15 acres of land for sale in Dallas County, AlabamaWhen purchasing a piece of rural land, should you buy title insurance? My answer to that is ALWAYS “Yes”. You may not be familiar with title insurance and what this type of insurance policy covers, so we will hit the high points of title insurance for rural land purchases. Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and this is my personal opinion, not legal advice. I am trying to provide practical information from a real estate broker’s perspective. All of the information in this article is provided from sources that I believe to be reliable, such as title companies themselves. 

“Title” is the legal record of ownership of the rights associated with a particular piece of real estate. Once an agreement is reached between Buyer and Seller, and the contract is signed, then the contract is provided to a closing attorney or title company. The closing attorney will either perform, or engage an abstractor, to search the history of the legal record for the subject property. In my part of Alabama, the local custom is for the title search to go back 60 – 65 years to make sure there are no problems in the chain of title. The title search will often include documents such as: deeds, death certificates, Power of Attorney, mineral rights, timber deeds, or recorded easements. A title abstract is different from a title search, in that an abstract takes into account everything pertaining to a property from the time of the original patent from the state to present day. Abstracts can be much more expensive than a title search. Once the title search is completed, the attorney will review the documentation and will issue either a title opinion or title binder. The opinion or binder will set out for the client the findings of the title search, and will identify any issues of record that may be of note. The attorney will then submit the documentation to the title company for underwriting review and issuance of a policy. Typically a title insurance policy is issued for the purchase price of the property.

The first title company was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1876, as a result of the landmark case of Watson v. Muirhead in 1868. The buyer, Watson, purchased a property in good faith, but the title search performed by Muirhead left Watson in jeopardy with lien holders on the property he was purchasing. Watson sued Muirhead, but the courts ruled that Muirhead was innocent. This case revealed that there was risk involved with a real estate purchase, even if all parties acted in good faith.

Most lenders will require a Buyer to purchase a mortgagees’ policy which protects the lender from defects in a title. This policy may or may not protect the Buyer, so it is often recommended for the buyer to purchase an owner’s title policy which directly protects the new owner. Title insurance is a one-time purchase that protects the Buyer from what may have happened in the history of the property. Should some claim arise that was before the policy was issued, title insurance should protect the new owner for up to the face value of the policy. The price of a title policy is directly tied to the face value of the policy. Many title companies will have a title insurance calculator available to estimate what your policy will cost. In my area, most of the title companies are members of ALTA, American Land Title Association. ALTA has strict guidelines and best practices to ensure the title search and policy issuance is done to the highest standard. They have a feature that allows you to search for through the ALTA registry for their members in your area.

Several years ago I represented a seller in the sale of a property in a rural county in Alabama’s Black Belt. My client learned that he was a child born out of wedlock to a man that owned about 120 acres. When my client asserted his claim to the property to the son who had inherited the land after his father passed away, the other son denied my client’s claim to the property. My client successfully petitioned the court to exhume the body of the deceased father, so that my client could prove paternity. The court granted his request, the father’s body was exhumed, and my client’s contention was proven to be true. He was awarded 1/2 interest in the property. The son that had owned the property before had a title insurance policy, and he was awarded payment for the loss of 1/2 of the interest in the land. This is a highly unusual case, but it illustrates well the types of issues that may arise that necessitate title insurance.

Title insurance is a common sense purchase when buying a piece of rural land. You can often obtain an owner’s title policy for about 0.5% to 1% of the purchase price of the property, and be protected from anything in the history of the title. To me this is a wise investment and provides the peace of mind to allow you to use the property without worry. My hope is that this article has been helpful to explain the concept of title insurance, a primer on how it works, and why you need it. For more specific questions about your particular situation, consult your local attorney or title company.

Written by: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program, The Land Show, that covers many of these topics for people interested in buying or selling land in Alabama.

