Photo Jul 14, 9 46 57 AMSoutheastern Land Group agents have been receiving a significant increase in the number of property inquiries from individuals looking to make their first land purchase. This recent influx of prospective buyers is great because we have hundreds of properties across the Southeast for them to choose from. There are some questions that we get from almost every new prospect, and maybe they will be helpful as you begin your search.

  • Who finances land? This is the number one question I get from first-time land buyers. In Alabama there are two main lenders that specialize in making loans on rural acreage: First South Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit. Traditional mortgage lenders are not accustomed to making loans on more than 5 to 10 acres. Occasionally a credit union can offer some competitive loan options, but these land lenders are chartered by the federal government to make these types of loans.

 

  • How much down payment do they require? Land lenders typically require a more substantial down payment than home mortgage lenders, usually requiring 15% to 25% of the purchase price to be paid by the buyer at closing. This usually comes as a big surprise to first time buyers who are expecting to put 5% to 10% down. It is good to know how much down payment your lender is going to require, so you can calculate how much you can afford.

 

  • Land Lenders can be Flexible. A good loan officer will ask you lots of questions about your particular situation, in order to find the best option for your land purchase. In some instances a lender will accept a property you own outright as collateral in lieu of a down payment. If a property you are considering purchasing has a valuable stand of timber, it is possible to work a deal with your lender and a timber buyer to sell some of the timber and reduce the amount of the loan you will need. This is an area where the Southeastern Land Group Timber Division can be a real asset to provide timely advice about your timber options.

 

  • Research your lending options on the front-end. I recommend contacting multiple land lenders early in your property search phase. This allows you to be armed with the knowledge of what you are capable of purchasing. We have recently had a couple of prospective buyers make offers, and then have to withdraw them almost immediately when they realized they could not meet the lender’s criteria for the loan. Be prepared to provide your loan officer a W-2 or other relevant financial information. They will need this to get the ball rolling for you.

These tips are enough to get you pointed in the right direction as you begin your search for rural land. Feel free to contact  any of our agents, and we would love to help you make your first land purchase a successful and enjoyable experience.

Written by: Jonathan GoodeAccredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Group is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi

Photo Dec 04, 10 16 59 AMWhen do you think farmland prices are going to correct?” is a question posed to me recently. My answer was, “I do not know a single farmer who is trying to give back land that they have purchased recently, and most are still interested in acquiring more.”

This question was asked specifically about farmland prices in Alabama and Mississippi, states where I am a licensed broker. Our company, Southeastern Land Group (SELG), does not serve mid-western states, so the information in this article is confined to current trends we are seeing in southeastern states, specifically Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

In one regard, farmers and gold prospectors are very similar: they both need good ground to make a living. They both generally are only making money when they are working in the dirt. Farmers and prospectors have a shared hunger for more dirt, and only time will tell if it will pay off.

I polled three of my colleagues with SELG who specialize in row crop, cattle farms, and poultry farms about what they are seeing from farmers in their areas. Robert King, who has a long family heritage of raising beef cattle, says that the demand that he is seeing for good pastureland is stable. Cattle farmers are showing an interest in acquiring more land that is near to their existing operations, and would like to “bolt-on” more acreage. Cattle prices have enjoyed a significant run up over the past 18 months, and long-time farmers are still enjoying the boost in prices they have recently experienced.

Russ Walters, whose family farms approximately 900 acres of row crops including peanuts and cotton, said that he is also seeing a strong demand for farmers to add to their existing row crop operations. In the markets Russ serves, he said good farmland will see strong interest in the $2200/acre to $3000/acre for dry land farms. He currently has one buyer that is willing to purchase 500 to 1000 acres of timber and convert it to row crop land. When good farmland is in short supply, sometimes buyers are willing to transition timberland to cropland. Russ says most farmers in his area have experienced 4 good harvests consecutively, and even with lower commodity prices farmers have done pretty well in the recent past.

Randall Upchurch, one of the cofounders of PoultrySouth.com, says that he is seeing firm demand among all of the segments he serves: poultry, cattle, and row crop farms. Randall says pastureland prices are slightly softer than they were 6 months ago, but the demand is still there for reasonably priced farmland tracts.

In west Alabama and east Mississippi, I am seeing pastureland and non-irrigated farmland sell for 10% to 40% per acre above timberland properties. I feel comfortable listing ag land for 25% above neighboring timberland properties. Farmers are consistently asking me what is available near them, and that is a sign that they are still willing to add good land to their existing operations if the properties are priced reasonably.

