“What do I need to know to get into land brokerage?” I’ve been asked this question a half dozen times over the past 6 weeks. I always recommend that licensees get education and training specific to our field. Below is a list of some of the types of formal and informal education I believe are necessary to develop competency for successful land brokers.
State Licensing Law- To engage in assisting other people in buying, selling, or leasing real estate on behalf of other people for a fee, you will need to be licensed in your state. I list this category of education first because if you aren’t licensed by a state, you’re not legally authorized to conduct this type of business. Each state has curriculum requisite for obtaining your license. It is essential to learn the state laws that govern your real estate practice. Real Estate Commissions offer courses that stress all of things that you need to do to comply with the law and stay out of trouble in your business. You need to learn the laws of your state regarding key issues such as Agency Disclosures, Property Disclosures, and Handling other people’s money and property. Complying with state laws will keep you in business and out of jail.
Company Policies and Training- Every company has its own set of policies regarding the way they will conduct their practice. These policies tell you “this is how we do it here.” Company policies are essential to creating a team, governing the actions of team members, and helping to achieve the mission of your brokerage. The training your company provides is essential to helping your team get better at what you do. Many brokers miss the fact that there is a difference between education and training. Training is a “hands on” process where knowledge is molded into a skill. You can be licensed as a real estate agent and have absolutely no clue what you are supposed to do next.
Brokers owe it to their licensees to provide training on topics such as securing listings, writing purchase agreements, presenting offers, handling earnest money, advertising properties, and a host of other every day issues pertaining to your business. I know brokers who refuse to train their people because they think that the licensees will leave as soon as they are able to start their own firm. That is poor leadership in my opinion, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. If a broker is responsible for the actions of all licensees under their charge, they should invest in making sure their people get it right.
My brokerage has compiled a “Best Practices” book for our team members, which we provide to our new agents as soon as possible. It’s a playbook that shows proven techniques they can use to jump start their personal business. Some of the larger land brokerage companies have developed extensive weeks-long coursework and programs to educate and train their new hires.
National Association of Realtors (NAR) / State Associations- Many land brokers are not members of the National or state Association of Realtors, and are missing out on the resources these groups provide. Most land brokers think that the associations are only good for putting properties in an MLS, but there are numerous educational and networking opportunities for members. The NAR provides a huge array of resources in class and online for licensees to use to develop their business. I have personally found the Code of Ethics training and Pathways to Professionalism to be helpful to my business. The associations also lobby politicians on issues that are relevant to our profession. There is strength in numbers, and residential agents far outnumber land agents. In Alabama, there are about 381 licensees for every 1 RLI member. This means that there are lots of licensees out there who do not focus on the type of practice our members do. I look at this as ample opportunities to give and receive referrals from people who are not my direct competition.
Realtors Land Institute / CCIM Institute– I am a big fan of the Realtors Land Institute (RLI), and full disclosure, I served as Alabama’s chapter president in 2016. I find this organization to be extremely helpful in providing education that is tailor-made for land professionals. The Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM Institute) is for real estate professionals who specialize in commercial transactions. Both of these organizations offer professional designations that members can earn. These designations come through rigorous educational requirements and the demonstration of proficiency in their field over a period of years. RLI offers the Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) designation and the CCIM Institute confers the CCIM designation.
Each organization has national and state chapters. I have benefited greatly from being a member of RLI and earned the ALC designation in 2015. It makes a difference in my business to tell potential clients and customers about the designation and how I specialize in rural land transactions.
There are other broker associations, trade groups. forestry and farming associations, and an unlimited number of groups you can join. Each of those organizations offers information and training that can help you further hone your skills in a particular market subset. Participate as much as you can to learn and network in these areas.
A word of caution- I am not a lawyer and don’t give legal advice, so this opinion is free. Lots of people advertise themselves as “Land Expert”, “Land Specialist”, or “Land Professional”. If you advertise yourself that way, you should make sure you back it up with suitable experience and education to demonstrate your expertise. I caution here because a few years ago I was a witness in a case where someone held themselves out as an “Environmental Specialist”, even using that title on their Linkedin profile. This helped us prove that the individual knew or should have known that his actions were inappropriate because he was an expert and said he specialized in this field. He and his company lost. My understanding is that if you hold yourself out as an expert, if you are ever in a legal case you will likely be held to that standard.
Land brokers these days have lots of opportunities to “Get Land Smart” as my friends at LANDTHINK say. Taking advantage of the coursework and training offered to us will allow us to serve clients, customers, and the public better and elevate the status of our vocation. I hope this article lays out the importance of education for land professionals.
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