Selling Land

Wash That Land Before You Try to Sell It, and Fix The Box It Came In!

Wash That Land Before You Try to Sell It, and Fix The Box It Came In!

If you were going to sell your car, in all likelihood you would wash it, probably vacuum it out, and maybe even wax it. If you go to a car lot where professionals are selling cars, most likely they have not only done these things, but have went through the vehicle thoroughly and made it look it’s best in a process that the industry calls “detailing”. In this process, everything in the car is cleaned, shined, and cosmetic faults are repaired. They do this because they know this helps to sell the vehicle for more money. More than the cost of doing the work. If you go to buy a car, do you pick out the shiny one that appears to have been cared for or the beat-up, dirty looking one because it looks cheap? Chances are you pick out the shiny one that appears to have been cared for.

When you go to WalMart and take an item off the shelf and the box is damaged, you know that the product in the box is probably OK and WalMart will guarantee the product. However if you see one whose box is not damaged, you’ll put the imperfect one back on the shelf and grab the undamaged one. This decision saves you the hassle that might ensue from the damaged good. Many times that damaged looking box is the very last one left and is only purchased when there are no other alternatives.

These same principals can be applied to selling anything. I grew up in a family of salespeople. I’ve seen my Dad apply these principals to selling cars. I’ve seen both my Dad and PawPaw apply these strategies to marketing cattle. I’ve heard about some of my other grandfather’s escapades in marketing less than legal “shiny” stuff during Prohibition. I guess that makes me a true Alabama redneck, but I digress. I’ve been selling land for over 12 years now and have helped people apply these concepts to marketing land…which is the focus of this forum and the point of this article. When it’s time to market land, you need to make it look it’s very best. Shine like new penny, if you will. So many people do just the opposite though. Land is an asset that is often possessed in a very emotional way. The decision to sell it is often emotional, and once made sellers often distance themselves, on a very personal level, from the property. Often times if this emotional separation is not made, the seller will inadvertently sabotage their marketing efforts and attempts by a buyer to purchase the land, because they have not made the “real” decision to sell. To market the land effectively, you need to detach and detail. I will leave the detachment for another article and briefly focus on detailing.

Land sellers need to do the things that are necessary to make their property shine. Mowing and disposing of the junk on your property are the two biggest things…much like washing and vacuuming the car. Sellers need to dig a little deeper into the details in order to really make the property stand out though. Look at the property through a buyer’s eyes. See the imperfections that they see, and then set about to fix the ones that are economically “fixable.” Often times this is painting, light building repair, or just generally arranging your personal property stored there in an orderly fashion. If you have neatly maintained a portion of the property before deciding to sell, don’t abandon that maintenance once you have made that decision. Often times when I am showing properties, the buyers key on the small imperfections in a property. Things that are easily dealt with, but become an insurmountable mountain when they think about all of those little things together. Not only do sellers need to wash and vacuum the property, but they need to wax it too. Then move on to the other detailing jobs. Repair the fences. Mark the property lines. Clean out the underbrush around special features of the property. Make the property accessible throughout. Grass those bare spots and fertilize the grassy spots. Fill in the mudholes. In timberland sales, this would include thinning the timber when the stand is too thick to walk through. When detailing a car, the professionals take care of the undercarriage of the car as well. Even though it’s not easily seen, upon close inspection it tells a story about the vehicle. Clean up the property’s undercarriage. Take care of those things that are not easily seen, but a careful buyer will notice. (All buyers are cautious and careful in today’s market) This includes title or boundary line issues and a host of other hiddens that you probably know about. Just fix it, and then let them discover that you have repaired a problem that was not easily seen. That will totally change the buyer’s perception of the property and the seller they are dealing with. It will build trust. In a very cautious market, trust translates into dollars.

Make sure that the ready, willing, and able buyer does not set your property back on the shelf because the box is damaged. You may know that the property is perfect, but the buyer only believes what they see. Build their trust by taking care of your product. Wash that land before you try to sell it, and fix the box it came in!

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About the author

Robert King

Robert is a Land Agent with Southeastern Land Group. He specializes in helping buyers and sellers of farms, poultry operations, and timberland throughout Alabama and Georgia. Robert is a regular contributor on The Land Show radio program and the Southeastern Land Group Blog.


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  • A timely article as many landowners are contemplating a move into recovering, but extremely competative markets. Very nicely written.

    My advise has always been to rotor mow (or bushhog down here in SC), survey, haul off the trash and clean up the title.

    It’s always better to fix these issues before someone is looking over your shoulder.

  • I have used these same words to all my sellers, too. Some listen and act, some don’t and suffer the consequences.

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