For most folks the land buying experience is probably a once in a lifetime event. The combination of “never done it before” and “a lot of money on the line” is scary. And, here’s the rub; how do you know how to do something that you’ve never done before, and likely will never do again? How can you possibly know all you need to know, when you aren’t sure what you really need to know? Wouldn’t it be great if you could “borrow” the knowledge and experience of someone who buys and sells land everyday? Well you can! All you have to do is to engage the services of a real estate professional as your “buyer’s agent” to represent you as you go through the process of locating, evaluating, and purchasing your dream tract.
Most of us think of real estate agents as the people who list and show property for sale. However, some agents specialize in representing buyers as they go through this daunting process, and they offer some valuable services that can make the process a lot smoother and must less frustrating that going it alone. A good agent can provide experience from having been involved in numerous land deals. They can be a voice of reason, when you get emotional. They can provide a buffer between you and the seller (or seller’s agent) during negotiations. They know the process and the key players, but most importantly, they bring the calm assurance that only knowledge and experience can provide. I never go into any real estate deal without a buyer’s agent representing me. You shouldn’t either.
But, how do you find a good one? Having a real estate license and being an experienced land buyer’s agent are far from the same. Not all real estate agents understand land and very few specialize in it. It’s important when acquiring land, that you are represented by an individual who understands the “product” you are looking to purchase. And, while many agents will claim to have land expertise, you want to find one who actually is an expert. Here are a few interview questions to help you know the difference.
How long have you been in the business and how long have you been licensed? They don’t necessarily need to have a real estate license for years. Experience with land is what is important. A great agent may be someone who has been a forester for 20 years and only recently obtained their real estate license.
Is this your full time job or is it a part time job? Many agents (more than you realize) work in real estate part time. Full timers are better than part timers because their ability to earn a living depends on being good at what they do. They only get paid when they successfully help someone like you buy some land.
Do you know the people I need on my team? In other words, do they know the local resources to help you evaluate and acquire your land? Do you know a forester, an appraiser, a surveyor? If they can’t name at least two professionals within each category, they probably aren’t active in the land business, and it might be best for you work with someone else.
How much land did you sell last year and how many transactions? I once had a guy tell me he did 9M in sales one year, and that he did 600 transactions. That turns out to be $15K per transaction. He wasn’t a land specialist. He sold builder close-out lots for a living. How could this guy possibly help you buy rural property? You want to work with someone who specializes in tracts that are the size you want to buy.
And finally, do you have references that I may contact? Keep in mind that they will only give you good ones but you’re not going to ask simple questions like…..Did you like him/her? Was he/she nice? You want to ask some specific questions that will let you know if the agent is good at what they do. Questions like…. did the agent get you connected with the professionals you needed? Did they walk the land with you? Would you use him/her again?