Based on the short supply of quality farmland for sale and the steady demand from prospective buyers, we feel like farmland prices in the Southeast are stable for the near term. We hope this is a trend that continues for years to come.

Written by: Jonathan GoodeAccredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Group is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi

wreathMerry Christmas and Happy New Years from your friends at Southeastern Land Group! This is a great time of year, and many of you are spending time with friends and family, and that means you may also be getting some much deserved time off.

If your schedule does allow you some leisure time, Southeastern Land Group invites you to check out a few ways to help you scratch that land itch you may have right now. Here are several ways that our team would like to serve you during your time off.

1. Please search our property listings on our website. Our site allows you to search properties by state, county or other criteria you select. We try to make your search easy, and provide lots of properties for you to browse through. We have a tab that allows you to see only our newest listings, so please check back with us often.

2. Our blog offers many informative articles for you to read. If you’re sitting in an airport or in your shooting house, take advantage of all of these resources for landowners, sellers or buyers of rural property. Here is an opportunity to read about a topic you love and educate yourself on issues that are important to you.

The Land Show3. Catch up on The Land Show! Do you have hours of travel time as you go over the river and through the woods? You can stream podcasts of our weekly radio program. Each week Dave Milton hosts entertaining guests that talk about important issues affecting landowners and prospective buyers. Each week we have updates from our team of experts on farmland,  timberland, and recreational opportunities. Dave answers questions from listeners and we have a short land history segment as well. This show airs weekly on radio stations across the state, and is offered via podcast.

4. Call an agent and go look at some land. Some of our team will be on the clock over the holidays, and will be happy to show you  property we have for sale.

5. Download our free app, TerraPlat, and see properties that are near you on your travels. (Please contact any agent in order to schedule a visit to a property.)

6. Now is a good time to get your property on the market for the new year. We will be happy to assist you with information necessary to decide if now is the time to list and sell your piece of land.

From all of our team at Southeastern Land Group, we do wish you and yours the very best during the holiday season. Please feel free to contact us and let us know how we can be helpful to you with your land needs.

Written by: Jonathan GoodeAccredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Group is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi

 

Southeastern Land Group On October 1, 2015, AlaLandCo officially changed its name to Southeastern Land Group. Our name change coincided with an expansion into multiple states. Southeastern Land Group is now licensed to offer land brokerage in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.

Our new name is NOT related to a merger or acquisition; we had been planning the name change and re-branding for months beforehand. We are the same people, offering the same great service now to an even larger area.

The new name has been well-received, and our clients have been very pleased. We have implemented some new advertising that has helped the transition be a success. The Land Show with Dave Milton is a weekly radio show that is available to about 75% of Alabama, with podcasts available for those who cannot hear it live. We continue to build our strong online presence, and you can find our ads monthly in several key regional outdoor magazines. Our new app, TerraPlat,  makes your search for land easier and more efficient.

We invite you to check back with us often on our website  for new property listings and informative blog articles, you can also follow us on our company Facebook page. Please feel free to contact any of the great agents on our team, and let us know how we can be helpful with any of your land buying or selling needs. Southeastern Land Group looks forward to the opportunity to serve you.

Written by: Jonathan GoodeAccredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Group is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi

SELG Written Offer“What do I need to do to make an offer on this property?” is a question I love to hear. I have never sold a piece of land without first having received an offer, so this is a great first step toward a closing! Generally I respond with, let’s draw up the contract so we can present it to the seller. Sometimes a prospective purchaser will want to just present a verbal offer, but our company policy is to get the offer in writing.

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by an adjoining owner of a property we have for sale, and he wanted to make an offer. The prospect emailed me an initial offer, not on a contract, but with the price and terms he wanted to offer the seller. Against my customary procedures, I passed that offer along to my seller client. We negotiated back and forth via email and phone, still not on a contract, until we reached an acceptable agreement. I drafted the purchase agreement and sent it to the purchaser for him to sign. After sleeping on it for a day, the buyer informed me that he was not going to move forward with the purchase. Understandably my seller was very upset with the buyer, and with me. I blew it. I didn’t do what I normally do, and it cost my client. I apologized and told him he could fire me, but he was gracious and we have moved forward.

Here are a few reasons why getting the offer in writing is a good idea for everyone involved:

  1. A written offer makes it clear what all of the terms are going to be. With any given land deal there can be many small details that need to be addressed specifically. Putting an offer on paper eliminates mistaken assumptions that either party may have regarding the transaction
  2. Written offers bind all parties to the contract. The word “contract” means “to draw together“. Once   everyone agrees to the terms and sign the contract, everyone is bound by the purchase agreement. If roadblocks come up before closing, or if one party one party starts to waver, then the contract is there to remind everyone what they agreed to. Real estate contracts are legally binding documents, and should not be entered into carelessly. It is possible that if a party to the contract does not honor their obligations that they may be open to a lawsuit for specific performance or other damages.
  3. Written offers convey a sense of seriousness that a verbal offer does not. A written offer shows the seller that they are likely dealing with a thoughtful and business-like individual. Verbal offers often carry very little weight with a seller, and buyers can put themselves at a disadvantage by not taking a little extra time to pen their this offer.

This article does not address all of the issues associated with making an offer on a piece of rural real estate, but hopefully it shows a few reasons why making an offer in writing increases your chances of a successful transaction.

Written by: Jonathan GoodeAccredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Group is a licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi

SELG Listing Agreement“Why do I have to sign a listing agreement?” is a question that we are often asked when meeting with a  landowner about selling their land. Earlier this year I was burned badly by an exception I made to my personal rule of having all sellers I work with sign an exclusive listing agreement to market and sell their property. The person who burned me was a long-time family friend who made an honest mistake that ended up costing her a deal and me about $12,000 in potential commissions. This disappointment has served to reinforce my conviction about exclusive listings.

An exclusive listing means you sign a legally binding agreement with one brokerage to market and sell your real estate at a set price for a given period of time. There are other listing arrangements that are available to brokers and land owners, and a seller or broker is not obligated to use any one in particular. Here are a few of the reasons why I prefer and practice the exclusive right to sale listing arrangement.

  • It brings clarity to the transaction. A document that is signed and dated by all parties spells out exactly what the terms of the deal will be. Not only does it solidify a sales price and terms, but it defines the services the broker will provide to the seller and the responsibilities the seller has to the broker. If any party to the deal forgets what the agreement was, they have a copy that they can go to for clarity.
  • It commits the parties to each other and to the deal. When a seller is not motivated to sell, in my opinion it is usually better not to put a rural property on the open market. When you put it out there “just to see”, then you run the risk of stigmatizing the property when it does not sell in a reasonable timeframe. So when a seller signs a listing, they are generally agreeing to sell the property if they can receive a favorable price and terms. Not only does the seller make a commitment in an exclusive listing agreement, but a broker commits to provide fiduciary duties to a seller. Selling land can be fraught with pitfalls, and a skilled broker can provide advice to help a seller navigate those challenges. When a seller allows multiple brokers to advertise their property for sale, then no one is officially looking out for the best interest of the seller. That means you potentially have a group of brokers trying to put a deal together by whatever means necessary. This can leave a seller exposed to liability and at a disadvantaged negotiating position because the brokers have knowledge about their situation with no commitment to use that information in the best interest of the seller.
  • It protects my compensation. One of the most important principles of business is that you have to know how you are going to get paid for the work you do. I have a proven system of marketing rural land that delivers results for my clients. That system involves me laying out a significant amount of money to advertise and show tracts of land. It is not prudent for me to outlay all of that money with no reasonable expectation of return on my investment. In my opinion a land broker who does not routinely require signed listing agreements shows me that they do not place a high value on the services they provide. Have you ever met a doctor, attorney, or other professional who provides a specialized service that does not require payment for services rendered? Probably not.

Let me stress again that this is not the only way a land owner can work with a broker to sell their property. For my personal business, I find it prudent for both parties to sign a contract that outlines the relationship from day one. I believe in personal integrity and operating with “my word as my bond”, however it is too easy for either party to misremember or crawfish if negotiations get heated.

The best analogy I have for signing a listing agreement is the day I was married. My beautiful bride and I stood on stage in front of God and everyone we knew and took specific vows to one another. Even when we made such solemn oaths in public, the state of Alabama still made us sign a legally binding marriage license. The same is true when I list a piece of land. We are going to make a commitment to each other, and the proof is written in ink on a contract. It keeps everything clean and equitable, making successful transactions more pleasant and run smoothly for all parties.

Written by: Jonathan GoodeAccredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Group is a licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi

131 acre Dallas Co Skelton tax mapWe receive many calls from landowners in Alabama who want to know, “Is it a good idea to divide your rural property to help it sell?” Each property should be evaluated on a case by case basis to determine if a division will help the owner achieve their objectives.

In the past month I have made recommendations to two different land owners about whether they should offer their properties as a whole or divide them and market them separately. Both tracts share many similar qualities: each has state highway frontage, a cabin, a lake, and they both join the national forest. In my property evaluation and marketing proposal I suggested that one owner divide his property and the other I recommended that he offer it in its entirety.

