Land Brokers

How to Choose a Listing Agent for your Rural Land

How to Choose a Listing Agent for your Rural Land

“Who should I list my land with?” is a question I was asked this week by an owner in Mississippi. Since this owner was out of my area, I had to do some digging before I referred him to a top-notch land agent. Many landowners are faced with this tough decision once they have decided to sell their land and do so using an agent.

All licensed real estate agents are not equally good at helping you sell your rural property. If you owned an exotic car, you would not take it in for maintenance to a small engine shop for repairs. Listing your hunting land or farm with a predominantly residential real estate agent can be a mistake as well. Landowners need to choose an agent and a company that can market and sell their rural property in a way that meets the sellers’ objectives.

Since all real estate agents are not equally knowledgeable and skilled at selling land, how should you select the right agent? Here are a few suggestions from a land agent’s perspective that I think are fair and will help you choose a professional who can help you get the deal closed.

1. Ask your friends and family. Ask people you know who they have used to sell their land and if they would recommend them to you. This is usually one of the natural steps and most effective ways of finding someone you will feel comfortable with.

2. Google search for relevant terms like” Land for sale in Perry County, Alabama” or “Alabama Land Agent”. If you are an out-of-state or out-of-area landowner who wants to sell their rural property, but you do not know anyone in the area this can be a helpful tool for identifying potential agents. Notice I said “identifying potential agents” because this is a preliminary step in the selection process.

3. After identifying potential agents, research how they market their listings. Pay close attention to how well an agent markets their listings online. Recent statistics show that over 80% of buyers preview properties online before getting in their car and driving to look at land. You will get an idea about how much effort an agent will put into advertising your listing. Will your land be visible to potential buyers? It needs to be in this market so that ALL possible buyers are aware that you have a quality piece of land for sale.

4. Professional Designations associated with agents who specialize in land. Look for agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors, a local board of Realtors, Realtors Land Institute (RLI), and have earned the title of Accredited Land Consultant. These agents are demonstrating that they take seriously their commitment to excellence in their profession. Having these designations may not mean much to potential buyers, but it does show that they have worked hard to gain knowledge and proficiency in the discipline of land. Agents that are Realtors have agreed to operate by and be bound to a Code of Ethics, which helps protect landowners in land transactions.

5. Ask a local real estate attorney. Contact a local real estate attorney in the area where you own land and ask them if they recommend an agent. These attorneys will know who closes deals and can help steer you in the right direction.

6. Interview several agents from multiple companies by phone or in person if possible. Talking to someone over the phone or meeting them in person will help you get a better feel for someone than by merely emailing. I recommend having a list of questions prepared when you meet. The two most popular are always: “What is your commission?” and “What is my land worth?”. I would also recommend asking how they market land, what is the average time for land to sell, what are the most recent comparable sales in the area, how has your business been lately, and is there anything I can do that will improve my chances of selling my land.

Once you have spoken to several agents and feel comfortable with one, ask them to take a look at your property, with you if possible. You never want an agent to give you a specific figure of what your land is worth without them seeing it. They should be able to provide a fairly close price range of where you should list it, but each property is different and has characteristics that will distinguish them from other properties on the market. List your property with an agent that is not afraid to get out and walk the boundaries and trails on your land. An agent sitting in the car and pointing out features to prospective buyers seldom helps an owner sell their property.

7. Once you feel comfortable with the agent, sign the listing agreement. For rural land these agreements typically run for a longer period of time than residential properties. Listing agreements may last 3 to 12 months, and in this market it may take 12 to 18 months to find a buyer for your land. Particularly if you own a large tract of land or if it commands a high asking price, you can probably expect it to take a while to sell. Here is a link to an article about what to expect at a listing appointment.

8. Lastly, check them out on Facebook or other social media. It is amazing what information you can find about someone on their social media pages. Many employers are using this as part of their vetting process for job applicants. You might find that you share common interests with the agent or that you are not fond of what you see on their page. This gives you a closer look at their personal life which can be useful information for you.

I hope you find this information helpful as you look for an agent who can help you sell your land at the right price, in a timely manner, and as smoothly as possible. By spending time researching and choosing the right agent on the front end, you can save yourself a lot of grief and disappointment in the long run.

This content may not be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, in part or in whole, without written permission of LANDTHINK. Use of this content without permission is a violation of federal copyright law. The articles, posts, comments, opinions and information provided by LANDTHINK are for informational and research purposes only and DOES NOT substitute or coincide with the advice of an attorney, accountant, real estate broker or any other licensed real estate professional. LANDTHINK strongly advises visitors and readers to seek their own professional guidance and advice related to buying, investing in or selling real estate.

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 LANDTHINK.com, writing articles focused on helping people buying and selling rural land.

11 Comments

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  • Jonathan:
    I agree with Lou; good article. With regard to professional designations; sellers can also look at an agents education. I see many agents with degrees in forestry and agriculture (myself included), an immense benefit to sellers and buyers. Formal education and experience in the field go a long way to explain the merits of owning and managing land.