Sky Map app for looking at an Alabama starry skyOne of the many benefits of living on a rural farm in west Alabama is the beauty of a clear night sky. It’s hard to beat standing under a starry sky and contemplating the vastness of the universe. Where we live, in Perry County, there is very little ambient light to hamper your view, and usually you have nature’s night noises to accompany the show. Tonight I stood under one of those star-filled skies, and relaxed to the chorus of frogs and crickets with a back beat from a flowing stream.

Almost everyone enjoys an experience like this. One of the most common things I hear from someone that purchases rural land is that they enjoy the peacefulness of the night sky in the country. There is a calming effect that happens when you sit under one of those perfect skies. For many it is a contemplative and meditative experience. Staring at the vast sky full of stars reminds me of passages from the Bible like “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1) and “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:4-5). The experience is spiritual each time for me, and helps me remember my place in the universe. 

Being under a night sky in the country can also be a great learning experience. Teaching children how stars were once used for navigation or for telling the times and seasons can be fun. Since many kids will take their mobile devices everywhere they go, there are some cool apps that can enhance the experience. When my oldest son was much younger, I used the Google Sky Map app for Android devices. You can open the app and point it to the sky, and it will tell you what celestial body or constellation you are looking at. It is a fun way to study the stars together. There is an app called SkyView for Apple products, along with a host of other star gazing apps that are very similar.

Whatever you choose to do while you are out there, the main thing is just to get out there. I would be happy to help you find some land for sale in Alabama where you can enjoy one of those beautiful starry nights. Beautiful night skies are just one of the many benefits of owning rural land. If you are looking to purchase or sell a piece of rural land in Alabama, please do not hesitate to let us know how we can be helpful to you.

Written by: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program, The Land Show, that covers many of these topics for people interested in buying or selling land in Alabama.

Landthink PulseBuyers of rural land are deterred by a lack of legal access to the property. A recent Pulse Survey from Landthink.com  posed the question to prospective land buyers, “Which do you see as the biggest drawback or deterrent when considering the purchase of rural land?” The choices of problems given in the poll were: lack of legal access, zoning restrictions, lack of a year-round water feature, lack of electricity, and an existing conservation easement on the property.

Respondents seemed to be most deterred by the lack of legal access, or a property being “Landlocked”. A close second was a property having zoning restrictions. Someone once told me that “Land never has a problem. Only the person that owns the land has a problem.” I chuckled at that, but then the wisdom of the statement sank in. Every property will have some warts; you must decide if you can live with them if you own the property.

Landthink poses Pulse questions to their audience every month with a land-related issue. It was our pleasure for The Land Show to sponsor the Pulse question this past month. Be sure to follow Landthink on all the various forms of social media: Facebook, on Twitter , Linkedin, and Instagram. Landthink is part of the Landflip family of websites for searching for land: Lotflip, Ranchflip, Farmflip, and Landflip. Southeastern Land Group is proud to advertise with Landflip, and we are pleased for Landflip and Landthink to be a gold sponsor of The Land Show.

Written by: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program, The Land Show, that covers many of these topics for people interested in buying or selling land in Alabama.

 

164 acres +/- of land for sale in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama“Time is of the essence”- If you have purchased or sold real estate, you have likely seen this phrase. The expression conveys the importance of responding to an offer in a timely manner.

When the land market in Alabama gets good, like it is now, multiple offer situations are becoming more common. I have represented several owners recently who had properties that had been on the market for months with little to no activity, and all of a sudden, multiple buyers are interested. It is a positive trend that I hope continues for the foreseeable future. When you are in a hot market, especially with a good property, here are few tips to help you make a deal or move on to the next prospect quickly. These tips are not legal advice, so consult your attorney for specific answers about your particular situation.

1. Put offers in writing. It may be convenient to make an offer by phone or fire off a text, but there are many things that can go wrong with this method. It is easy for misunderstandings or miscommunication to happen when relaying a “sort of, maybe offer.” You can have your agent put your offer on paper, or draft a Letter of Intent (LOI) that outlines the terms of what you want to offer. The best way not to be misunderstood, is to put it in writing.

2. Don’t leave it open-ended. By putting a very specific amount of time in an offer or counter-offer, you can potentially keep the negotiation moving along effectively. The amount of time you allow for a decision depends on the circumstances, but generally 24-72 hours is sufficient when requesting a response. When written into a contract, this clause will usually read like:, “Buyer requests a response to this offer from the Seller by Friday, April 13, 2018 at 5:00 pm CST. This offer will expire at such time.” Wording like that makes it very clear how long this offer is good for. It is not wise to leave an offer “hanging out there”.

3. Manage from Contract to Close. The most crucial part of the whole real estate transaction is what happens from the time a contract is executed until the parties sit down to close. There are often contingencies such as surveys, percolation tests, home inspections, or loan approval deadlines. A real estate broker earns their money by keeping everything moving forward in the contract period. It is imperative to have close communication between buyer and seller (or their agents), along with lenders and lawyers. Everyone has a role to play, and the agent is the one keeping everyone on task.

In my opinion, contract extensions are to be avoided, if at all possible. There are many examples I could give to illustrate the importance of that last sentence, but my feeling is extensions are generally not good.

Keeping a land purchase moving along on a positive trajectory involves good communication, observing deadlines in the contract, and everyone doing what they agreed to do. A good land broker will help facilitate the transaction, identify potential pitfalls, and work with lenders and attorneys to remove any impediments to a successful close.

Written by: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program, The Land Show, that covers many of these topics for people interested in buying or selling land in Alabama.

Alabama Hunting Land for Lease from Southeastern Land GroupAre you looking for a hunting lease in Alabama? The spring is one of the busiest times of the year for land sales, and also for people looking to find a hunting lease for the upcoming deer hunting season. Southeastern Land Group does not handle hunting leases, but we have compiled a List of some of the largest entities in Alabama that do offer land for hunting leases.

You can find land from the largest timber companies in the state like Weyerhaeuser, Potlatch, Alabama Power, Rayonier, Westervelt, and Molpus. One of the best sites for finding hunting land for lease from individuals is the Alabama Forest Owners’ Association (AFOA) site. Leasing hunting land is often a stepping-stone to making a rural land purchase. When you are ready to move from leasing to ownership, please contact our team of land agents and brokers to help with your land search.

Written by: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program, The Land Show, that covers many of these topics for people interested in buying or selling land in Alabama.

 

TerraPlat is an App offered by Southeastern Land Group to help you easily locate and navigate our land listings around the Southeast. TerraPlat is a proprietary program developed specifically to help Buyers and Brokers identify properties that we currently have listed, to be able to find them on a map, and to be able to navigate the property in real time.

You can download the app to your mobile device by searching for “TerraPlat” in your device’s app store. The download is free. You will be able to go to a property, and as you ride around the property with one of our agents or brokers, or during your scheduled appointment with your Buyer’s broker, be able to see where you are in real-time in relation to the property boundary lines. The property boundaries are approximations derived from county tax assessor parcel maps and other information provided by our sellers. It makes looking at land so much easier when you have the ability to navigate in the palm of your hand. TerraPlat offers aerial imagery, topographical terrain maps, and street maps for your convenience. The app is designed to link to the listings on our website, so you should be able to find a property you are interested in, and click the link to get all of the information about that property from our website. TerraPlat will also work from your desktop by visiting www.terraplat.com. Please download this free app today.

Written by: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program, The Land Show, that covers many of these topics for people interested in buying or selling land in Alabama.

 

 

Would you like access to seemingly endless information and data about real estate markets in Alabama? If so, you need to be connected with the Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE). The Center for Real Estate is part of the Culverhouse College of Commerce at the University of Alabama. ACRE provides a plethora of resources for many different types of stakeholders. Developers, real estate licensees and brokers, University students, economic development offices, and Alabamans all benefit from the work of the Center.

ACRE was founded as a partnership among the University of Alabama, Alabama Association of REALTORS (AAR), and the Alabama Real Estate Commission (AREC). ACRE offers great educational opportunities to students at the University, and also to licensees around the state. ACRE hosts well-attended continuing education, professional development, and networking events for licensees who practice residential, property management, commercial, and industrial real estate. Each month ACRE publishes a report with the sales and market data from all 27 multiple listing services around the state of Alabama. These reports offer insights into current and historical market trends.