The decision about whether to offer your property in multiple tracts or to sell it in its entirety should be made based on what your objectives are in selling the property. Is your goal to generate some immediate revenue? Perhaps your goal is to liquidate an asset that is in another state so as to remove all liabilities associated with it. Do you want to get the highest possible price for a property no matter how long it takes, or do you simply want to dissolve a partnership quickly and move on with your life?

Here are some considerations I take into account when advising clients about dividing the tract:

Here is when I would consider dividing the property:

  1. If you want to maximize returns on the property and the number of days on the market is not really a consideration.
  2. The property is large, and offering smaller parcels increases the potential buyer pool. (Because there are more buyers that can afford a $50,000 tract than a $500,000 property.)
  3. You need to generate some revenue quickly, and the odds of selling a small parcel are good.
  4. There is a market for mini-farms or small estates that would justify breaking your tract up.
  5. An adjoining owner wants a portion of the property and brings a bag of cash.

I would advise against dividing a property for selling it if:

  1. One of the divided parcels would be a liability or would be unlikely to sell if the more desirable piece is sold first. (Then you may be stuck with a “dog” forever.) Use the good tract as leverage to make someone buy the undesirable one too.
  2. The costs associated with closing a small parcel of land are not justified by the sell price.
  3. By dividing your land, the piece you sell adversely affects the property you are going to keep. (ie.. lose road frontage, increased cost to connect to utilities, lose farming capabilities, give up access to a water feature, etc…)

When considering how to divide a property, these are things I generally look for when making a recommendation:

  1. Natural divisions such as creeks, canyons, fields, forests, and other topographical features that would make a dividing point?
  2. Logical divisions such as roads, fence lines, fire lanes, varying ages of timber stands.
  3. Surveyed boundaries

A few other things to consider would include the costs associated with dividing it. A survey can be expensive as well as closing costs and real estate fees. Make sure you examine the estimated net sheet closely before agreeing to divide and sell.

I hope these tips are helpful when considering whether to divide your property or not when putting them on the market. The decision can really only be made based on your objectives and the features of your property. Give one of our agents a call to discuss your particular property and situation.

Written by: Jonathan Goode– Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Group is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi

Dallas 390 winter 2015Over the past two years I have received several dozen calls from entities that are looking for properties suitable for wetland mitigation opportunities. Today I showed another property to a prospective mitigation buyer. We looked at all of the creeks, streams, wetland areas, and water courses on the property. These prospective buyers have a very specific set of criteria that they are looking for in a property. The aim of this article is to help provide some elementary information about mitigation banking to landowners.

The general concept of wetland mitigation is fairly simple. If a wetland or stream is altered or impaired, then the developer or contractor can purchase credits from a mitigation bank that has repaired or improved a wetland in the same watershed as the impaired area. The purpose of wetland mitigation is to preserve, restore, or enhance our precious water resources.

These projects may be undertaken by government entities, non-profit organizations, or corporations. Mitigation projects must be approved and monitored by federal, and sometimes state, regulatory agencies. Federal agencies involved with mitigation banking include the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service , and the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Department among others.  There is a written guidance to govern the projects that has been jointly established by these government agencies. Section 404 of the EPA’s Clean Water Act also has provisions for mitigation banking.

There are countless nuances to mitigation banking, far too many to delve into the specifics of how they all work or what these buyers are looking for because it varies from entity to entity. If you are a landowner interested in more information, please feel free to contact me to find out if your property is a suitable candidate. This article covers only the minimal amount of information about the subject, and I am happy to discuss your specific situation.

Written by: Jonathan Goode– Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Group is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi

 

Are you searching for rural land for sale in Alabama or Mississippi? When you have looked at a property and asked all of the right questions, there comes a point when you have to make a decision: “Do you want it?”

Sometime ago I had the privilege of meeting with a family to write an offer on a property they really like. We had looked at the tract several times together. As I sat at their desk and they asked a few more questions of me, the wife turned to the husband and said, “Do you want it?”. I loved the point-blank clarity of the question, and that she asked it. He said “yes” and we penned the offer.

I have done a disservice to lots of potential land buyers. I never gave them the opportunity to say “Yes, I want this property.” In a previous life, or career, one of my roles was fundraising for a non-profit organization. After my presentation about the work we were doing, I would always look a prospective donor in the eye and ask them if they would join our team by making a contribution.

