Selling Land

Land for Sale – Does That Signify an Open House 24/7/365?

Land for Sale – does that signify an open house 24/7/365?

Driving down the road you see a Land for Sale sign.  You stop, pull in, look at the sign and then since there is no gate you just pull on in off the road.  You get out of your vehicle, start looking around and the next thing you know you are halfway across the section enjoying the day and checking out the views.  Sounds innocent enough right?  Unfortunately, wrong! You have been trespassing since you first stepped foot onto the property.

An agent that sent me a referral once said that the only reason he called me to offer the referral is because of my sign he noticed on a property.  It said in bold letters “Land for Sale” but slightly smaller and not nearly as bold at the bottom it said No Trespassing, No Hunting. The referring agent said that the owner wanted someone to list his property but that did not mean he wanted an open house all day every day.

If you were looking for homes would you just pull in someone’s driveway, get out and start walking around the house? Maybe even go look around on the porch because the door was open?  Probably not so why is it that most people think that a Land for Sale sign gives them free reign to walk around on someone else’s property without calling for an appointment?  Maybe because we all have a sense that the land is wide open and free and it just happens.  Maybe. Maybe not.

I think most people have a condition that sets in when they start driving down a rural county road called “Good Manners Amnesia.” They forget that the very reason they want a place in the country to enjoy, hunt, fish or whatever is probably the same reason the people selling it bought it in the first place.  One day I was at some land talking with the owner and his family.  They were getting ready to have a picnic by the pond and go fishing with the grandkids.  They had asked me to stop by as they knew I was going to be in the area.  The ponds were in a hidden area of the property and driving down the road you would have not seen us back there.  As I was getting ready to leave my phone rang and a prospective buyer said they were looking at my sign on the road and asked some questions about the land.  Then they said we’ll just go walk around and look at it and let you know if we are interested. I informed them they would need to setup an appointment for another time as today was not going to work for them to enter the land.  They said thanks and that they would call back another time and hung up.  As I started driving back up the wooded trail I nearly ran into them because they had started driving down the lane.  Apparently they had experienced memory loss from our phone conservation just moments earlier regarding setting up an appointment to view the land.

Although it is tempting to just take a quick look at a piece of land; buyers need to remember that their unfamiliarity with a property could lead them to experience some unpleasant surprises. Once I had a buyer call me to ask if I knew the number to the nearest tow truck service.  Didn’t see that gulley wash did you?  I have had the Sheriff’s Department call me because my sign was at a gate that a buyer left open and horses were running up and down the highway.  That buyer’s offer was refused by the seller every time before the buyer finally realized that just paying the vet bill for the horse’s cut leg was not an apology.  I have had neighboring land owners call me to say that they reported poachers who had told him they were just looking at the land but left hours later with their loot.  Which by the way, if you are caught illegally hunting may cause you to be ban from hunting in several states due to the wildlife enforcement compact!  All of these situations happened because the potential buyer took it upon themselves to go on the land without making an appointment.  The trouble they caused could have been avoided completely if they simply had called for showing instructions.

I highly recommend that all prospective land buyers call the number on the land for sale signs and make an appointment before going on any land especially during hunting season for their own safety.

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  • This past weekend I was showing some land to some prospective buyers and they were telling me that last weekend they drove around and walked on one of our listings they saw advertised on the internet. It was a land-locked tract with no easement and adjoining owners that are less than enthusiastic about the sale of this land. I quickly advised them to call before seeing any other properties.

    It can be dangerous in Alabama to walk out on land unexpectedly from November 15 to January 31 because there are so many hunters in the woods. I always try to call the owner to make sure that they know we’re coming.

    Our website says in big letters, all listings are shown by appointment only. I like how you put that on your sign, Marisa. That’s a good idea.

  • A “for sale” sign on a property does not constitute the right to enter a property: it is an announcement, not an invitation.

  • Thank you for the comments from the Alabama land experts, Jonathan and Robert. That is a great summary, Jonathan, “announcement not invitation.”

  • Marisa used to be a problem for me as well, but after a few experiences I had the following added to all of my FOR SALE signs “NO TRESPASSING” I have not had an issue since.

    • Thanks Jason. All of our signs state No Trespassing, No Hunting but even that does not stop it 100%.

  • I have 320 acres for sale in Arizona that the owner drove to but can not remember how he got there. I am supposed to give directions to his “legal and physical access” land. I am perplexed as to getting directions. Any ideas? Thanks

    • Stuart,
      I have found that the folks in the county GIS mapping offices are very helpful. A copy of the legal description, deed, or tax id number and they should be able to map it for you.

  • We just had a GREAT speaker come and talk to our real estate investor’s association about negotiating. The one thing that kept on rising to the surface throughout his presentation was RELATIONSHIPS…. I always check in with a landowner before checking out a property for that sole reason – pissing them off from the beginning is no way to start negotiations! Despite a solid offer from a buyer, sellers will point blank refuse if they don’t like the buyer for some reason. I think this goes for life as well as viewing land tracts….behave with integrity and treat people well!

    Kudos to Marisa for bringing this up! 🙂


    Richard 🙂

    13% interest, tax-free.

  • It really does boggle your mind.

    There is so much liability involved in selling property, whether it is just a house in the city or a farm out in the middle of nowhere.

    If you market on the internet with a lot of photographs, you can skip the open houses and the signs. People call you, the realtor for a proper appointment.

    Then there are no unexpected visitors — and no liability.

  • Over the years we’ve had some seller’s that want there acreage shown by appointment with the agent present one even went so far as that he wanted to be present and if he caught anyone including someone from our office on the land he would call the law. He ment what he said.

    Actually why make it difficult for buyer’s by limiting access. I will say this that if there are crops or livestock on the land that need protecting sure then by appointment could be and should be the way to go. Seen so many that leave gates open. Also have encountered some livestock including dogs that just don’t like certain people as well.

  • My 25.5 acres is listed in upstate NY, my brokers sign in full view and fully posted every 20- feet with no hunting or trespassing signs. A real estate agent from a different company sent a buyer to walk around my property alone without my permission or contacting my broker to do a walk through. I found out that they appear to do this allot, just because it is for sale!

  • Great Post Marisa

    Other dangers await the uneducated Land buyers in California – I always Personally Show my Vacant Land Listings, however I do not post a “No Trespassing” sign since the Owner of the property should have that sign up in the first place to protect the Owners Rights; it does not matter if the property is for sale or not!

  • I had a potential customer call me two times during church services last Sunday morning, and I of course, did not answer. So they, of course, hopped in their vehicle and drove to the property, knocked on the seller’s door and told the seller they could not get in touch with me. My seller, being someone that I know well, and visitor of this blog, showed them their house and let me know about it. It seems there is a gap in understanding between urban and rural values. As much as we try to state, by appointment only, people still disrespect that. Maybe it’s just the times we live in.

Pulse Question

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


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