“What is the best way to find a rural property that we might want to move to, while we still live several states away?” This was a great question posed to Dave Milton and me from an avid listener of The Land Show. Helen from Maryland said she and her husband want to relocate to about 30-40 acres in Alabama in the coming years, and wanted some insights into how best to locate the farm of their dreams. This article attempts to address a few things you can do to locate that perfect place.
There are a few questions you need to be able to answer to begin your search. This list is not exhaustive, but will get the ball rolling.
Where do you want to live? Do you have a particular city or area that you would like to own property near? If you are moving from out of state, you may be selecting a site based on proximity to an employer, some relatives, or quality medical care. By the same token, you may be wanting to move to a rural setting, but are not confined to a certain city. If that is the case, the next question is important for narrowing your choices.
What do you want to do on your land? Helen’s dream is to own a property where she can have chickens, a few cows, and maybe a pig. She probably wants a good garden spot and a place that will grow some berries and fruit trees. I hear that all of the time, and it resonates with me because my family lives exactly that way. You know the things that are important to you, and sharing those with a local broker will help you identify properties you may want to consider.
Earlier this week a retiring attorney who wants to move back to Alabama contacted me, and said it is important that he and his wife be able to shoot firearms on their property. We have a special new property in Shelby County that has a shooting range as part of the gated community. If the What is more important than the Where, you definitely need to clearly identify and share your objectives for the new property. Knowing what you can and cannot do in a given area will help narrow your search for prospective properties.
What is your budget for the purchase? How much are you willing to spend on your land purchase? This is a number you need to determine BEFORE you start driving around looking at properties. You should also be willing to share your budget with an agent so that they can help you identify properties that are a good fit for you.
If financing is going to be a part of your purchase, ask a broker for information regarding a good land lender. In Alabama, we mainly deal with two great companies that specialize in rural land loans: First South Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit. Farm lenders typically require a 15% to 20% down payment, and the interest rates are slightly higher than a residential mortgage. Each of these lenders has several programs that should be able to help you easily make your purchase.
These days, searching for land is easier than ever online. There are some great land listing sites that allow you to find available properties. We use LandsofAmerica, LandWatch, LandandFarm, LandFlip, and of course our own site SELandGroup.com. All of these sites have filters that allow you to narrow or expand your search based on criteria that are important to you. These sites are helpful in getting an idea of what is available, what land prices are for listed properties in an area (notice I didn’t say what it sells for in an area), and who are the brokers that specialize in land in that area.
The best advice I can offer for someone living in a different state that is looking to move is to find a broker you can trust that specializes in helping people buy and sell rural land. There are so many things that you do not know about the laws, customs, and opportunities in unfamiliar territory, that you need a reputable and seasoned guide to help you. You need someone that can help you navigate the potential pitfalls associated with all of your unknowns. Look for brokers with good reviews on social media sites like Facebook or Linkedin, ask for referrals from friends and family, or interview several candidates and choose the one that seems the best fit for you.
There are Realtors that focus on helping people buy and sell land. Many of these brokers belong to the Realtors Land Institute (RLI), which is a trade organization for those among us that focus mainly on brokering land. The most accomplished land brokers are recognized with a designation from RLI, and are known as Accredited Land Consultants (ALC’s). ALC’s have undergone rigorous education and professional examinations before they can earn the designation. These are people that demonstrate knowledge, experience, and professionalism when it comes to land transactions. You can search for RLI members and ALC’s on the Realtors Land Institute website.
Dealing with a broker or agent that you can trust, who specializes in land, will help ensure your land purchase is what you have been dreaming of. Find someone that is competent in land, has a servant’s attitude, and is knowledgeable about the area that you are searching in. That is a recipe for a successful transaction.
I hope this gives you a few steps to get you started in your search for the property you’ve been dreaming of owning. Our experienced team at Southeastern Land Group would love to help you with any of your land buying or selling needs. Please feel free to contact our office at 866-751-LAND, and Jeanne or Susan will put you in touch with the right agent for your needs; or feel free to contact me directly with any specific questions. Thank you for reading, and please Share this article with your friends.
Written by: Jonathan Goode who is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC), and is passionate about helping people buy and sell land. Jonathan is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi.