Selling Land

Your Choice for a Heart Attack… Cardiologist or Orthopedist?

Your Choice for a Heart Attack... Cardiologist or Orthopedist?

So… for the past week, you’ve been experiencing shortness of breath, a slight pain in your chest, radiating down your left arm… and it seems to be getting worse.  You recognize that it’s time to see a doctor.  The only question is: “Which doctor?”

There are many choices: opthomologists, gastroenterologists, orthopedists, cardiologists, and the list goes on.  Would you choose one of the first three, or realize that the only correct choice is a cardiologist?

At first glance, you might say, “Why does it matter, after all they’re all licensed doctors!”  While that’s true, each specializes in a different part of the body, i.e. 1) the eyes, 2) the digestive system, 3) bones & joints, and 4) the heart.

The first three know little about the “SA node”, the “Bundle of His” or “Atrial Fibrillation”, but it’s the cardiologist who knows the working of the heart from “A-fib” to “V-fib”.  Each of the doctors, by specializing in a specific field of medicine, understands all the hidden defects that lurk beneath the surface, and how to approach them successfully.

So, what’s that got to do with real estate – and more specifically raw land?  Like doctors, real estate brokers are all licensed by the state to practice in the real estate field.  Unlike doctors, however, there are no residencies required to practice a specialized type of real estate.  In real life, most new licensees think real estate means “houses” and thus enters the field of “residential” real estate.

This is a specialized practice of its own.  It’s a world where termite inspections, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, deed restrictions, and homeowners associations abound.  Contracts that address personal property, zoning, discount points, VA & FHA loans, and home inspections are the norm.

But wait!  If residential real estate is a specialty, there must be other specialties too.  Consider just a few, like commercial real estate, industrial real estate, multi-family real estate, and “raw land”.  Although there is little public knowledge of these very different fields of expertise, the National Association of REALTORS® addresses this important aspect of real estate in its Code of Ethics – to which all REALTORS® subscribe.

Article 11 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics reads as follows:

The services which Realtors® provide to their clients and customers shall conform to the standards of practice and competence which are reasonably expected in the specific real estate disciplines in which they engage; specifically, residential real estate brokerage, real property management, commercial and industrial real estate brokerage, land brokerage, real estate appraisal, real estate counseling, real estate syndication, real estate auction, and international real estate.

Realtors® shall not undertake to provide specialized professional services concerning a type of property or service that is outside their field of competence unless they engage the assistance of one who is competent on such types of property or service, or unless the facts are fully disclosed to the client.

Going back to the question about choosing a doctor, it becomes readily apparent that for a heart attack, the correct choice is a cardiologist.  For buying and selling raw land, the correct choice is a broker who not only professes to specialize in land, but who can also produce a history of successful land transactions.

To a residential broker, the terms riparian rights, topo maps, rights-of-way, boundary surveys, due diligence, hunting leases, mineral rights, conservation easements, tree blazes, and viewsheds may seem inconsequential.  A land broker understands the impact of each on a contract for the purchase of land.

Sellers and buyers attempting to choose a land specialist should look for a broker who has a wide selection of listed land parcels, not just one or two, and who, further, has no homes listed for sale.  This broker will  use GPS coordinates, and offer detailed topo maps, aerial photos, Google Earth visuals, and property surveys and tax maps.  Sources of land financing will be provided.

The final supporting evidence of a true land broker, is his or her jeans, hiking boots, and willingness to “bushwhack” through wooded land, and hike strenuous trails without complaint.  On very large parcels, land brokers will provide access on a UTV, such as a Polaris Ranger or John Deere Mule.

Whether looking for a “doctor, lawyer, Indian chief”… or land broker, the right choice is always the specialist.

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About the author

Paul Christian Breden

Paul Christian Breden is a practicing North Carolina & Virginia land broker with 40+ years experience. His company, Mountain Land Company, sells only raw mountain land over 50 acres in 10 counties in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Paul has authored scores of magazine articles and hundreds of newspaper columns on buying and selling real estate, including “Carolina Dreaming – Finding and Buying Mountain Land!” – a practical guidebook for land buyers.


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  • Robert King’s summarization “Very well said, Paul!” is spot on. Paul brings up a very important point; the Realtor’s Code of Ethics. Our company buys and sells land and timber throughout the Southeastern US. Subsequently, we constantly deal with Realtors who have little to no understanding of land issues, even though they hold themselves out as experts. Long ago we discovered the joy of working with degreed foresters. You cannot find a more qualified expert as they all hold college degrees in land management. Finding a forester to analyze your land to buy, sell, or manage is clearly in a landowner’s best interest. Short of this, the next best qualification is to find a realtor who has completed his or her training as an Accredited Land Consultant from the Realtor’s Land Institute. Even though using a forester will be your best bet, be sure to choose one or the other. This will go a long way to insuring competency. To find a certified forester, go to, click on Certification, and then click on “find a Certified Forester” in your state. To find an ALC, go to, and click on “find an Accredited Land Consultant”. May the Forest Be With You.

  • Paul, great article. I tell people all the time who are looking for land to never trust a real estate agent with a clean truck. That means they aren’t getting out and doing what they are supposed to.

  • Land is so much different than the property house brokers, agents handle. You also have to get out on to it, not tour it in high heels. Each piece if unique and if you did not grow up around it, like on a farm or have experience with it, land is an entirely different animal to tame, promote, peddle.

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