ACRE is the go-to source for information you need about real estate in Alabama. If you are a licensee or broker, take advantage of the weekly email updates that ACRE sends out. You will be hard-pressed to find more talented people than ACRE’s leadership. My friend, Grayson Glaze, serves as the Executive Director and works hard to minister to the real estate industry across our state. K.C. Conway was recently brought on as the Director of Research and Corporate Engagement. K.C. is known nationally for his insights and is highly sought after to  speak at Realtor and professional groups around the country. It is a privilege for me to serve with these talented people as the Vice Chair of the Advisory Board of Trustees for 2018. If you are not familiar with the Alabama Center for Real Estate, please take a few minutes to visit their website now to learn more about this great resource for our state.

Written by: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program, The Land Show, that covers many of these topics for people interested in buying or selling land in Alabama.

“What is a Perc Test?” This is a very important question if you are purchasing an undeveloped piece of property that you are planning to build on. Often rural home sites are far away from public sewer systems, and you will need a way to dispose of household wastewater and gray water. A percolation test, or perc test, helps determine the suitability of the soil to allow the waste water from your home or buildings to drain and filter through the soil. This drainage through the soil helps to eliminate solids, filter, purify, and reintroduce the water to the natural water table.

In Alabama there are 4 types of professionally licensed persons that are legally allowed to conduct a percolation test: engineers, land surveyors, professional soil classifiers, and professional geologists. The professionals that perform the tests will analyze the soils on site and then they will file an application on behalf of the land owner with the County Health Department for approval. Many times the local County Health Department will come inspect the site either before or after the installation of a septic system. Most people are familiar with a conventional septic system, which is typically an in-ground system of chambered units that help disperse liquids through the field lines and into the soil. When soils do not percolate quickly or fully, then landowners must have an engineered system. These systems are typically much more costly to construct and maintain than a conventional system. The Alabama Public Health Department (ADPH) has a helpful resource called, “Can I Live On This Lot?” that gives insights into what to do BEFORE purchasing or building on a piece of land. The ADPH also provides a database to make it easy to Find a Licensed Professional in your area. For more Q&A about septic systems, try this helpful resource from the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service: Household Waste and Wastewater.

Having a percolation test performed on an undeveloped piece of land that you intend to build on BEFORE you buy is a very good idea. This is often written as a contingency into a purchase agreement that the land must pass a percolation test and be approved by the local county health department for a conventional septic system. You need to deal with a real estate agent that is familiar with these types of rural land issues to make sure you do not end up purchasing a property that you cannot use in the way you intend. Contact our team of land agents and brokers from Southeastern Land Group or Southeastern Estates to help you find and enjoy the piece of property you’ve been dreaming of owning.

Written by: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program, The Land Show, that covers many of these topics for people interested in buying or selling land in Alabama.

157 acres of Land for Sale in Perry County, Alabama“Who loans money for land in Alabama?” We get this question quite a bit from people looking to make their first rural land purchase. There are several great lenders that focus almost completely on rural land loans and farm production loans. These lenders understand the many facets of what is involved with making a purchase of timberland, row crops, poultry farms, a hunting or recreational tract, or potential country home site. The traditional land lenders that we work with on a daily basis are Alabama Ag Credit, First South Farm Credit, and Alabama Farm Credit.  The USDA Farm Service Agency offers special programs for first time and historically underserved farmers.

Land loans operate on  the same general premise as a normal mortgage, but with different terms. Each lender will have their own programs and loan requirements, but the down-payment is typically 15% to 25% of the purchase price. The interest rate is usually slightly higher than a residential mortgage, but that is often somewhat offset by the patronage that is returned to the borrower at the end of the year.  Each lender offers some great options to help you make the purchase of the property you’ve been dreaming of. So please contact these lenders to find out what program works best for you, and please contact Southeastern Land Group when you are ready to make your rural land purchase in Alabama.

