purchased by a buyer who has been saving up for several years just to find a little property where they can take their kids hunting and fishing.  These two buyers will likely not be looking on the same websites and publications for these two totally different types of properties, and ALCs realize that.

It is not easy to finance vacant land, ranches, and recreational properties. Many buyers are uneducated to this fact and are under the impression they can purchase land with little cash down like they did their first home when they only had to show up with 3% – 5% down payment at closing. Buyers contact me on a weekly basis on my land listings and are shocked when I qualify them and tell them that they will need 25% – 35% down in order to make a land purchase. By working with an ALC, you, as seller, are going to get a REALTOR® that understands how to qualify buyers before they step foot on your property. That ALC is also going to have the lending institution contacts to make sure that a buyer doesn’t get under contract on your ranch, just to have the deal fall apart a few weeks later due to financing reasons.

If you’re thinking about selling your property in the near future, why not work with the best in the business? Let an ALC represent you in your next land real estate transaction, and see the results they provide for not only your pocketbook, but also your time. Check out the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Find A Land Consultant search tool to find an ALC near you.

This post is part of the 2019 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: Justin Osborn, ALC, is a licensed associate real estate broker with The Wells Group. Justin is a member of the REALTORS® Land Institute and serves on their Future Leaders Committee.

Five Helpful Tips for Owning and Managing Timberland

I admit, I am a little partial as a registered forester and land broker but I do truly believe timberland ownership can be one of the best and most rewarding investment options.  Below are five helpful tips that can apply to any owner of timberland.

1. Seek Professional Assistance

Timberland is optimized with the assistance of a professional manager.  For many landowners, the best source of professional assistance is a consulting forester. The consulting forester is a trained professional that works on behalf of the landowner making sure the landowner’s objectives are met and their best interests are represented. They can assist with the preparation of forest management plans, timber marketing and sales, reforestation, silvicultural treatments, wildlife management, and hunt lease management to name a few.

This assistance is especially critical at the time of timber sales.  For most landowners, timber sales are not frequent events, the landowner may not have an accurate expectation for the value of their timber in the current market. A consulting forester can inventory and appraise the timber to provide an accurate estimate of the value to be expected and then recommend the best method to market the timber on a competitive basis to make sure the return is maximized. They assist in execution of a harvest agreement or timber deed between the landowner and buyer, written to protect the landowner’s interest.  Finally, they will make regular site inspections during the harvest to make sure the work is occurring as agreed and the land is not damaged.

The service of a professional should more than pay for itself for most owners.

2. Determine your ownership objectives

It is important to know why a landowner has invested in timberland real estate and communicate that clearly to his/her advisers. Ownership objectives vary widely among landowners and most folks land own for a combination of reasons. There are usually one or two primary objectives for owning. Examples may be income from the sale of timber, recreational use like hunting, fishing, or riding ATVs, conservation of wildlife and habitat, family legacy, or investment for future higher and better use. Each of these objectives will require unique management activities to increase the probability the objectives are realized for the owner.

3. Create a forest management plan

It is hard for anyone to hit a target if they do not have something to shoot at.  A forest management plan is a critical document for any owner of forestland. Typically prepared by a professional forester after consultation with the landowner, the plan serves as a guide for the management of the land, typically a 10-year horizon.  Components of the plan may include property description, forest stand type map, forest stand descriptions, and management prescriptions for each timber stand over the planning horizon, a timeline or schedule of activities the landowner should expect, and a log section where the landowner can keep notes on their activities.  Having a plan and following it will increase the chances the owner’s goals are met.

 

4. Manage Risks

The ownership of timberland comes with liability and risk like any investment.  It is important for the owner to understand those risk and mitigate them as best as possible.  Major risk to the loss of timber include fire, wind damage, insect, and disease.  Each of these risks can be reduced using good forest management techniques with professional assistance.

Landowners can have liability exposure from trespassers and recreational users depending on the laws in their state.  It is wise to understand those liability issues and protect against them.  Liability insurance policies are available to protect landowners from accidents that may occur on their property.  It can also reduce liability if property boundaries are clearly marked and posted to deter trespassing.

5. Incentive Programs and Tax Benefits

There are many incentive programs available for the owners of timberland.  Owners should consult with their consulting forester, state forestry representatives, their local extension agent, or their local USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office to determine what programs are available and how they may be able to benefit.   These funds may offset the cost of reforestation, property improvements, wildlife management practices like prescribe burning, plantings, or other activities.

Most states have reduced property tax programs for owners of timberland.  The programs tax the property based on its current use rather than market value.  In areas where timberland is near urban areas, this can be a substantial annual saving for landowners.

It is also equally wise to have a tax professional and/or an attorney that is well versed in timberland to advise on annual income tax return and estate tax issues.  A great resource for landowners is www.timbertax.org.  This website has information on a wide range of tax topics relevant to forest landowners.

This post is part of the 2019 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

Chris Miller, ALCAbout the Author: Chris Miller, ALC, is a land broker and consulting forester for American Forest Management, Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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.

RLI Members Benefit From Increased Exposure

With so many business buzzwords flying around, it can be hard to pin down what associations are doing day-to-day to best serve you – the members. Here at RLI National, we want to give an inside look into what we’re doing to promote our ALCs and RLI Members.

If you had a peek at the RLI 2017-2020 Strategic Plan Update, you probably noticed most of the points revolve around increasing awareness of our members and adding value to membership. At first glance, “awareness” and “adding value” can seem like two more buzzwords, but each priority is broken down into a series of steps that are currently in motion.

One of the ways we added value to membership was by creating the RLI APEX Awards Program. Sponsored by The Land Report, this awards program was designed to recognize the industry’s top national producers – truly the crème of the crop. The APEX Awards Program caught the attention of the media, getting coverage everywhere from the Business Insider to the Chicago Tribune and Market Watch. All the media attention got free publicity for all our applicants and their companies. Applicants that attended the APEX Awards Ceremony at our 2018 National Land Conference were even featured on a billboard in Times Square!

Another way we are creating awareness of RLI, is by having ads in every major industry publication and digital ads on all their websites, including:

These ads help us stay top of mind for people in every sector of the land industry. The RLI Brand is omnipresent in print and in person. in 2018, so far we‘ve had booths promoting RLI at the CCIM Conference, NAR REALTORS® Conference & Expo, and NAFB (National Association of Farm Broadcasting) Conference to help us maintain a strong voice in the land industry and spread awareness of our organization and designation. We are also working closely with NAR State and Local associations to help create awareness about RLI.

Our promotions resulted in an incredible 814% (yes, you read that right!) increase in people using the Find a Land Consultant search tool! We’ve heavily promoted this tool in prominent industry publications and on various industry blogs where landowners can find us. This jump in Find a Land Consultant use means that land buyers and sellers are turning to REALTORS® Land Institute to find a land expert for their transaction – to find you, the RLI Member! In addition, with the help of Facebook ads, bringing on top-notch industry keynote speakers, and growing the number of partners in the exhibit hall by 60%, we’ve seen a 44% increase in attendees to 2018’s National Land Conference!

With more industry partners, we’re able to invest more into promoting our members and can offer more discounts to help members grow their businesses and close more deals.  For example, we also have formed partnerships to get our members great discounts and services as part of our Member Advantage Program (MAP).

 

RLI also works with a freelance writer to assist with content generation, in addition to assisting members, to increase the quantity of posts we are able to put out. This has allowed us to now create valuable content for both land real estate agents like our members as well as content valuable to landowners. And even the content for landowners benefits you, the member, because you are able to share these pieces from our YOUR Land Blog to position yourself as the expert in your market by providing relevant, valuable content to your clients and potential clients. Our blog posts (like the one you are reading right now) keep our members in the know and to cement our role as The Voice of Land by showcasing timely, relevant content that is valuable to both land agents and landowners.

We’ve already had incredible results! RLI had a record number of partners for NLC, a 60% increase in industry partners that offer services to land professionals, and, for the first time in recent RLI history, sold out LANDU Education Week with record attendance.

We only listed a fraction of the steps that we’re taking to better serve our members (we’d need a lot more room to cover all that! You can read our full 2017-2020 Strategic Plan here). We always want to keep members updated on what we are doing so that we can work together to be The Voice of Land.

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.

Put the Power of the RLI or ALC Brand Behind Your Name

Being a part of REALTORS® Land Institute comes with a lot of benefits that you probably already use: amazing networking opportunities, deep discounts, and our property marketing tools The Land Connections and e-Properties. But there is one benefit that isn’t as obvious: the power of the RLI or ALC brand. In this article, we’re going to explore how you can put the power of the RLI or ALC brand behind your name.

How can you, the RLI Member or ALC, make the most of our brand power? We asked Terri Jensen, ALC, a land broker with National Land Realty and 2015 Past President of RLI, what the ALC Designation means to her. Of 18,000+ REALTORS® in Minnesota, Terri is one of only 14 to have earned the elite ALC Designation, so we knew she’d be a good person to ask. Here’s what she said having the RLI and ALC brands means to her:

  • “Provided the education, experience, and expertise needed to better assist my clients
  • Continued education on hot topics to stay current in the marketplace
  • Ability to lobby for legislation on behalf of landowners, as well as real estate practitioners
  • Always having someone to call on with a question
  • The ability to better market my services given the very small number of ALCs in my state vs. the total number of REALTORS®
  • Networking and a sense of family with those who know land
  • The opportunity to participate in, and be part of an organization that strives to be The Voice of Land and make its members the best in the business!”

So, what can you do to make the most out of your ALC and RLI Membership? Here are five ways:

1. Use The Logo

Use the RLI Member or ALC Logos* on all your property listings, business cards, email footers, and other marketing materials. You can even visit the RLI or ALC Logo Brand Shops (access them from your RLI Member profile page) to order clothes, office supplies and more branded with our logos! Plus, RLI Chapter Members can take advantage of using the new RLI Chapter Member Logo if you’re an active member of an RLI Chapter. The more you promote the ALC logo and RLI Member Logo, the more brand recognition there will be in the industry – which means the more valuable holding the designation or being a member becomes for you!

Need marketing materials? We’ve got you covered. You can order ALC Brochures online, and we also have press release templates for new ALCs and RLI members in our Member Resources page.

2. Keep Your Find a Land Consultant profile Up To Date

With the boom in use, you’ll want to make sure your most current information is on your FALC profile. This includes your specialties, contact information, where you are licensed, a head shot, and more. Check out our article Top Six Find A Land Consultant Profiles article for tips on how to improve yours.

3. Continuing Education

There’s always something new to learn, and sometimes it costs nothing! ALCs and RLI Members get exclusive discounted member rates on classes and even get a few free webinars each year.

Now is the perfect time to check out our course schedule, since we just finished up an education update to make the courses even better. The content in all of our classes has been updated to provide you with the most relevant industry trends and best practices. The format of the classes has also been updated to enhance engagement with both the content and other students. You can view all of our upcoming classes here.

4. Attend the Annual National Land Conference (NLC)

This is a great event to see and be seen. RLI Members and ALCs get discounted member rate registrations. Plus, you can be sure to get an even deeper discount on the networking event of the year with early bird registration rates by registering before December. And if you are a new member of RLI*, you’ll automatically get an additional 25% off registration. How does attending NLC help your brand?

“Anything you do to develop yourself professionally is an opportunity for you to demonstrate to landowners, lenders, attorneys and others with whom we all share the agribusiness space, that you embrace the notion of lifelong learning within your craft,” says Allison Worrell of Worrell Land Services, LLC.

5. Keep Us In The Loop!

We love promoting members who have won an award or gotten an article published. Contact us at rli@realtors.org so we can extend the reach of your industry success.

Now that you know how to make the most out of your RLI Membership and ALC, see how RLI promotes its members.

*Reminder: RLI Members and ALCs – please be sure to use the logo in accordance with the RLI Visual Standards Manual.

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.

 

Recreational Land 101

Recreational land is different than other land types. Its success isn’t measured in crops, but on the quality of the time spent on the land. Whether you buy recreational land as a hideaway for generations to enjoy or to create a lucrative hunting spot, recreational land does have some unique barriers to achieving success. Since this land type isn’t talked about as much as residential land or farmland, we wanted to dedicate a blog post to commonly asked questions about recreational land.

What is recreational land?

As the name suggests, recreational land is land that is used for recreation. The types of recreation can vary – hunting, fishing, camping, ATV-ing, and more. In the industry, hunting is one of the most popular and well-recognized uses for recreational land.

What should I look for when buying recreational land?

Knowing what zoning regulations and restrictions impact a property is one of the most important things to look for. These regulations can impact everything from build-ability to what you are allowed to hunt. Work with a land expert in your area who can help you find a property zoned right for your intended use.

If you want to use the land for hunting, keep an eye out for animals and things animals like. Food plots, a good source of water, and cover for animals to feel safe in is key for attracting game to your land.

Good neighbors can also make or break a recreational property. If the property is part of a managed neighborhood, that’s a great sign that they are dedicated to helping everyone in that community and their land to thrive. Bad neighbors (for example, poachers, people who make noises that scare animals or disturb the natural peace, or people that dump waste into the river) can ruin an otherwise perfect property.

What are the benefits of buying recreational land?

How you benefit from the land is up to you. You could let other people enjoy the property and its amenities for a fee. You could improve the land and sell it for a profit down the road.

You can also use it for your friends and family as a retreat from the rest of the world. If kept in good shape, recreational land can be something passed down for generations that will only increase in value.

How can I add value to my recreational land?

There are dozens of ways to add value to your recreational land. In his guest post for RLI, Bob Stalberger, ALC, suggests adding trail cameras as a cheap and effective way to add value.

“Buyers are always asking me to see trail camera photos from the property for sale,” said Stalberger. “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.”

Tommy Stroud, Jr, ALC, recommends creating habitats for animals to thrive in. He says, in his guest post for the RLI Blog, about a recent property he helped to add value to “This [property] required thinning the trees back to 35-50 trees per acre. A skid steer with a grinder ate up a lot of the long-abandoned under story before Garlon (Triclopyr) was sprayed to prevent hardwood growth. These fields were burned using prescriptive fire in late February.  Continuing to burn every one or two years will keep this stand clean and provide a great habitat for all wildlife.”

Recreational land is so much more than just another land type. It can be a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation, a profitable business, or just a place to get away from the rest of the world. Interested in owning a piece of your recreational land? Make sure to Find A Land Consultant that has the expertise required to conduct these types of transactions. Interested in learning more about recreational land as an agent? Check out the Recreational Land Real Estate LANDU course.

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.

Checklist for Success

How many of you are the backbone of your Company’s entire operation? In fact, you are probably your entire operation: a solo agent prospecting for new leads, writing offers, conducting listing appointments and buyer consultations, negotiating contracts, giving sellers marketing updates, ordering surveys, determining utility locations, marketing your listings, handling your social media and overall, handling the entire transaction from listing to closing. In fact, you probably have to make your own coffee and try to manage a database and a family. WHEW, it’s a lot!

Have you ever felt as if you’re juggling too much, perhaps, you’re even struggling to keep up? Ever wished that you were in a position to hire an assistant to support you with the never-ending stream of administrative tasks? Have you determined that you’re not quite ready for that next step but desperately need some help staying organized and efficient? I feel like this is an incredible place to start. Not only will it help you stay organized, it will create a workflow that can be duplicated and passed on. Now is a great time to consider implementing systems and processes that can later be handed off as you grow. In order to do so, you have to write down what has to be done before you can hire someone to do it.

In order to move from a solo agent to a team, you must build systems that will keep your company operational and functioning in a smooth, systematized and efficient manner. In addition, when you finally hit your breaking point and hire an admin, you can share these systems and train your team by simply going over your documented processes. If you’re a real champion and want to grow your business exponentially, I would personally recommend going through the utter discomfort of hiring a business coach. I would recommend someone like Mike Ferry Organization, Tom Hopkins International, or my personal favorite, Icenhower Coaching and Consulting.

A coach can help you organize your business, determine when to hire staff members and how to grow. It is uncomfortable; however, I want to illustrate the type of systems the discomfort introduces. Below you will find Ary Land and Home’s Listing to Contract Checklist. My team and I have developed this over time while working with our coach (Icenhower Coaching and Consulting). See below.

 

Date Completed Date Requested
Admin intro call to sellers – immediately after listing signed
Receive signed listing agreement
Create PROPERTY FILE CHECKLIST
Obtain all signed & completed sellers disclosures
Obtain showing instructions from agent/sellers, Gate Code? Combo?
Verify Aerial is accurate with salesperson
Put seller on MLS listing auto-alert email drip for LAND OR HOME to buy
Put seller on MLS auto-alert drip- MLS status changes 1 MILE RADIUS FROM LAND
Ask Seller for utility companies, call and get sizes of lines in front of prop
Order preliminary title report, HOA Documents & CCRs if HOME
Order Signs? Let Trish know what’s used for sign inventory
Add sellers to admin weekly update call list
Add sellers to agent’s weekly update call list
Ask to Enter listing into MLS as incomplete for agent to proof
Assign lock box to MLS listing
Add client to CRM database
Add new listing to Team Scoreboard
Submit listing contract/disclosures in to DotLoop for compliance
Get MLS listing edits/approval from Agent
Upload MLS Client Detail Report to property file
Email MLS Client Detail Report to all team members
Add/Enhance Listing on LandWatch LOA and LandBrokerMLS
Calendar Listing Expiration Date
Prepare property flyer
Create “Just Listed” Facebook & social media posts
“Just Listed” mailers/flyers created & ordered
Add clients as friends on Facebook/Social Media
Claim listing on Zillow/Trulia & set up reporting
Sign up at property
Flyers delivered to property
LISTING GOES LIVE ON MLS  
Send Thank You/Gift Card to Person who Referred Listing
“Just Listed” email to neighborhood & SOI
“Just Listed” posted on Facebook & social media
Call to sellers for PRICE REDUCTION APPOINTMENT?
Weekly Activity Report Call to sellers
Email Activity Report to sellers
ONCE OFFER(S) RECEIVED  
Prepare summary(s) of key offer terms to present to sellers
ONCE OFFER ACCEPTED – Start Property File Checklist  

 

*Please note that you need to go through the checklist, there are some things that will not apply to your situation.

Can you picture yourself using this checklist? Can you imagine what it would be like to know that all of your files are “where they need to be?” Fundamental organization and structure is essential.

The main goal in writing this Blog is to help novice agents understand that developing routines and establishing work flows is essential to running a successful real estate company. Even though you may feel like you are too far gone, YOU CAN turn chaos into order and whip things into shape. These processes will 1) make your life as an agent easier and less stressful, and 2) create and maintain seamless systems that can be duplicated to keep the business running so that you can focus on growing your business.

With that said, I urge you to sit down and go over the above Listing to Contract Checklist and make it yours. Don’t stop there, make a Contract to Close Checklist, a Seller Closing Checklist, and a Buyer Closing Checklist and just keep going. Don’t make the checklists just to make them, make sure you implement them and go over them weekly. Make a checklist of what needs to be done on every file and eventually you will be able to hire someone that can make sure the items are checked off for you. I know it will be painful and you will grow to the extent of pain you can handle!

On another note, if you are looking to hire someone and you are not sure exactly what they are supposed to do, keep reading. Below is a sample Listing Manager’s job description.

  • Oversee all aspects of Seller’s transactions from initial contact to executed purchase agreement.
  • Prepare all listing materials: pre-listing presentation, Listing Agreement, sellers’ disclosures, comparative market analysis, pull online property profile, research old multiple listing service (MLS) listings and etc.
  • Consult & coordinate with Seller’s all property photos, surveys, repairs, cleaning, signage, lockbox, access requirements & marketing activities.
  • Obtain all necessary signatures on listing agreement, disclosures and other necessary documentation
  • Take property phone calls and monitor Agent emails.
  • Coordinate Buyer showings & obtain feedback.
  • Provide proactive weekly feedback to sellers regarding all showings and marketing activities.
  • Coordinate all agent meetings and remind Agent of important dates.
  • Input all listing information into MLS and marketing websites and update as needed.
  • Submit all necessary documentation to office broker for file compliance.
  • Input all necessary information into client database and transaction management systems

Again, when I got into real estate, I knew how to sell Farms. I did not understand how to run a business. None of this comes natural to me, however; it has changed the way our business operates. In fact, I no longer say “only I can do it” or “no one will do it as good as me.” That is a scarcity mindset and you have to realize that if you are saying that right now, it’s because “how to do it is not written down,” as our great leader, Gary Keller, would say. It took me a long time to realize this and if it weren’t for Kasey Mock taking the time to explain how important a business foundation is, I sure wouldn’t be where I am at today. With that said, my challenge to you is to start to document the things you do and create checklists to make sure they are done on every file. Make it a priority! Call me if I can help!

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: Drew Ary, ALC, is an agent with Keller Williams Advantage. Drew has a vast knowledge of raw land, land with improvements, and farm and ranch properties. Above all, he has a passion for selling land and farm and ranch properties by bringing buyers and sellers together through honesty and integrity. Drew spent 10 years in the real estate auction world with roles as a Closing Coordinator, Project Manager, and a large portion as the Director of Farm & Ranch Sales. Drew moved to traditional real estate with Keller Williams Advantage at the beginning of 2017.

Gathering and Verifying Comparable Sales for Rural Land

As a rural land appraiser, comparable sales are the “life blood” of my business. Of the three common methods for appraising – cost, income, and market data – I tend to use the market data approach the most often both as an appraiser and as a real estate broker. This method allows me to gather reliable and verified comparable sales which are both vital for pricing and appraising properties.  Here are a few ideas on how to do this in your rural land markets:

Sources for Comparable Sales

Networking with Market Participants

Talking with local market participants has proven to be the best way I have found to locate sales. Whether you are at the local restaurant eating lunch or at an agricultural trade show, you should always keep your “ears to the ground” for recent land sales. You may hear these sales in conversations with farmers, foresters, buyers, sellers, bankers or other individuals.  When you hear mention of a sale that you do not have in your database, be sure to listen closely and ask questions if the timing is right always being courteous of others’ time and privacy. If someone seems as if they don’t want to talk about the sale, respect that and try to do further research elsewhere such as utilizing probate records or having conversations with other brokers or appraisers involved.

Company Sales

My best sales are by far the ones where one of our company’s representatives (myself or another broker) is involved.  These internal transactions can almost always ensure that great data will be gathered to verify a sale considering that we should have all of the maps, closing statements, contact information and other necessary data readily available.

Multiple Listing System (MLS)

MLS is a great tool to utilize in your search for comparable sales in more populated areas (considering I appraise and sell land in rural south Alabama, I do not have the opportunity to utilize it often).  Further detail verification of the transaction and property will be necessary since MLS’s are geared towards Residential Real Estate but it’s an excellent “starting point,” if available.

Other Appraisers and Brokers

It is imperative to keep a good working relationship with appraisers and brokers in your market area if you want good data on comparable sales. I have made many great friendships by sharing and receiving comparable sales with other appraisers. I met several of these appraisers at various American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) events. After meeting other appraisers in my area, I always try to follow up by phone call or email to remind them to let me know if I can ever help them with comparable sales in my area. Many of these appraisers have sent work to me when they were either too busy or had a conflict of interest. “Friendly Competition” in the appraisal world is something that we must continue to work towards.