  • Kurt, thanks for chiming in on an agent’s education history and previous work experience. I went to college to study environmental science, but somehow ended up with an emphasis on deer hunting and bass fishing. It didn’t help my grades, but it was a lot of fun.

    I agree that when interviewing an agent you find out a lot about them and how the experience they bring to the table can help an owner sell their land.

  • While I agree with most of this article, I feels the epmphasis on being a member of NAR or Local Board to be very overrated and even misleading.
    Here’s why.
    Anyone, and I mean anyone, can take a one day ethics class and call themselves ethical. There is no test, or background check etc.
    Ethics has to come from inside and not just a title or a pin you put on your shirt.

    Education, while helpful, can also bring dissapointment if the educated person doesn’t have experience or worse, the ability to translate what he has learned into sales.
    Realtors Land Institute (RLI), and having earned the title of Accredited Land Consultant is however something of value to a potential Seller. An ALC has to have met certain criteria that really matters, such as 5 closed land transactions totaling $10,000,000*, or a minimum of 25 separate land transactions of which no more than 80 percent involve residential lot sales.

    In otherwards, he has experience and alot of it.

    If I were looking to sell my own land, I would look for an Agent/Broker who has a proven track record and who is willing to give me referrals from those he has worked with.

  • Curt,

    Thanks for your sharing your perspective. I tend to agree that designations and affiliatations can be overrated. The land designation is one piece of the puzzle in selecting an agent. I do like the fact that members of a local or national board have the mechanism in place to have more accountability.

    The customers have some recourse in filing a complaint against an unscupulous agent. I have never done this with a real estate agent, but I have filed complaints with our state board of engineers and surveyors and the threat of discipline from a professional organization can be a powerful deterrent.

    Primarily this article is a primer to help landowners select an agent, and finding one that you can feel comfortable working with is the main objective. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  • I agree that most agents that deal mostly in land either get their education in a classroom or in the field. I did not get any information on how to sell land from my teacher when I was taking my real estate classes to become a broker and my teacher was the then president of RLI. I know of agents that have many designations behind their name and do not know how to sell an acre lot much less have a clue what crop bases are, or know the difference between trees and timber, or bermuda grass and sage grass. This knowledge comes from years of working with a pair of boots on and not by sitting in a classroom. I am not saying that the agent fresh out of college or a classroom does not know anything about the real world. But it falls back to do I want a young doctor or an old doctor. The young doctor has all of the latest information given out by the teacher. The old doctor has all the latest information and the experience of using this information. If I were selling my land I would talk with an agent or agents that know how to market their property, talk to someone in the area that has sold their property through an agent and see if they were happy with the results. If not, keep looking and asking around until you find someone that you trust to handle this for you.

  • Thanks Jonathan,
    I really enjoy your articles.
    I wish that NAR or even a Local Board would or even could hold accountable unscrupulous Realtors. They unfortunatly have very little control. It’s usually up to you to file a comlaint with the state which applies to all Real Estate Agents, Board Members or not.
    I just hate to see people lulled into a false sense of security by NAR and I feel they shouldn’t be used as a way to determine who a seller works with.

  • Kevin- You are absolutely right that experience is the often best teacher in regards to selling real estate. You just learn a lot by getting out there and doing it. I’m relatively new to this business, and it seems like every deal I have been a part of should be in some sort of training manual for real estate agents and attorneys.

    Curt- You’re right about NAR and local boards not being able to legislate ethics. People who are going to be crooked are going to do it even after taking an oath. Contacting a local board or the state association is the recourse someone has against a bad agent.

    Please let me go on the record as saying it is not necessary to choose a listing agent that is a member of the national or local association of Realtors. It is merely one tool to use in the selection process.

    Lou Jewell is one of the persons that encouraged me to join RLI and get more training in the aspects of rural land. I don’t think that being a member of RLI necessarily makes me a better agent than anyone else. For me it is a way to gain more expertise in my chosen profession. To use Kevin’s doctor analogy, I am going to “medical school” to learn to be a doctor as opposed to reading some books and trying to operate on a patient on my own. You can learn a lot practicing with a scalpel, but it is better if you have some formal training first.

    This article has certainly generated some buzz among land brokers. Thanks for the good conversation.

  • Jonathan you may be new to the business but deep down you know what you want and you will go to as many classes as you need to and learn as much as you can. I can tell this by your posts that you have. I did not mean that you cannot learn in the classroom because you can. And the old doctor example was just an example. No experience does not over rule teaching and learning at all. You must absorb what is given to you in the classroom and in the outdoors and use it the best you can. It looks to me that you are on the way to being the best in the business. When you cant wait to get out of the bed in the morning and get outside you will know that you have chosen the right profession and you will excell. I tell people that i love land so much that i eat a spoonful of dirt for breakfast every day.

  • I’m pretty partial to Mississippi Mud myself. Are you coming to the Landthink Summit in September in Atlanta? It’s an inexpensive day to spend time with many others who love land.

  • Look deeper into the intrinsic value of the property before listing in order to squeeze every bit of value into the marketing of the property. Of course that often means consulting with specialists such as foresters and fish and wildlife consultants. Realtors often need help in these areas.

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