Written by: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program, The Land Show, that covers many of these topics for people interested in buying or selling land in Alabama.

Since today is Halloween, this article is a little nod to the spooky phrase I most dread to hear in a land transaction. Over the past 10 years I have seen some ghoulish situations pop up in deals, such as one of my clients having to exhume his deceased father to prove paternity and heirship to a tract of land, disclosing that a person was murdered and disposed of in the pond on a property I was selling, and being threatened with being shot if I crossed a property line. Each of those experiences was hairy, but the phrase I fear most in a land deal are “We can’t close.”

“We can’t close.” Those words evoke a whole array of emotion. “What do you mean we can’t close? We’ve done all this work!” This experience is aggravating, fear-inducing, and can cause panic for the agent wondering how you are going to keep the deal together.

If you have done more than a half dozen land deals, you’ve probably heard this phrase from a closing attorney. There are a number of reasons why you will hear that a deal cannot close. The good news is that most of the time “We can’t close” is followed by “until” or “unless”. There are generally conditions that can be met that will allow the transaction to move forward to close.

The more deals you successfully close, the better you get at anticipating things that will derail your land deal. It is impossible to eliminate every contingency that will keep a real estate deal from closing, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the risks of losing a deal once you have it under contract. Here are some of the most common devils I see in the details.

  • Cloud on a title. Not much is more aggravating than discovering some impediment to providing clear title to a property. The sellers often do not know about some issue in the long chain of ownership, and it must be rectified before a transaction can close. Having title work done at the time of listing can lead to the discovery of these issues before you get an antsy buyer on the hook.
  • Right of First Refusal. These things have a way of coming out of the woodwork when you least expect them. Sellers have often forgotten about granting this right or assume that the person will not want to redeem it when the time comes. Knowing ahead of time that there is in fact a right of first refusal and then who the parties are and what their terms of redemption are will keep you from running off a qualified buyer.
  • Underwriter pulls their loan commitment. Dang this is aggravating! You have already received approval for a loan, clearing that contingency, you have done the title search and inspections, and then one day this mysterious “undertaker” (underwriter) sends a “to whom it may concern” letter. I saw this happen last month on a large transaction. This makes you want to pull your hair out. The best thing you can do is have good relationships with quality lenders that specialize in land loans so that when an underwriter does pull this stunt, you have someone that can jump in and help.
  • Inspections reveal a major problem. Termite infestation, toxic mold, foundation trouble, sink holes, medical waste, high radon levels, leaky pond dam, asbestos, and the list can go on ad nauseum. There are many things that come to light during a professional inspection. By having these inspections done at the time of listing, you can identify and resolve potential problems. The worst time to address them is during the contract period.
  • Needing a contract extension. The lender needs more time. The closing attorney does not have the title work done in time. The surveyor could not complete the survey in time. Asking for an extension to a contract is one of my least favorite things to do in the world. It opens everything open for re-negotiation. People lose motivation or find another property they want more. Do not give people a chance to escape the contract if possible (if that is in the best interest of your client). It is the job of the land broker to keep everyone on task and to complete the transaction by the agreed upon closing date. Lenders and lawyers will often not see this closing deadline like we agents do, “the drop dead date.” I have one client that has asked me to add this phrase to his contracts, “Closing attorney will provide all closing documents to the purchaser no later than 72 hours before the scheduled closing.” This way when a closing attorney agrees to handle the closing, they acknowledge they will have the work done well ahead of closing.

Those are a few of the common issues that pop up that can delay or derail a closing. Some of the more severe situations that may not be easily resolved or may totally kill your deal are a death of one of the parties, a lis pendens on the tract, IRS liens against an entire parcel when you want to sell only a portion, or a property with a life estate.

Understanding the potential roadblocks to your land deal before they happen can help you avoid those scary words “We can’t close.” Do your best to anticipate and address any snags as early in the process as possible, and you’ll never regret that you did.

Written byJonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi.