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Benefits and Drawbacks Of Different Types Of Land Investing

In articles about investing, “land investments” are often all lumped together, as if investing in a commercial property is the exact same as investing in a vineyard. There are many different types of land, and not every land type is right for every investor. Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of investing in some of the different types of land.

Disclaimer: There are more benefits and drawbacks to investing in a single land type than we could ever fit in a single article, so we are going to focus on some of the most important pros and cons of each land type.

Timberland

Pro: Less Risky Than Stocks

Historically, timberland has had much less risk and volatility than stocks, but timberland returns were similar to those of stocks.

“Over the last twenty years, according to the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries, returns from timberland have been almost equal to returns from equity investments as measured by the S&P 500.” Said Bob King, ALC in his article The Basics of Timberland Investing.

Pro: Moves Against the Stock Market

Not only does timber have less volatility than stocks, timber historically moves countercyclical to other asset classes. That means even during bad markets where many other investments types take a dip, your portfolio will have a safety net.

Con: Timber Is Delicate

The elements can impact all types of land, but timber is especially susceptible to the elements. Pests, natural disasters, wildfires, and other forces of nature can have long-lasting impacts on the value of your land.

Con: A Pricy Down Payment

When timberland is priced as the “highest and best use”, often by sellers marketing their land towards people looking to build their second home, the price can skyrocket. The exact same property can double or triple if it is reclassified. The best thing you can do, is work with a land expert in your area to make sure you are paying the right price for your investment.

Vineyard

Pro: Quick Returns

If you invest in a vineyard that is already producing grapes, you will likely see a return on your investment quickly. In fact, vineyards are one of the land investment types to see the fastest return on investment (ROI).

Pro: Tax Advantages

From the immediate expensing of replacing diseased vines to tax breaks based off the depreciation of a trellis to cash-only accounting, vineyards are ripe with tax advantages.

Con: The Down Payment Might Be More Than You Think

Depending on where you buy, investing in vineyards might cost a pretty penny. In the past decade, wealthy buyers have started investing in vineyards, so the prices have skyrocketed up to over $400,000 an acre in some high demand areas.

Con: High Operating Costs

Vineyards can be very expensive to run, making it harder to turn a profit on smaller vineyards. If you are buying a vineyard that hasn’t started producing yet, it won’t produce a profit for at least the first two years, so that can add extra financial burden to an investor.

Farmland

Pro: Tax Breaks Based Off Of Depreciation

Similar to vineyards, farmland can also offer tax advantages to investors, as pointed out in the article How And Why To Invest In Farmland by Clayton Pilgrim, ALC.

“Many farms contain improvements that depreciate such as grain storage, irrigation pivots, shops, barns, etc.,” says Pilgrim. “An owner can depreciate some of these assets each year to offset yearly taxes.”

Pro: The Ability to Lease Out Farmland

Sharecropping or leasing your land can help bring in some extra income. It’s minimal effort on your end, and it brings in some extra cash.

Con: High Risk

There are many risk factors to take into consideration with farmland. The market is unpredictable and can change on a dime. And it’s not just the market – the weather, natural disasters, pests, and dozens of other factors out of your control can take a serious toll on your investment.

Vacant Land

Pro: The Freedom

The possibilities of what to do with vacant land are endless. You can transition the property to its highest and best use, hold the property until the value goes up, add solar panels or wind turbines, and more. The choice is yours!

Pro: More Affordable Than Developed Land

Since it often doesn’t come with structures, vacant land often has a lower price tag than other land types meaning the financial barrier to entry is usually a lot lower than other land types.

Con: Less Tax Advantages

Unlike some of the other land types on this list, vacant land doesn’t have much to offer when it comes to tax advantages.

Orchards

Pro: More Money Per Acre

Trees don’t need much space, so you can squeeze lots of trees onto your property to maxamize your returns.

Con: Time To Grow

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant an orchard was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now”. The meaning behind it is if you want a successful future, but in the hard work now, but it can be taken literally. Trees are a slow grower, and can take three-to-six years to start producing money. If you are looking for quicker returns, consider investing in an orchard that is already producing.

Con: Fruit Rot

Fruit that falls from the trees needs to be picked up quickly or else you run the risk of fruit rot. Rotting fruit can impact the health of your trees and the land.

Recreational Land

Pro: Sentimental Value

It’s not as easy to have fun on timberland! Recreational land is an investment that you can enjoy with your family and friends.

