Traits of Successful Land Agents: Part 1 reviews three traits of successful land agents: 1) They follow up, 2) They solve problems, and 3) They communicate well with clients. Now let’s explore some others.
4. They are comfortable with muddy boots.
By this I simply mean that the top agents I know, in my company and others, spend plenty of time stomping through the creek bottoms and fighting their way through pine thickets to thoroughly understand a tract they are listing or helping a buyer with. This is one of the key elements that separates us as land agents from most residential agents.
Give me a supra key and 5 minutes on the MLS and I can find the house and adequately show any $250,000 home in the south without ever having set foot on the property. I may not know the difference between aqua and blue trim in the bathrooms, but I could give an adequate tour of the entire house. “Mrs. Johnson, here’s the kitchen.”
Ok, give a typical residential agent an aerial and the key to the gate and have him or her show the 200 acres of equivalent value we have listed along Caney Creek in central Louisiana! Well, IF they were able to get in the vicinity of the property and then get to any one of the several property lines by way of the three deeded access routes along timberland roads, I doubt they would be able to give any buyer a thorough showing of the tract. This isn’t their fault. They are probably excellent residential agents and know all the in’s and out’s of the neighborhood and the schools, but they are likely out of their area of expertise in bottomland.
The best land agents become experts on each tract they list. They understand the elements involved with the timber, surrounding wildlife habitat and hunting on recreational tracts, the grasses and low ground on pasture land, the soil types, ridges and yield history on crop land, etc. And most of the time, the best information can’t be gleaned from behind the windshield.
We happen to have several foresters as land agents with my company. A few of these guys are excellent at “tearing a tract apart” (that’s what we call looking and learning on a tract) and understanding exactly what’s between the corners. They have actually been to all the corners on most of their listings! That’s easier said than done on many tracts we deal with each year. Gathering this type of information takes time, and can require hard work, but it pays off for the people I’m thinking about as evidenced by the money they’re making and the enjoyment they have living their work-life on their terms.
5. They write stuff down.
Or type it in…or…something to keep up with the occasional contact they’ve had with a buyer who is the “real deal.” There isn’t enough paper in the world to write down all the requests from all the people who call or email us to tell us what they’re looking for. We get these calls and emails by the dozen each week. We politely answer their questions, listen to their wish list and tell them what we have listed that may be interesting in the area or the state they want…then we hang up and go about our business. BUT…occasionally…we get a call from someone who is asking the right questions. They are qualified to buy without having to tell us they’re qualified to buy. We just know that this person is a serious buyer, not someone looking for the needle in a haystack (for less than $1000/acre!). I know guys who write that call down…in a notebook…right then. Later, maybe a few weeks or several months later, they run across a tract that was a general fit to what that person wanted. They can find his name and number in their notebook, or phone, and that call to that guy results in the “it fell in my lap” sale we all love. Three or four of these easy sales a year adds a lot of cream to the top of a successful land agent’s year.
My company has a mechanism for keeping up with the general interest contacts. I do this for the benefit of my agents. And it results in many sales for us. But the really good land agents keep a much smaller personal list they can mine for added business each year.
6. They are big enough to do small deals.
I didn’t say it, but I believe it: “There are no small deals, only small agents.” It’s fine to focus on certain types of properties. Be a specialist. I think that’s good. But I’ve run across some people in the land business who take the “specialist” thing to the degree that they only want to “specialize” in the big, sexy, marquis listings and sales. Ok…knock yourself out. I like the big acreage deals, too. But I’ve said many times I’d rather have 100 forty acre listings than one 4000 acre listing. The 40s, 60s, 80s pay the bills. The homerun deal is nice, but the competition for the listing and thin air of the available buyers makes it hard to run a business or live a life between the deals.
One of my best agents (and the top earner among my 20 plus agents) had a 1-acre deal close the day I wrote this. One acre! …no, not a million-dollar commercial acre on a four-lane. It was a wooded tract two miles from the city limits of a small, rural Louisiana town. Total commission at 6% was $180. Sure, he had some other listings in that area of the state so taking the 1-acre listing close by was reasonable for him at the time. The point is he isn’t too big to do a little deal. This same agent has several million-dollar listings and he just sent me a six acre listing today, sent me a 40 acre and 41 acre listings last week, and closed on a 24 acre last week. That’s a pretty good cross-section of the inventory of business one of the top land agents in the South does!
One of my Texas guys has had a great start to this year in closings and has a large inventory of really nice listings. He has three deals pending now…all less than 50 acres each.
I can give lots of examples where agents I know are SO BIG in this business they do modest deals routinely. I also know agents who are TOO BIG to work a modest deal. The SO BIG folks are making a good living…the TOO BIG guys seem to struggle for some reason.
Don’t get me wrong, we make decisions quite often to turn down business that may be too small and too far away from an agent to service the listing well. This is just necessary business. I hate turning down anything but it’s sometimes in the best interest of the landowner for us to pass on it. We do, however, try to give them someone in their area who we know can help them. We don’t ask for a referral for this. It’s just the right way to go about taking care of our industry.
Make your own decisions about the business you take or turn down. But be encouraged by the fact that the top people I know didn’t get to or maintain where they are with the big deals. It’s the modest tracts that don’t make news in The LandReport that turn the wheel.
7. They get repeat business.
Wow! That’s a revolutionary concept, huh? I know, repeat business is the goal for everyone in business. It’s necessary for survival of just about any private business I know. But here’s a little difference…the successful land agents I admire don’t ask for new business, nor can they come out with a new product line they can use to go back and upgrade old clients for repeat business. They get the repeat business by doing numbers 1-6 above and by handling themselves with the words that I haven’t used up to this point…honesty and integrity.
You know it’s true that most information about successful real estate professionals begins with a tipping of the hat to honesty and integrity. Blah…blah…most every real estate agent’s personal flyer or bio will mention this. Go read some. There’s nothing wrong with writing about it but there are no teeth in that. The land agents I know who are getting it done and making a good living in this business never have to lead with their character resume. They don’t talk about how honest they will be…don’t have to. Clients quickly discern when an agent is telling it to them straight. Their instincts are confirmed when they see how the agent performs throughout the listing, marketing and selling process. They really see the true colors during any negotiations and problems that surface along the way. Wait until the deal gets tight and the commission comes into play to make the deal work! You’ll see who’s who then.
These folks are the real deal and the way they do business day in and day out is their bio. They know the repeat business, the strong reputation and the ability to look their kids in the eye when talking about right and wrong are worth more than a single deal or single commission. They are big-picture, long-term, what goes around comes around people…and they will always be on the top of the hill. Guess who gets a call when a previous client is ready to sell or make another purchase?
None of us are above making mistakes or exhibiting bad judgement occasionally. It’s evident though whose poor action or mistake at a particular point in time is the exception or the rule to their character. We’ve all fouled up, including the people I have in mind who have a stellar reputation and real estate history. Fessing up, fixing the mistake, moving forward with better judgment, and never letting a commission get in the way of good name will help us become the bright lights in our industry.
These seven traits are by no means a comprehensive list. There are probably points of issue many will take with my list, too. That’s fine. These are simply the main traits I’ve recognized in the top people I’ve been around in our business. I’ll be the first to concede that things beyond our control often occur to thwart our goals as well as fortuitous events sometimes springing people forward at unexpected times. The traits I’ve listed here, however, are all fully within each land agent’s control. And by getting up every day and going about your work doing them – from what I’ve seen among some great land agents – they will help you succeed in this great business.
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