Verifying Comparable Sales

It is always best to speak with someone directly related to the transaction to verify a comparable sale. Of course, if you live in a “disclosure state” you can find items like: purchaser, seller, closing date, legal description and purchase price on the deed at the local probate office. However, in most cases there are other items that make up the purchase price that must be researched further. When verifying comparable sales, I almost always start at the probate office to verify that the sale actually closed, print a copy of the deed so that I have it for my records, and look up the property on the county tax map to verify its location. I will then try to contact someone directly involved with the transaction to determine items such as: improvements located on the sale and their contributory value, timber value, long term leases and their contributory value, equipment or livestock included with the purchase, just to name a few. I find it is most beneficial to speak with buyers, sellers, and agents involved with the transaction. More times than not there will be two sides to the story which you must reconcile to determine the true makeup of the items involved with the sale.

Comparable sales research is something that will make you a better real estate broker or appraiser. I believe you never can know “too much” about your local land market. Knowing your market will help you competitively price land which is ultimately helps it sell quicker, this “hands on” approach of digging through sales will likely introduce you to valuable market participants with great lead potential that you otherwise might not have met in your everyday professional life.

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: Calvin Perryman, ALC, is an Associate Broker and Appraiser with Great Southern Land. Calvin is an active member of RLI, serving on the 2018 Future Leaders Committee and as the 2018 President of the RLI Alabama Chapter. He graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor Degree in Agricultural Business and Economics in May of 2011. Shortly after graduating from Auburn he obtained his real estate license and has been in the real estate business since 2011.

How To Build A Pond Or Lake

I had the privilege of selling some property to a great couple and they had a ‘must have’ requirement; they wanted a property suitable to building a lake and we found a great property located in Harris County, GA. The property was heavily wooded with a stream flowing through the property and the property had a great lake site and suitable soils. The contractor estimated the final lake size around 4.5 acres. Using a topographic map, I estimated the watershed area to be about 110 acres. Generally speaking, the watershed area should be about 4:1 (4 acres of watershed to 1 acre of pond or lake). Due to the size of the proposed lake and the intended use, the owners were able to get a permit through the NRCS (Natural Resource and Conservation Service) to construct the lake.

The number one attribute that buyers are looking for is water features such as a pond or lake! The addition of a pond or lake will add lots of value when it becomes time to sell. A pond or lake provides lots of opportunities such as fishing, canoeing, water source for irrigation, increases the aesthetic value of the property and much more.

Generally, the process starts with clearing the trees and brush. The brush can be burned and some of it can be used to build fishing habitat or structures for larger fish to hide and ambush their food sources.  A portion of the dirt is removed and used later on for constructing the dam for impounding the water. Another important issue is the presence of clay. The clay is used to key (core) the dam, creating an impermeable layer inside the dam that the water can not pass through. That is why land with a high content of sand is not suitable for constructing a pond or lake. The topsoil is stockpiled and used later to dress up the dam so the dam can be vegetated.  Beware…keep the trees on the back side of the dam cut.  When tree roots die, they can become channels for water to seep through the dam.

Use a professional to design the pond and dam. A 100-year rain event can destroy a dam if not properly designed with a spillway to handle the runoff.

For the most part, contractors are now using siphoning systems to control the water level. Metal pipes and valves tend to rust over time. I went back from time to time to document through pictures and video the construction process. This process took over 1 year!

Some of the pictures in the video were taken to show what to do if you are building a pond or lake for trophy bass fishing. The pond should be deep at the shoreline. This is designed to keep shallow water plants and weeds from invading your pond or lake. Also, structures should be left in the lake to improve the habitat for the fish. Often these large bass will use these structures to ambush bait fish. Also, notice the shallow mounds built in the pond, these are great for spawning bass and bream!!

 

The take away is this…if you are planning to buy land for building a pond, agricultural purposes, timberland or whatever, use an Accredited Land Consultant. You need someone advocating for you that understands land and land brokerage. This person needs an in-depth understanding of topographic maps and watersheds.

This article was originally featured on Kent’s blog Land Blog…Get The Dirt! He writes about all things land, from timber to selling land to lessons learned from his 40 years in the industry. Check out his blog for more excellent content!

Kent Morris, ALC, is a Registered Forester and Associate Broker who has experience in fields such as timber appraisals, harvesting, thinnings, and timber sales.