I am good at this with land owners when securing a listing. I never fail to let an owner know about the positive aspects of their property and that I would like to work with them. Then I ask for the listing. I learned my first month in the land business that there is nothing I, as an agent, can (ethically) say to “sell” a piece of land. A buyer will spend $250,000 only when they are ready. They either like it or they don’t. But many people like a property and never take action on it, when they should at least be given the opportunity to say “yes”.

For potential buyers who may be reading this article, you should be thinking, “When is the right time to ask myself if I want it?” Here are a few questions you must answer first:

  1. Is this the right location? Is the property you are considering close enough to your home to allow you to use it often? Is it in close proximity to a water-source to use for irrigation if you are farming? All of the specifics of your situation must be evaluated regarding a property’s location.
  2. Does it fit your needs? Is the property sufficiently long and open for the private runway you want to construct? Is there adequate distance between you and the neighbors that hunting is safe (for you and them)? What is the site index for growing pine timber? Check the land out to see if it will meet most of the major criteria on your wish list.
  3. How are you going to pay for it? If you are pleased with how a particular property stacks up to questions #1 & #2, then you should finalize your financing options. Consult ag land lenders, your 1031 intermediary, or CPA to answer any specific questions to how you are going to pay for the property.
  4. Do you want it? When the due diligence is complete to a reasonable level of comfort, you need someone to ask you this question aloud. It’s powerful to have someone ask a life-altering question. “Will you marry me?” “Will you accept this job offer?” “Do you want this property?” Get my drift?

Many prospective buyers get paralysis by analysis. They want to know every detail to every question (I am naturally bent this way). But most of us know what we don’t want within 10 seconds of seeing it. As the layers of the onion are peeled back, and everything continues to look good, you have to make a call to move forward. You can always have the agent put in some contingencies in a contract that give you an “out” if something unexpected and undesirable pops up as you continue to peel layers prior to closing.

Once you do your due diligence sufficiently and you are comfortable with the information you have, then comes the point of decision. “Do you want it?” If so, take the steps to make it yours. If not, move on and keep looking.

Written by: Jonathan Goode– Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Group is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi

Being a real estate professional is not just about selling property, it is about relating well with people. In my business as a land broker I view my job as helping people buy or sell land: with the emphasis on helping people.

I’ve been reflecting lately on how there can be so many real estate agents in any given market. One conclusion is that each of those agents knows people. People sell properties, people buy properties. Those people need to deal with an agent, and generally they are going to deal with someone they know or know about. One agent can only know so many people, and even the most seasoned professional has a limit to the number of people in their network.

In my (short) eight years in the land business, I have observed that the land professionals that seem to excel in this business have a good understanding of their product (land) and relate well with others. Someone who presents themselves in a professional manner, builds rapport easily, and can communicate information effectively has a distinct advantage over competitors.

If you are in the market to buy or sell land, you should build a relationship with a professional who can help you find deals and navigate the pitfalls associated with these transactions. Finding an agent you can trust for advice is imperative because it can mean the difference between a successful deal and headaches for years to come.

Here are a few things I would suggest you look for in a land professional:

  1. Do they come highly recommended? Find someone who gets good marks from friends or associates.
  2. Do you like them well enough to ride around in the truck together? You may be spending a significant amount of time together. If the sight of them makes you sick, you should probably find another agent.
  3. Are they listening when you talk? Find someone who is attentive to your needs and can structure a deal to achieve your objectives. They need to listen to what you have to say.
  4. Are they honest with you? You want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly about every aspect of your deal. Are they willing to give it to you straight, or do you feel like they are hiding something? They may have to give you bad news, but it is easy to respect and trust someone who shoots it to you straight.
  5. Are they delivering results for their other clients? Don’t be afraid to ask for recent results. A top-producing agent has success stories to tell you, a slacker will hem and haw and kick the dirt. Don’t hire a relative to sell your land just because you are related. A poor performance could hinder your relationship more than help your business. Find a go-getter and turn them loose.
  6. Do they practice the Golden Rule? This could be hard to determine at the initial meeting, but as you get to know someone this is easier to discern. You want to be treated fairly, and a true professional will do that to the best of their ability.

This past weekend some of my clients ran into me at an outdoor event, and the husband shook my hand and slapped my back, the wife gave me a big hug around the neck and I was reminded that this is what my business is all about. I love driving by a property that I’ve helped someone buy or sell and feeling welcomed when I stop by. Treating people well is how you stay in this, or any, business for a lifetime. Relationships drive successful real estate transactions.

Written by: Jonathan Goode– Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) with Southeastern Land Group is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi