It is amazing how a little effort can pay off in a big way in helping to sell rural property. Over the years as a land real estate broker, I have seen a number of instances where this is true. From minor clean-ups and quick fixes to proper record-keeping and documentation, there are a number of things property owners can do to help bring about a timely and profitable sale of their land.
Enhancing the Property’s Aesthetic
In this way, all real estate is the same; curb appeal is a very important factor in a buyer’s mind. From the moment a potential buyer arrives at a property and drives down the entrance road, they are taking in their surroundings and forming an opinion about whether to purchase the property or not. Once a buyer has a first impression set in their mind, it is hard to change it.
In order to improve curb appeal, a seller can simply mow the entrance to the property or pick up any trash that might have been dumped or blown in. Another inexpensive way to improve the property’s attractiveness is a new gate. I frequently pull up to a property and find a rusty old gate that is falling apart; the posts are crooked and the gate drags the ground making it hard to open. Just as likely, the bushes and briars have grown up around the post and it is hard to open without getting your hands and arms scratched up. Also, be sure to check for wasp or hornet nests. Older gates often make great wasp or hornet nest locations. Nothing will turn off a buyer quicker than getting stung while opening or closing a gate. A seller doesn’t have to build a fancy rock entrance or gate just to improve the appeal, but a new gate and posts can make a big difference.
The next way to improve the curb appeal is the entrance road. Landowners should make sure the entrance road is free of washouts and ruts. After all, they don’t want the buyer’s first impression to be the one his head makes in the roof of his truck when he hits a deep rut as he drives in. If there is a culvert at the entrance, it is important to make sure it is in good shape and the ends are clearly visible. No seller wants to hear that they are getting a bill for the damage done to a potential buyer’s vehicle caused by them running off the edge of a driveway. It is also useful to have an area inside the gate that is cleared and mowed so that buyers can leave their vehicles inside the gate and out of the way while touring the property with a broker. Also, many rural land brokers will bring a UTV, and so a place to park and unload a trailer is helpful. Another benefit to mowing the entrance is to make the habitat less hospitable to snakes and other wildlife. Often if a buyer sees a snake when getting in or out of a vehicle, that property becomes the “snake tract” in his or her mind.
Once on the property, if there is a primary road, it is good practice to mow the road and fix any ruts or washouts. Many buyers these days are not looking for more projects, but rather land that is considered “move-in ready.” A few hours of bulldozer work can make a big difference in the final sale price of a property. One common thing found on rural land is old, broken-down deer stands. Usually, they have not been used in several years and are just an eyesore. The seller is so used to seeing them, they just blend into the landscape. However, to a buyer they indicate unsuccessful hunting and poor maintenance and upkeep of the property. If hunting was successful on the property, the stands would have been replaced.
Keeping Proper Records and Information About Your Property
Another way sellers can increase their chances of selling their property is maintaining proper records and photographs. For timberland, the most common question potential buyers ask is “how old are these trees?” A seller can best prepare a broker by having available information about what year the trees were planted and what site preparation procedures were performed. Further details, such as seedling source and a harvest plan, are also helpful. If a stand of timber is merchantable, a seller should have information such as when it was thinned, how much volume was taken out and what the current estimated timber volume is. On timberland and recreation properties, a seller should be able to provide information on the wildlife. Photos of successful hunts are very helpful in demonstrating the hunting potential. However, be sure the photos are dated and are actually from the subject property.
If a seller doesn’t have historical records on a timberland tract, they can consult with the State Forestry Agency. In most cases, at no cost to the landowner, a forester will visit the property and prepare a forestry plan that can be shown to a prospective buyer. The plan will usually include estimated timber ages and suggested harvest planning or planting methods. In order to document the wildlife on a property, game cameras are especially useful. Careful observation will help an owner identify trails and feeding areas used by game. Set up a few game cameras around those areas for a few weeks and see what type of animals frequent the property. If hunting is a significant driver for the real estate market in the area of the property, a wildlife biologist should be engaged to census the population and prepare a report.
Finally, to make it easier for buyers to find the property’s boundary lines, the seller can mark the property. A good practice is to flag corners or hard-to-see boundary lines. A buyer will feel much better about a property if they don’t have to guess where the boundary line is. It is also important to tell your broker about any hazards on the land and mark them as well. Common hazards might be old wells, a washed out culvert or dangerous creek crossing. A broker sees hundreds of properties each year and may not always remember everything you discussed when you listed it with him. For the same reason, flag unique or special areas you want to be sure a buyer sees. Tie some flagging on a trail that leads to a waterfall or fishing hole, or an incredible view. Make it easy for the broker to find those locations again and make the sale.
When a broker is showing properties to a buyer, it is common to visit several properties per trip. A seller can help a broker make the sale by making their property stand out and be memorable. Landowners who are unsure where to start when analyzing their property’s aesthetic can ask their brokers for advice. Your broker has the same objective in mind, to sell your property for the highest price possible. They are there to support you and your goals and market the property’s best assets and values. Just like a house, “curb appeal” will make a big difference in how quickly your property sells and for what price.
About the Author: Eric Gage is a Texas Region Broker in Charge at American Forest Management. With a diverse background in both forestry and real estate, Gage works with land buyers and sellers throughout Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Since 1992, when Gage graduated from Stephen F. Austin State with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry, he has worked with forestry consulting firms, timberland investment management organizations (TIMOs) and timberland brokerage companies. Find out more at AmericanForestManagement.com