Buying Land

The Ins & Outs of Finding Land

People in Alabama tell us that shopping for investment and recreational land for sale is frustrating and time consuming. As a result, many people give up, settle for less than their dream property, or pay too much.

The reason for this difficulty is there aren’t a lot of large properties available, and their availability is scattered among hundreds of small “stores”. The typical land buyer shops at the easy-to-find “stores” and consequently, sees only a small part of what is available for purchase.

The land market is not a big market. Consider the following:

  • There aren’t many landowners with large properties. Of all southern landowners, approximately 15% own 100 acres or more.
  • These owners don’t sell very often. Of all southern landowners, a very small percentage plan to sell within the next 5 years. In fact, almost 50% have owned their property for 25 or more years (over 75% have owned for 10 years or more).
  • When they do sell, it’s often to a family member. About half of all southern landowners inherited or bought their land from a family member. These properties never saw the open market.

If a land owner decides to sell outside the family, it’s hard to find out about it. The reason is many landowners handle their own land sale. In fact, the “for sale by owner” (FSBO) market is huge. Our experience is that 40-50% of all land owners will sell their land without using an agent, and those landowners who sell once in a lifetime frequently don’t have the tools or know-how to get the word out. So, the news often gets no further than the local coffee shop. On top of this, quite a few landowners who intend to sell have yet to tell anyone because of uncertainty about price or how to go about selling. Consequently, many FSBO properties are either overpriced or underpriced.

Even when an owner decides to use an agent, it remains hard to find out about it. Fact is, when a rural landowner decides to use an agent, they often end up with the local “residential” agent down the street and their property gets poorly promoted. Many agents have only a few pictures on the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). You’ll be lucky if they have topo maps, aerial photos or timber data. Some small towns don’t even have an MLS, and if they do, they only cover a county or two and are accessible only to members of the local real estate board. These residential agents may also put some pictures on their company website (which is not search engine optimized) and possibly run an ad in the local newspaper (which only local people read). As a result, a lot of good property is “under the radar” for most land buyers.

For many people, the result of these issues is frustration and an enormous investment of time to sort it all out. The typical rural land shopper only sees only a small part of what is really available. Most of what they see are properties listed by a few professional, land-focused companies (perhaps a couple dozen). They seldom see properties promoted by thousands of local “residential” agents or landowners (by far the largest part of the market).

Our experience is the key to finding your dream property is to look at ALL of the properties available in a given area, including those for sale by owner (FSBO) and those for sale by small town agents. Most land owners work closely with local foresters, surveyors, appraisers, attorneys & loggers, and reaching these close associates is often the key to a successful conversation with a landowner. Few shoppers (or agents, for that matter) have the know-how and tools to comprehensively and quickly cover these bases. The shopper who finds a way to do it will greatly increase their chances of finding and buying a dream property at a dream price.

This article is an excerpt from Tom Brickman’s e-book, “Buying Rural Land: Tips and How-to’s”, a collection of well-written, quick reads to help you find a rural property you’ll love and simplify getting it done. Download the e-book and learn from a seasoned pro with 40 years of experience.

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

Tom Brickman

Tom Brickman helps people buy, sell and care for rural land. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Tom has 43 years of experience in the timberland investment & management businesses across the United States and Central America. He is a Registered Forester (and son of a forester), Certified General Appraiser and Real Estate Broker.

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