Selling Land

How a Land Agent Earns His Money

How a Land Agent Earns His Money

“Why in the world would I pay you a commission to help me sell my land?” This is a fair question for a landowner to ask. Let’s consider a few points, from a land agent’s perspective, on why an agent can be worth the money. I will grant that there are many savvy property owners that buy, sell, and trade land often. This type of owner loves to dicker and receives a thrill from each transaction. He may or may not need an agent’s help with his rural land for sale, as he has done a dozen or more deals on his own. The majority of landowners sell their land once in a lifetime, and having an experienced adviser when navigating these murky waters can be quite helpful. Consider several key ways an agent earns their commission.

1. Pricing your property accurately in the current market. An experienced agent will have the pulse of the current market in the area. They know the comparable sales history, and have a feel for what buyers are looking for and willing to pay. In the current market, I have seen buyers be sensitive within $100 to $200 an acre, so getting the right price is crucial to attracting buyer interest.

2. Marketing the property in media that buyers use. Placing an ad in the local newspaper may garner some interest, but one recent statistic says that over 80% of land buyers search for property online before going to look at land. As a landowner, can you afford to pay the monthly fees to advertise your one listing on land for sale sites, and which ones generate the best activity? A good agent will give your land exposure to buyers in many different forms.

3. Answering phone calls and showing the property. Are you willing to field the phone calls of every person that wants to cut off the front 1 acre of your 120 acre tract? How many times do you have to give up a Saturday or take off work, only to be stood up by someone before that gets old?

4. Negotiating and writing the contract. The realtor’s job really begins once the contract is written and the negotiations begin. Going back and forth with tact and integrity can be taxing on even the most seasoned agent. Navigating emotions and potential hiccups is essential if the deal is to be transacted. Many owners appreciate not having to feel the heat of negotiations and can let attachment to the property or other emotions cloud the business transaction.

5. Professional networks. This past week I had to have a survey performed on a parcel we have under contract. I got 5 quotes from different companies before we were able to select the best price and the fastest service. How much time do you want to devote to getting quotes from surveyors? You need an agent with a network of foresters, surveyors, closing attorneys, builders, home inspectors, appraisers, lenders, bull dozier operators, bushhog operators, and a host of other contacts that service landowners. When you select a good agent, you not only get her, you get her whole network at your disposal. Keeping all of these people motivated and on track so you can meet your closing date requres a great deal of effort and attention on the part of the agent.

6. Accuracy at closing. Do you know how to read a HUD 1 Settlement Form and make sure that all of the numbers add up? This can lead to costly mistakes or even the loss of a deal in a worst-case scenario. These forms can appear to be written in a different language to the uninitiated. The agent will contact you at least 24 hours ahead of the closing to go over the HUD 1 and also provide you for instructions on what you will need to bring or be prepared for at the closing table.

These are a few of the ways land agents earn their money. Generally a good agent will help you make or retain more money than their commission. If you are on the fence about whether to strike out on your own or to use an agent, give them a call and become more informed. Ask the agent why in the world you should pay them a commission and see what they say. If you’re in Alabama and are considering selling, I would love a chance to earn your business.

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About the author

Jonathan Goode

Jonathan is passionate about helping people buy and sell land. He is an associate broker with Southeastern Land Group, LLC (SELG) and is the Responsible Broker for the company in Mississippi. Jonathan is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC), working with Southeastern Land Group (AlaLandCo) since 2008, serving Alabama and Mississippi. He is a member of the Alabama and Mississippi chapters of the Realtor’s Land Institute (RLI), and is currently serving as Vice President of the Alabama Chapter. Jonathan specializes in marketing rural properties online, and is a contributor for, writing articles focused on helping people buying and selling rural land.


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  • Hi Jonathan,

    Great overview and you are exactly right…Land has a lot of issues and can have some that will ruin your day…We need more Land professionals like yourself to write about Land.. We need more Land ownes to use or services us as well.

    Keep up the good work.

    Lou Jewell ALC
    Accredited Land Consultant

  • I find that most agents in my area do not put much info into the MLS with their land listings. Most don’t include the plat or an aerial photo. They don’t assist in showing the property. Also, there are more errors in the property details with land listings. Basically, these folks put the lisitng into the MLS and then forget it unless they happen to get lucky and get a contract.
    I have sold more than 50 lots in my 6 years as a real estate agent. I market my lots and try to put as much info into the MLS as possible. When working with buyers, I am constantly frustrated by the lack of info in the majority of the MLS listings.
    Some of the agents DEFINITELY do not deserve the commissions they get for land listings.

  • Hi Susan,

    It is easy to blame, but it is not their fault…Remember when you went to real estate school? How much did they teach you about Land? Not much of anything at all…

    The sad part is that unknowingly buyer assumes just because we are Realtors or real estate agents that we can sell a 20 story building or manage 500 apartment unites or makes an offer on a shopping mall and know all the issues.

    My solution is to get those who want to broker Land to get involved with the Realtors Land Institute It has been around since 1944 and is the training and educational arm for Land of NAR. When I see a MLS listing with no photo and “remarks”, I invite them to take one of our RLI Land classes and get involved..

    On the other side of the coin, I promote myself as a Land Expert everywhere and on everything. It is up to us to change our industry…even it takes one agent at a time.

    Lou Jewell ALC
    Accredited Land Consultant
    RLI “Land 101” Instructor

  • Well said. I would take it a step further and add that sellers and buyers should look for a Realtor that is a member of RLI. If you are a Realtor that deals with land consider becoming a member of RLI and advancing your knowledge by obtaining your ALC designation.

  • Thank you for the kind comments. I am looking forward to participating with RLI in the future. Alabama is rebuilding their chapter at present and it is gaining some momentum. Ms. Krancer you make a really good point about the lack of information available online about rural tracts. I have recognized this as well. Let me point out an agent that does a good job, Robert King, with AlaLandCo. Robert provides ample details about his listings and often an additional link to 20 or more photos of a property. It is common sense to add as much detail as possible, but many agents do not want to spend time doing it. There will always be a way for agents who wish to provide exceptional service to do so.

  • Excellent discussion on this topic. There is a school of thought out there that believes that less information is more when marketing land. By providing less information, they hope the prospect will call for more information. I understand the thinking, but don’t personally agree with this approach. The statistics show that buyers want as much information on a land listing as they can get before reaching out to a land agent. If I’m a land agent, I want to talk to interested and qualified buyers who have the facts. It builds credibility with the buyer and speeds up the pre-sales process.

  • We have found that folks are doing more looking on the internet as well. Our buyers for the most part have done their homework and can tell quickly if we have done ours. The more accurate information we can give them, and they will check it out, the more credibility we build with them, which in turn begins to build a trust. Their confidence in what is being said goes a long way toward building relationships and friendships that last well after the sale.

  • Education is what a good Land Representative is all about… How many old dumps, coal stripped, Deep Mined, Timber Stripped properties are out there? Land is the easiest, large ticket item, to sell to uneducated buyers, there is… THERE IS SO MUCH TO KNOW, and as stated above, in dealings with a lot of realtors– many realtors don’t know enough about that 100 acre or 2 acre parcel to wholly inform the buyers…For many years, I chose not deal with a realtor. I became a Realtor, basically to overcome the objective that there weren’t any realtors in my area of Ohio to assist buyers in Land purchases…. I have worked as a Land Man, Employee of a Land Company and also investor for over 17yrs.

    I am in county courthouses daily gaining information on Mineral Rights, Timber information and basically mapping out other properties of interest… there is no doubt, that I would steer everyone who is looking for land purchases to find a competent land agent… if you are choosing a realtor… first question I would ask is ,” Have you walked the property lines?” don’t waste your time with anyone who truly doesn’t Know the property lines…. second question is about all Mineral and Timber rights. Even if there are none.. if an agent doesn’t know… don’t give them a second chance… I get paid to have knowledge… If they don’t have the knowledge…Then I don’t let them waste my time…
    These purchases could effect the future of the purchaser and seller for the rest of their Lives…. I hear many times that, ” That’s too much an Acre”. Well if that is the case… then maybe what you are looking at may have some issues that you are un aware of. Price is relevent to each and every parcel. Views, Location, Mineral Rights, Timber Value etc… It is highly unlikely that a parcle listed or advertised be way out of price range… there is always an opportunity to negotiate, which is better left to a professional, but most parcles are in the correct price range according to comparables…. Good Luck… and find the right agent for the job…. Mick Maag… The Ohio Land Company…

  • Wow, it is so true. Working in real estate in Baja Mexico it really requires some who has a lot of knowledge and experience especially if you are involve in selling raw land. .. thank you for this note I have learn more today.
    Gracias !

  • Jonathan:

    This is a great article. While some sophisticated sellers can navigate the complex process of marketing their land in today’s challenging market, many would benefit from the deep experience of a land brokerage professional. After all, land is our primary business and we live & breath it every day!

  • Very good article. This one should go to every landowner in our county. Many lose huge when they sell to a savvy buyer that knows the market much better than they. Owners need someone to represent them – one who is experienced and has the tools to more than pay for their fees.

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