With the dawning of each new year, we look back to see what we accomplished, how we met certain goals, and most importantly, what we learned. The land business, like the product itself, is an ever-evolving organism that and requires constant care and attention. While the big picture - buying, selling and managing land - is important, it’s the intricate details that maintain the foundation of the business.
As land agents, it’s our job to give you access to the information you need to potentially purchase property, sell an existing place or continue to grow as a land manager who is simply in it for the enjoyment the land offers to your friends and family. And luckily for everyone involved, many of the facets we often discuss work in direct correlation with one another. So no matter where you stand on the spectrum, or even if you’re simply mulling over the idea of owning land, what we’ve learned can hopefully translate into something useful for each of you.
Present Curb Appeal
We call this the ‘WOW’ factor. Curb appeal is key because you only get one chance to make a first impression. Pick up trash along the road leading to the property, fix fences, hang a gate and make the driveway attractive with white rock or new gravel. These are some of the simple things you can do. So is keeping up structures located throughout the property. Repaint walls, clean windows and plant flowers around the house. We’d suggest constant maintenance for the duration a property is on the market.
Keeping roads and structures clean presents major curb appeal.
Digging a pristine-looking fishing pond or creating a mature stand of white oaks are some of the more long-term and difficult tasks that create curb appeal. So we’d suggest focusing on what can be accomplished over the course of several weekends if you’ve only recently decided to sell. Cleanliness goes a long way.
Create a Road System
Create what we like to call an “effortless road system” throughout the farm so that potential buyers can see every acre they’re buying. This could also appeal to anyone. What’s more enjoyable in the summer than a few hours riding ATVs? The fun factor will quickly leave about the time that first branch smacks you in the face, so maintain the roads throughout the year with an extension saw.
Less is More
Do less bush hogging in some areas so that they can grow into cover and bedding areas for wildlife. While increasing such spots on the property is not an overnight project, it will in the long term allow you to produce bigger bucks and an overall larger population of deer. In fact, consider this a ten-year plan if you’ve just purchased a place, and may one day decide to resell.
Build a Photographic Portfolio
Once an overgrown hillside becomes an established refuge for whitetails, concentrate your summer trail cameras in this area to provide proof that your project paid off. We can’t tell you the importance of trail cam photos in the selling process when the land already has some appeal to deer hunters. Hero shots are also very good selling points. Build an array of photos with nice bucks that have been taken off the place in years past, fun summer days or the peacefulness of a sunrise. Show potential buyers what it’s like to own this piece of property. Don’t make them guess.
A major asset in selling land is building a portfolio of trail camera images.
Good Things Happen Near Water
Folks love the sight of water. And the closer to the house is, the better. Water is picturesque. It’s the element in every Terry Redlin painting that makes a sunset more picturesque or a house look more cozy.
Installing a pond on the property adds tremendous value whether you’re planning to sell or not. Many of us can look back to farm pond fishing as a youngster with a fondness that can’t be found on a baseball diamond or soccer field. As an adult, you now have the opportunity to pay it forward.
Fond memories are made in and around water.
Complete a Full Boundary Survey
Confidence to a buyer is knowing exactly how many acres they are purchasing and where the property lines will be. A boundary survey is done by a crew of surveyors who physically mark the corners of the property and determines where the lines actually are. These surveys are accurate to within one-eighth of an inch of the line. The last thing a landowner wants is a dispute with a neighbor over property lines.
Get a Timber Appraisal
Get a written timber appraisal from a certified forester to determine the market value on your property. As a landowner, you might even consider doing this every ten years as trees grow to full maturity, even if you don’t plan on selling. In the event that the property does get put on the market, factoring in timber will allow you to show added value. For a potential buyer, knowing what kinds of trees inhabit the property is important. Healthy stands of oaks, hickory, black walnut and others are great for a variety of things such as attracting wildlife, cooking and furniture building, just to name a few.
Keep Leases in Writing
Get leases in writing. If you have a farmer renting the crop land, write up a simple contract both parties can sign. If you lease the hunting rights, make sure there is a written lease in place. The handshake deals of yesteryear just don’t hold the same water these days. Also, a seller can show potential buyers the extra income they’ll be able to make through leasing out the farming or hunting rights.
**Justin Mason is an agent and land specialist serving Southeast Illinois who is also licensed in Kentucky. Click here to contact Justin.**