"Who should I list my land with?" is a question I was asked this week by an owner in Mississippi. Since this owner was out of my area, I had to do some digging before I referred him to a top-notch land agent. Many landowners are faced with this tough decision once they have decided to sell their land and do so using an agent.
All licensed real estate agents are not equally good at helping you sell your rural property. If you owned an exotic car, you would not take it in for maintenance to a small engine shop for repairs. Listing your hunting land or farm with a predominantly residential real estate agent can be a mistake as well. Landowners need to choose an agent and a company that can market and sell their rural property in a way that meets the sellers' objectives.
Since all real estate agents are not equally knowledgeable and skilled at selling land, how should you select the right agent? Here are a few suggestions from a land agent's perspective that I think are fair and will help you choose a professional who can help you get the deal closed.
1. Ask your friends and family. Ask people you know who they have used to sell their land and if they would recommend them to you. This is usually one of the natural steps and most effective ways of finding someone you will feel comfortable with.
2. Google search for relevant terms like "Land for sale in Perry County, Alabama" or "Alabama Land Agent". If you are an out-of-state or out-of-area landowner who wants to sell their rural property, but you do not know anyone in the area this can be a helpful tool for identifying potential agents. Notice I said "identifying potential agents" because this is a preliminary step in the selection process.
3. After identifying potential agents, research how they market their listings. Pay close attention to how well an agent markets their listings online. Recent statistics show that over 80% of buyers preview properties online before getting in their car and driving to look at land. You will get an idea about how much effort an agent will put into advertising your listing. Will your land be visible to potential buyers? It needs to be in this market so that ALL possible buyers are aware that you have a quality piece of land for sale.
4. Professional Designations associated with agents who specialize in land. Look for agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors, a local board of Realtors, Realtors Land Institute(RLI), and have earned the title of Accredited Land Consultant. These agents are demonstrating that they take seriously their commitment to excellence in their profession. Having these designations may not mean much to potential buyers, but it does show that they have worked hard to gain knowledge and proficiency in the discipline of land. Agents that are Realtors have agreed to operate by and be bound to a Code of Ethics, which helps protect landowners in land transactions.
5. Ask a local real estate attorney. Contact a local real estate attorney in the area where you own land and ask them if they recommend an agent. These attorneys will know who closes deals and can help steer you in the right direction.
6. Interview several agents from multiple companies by phone or in person if possible. Talking to someone over the phone or meeting them in person will help you get a better feel for someone than by merely emailing. I recommend having a list of questions prepared when you meet. The two most popular are always: "What is your commission?" and "What is my land worth?". I would also recommend asking how they market land, what is the average time for land to sell, what are the most recent comparable sales in the area, how has your business been lately, and is there anything I can do that will improve my chances of selling my land.
Once you have spoken to several agents and feel comfortable with one, ask them to take a look at your property, with you if possible. You never want an agent to give you a specific figure of what your land is worth without them seeing it. They should be able to provide a fairly close price range of where you should list it, but each property is different and has characteristics that will distinguish them from other properties on the market. List your property with an agent that is not afraid to get out and walk the boundaries and trails on your land. An agent sitting in the car and pointing out features to prospective buyers seldom helps an owner sell their property.
7. Once you feel comfortable with the agent, sign the listing agreement. For rural land these agreements typically run for a longer period of time than residential properties. Listing agreements may last 3 to 12 months, and in this market it may take 12 to 18 months to find a buyer for your land. Particularly if you own a large tract of land or if it commands a high asking price, you can probably expect it to take a while to sell. Here is a link to an article about what to expect at a listing appointment.
8. Lastly, check them out on Facebook or other social media. It is amazing what information you can find about someone on their social media pages. Many employers are using this as part of their vetting process for job applicants. You might find that you share common interests with the agent or that you are not fond of what you see on their page. This gives you a closer look at their personal life which can be useful information for you.
I hope you find this information helpful as you look for an agent who can help you sell your land at the right price, in a timely manner, and as smoothly as possible. By spending time researching and choosing the right agent on the front end, you can save yourself a lot of grief and disappointment in the long run. If you would like information about listing your rural land with a land professional in Alabama, please contact me.