Buying Land

Information Please! Signs & Symptoms of a Land Specialist

Information Please! Signs & Symptoms of a Land Specialist

In my most recent article entitled “Your Choice for a Heart Attack… Cardiologist or Orthopedist?” I explained the importance of choosing a specialist – whether having a heart attack or planning to buy/sell land.

In the case of a medical specialist, you would certainly expect to find a doctor with extensive experience treating your specific health concerns – someone with a proven history of many successes.

Once you agree that choosing a specialist in land is just as important as choosing the right medical specialist, you’re faced with a new challenge – how do you recognize a land specialist?

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the expression “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck – it’s probably a duck!” Most of us understand that cute saying, but how does a land specialist look? How does a land specialist “quack”?  Does a land specialist “waddle”?

Jonathan Goode read my last article and commented that:

“I tell people all the time who are looking for land to never trust a real estate agent with a clean truck. That means they aren’t getting out and doing what they are supposed to.

First, how does a land specialist NOT look?  Although you would expect to find a specialist who works in a well-organized office environment, complete with large flat-screen TV’s for land presentations using Google Earth mapping – it might NOT be a good indicator if he or she has on patent leather shoes, a business suit, and drives a BMW or Dodge Caravan.

Keep in mind that “land” (the nice proper name) is also called “dirt”.  Thus, a more appropriate attire for a specialist might be a neatly ironed crisp sport shirt, monogrammed with the company’s name, accompanied by a rugged pair of jeans, hiking boots, and a solid 4-wheel drive SUV vehicle.  A trailer hitch on the back is just icing on the cake validating that you’ve encountered a true outdoor person.

But wait – how does a specialist “quack”?  When you ask a question, what happens when specialists open their mouth to speak?  First, the non-specialist will quack the loudest offering meaningless questionable blather and few specifics or little evidence to back up the quacking.

A specialist speaks with soft authority because such an individual will have paperwork, surveys, deeds, tax information, topo maps, aerial photos, and accurate market statistics that validate the information provided.  If you hear a lot of quacking with nothing to back it up – beware.

Finally, how does a duck, I mean a land specialist, walk?  Better yet, how does the specialist show you land? Do you find yourself loaded into that Dodge Caravan and paraded past property after property without stopping (as you stare out the window)?  Do you have to abandon that BMW before reaching the property because it’s on a 16% grade up a treacherous and very muddy logging trail?

Depending on the size of the land parcel being shown, a specialist will lead you on a hiking trail into the property for an up-close and personal look at what you’re buying.  On larger parcels, the specialist will provide a UTV, i.e. Polaris Ranger, Rhino, or Gator, so you can ride in comfort, yet be out in the open to experience the sights and smells of the outdoors.

The specialist will have a topo map, aerial photo, or survey map and use a compass or GPS technology to locate landmarks and boundary lines.  Most important, you will not find yourself lost.  On one occasion, in attempting to show another company’s 1,800 acre land parcel, I asked the other agent to provide a preview, showing me all the old trails so I could provide a suitable tour for my prospective buyer.  His answer?  “I don’t know – I’ve never been on the property!”

A specialist will also be able to point out the different tracks left by wildlife – from deer & turkey to bear and bobcat.  A tuft of coarse hair left on the barb of a fence whispers that a deer passed recently. A pungent odor in the air warns that B’rer Bear recently crossed the trail.

So… a land specialist does not “look” like a big city businessperson, nor “talk” in vague terms.  Neither will the specialist show you land in a vehicle chosen by the rich & famous or more often used to ferry the kids to soccer practice.  The specialist is a real outdoor person, not afraid to get out in rain or snow, nor afraid to get those hiking boots wet and muddy.  You’ll be treated with the respect you deserve and leave with a fistful of hard facts and answers.

My future articles on land specialization will dive into the details of land buying and selling including such topics as: 1) Streams vs springs vs. creeks, vs. rivers vs. ponds, 2) ridges vs. hollows, vs. valleys, 3) woodland vs. agricultural vs. meadow vs. cutover timberland, 4) access via state road, county road, right-of-way, easement, or cart path, 5) climate vs. weather, 6) boundary lines, surveys, metes & bounds, witness trees, and blazes, 7) fee simple title, commissioners’ deeds, and quit claim deeds, 8) wildlife, 9) flood plains, 10) acres, poles, chains & rods, etc., etc.

Stay tuned – there’s more to come!

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About the author

Paul Christian Breden

Paul Christian Breden is a practicing North Carolina & Virginia land broker with 40+ years experience. His company, Mountain Land Company, sells only raw mountain land over 50 acres in 10 counties in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Paul has authored scores of magazine articles and hundreds of newspaper columns on buying and selling real estate, including “Carolina Dreaming – Finding and Buying Mountain Land!” – a practical guidebook for land buyers.


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  • Great post! I agree with you 100% and would like to add a few humorous things….
    The land specialist will not be upset about the ticks crawling on his/her pants… more than likely has a few cans of insect repellant rolling around in his/her vehicle and understands what those itchy red bumps called “chiggars” are rather than run to the hospital emergency room thinking something is seriously wrong with them (true story).

  • Nice article. We recently listed and sold a pasture tract. The seller said the last person she considered listing the property with was rejected because of “his cute little shoes.” Ha!

  • Its not the outside that should be judged, but the content of the person. I always have a shiny pair of shoes on, pressed slacks, a dry clean shirt on. What separates me is the fact that I have oil soaked chaps, a woods jacket, spats, hiking shoes, bug spray, knife, rope in a bag in the back of my Range Rover. I am ready for anything. And yes it’s dirt. And I know how to look at and evaluate dirt.

  • Funny post, funny replies- it’s like a skinny chef, I wouldn’t trust a land broker without some dings on their car. Too funny about the chiggar bite emergency room trip and rejection over “cute little shoes.” I suspect I was coming close to losing a listing once because I didn’t want to shoot one of the guy’s docile, pet-like exotic animals for what he was saying would be a “family discount”! Luckily I sold the ranch before he had the chance… I also get what Don said too, having started in the business in my mid-20s I got a lot of flack for not being old enough but nobody cares so much about your shoes, chiggars or age if you bring in a great offer! Keep sellin’ folks, enjoyed the read-

  • I’m trying to sell my parents farm in Salem, CT FSBO for lack of finding a suitable Realtor that would even WALK a tenth of 40 acres of timber! The last one (I told her to bring boots) came in white pants and heels! The guy before that almost soiled himself when we came upon a blackesnake warming herself in the sun. He ran off dancing and screaming “rattlesnake, rattlelsnake”. And they wondered why I did list with them! I would list in a minute if I thought I could find someone who really knows about farming and country living, and would make the effort to show the property. I need the MLS and Realtor coverage, but I also need the follow-through, not just beng tied up for 6 months. that was the best article I’ve seen about the subject in a long time. Thanks

  • Good article! I completely agree with you Paul, and the comments as well! I sell land in northern Wisconsin and when someone calls me and wants to look at land, I tell them to bring some rubber boots and a long sleeve shirt that they can shed later. I have a 4 door truck so the people that show up in the BMW or minivan can jump in with me! I have everything from OFF to a first aid kit, a come-along to an extra set of shoes/clothes in my truck! If the agent can’t get you to the property, you better find a new agent!

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Should game wardens have the right to search and surveil private property without a warrant?


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