Should you hire a real estate agent to help you sell your rural land, or should you sell it on your own? My response to that question is: it depends. I will qualify that statement in a moment. For my business, 9 out of 10 times I only market properties when I have exclusive listing agreements.
Before I explain why I primarily only take exclusive listing agreements, here are some common terms used to describe listing arrangements when it comes to selling a property:
- Exclusive Listing: This means only one real estate agency/agent has an exclusive right to market and sell a piece of real estate according to the terms of the listing agreement and for a specified period of time. The listing agent is due a commission regardless of who brings the buyer.
- For Sale by Owner (FSBO): Land for sale by owner (FSBO) is offered for sale by the owner; it is not listed with a real estate agent.
- Open Listing: This is a tactic often used by a property-owner as an invitation to multiple real estate agents or companies to advertise their property, and the seller will compensate them if they bring a successful buyer.
- Pocket Listing: This is a term used by real estate agents that means a property owner does not want to put their property on the open market, but if an interested buyer comes along, the owner is open to selling the property. So they tell you to keep their property in the back of your mind, or “in your pocket”.
Today I had a land owner tell me to keep her property in mind, and that she would pay my fee if I sold her land. She said she did not want to list her land with an agent because the previous agent she used did not even bring her one offer during the time of their listing contract. That is understandable from her side, but the odds of me making that sell are pretty slim.
Here are reasons why I believe an Exclusive Listing Agreement is better for the seller when it comes to selling land. (Let me preface all of these reasons with the assumption that you have researched prospective listing agents with experience in selling land and you are only going to deal with ones that appear to be qualified and have good reviews. For more explanation read, “Not All Agents are Competent About Land.”
- Land Agents have Expertise: True land professionals know how to price and market properties effectively. Any agent you are hiring should be able to clearly articulate their strategy for selling your property. A good agent will employ multiple prongs for engaging prospective buyers, including advertising in print media (when appropriate), on the internet in key places people look for your type of property, and other avenues such as signage or word-of-mouth. Good agents have a proven formula for attracting the attention of quality buyers. I have my own multi-point system that I use for each listing that generates results.
- Showing: Once a prospective buyer becomes interested in your property, they need a way to see it. Land professionals can do that in several different ways: by walking over it, using an ATV or UTV, or by SUV or truck. A potential buyer must see the property and all of its key features to truly decide if they want to purchase it or not. I find 90% of the time, if a property is well-priced that its location and features are generally what convinces the buyer to make the purchase. But to become convinced they must see it, all of it. Last week a residential agent asked to show one of my tracts that is nearly 300 acres. I told the agent I would be happy to show the property and that you have to be equipped to show the property. They asked, ”Do you mean, I would need a big truck?” This agent drives a Toyota Camry, and there are water bars on the property bigger than this car. You do not want to hire an agent that is unwilling or unequipped to effectively show your property.
- Negotiating: A good agent can help you navigate the negotiation process and give you perspective on what to offer and what to accept in order to help you reach an agreement with a potential buyer. Negotiations are often tense and can become emotional. The agent serves as the go-between, and is paid to defuse and diffuse the negotiating process. A man that I showed land to last week, was planning to sell a property he owned and do a 1031 exchange into a property I have listed. He told me about a cash offer on his tract that was “as good as in the bank” for about $350,000. One of the owners that adjoined this man’s property had made the offer about a month before he came to see my tract. His adjoining owner called back yesterday and dropped his offer from $350,000 to $315,000. Had I been his agent, I would have advised him when the offer came in to go ahead and accept it. His delay in accepting the offer probably knocked him out of buying my listing which he liked a lot.
- Advice: One of the added benefits of hiring this agent is that they can advise you on much more than just the price of your land. A true professional will have a network of individuals that can help you with anything from tax planning to pond building. An experienced agent can tell you what is possible. They may know many things that can save or make you money during your transaction. Most of the time a good agent will help you net more money from selling your property than you can get on your own.
Since it is near the New Year, please allow me to use this illustration. Many people make a resolution to diet and exercise to lose weight in the New Year. They may buy a new piece of equipment and some new workout clothes. They go hard for a couple of weeks, and slowly excuses begin to interrupt the routine and eventually there is no real progress. Then the person can say, “I tried the Bowflex for a while, but it didn’t really work for me.” The truth is, they didn’t do what Bowflex recommends and therefore they did not achieve the desired result.
An open listing generally brings the same result to a landowner. If you engage several agents to help you sell your property, then no one is responsible for marketing and selling your property. By making it open to everyone, you essentially make it for no one. Why would an agent spend money advertising a property that they have no reasonable guarantee that will produce a return on their investment? When they do, sellers often get the impression that the agent has nothing to offer and is not effective. Good agents will not do that as a standard practice.
I make a commitment to my clients when I become their exclusive agent. I never list a property I do not intend to sell. Until a property sells I spend all of my own money in marketing and showing a tract. Agents cannot stay in business if we do not make money. I tell people that my children like to eat every single day, so I give my best effort to selling their property. That is an arrangement that benefits both the seller and the agent.
In most cases, rural land owners should enlist the help of a professional land agent in selling their properties. Unless they have a lot of experience or it is a slam-dunk deal, the seller will benefit from having an agent on their team. In fact, most serious land investors have at least one agent that they go to for finding deals or making sales. Take a cue from sophisticated land investors and enlist the help of a true land sales professional to market and sell your rural land. You will be glad you did.
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