Pro: Can Handle More Wear And Tear

Unlike other land types (we’re looking at you, orchards!), recreational land is hearty. It’s meant to handle foot traffic. If you don’t want to spend time fretting over the impact of people or weather, this might be the right investment for you.

Con: Animals (And People) Can Be Tricky

If your recreational land is used primarily for hunting, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the habits and health of the animals on your property. Attracting and keeping game on your property can take a lot of time and money.

It’s not just animals you need to worry about – poachers and trespassers can steal animals, destroy the animals’ habitats, and scare animals off your land. Be sure to have clearly marked signs and limit access points to reduce the risk of trespassers.

There are lots of benefits to land investing, regardless of land type. Tax advantages, diversifying your portfolio, and saving for retirement are all great reasons. No matter what land type you invest in, investing for your future is always a good idea.

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.

Investing in Land Real Estate for Retirement: What You Need To Know

Choosing how to save for retirement can be a decision that takes years. After all, that’s the money that you’ll be living on during your golden years. Most people stick to 401ks and stocks, but what many people don’t know is that you can invest in land real estate to save for retirement. Investing in land real estate can be a great way to save money long-term, but with any investment, you need to know what type of land to invest in, what sort of returns you can expect, and what to avoid when investing in land real estate.

There are many benefits to investing in land real estate. One benefit is that if you invest in land in different areas, you will be protected if certain properties are hit by natural disasters or the value of one type of land real estate drops. Geographic and commodity diversity can keep your money safe even in a rocky market. Another benefit is that land real estate (farmland in particular) sometimes have higher returns than stocks do. Most stocks can be expected to produce a six to seven percent return over time), while farmland has produced a steady 11.5 percent annual return over the past twenty five years.

If you are looking for a low-maintenance investment, vacant land is a great option. It is cheaper to buy than developed land, and you don’t need to spend money doing repairs or renovations. While this is an excellent investment to make in the long-term, you will have to be patient. This investment will take time to make money. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the market to make sure you’ll be able to sell it at the best possible price. Consider looking into vacant land properties in areas that are seeing an increase in population or jobs. This land will is likely to become more desirable over time, and you’ll be able to sell it at a higher price than what you bought it for originally.

When investing or buying vacant land, you should always know who you are buying from.Be careful of people who have only owned the land for a short amount of time and seem very eager to get the land off their hands. Vacant land takes times to accumulate value, so it’s suspicious if people only own it for a short amount of time. The owners might know something about the land that makes it less valuable. This is a perfect example of why it is so important to find an agent with the expertise and experience needed to conduct land real estate transactions – like an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC).

Timberland or forestland are also excellent long-term investments. The returns for timberland real estate tend to move counter cyclically to other markets.  Because of this, it will add portfolio diversification, lowering the risk of losing money. Timber is also a hearty crop that can provide you with returns for many years.

You should invest in timber or forest land only if you are planning to retire ten or more years down the road. You’ll have to spend money to plant trees and won’t get returns as they grow, but once the trees reach maturity, they will provide steady returns.

Although investing in land real estate to save for retirement is an excellent option, there are some key factors to look out for. Keep the following in mind while you look at different properties:

-You need to know the land inside out. You need to know everything about the land you are investing in. This means zoning, mineral rights, any environmental hazards on the land, usage restrictions, access easements, taxes on the property, and the likelihood of natural disasters in the area. If you think you are asking too many questions, you are not. Even small issues can end up costing you a lot in the long term. For example, you could have an incredible property with full mineral rights, but if the soil drainage is poor, the value of the land could drop so dramatically that any other positive factors wouldn’t matter at all. Finding an ALC near you can help ensure that you see the whole picture when it comes to investing in a piece of land.

-You need to be crystal clear on the taxes. This was mentioned in the previous bullet point, but it’s so important we added it again. Some properties have taxes that are so high that the taxes eat up any returns you make on the land. Speak with your land agent about this and make sure you understand what your costs will be before investing in a property.

-Are there wetlands on the property? Thanks to Waters of the US (WOTUS) and other laws, if you have wetlands on your property, huge parts of your land might not be useable. This could cause the value of your land to drop dramatically.

Investing in land real estate can be a great way to save up for retirement. Land real estate is a valuable and limited community that, historically, continually grows in value. If you do your research and spread your investments out over a few different types of land, you could have a successful start to saving and creating a well-balanced, diversified portfolio for your retirement.

About the author: Laura Barker is Marketing Assistant for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and had been with RLI since October 2017.