We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Kem Winternitz, an Accredited Land Consultant and managing broker with United Country Timberline Realty in Divide, Colorado, to get her unique perspectives on the land-brokerage business. Kem joined Timberline Realty in December 1996 (which subsequently franchised with United Country in 1998). She is also a 15-year member of both the national and Colorado chapters of the REALTORS Land Institute and is currently serving her second term on the RLI board of directors.
We live in a digital age, but selling real estate is very much a person-to-person undertaking. How does technology help get the job done?
Like so many other industries, land brokerage hasn’t changed overnight. It has been a slow and gradual process, which has brought us from the days when we handed buyers print packages including maps before turning them loose for an afternoon drive in the mountains to today’s sophisticated GPS-enabled mobile applications that allow buyers to conduct their research virtually beforehand or on the fly if needs be.
Technology has changed the real-estate landscape in a big way, making consumers far more independent than in the past. However, I still believe that buyers and sellers prefer a personal connection with a real-estate professional. This has essentially shifted the focus of our job from that of a sales person to that of a trusted counselor. Millennials generally prefer to text in the beginning, but given the vast array of real-estate professionals from which to choose, most buyers still want to hear the sound of a voice before they make a final decision on who to trust. I always prefer to get a buyer or seller on the phone—or better yet in person. Technology is an excellent way to view through a window, but face-to-face is what finally opens the door.
In your experience, what qualities make a great land broker?
A really great land broker needs to be able to share his buyer’s vision and truly understand the highest and best use for all properties. The phrase “boots on the ground” never meant more than it does in land brokerage. In addition to utilizing all the technology that’s available today, a land broker must literally put his boots on the ground. He or she needs to be familiar with the area, elevation, terrain, soil capabilities, animal-carrying capacity, water features, game management units and so on in order to understand fully what they are marketing and to answer the buyer’s questions completely. Outstanding land brokers develop gut feelings and a natural instinct about land parcels that comes only with experience.
[pullquote cite=”Nicholas Vrabel, LAND.com Network Regional Director, on Kem Winternitz’s 20-year anniversary with Timberline Realty” type=”right”]Kem taught me so much about our industry and the importance of networking. Kem’s impact for me over the years makes me cherish her as a friend and even family, instead of a client. Her charisma and compassion are the reasons she has been so successful for 20-plus years. Congratulations, Kem, and hope the next 20 years are as good as the first![/pullquote]
What’s the best part of your job?
Without a doubt, hanging out in the mountains! It’s the dream job for me. I get to spend my days hiking the Rockies and looking at breathtaking scenery. What’s not to like, right?
What got you into the land business?
When I first started out in the real-estate industry I asked myself: what do you want your days to be like? Choice A: sitting open houses, serving coffee and cookies to nosy neighbors, chatting about wallpaper. Choice B: Enjoying the great outdoors. Choice B won hands down!
I also had some great mentors along the way, all men at that time, who gave me the confidence to believe that I could be a great land broker. They were all members of the REALTORS Land Institute, all Accredited Land Consultants. I owe a lot to Richard Hammond (ALC, CCIM), Ray Davenport (ALC) and Jim Oxford (ALC).
What’s the most unique property or acreage you’ve sold?
I sell between 35 to 45 properties every single year so there’s a lot of weird stuff from which to choose. Top spot’s a toss-up, but I do clearly remember one 140-acre Forest Service inholding known as The Happy Ass Ranch. It was completely off the grid but with a spring-fed well deep in a cave servicing a 3,600-square-foot greenhouse where the owner grew organic vegetables for local restaurants. Coming in a close second was a tire-rammed Earth Ship home (also off grid) on a large acreage left uncompleted by a divorcing couple. I couldn’t understand how that divorce could happen after they’d already finished all the hard work; if they were going to split, they should have thought about it before they came so far!
Can you tell us about any interesting or unique characters you’ve met during your career?
The Happy Ass Ranch owner was one of my more unique characters as I picked him up hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere. I was familiar with his property and he said he remembered meeting me some two decades before. At the closing table he pulled out my very first real-estate business card that I had given him 22 years prior, circa 1992. He had held on to it all that time! It just goes to show what happens when you never clean out your drawers.
What does a typical day look like for a Colorado-area land broker like yourself?
A typical day for me gets scheduled in 15-minute increments. I could be in a closing, doing paperwork in my office, hanging off the side of a mountain trying to find somebody’s property corners or showing land to out-of-state buyers (all while explaining things like Colorado water rights, septic installation and so forth).
What’s the one thing you can’t do without each day?
That’s easy! My four-wheel-drive pickup truck. That baby has off-road tires, satellite radio, trailer hitch and a .357 in the console. That’s how you really know you’re a land broker.
If you could live anywhere but Colorado, where would that be?
I can’t imagine living anywhere but Colorado. I am a fourth-generation native of the Pikes Peak area, Colorado born and bred. My real-estate office sits at 9,200 feet, right at the top of the Continental Divide. I think it’s something about the altitude that keeps me here!
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