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Selling Land

Important Questions to Ask Your Realtor® When Selling Land

August 23, 2023

Navigating the intricate landscape of land sales can be both exciting and daunting. For many landowners, their property represents a significant investment, complete with its unique challenges and opportunities distinct from other types of real estate. Thus, the role of a Realtor® or real estate agent becomes paramount. But with so many professionals in the industry, how can a landowner determine who is best suited to their needs? The answer lies in asking the right questions. From understanding communication patterns and team dynamics to evaluating a Realtor’s® track record and pricing strategies, the questions you ask can illuminate the path to a successful transaction.

In this article, we’ll delve into the essential queries that every landowner should pose to prospective Realtors®, providing a comprehensive guide to ensuring a smooth and profitable land sale.

What is a Realtor®?

A Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors®. A real estate agent is a licensed professional who is not a member of the National Association of Realtors. Realtors® adhere to a strict Code of Ethics that protects clients, the public, and other real estate agents. For the purposes of this article, the questions you need to ask a Realtor® will be relevant for both Realtors® and real estate agents.

What Are the Most Valuable Aspects of my Land and How Will You Articulate that to Potential Buyers?

As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and it’s no different with land sales. If you are interviewing Realtors® about selling your land, be sure to determine if they understand the most valuable aspects of your property and how they will communicate that value to potential buyers. Answers should include:

  1. High-quality photography: High-quality images and virtual tours immediately catch the attention of potential buyers and create a lasting impression. 
  2. Virtual Walk-throughs: With the rise of online property viewing, a 360-degree land tour provides an immersive experience that brings the property closer to buyers, regardless of their location. 
  3. Mapping and Detailed Descriptions: Detailed mapping ensures buyers understand the exact dimensions, boundaries, and topographical features of the land. Descriptions can provide insights about soil quality, land use history, nearby amenities, accessibility, and other unique features.
  4. Interactive Maps: Use digital tools to provide interactive maps where buyers can zoom in/out and get detailed views of specific sections of the land.
  5. Comprehensive Brochures: Combine maps with rich descriptions in both digital and print formats, ensuring potential buyers have all the information they need at their fingertips.
  6. Accurate and Fair pricing:  Being able to explain the value within the pricing of the property builds trust with potential buyers and shows transparency. By ensuring your land is priced right, based on its features and market trends, it stands out in the marketplace and attracts genuine interest.

Who Do You Think the Buyer for My Land Will Be?

A Realtor® with a comprehensive understanding of the specific features, location, size, and potential uses of your land who is familiar with your region’s property market trends can provide insights based on current demand as to who potential buyers could be. The bottom line is that with land, nothing less than a national marketing and advertising campaign will ensure that you find the best buyer for your goals at the time. There are a myriad of potential buyers for different parcels of land, some of those include:

  1. Developers: If your land is in or near an urban or suburban area or if it’s in the path of future development, property developers looking to build residential, commercial, or mixed-use projects might be interested.
  2. Farmers or Agriculturists: If the land is fertile and suitable for farming or livestock, farmers or individuals looking to start agricultural ventures might be potential buyers.
  3. Conservation Groups: If your land has unique ecological or environmental features, conservation groups or trusts might be interested in preserving it.
  4. Timber Companies: If your land is forested, it could attract companies or individuals interested in timber harvesting.
  5. Recreational Users: Lands with scenic views, lakes, or trails can attract buyers looking for recreational properties for activities like hunting, fishing, hiking, or even setting up a vacation home.
  6. Mining or Energy Companies: If there are valuable minerals, ores, or potential for oil drilling, or if the location is suitable for setting up renewable energy projects like wind or solar farms, relevant companies might be interested.
  7. Government: In some cases, local or national government might be interested in infrastructural projects, public utilities, or conservation.
  8. Real Estate Investors: Some buyers might be interested in holding onto the land as a long-term investment, anticipating future appreciation.
  9. Families: Some families look for larger plots of land to build their dream home, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
  10. Businesses: Depending on the location and features, businesses might buy the land for setting up factories, warehouses, retreat centers, resorts, or other commercial ventures.

How Do You Plan on Marketing to My Target Buyers?

As mentioned previously, if your goal is to find the quickest and most profitable sale of your property, one of the key components of a strategy aimed at doing this is a national marketing and advertising campaign. Your Realtor® should be able to explain how they will use both push marketing and pull marketing to attract potential buyers. Here are some examples of those marketing strategies.

Push Marketing

Push marketing, also known as outbound marketing, refers to promotional strategies where companies “push” their products or services onto consumers. Instead of waiting for customers to come to the brand (as in “pull marketing”), the company takes the initiative to directly introduce its product or service to the consumer. In land sales, here are some key push marketing examples:

  1. Email campaigns – Ask your Realtor® how many land buyer prospects they have via email and how your property will be featured to this list. 
  2. Direct Mail – Ask your Realtor® how they will use direct mail to prospective buyers. They should be able to demonstrate how they use Geographic Information System (GIS) information as well as buyer data information to send letters and/or postcards featuring your property to the types of buyers they believe your property is best suited for. 
  3. Social Media – Ask your Realtor® how they will use social media to get the word out about your sale. They should have command of how to reach the same targets via Organic Posts on pages they manage and groups they are members of as well as creating Sponsored posts to targeted demographics. 
  4. Marketing to Land Brokerages: Every land sales professional is currently working with hundreds to thousands of potential buyers for your property. An often overlooked but very important strategy is to market heavily to other brokerages. While residential real estate has the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) there is no mandatory centralized listing service for land brokers at this time. That is why it is vitally important that your broker reach a large market of land brokers with your property. Ask them how they do it. 
  5. Earned Media – If you have a high-profile property, your Realtor’s® brokerage should have a PR firm on retainer that will try to have local and national news outlets pick up the listing of your property as news. Ask them for examples of how they have done this in the past if your property fits this mold.

Pull Marketing

The opposite of push marketing is pull marketing, where companies implement strategies to “pull” consumers toward their products or services. In a pull strategy, the aim is to establish a loyal following and have customers come to the brand naturally over time. In land sales, here are some key pull marketing examples:

  1. Search Engine Optimized for sale listings – As much as 97% of new property searches begin online with search engines such as Google. Search engine optimization is foundational to every land sales campaign. Ask your Realtor® to explain how they accomplish this and for examples. 
  2. Search Engine Optimized Blog Posts – Your brokerage should be trying to attract buyers to their website every second of the day to better shine a light on their current listings. One way this is accomplished is through blog articles that help prospective land buyers answer questions they have about land buying and land ownership topics. Does your Realtor® have a blog? If they do, are the articles there geared toward landowners?
  3. Podcasts – Does your Realtor’s® brokerage have a podcast that pulls in land buyer prospects from podcasts? Podcast listeners represent some of the most engaged consumers in every market. They are an excellent tool to pull in potential buyers.

What Are the Costs?

When addressing this question it’s essential to understand that the fee structure is contingent upon a successful sale. In most real estate transactions, there is no upfront payment required from the landowner. Instead, the brokerage takes a commission only after the land has been sold. This commission is typically a percentage of the sale price and compensates the agent for their efforts in marketing, negotiating, and successfully closing the sale. The precise percentage can vary based on the region, agency, and specific terms of the agreement. For landowners, this means there’s minimal financial risk involved since there are no costs unless the property sells. This approach aligns the interests of both the landowner and the agent, ensuring the agent is incentivized to secure the best possible deal.

Will You Lower Your Commission?

Once your Realtor® has explained their cost structure, you might consider asking them if they will lower their commission. Their answer should be no. If they understand the value of your property and are planning to aggressively market it and sell it, there should be no reason to lower their commission, They will need the commission they have given you to effectively market and advertise the property. If you meet a Realtor® who is immediately ready to cut their commission, ask yourself what they will do when a buyer wants to offer you less than what your property is worth. You want a skilled negotiator in your corner in a land sales transaction, if the answer to this question is yes, you might save a little in commission, but it may cost you a lot in your sales price. The goal of any land sale should be your net income at the end, and cheaper is not always better.

How Much Land Has Your Company Sold?

This question is crucial for a landowner interviewing Realtors® for a multitude of reasons:

  • Experience and Expertise: Land sales differ considerably from standard residential sales. They involve understanding topography, soil types, water rights, easements, zoning laws, and potential land uses. The volume of land sales a company has conducted can provide insights into their expertise and familiarity with these intricacies.
  • Track Record: A company that has sold a significant amount of land usually has a proven track record in the market. This can give landowners confidence in the Realtor’s® ability to price the land correctly, market it effectively, and navigate negotiations to close a deal.
  • Network and Connections: A company with extensive land sales likely has a broad network of potential buyers, investors, and other stakeholders. This network can be invaluable for a landowner, as it can expedite the sale process and even potentially fetch better offers.
  • Trustworthiness and Credibility: A robust sales history underscores a Realtor’s® credibility. Landowners can feel more assured entrusting their property to a Realtor® who has successfully managed numerous similar transactions.
  • Specialized Marketing Strategies: Selling land requires different marketing tactics compared to selling residential or commercial real estate. Realtors® with extensive experience in land sales are more likely to have tried-and-true marketing strategies tailored to attract genuine buyers.
  • Negotiation Skills: With experience comes refinement in negotiation skills. A company with vast experience in land sales has likely encountered various challenges and scenarios, equipping them with the skills to handle diverse situations and complex negotiations.

In essence, this question enables landowners to gauge the brokerage’s competence, reliability, and potential to successfully manage their specific sale.

How Much Land Has Your Company Sold in My Area?

The question, “How much land has your company sold in my area?” holds significant importance for a landowner interviewing Realtors® for several key reasons:

  • Local Market Knowledge: Real estate is heavily influenced by local factors, ranging from local zoning laws and regulations to current market demand and trends. A Realtor® with a strong sales record in a specific area will likely possess a deep understanding of these local nuances. Don’t rule out Realtors® who live within driving of the property however, as land sales differ from residential transactions in that manner. A land sales professional needs to be able to get to your property for showings, etc. So if they live more than 4 hours away, ask them how this will be accomplished in a manner that doesn’t take away from the sale. 
  • Pricing Accuracy: Understanding the local market ensures that the Realtor® can price the land accurately. Overpricing can lead to prolonged time on the market, while underpricing might result in a potential financial loss for the landowner.
  • Tailored Marketing Strategies: Knowing the local buyer profile enables the Realtor® to craft marketing strategies that resonate with the target audience, increasing the chances of a timely and profitable sale.
  • Local Network and Connections: Realtors® who’ve made numerous sales in a particular area often have an established network of potential buyers, local officials, and other essential contacts. This can expedite the sale process and sometimes even fetch direct buyers without extensive listings.
  • Cultural and Community Insights: Every area has its unique cultural and community nuances. A Realtor® familiar with the local ethos can interact more effectively with potential buyers, addressing their concerns and highlighting aspects of the land that align with local preferences.
  • Reputation in the Community: If a Realtor® has had multiple sales in the area, they likely have a reputation – either positive or negative. Understanding their track record locally can give landowners insights into the Realtor’s® trustworthiness, efficiency, and overall standing in the community.
  • Handling Local Challenges: Every region might present specific challenges, be it related to land titles, environmental concerns, or local sentiments. A Realtor® experienced in the area will be better equipped to navigate these challenges smoothly.

In essence, this question allows landowners to ascertain the Realtor’s® expertise in the specific locality, ensuring that the chosen representative is not just knowledgeable about land sales in general, but is acutely aware of the dynamics at play in the landowner’s particular region. Given the localized nature of real estate, this distinction can significantly influence the outcome of a sale.

How Did You Arrive at Your Suggested List Price?

An accurate Broker’s Price Opinion is of paramount importance for a landowner when interviewing Realtors®, and here’s why:

  • Analytical Approach: Asking this question helps the landowner understand the Realtor’s® methodology in pricing. It can shed light on whether the Realtor® is using a systematic, data-driven approach, considering factors like comparable sales (comps), market trends, and land features, or if they are relying on gut feelings or general estimations.
  • Understanding Market Comparables: A fundamental aspect of determining land price is analyzing comparable sales in the area. Understanding which properties the Realtor® is using as comparables and why they were chosen provides clarity on the suggested price’s accuracy.
  • Highlighting Unique Features: Each piece of land has its unique features, which can influence its value. By posing this question, landowners can gauge whether the Realtor® has taken into account specific attributes, such as water sources, soil quality, development potential, or historical significance, which could raise the property’s value.
  • Market Conditions: Real estate markets fluctuate. A competent Realtor® will factor in current market conditions—whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market—and adjust the price accordingly. The answer to this question can reveal the Realtor’s® level of market awareness.
  • Avoiding Over- or Under-Pricing: An overpriced property might languish on the market, leading to potential price cuts and a perception that there’s something wrong with the property. Conversely, underpricing can result in financial loss. Understanding the rationale behind the price ensures that the property is priced optimally from the outset.
  • Building Trust: A detailed and reasoned explanation from the Realtor® can build trust. It demonstrates transparency, thoroughness, and professionalism, assuring the landowner that the Realtor® is not just pulling numbers out of thin air but basing decisions on concrete data and analysis.
  • Negotiation Strategy: If the Realtor® provides insights into the pricing strategy, it can also give hints about their negotiation approach. For instance, if they suggest listing at a slightly higher price anticipating negotiations, it speaks to their strategy for handling potential buyers.

In essence, this question allows landowners to delve into the Realtor’s® thought process, expertise, and approach to the market. It empowers landowners with knowledge and ensures that the suggested list price is not just arbitrary but the result of meticulous research and analysis.

How Much Negotiating Room Should I Build into My Price?

The question, “How much negotiating room should I build into my price?” is pivotal for a landowner during the interview process with Realtors® for several reasons:

  • Strategic Pricing: This question delves into the Realtor’s® pricing strategy. Some Realtors® might suggest a higher initial list price to leave room for negotiations, while others might advocate for pricing it right at market value to attract serious buyers immediately. Understanding this strategy aids landowners in setting a price that aligns with their goals and the market’s dynamics.
  • Anticipating Buyer Behavior: Buyers often expect to negotiate, and by understanding how much room is built into the price, landowners can predict and prepare for these negotiations. A Realtor’s® answer can provide insights into typical buyer behavior in the local market.
  • Speed vs. Profit: A higher list price with ample negotiation room might lead to a longer sales process but has the potential for a higher final sale price. Conversely, a list price closer to the expected market value might result in a quicker sale. The Realtor’s® perspective on this trade-off is invaluable.
  • Market Trends: The appropriate negotiation buffer might vary depending on market conditions. In a hot seller’s market, properties might sell at or above the list price, reducing the need for much negotiation room. In a buyer’s market, the opposite might be true. A Realtor’s® advice on negotiation room will reveal their understanding of current market trends.
  • Building Trust and Setting Expectations: By discussing the negotiation room, landowners and Realtors® can align their expectations. It can prevent potential misunderstandings or disappointments later in the process and establishes a foundation of trust and clear communication.
  • Psychology of Pricing: Price can significantly influence perception. A property priced too high might deter potential buyers, while one priced too low might raise suspicions or undervalue the land. By asking about the negotiation buffer, landowners can gauge the Realtor’s® understanding of pricing psychology and its impact on buyer behavior.
  • Risk Management: Understanding and determining the right negotiation room can act as a risk management strategy. It ensures that even after negotiations, the final price doesn’t fall below a landowner’s acceptable minimum.

In essence, this question gives landowners a window into the Realtor’s® strategic approach, market understanding, and communication style. It’s not just about determining the right price but understanding the broader tactics and strategies that will be employed throughout the sales process.

What Do I Need to Do to Get My Land Ready?

The question, “What do I need to do to get my land ready?” is of significant importance for a landowner interviewing Realtors®, and here’s an elaboration on its relevance:

  • First Impressions Matter: Just as homeowners often stage homes for sale, land can also benefit from certain preparations to make it more appealing. A Realtor’s® advice on this can ensure the land makes the best first impression, attracting more potential buyers and possibly resulting in better offers.
  • Maximizing Value: By preparing the land adequately, landowners can potentially increase its perceived value. This can involve clearing debris, maintaining trails, or even simple landscaping efforts such as forestry mulching. An experienced Realtor® can offer suggestions that provide the best return on investment.
  • Identifying Issues: A proactive Realtor® might highlight potential issues that could become sticking points during the sale. This can range from legal matters like unclear boundaries to practical issues like drainage problems. Addressing these proactively can prevent potential delays or reductions in price.
  • Marketing Considerations: The way a piece of land is presented in listings, photographs, and viewings can significantly influence its marketability. A Realtor’s® guidance on getting the land ready can align with their marketing strategy, ensuring cohesive and effective promotion.
  • Legal and Regulatory Preparedness: Depending on the region and type of land, there might be regulatory requirements to fulfill before a sale, such as environmental assessments or land division approvals. Realtors® familiar with the local landscape can advise landowners on these necessities, ensuring a smoother sales process.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: While some preparations might be beneficial, others might not offer a good return on the investment. A knowledgeable Realtor® can guide landowners on where to invest their time and money effectively. One example of this is in harvesting timber. Many landowners believe they should harvest their timber first, then sell the property. Depending on the property, this may cost you more in the long run. A strategic thinning may be able to accomplish the goals of obtaining timber income while also beautifying the property. Your Realtor® should understand these types of things. 
  • Streamlining the Sales Process: A well-prepared piece of land can expedite the sales process. Fewer issues arise during negotiations, inspections, or due diligence when potential problems are addressed upfront.

How Will You Communicate with Me Throughout the Listing?

One of the most common frustrations for sellers is inadequate communication from their Realtor®. Communication is key in any professional relationship. By asking this upfront, landowners can establish what type of communication they can expect, be it daily, weekly, or only when there are significant updates.

  • Mode of Communication: Not everyone communicates the same way. While some landowners may prefer phone calls, others might favor emails, text messages, or even video conferences. Understanding the Realtor’s® preferred mode and ensuring it aligns with the landowner’s preference is crucial.
  • Timely Updates: The sales process can be unpredictable, with sudden developments like offers, inquiries, or changes in market conditions. Regular and timely communication ensures that the landowner is kept in the loop and can make informed decisions swiftly.
  • Building Trust: Consistent and transparent communication builds trust between the Realtor® and the landowner. Knowing that they’ll be kept informed helps landowners feel more confident and less anxious about the sales process.
  • Problem-Solving: Should any challenges or issues arise during the listing period – be it related to inspections, legal matters, or buyer feedback – prompt communication ensures that these are addressed collaboratively and efficiently.
  • Feedback and Adjustments: Throughout the listing period, the Realtor® might receive feedback from potential buyers or other agents. Sharing this feedback allows landowners to make any necessary adjustments, whether it’s related to pricing, presentation, or marketing strategies. In addition to feedback, ask your Realtor® what type of marketing data they will share with you and how you can adjust based off of this data. 
  • Decision Making: Effective communication ensures that the landowner is involved in major decisions related to the listing. This can range from negotiation strategies to deciding on accepting or countering offers.

Do You Have Any References I Can Speak to?

While a Realtor® might discuss their experience and past successes, speaking with references provides an objective verification of these claims. Past clients can provide firsthand accounts of their experiences, offering insights into the Realtor’s® actual performance. References can shed light on their overall satisfaction with the Realtor®. They can share whether the Realtor® met or exceeded their expectations, handled challenges adeptly, and ultimately facilitated a successful sale. Every land sale can come with its unique challenges, from negotiation hurdles to unexpected land issues. References can share how the Realtor® managed such challenges, providing insights into their problem-solving and crisis-management skills. Beyond just the sale itself, how a Realtor® handles themselves, manages relationships, and respects their clients’ wishes is essential. Past clients can offer perspectives on the Realtor’s® professionalism and ethics.

Every landowner has different preferences, priorities, and concerns. By speaking with references who had similar needs or properties, landowners can gauge if the Realtor® will be a good fit for their specific situation. A Realtor® willing to provide references is showcasing transparency and confidence in their services. It signals that they are accountable and have maintained good relationships with past clients. Asking for references provides a deeper, more holistic understanding of a Realtor’s® capabilities, professionalism, and customer satisfaction record. It allows landowners to make an informed decision based on actual client experiences, ensuring they select a representative who aligns with their needs and expectations. And while a Realtor® is most likely going to give you references from people they know are happy, be sure to look for things such as Google reviews, where you can see the good and the bad and make an assessment of how that Realtor’s® clients have been treated over time.

Who is Going to Help You?

Real estate, especially land sales, can be complex. Some Realtors® operate as part of a team, with each member having specialized roles, such as marketing, negotiations, or legal documentation. Understanding the team’s composition can provide clarity on the expertise and resources available for the land sale. Knowing who is involved in the sale process helps pinpoint accountability. If multiple professionals are engaged, it’s essential to understand who the primary point of contact is and who is responsible for various tasks. Multiple hands on deck often means tasks can be executed more swiftly, and specialized team members can address specific aspects of the sale more proficiently. This can result in a smoother and more efficient sales process. By asking this question, landowners can gauge the breadth and depth of services provided. For example, if there’s a dedicated marketing expert, it may indicate a robust promotional strategy for the listing.

On the flip side, understanding the team’s structure can help landowners ascertain the level of personalized attention they will receive. If a Realtor® has too many assistants or delegates tasks too much, the landowner might feel their listing isn’t getting the dedicated focus they desire. With multiple professionals involved, it’s crucial to understand the communication hierarchy. Landowners will want to know how information is shared within the team and who to reach out to with questions or concerns. A Realtor® backed by a team or with access to external professionals (like photographers, surveyors, or legal experts) indicates a more substantial resource allocation for listings, which can enhance the presentation and transactional aspects of the sale. A transparent disclosure of all parties involved in the sale process fosters trust. Landowners can feel more confident knowing that there’s a collective effort, with diverse expertise, dedicated to their property’s successful sale.

Final Thoughts

The process of selling land, with its unique nuances and intricacies, demands not just expertise but also a deep understanding of the individual property’s value and potential. As landowners embark on this significant endeavor, the right Realtor® can make all the difference. By proactively posing key questions, landowners can ensure they’re aligning with professionals who are not only knowledgeable but also in tune with their specific needs and aspirations. As we’ve explored, matters of communication, team collaboration, past success, and strategic pricing are all critical components of the land sale equation. When these elements converge seamlessly, they pave the way for transactions that are not only profitable but also smooth and transparent. Landowners, equipped with the right questions and insights, are thus empowered to make informed decisions, ensuring their land’s true value is recognized and realized in the market.

About the Author
Logan Eaton, Executive Vice President of Sales at National Land Realty, has experience in land brokerage across the southeast. He was born in Charleston, SC, and raised in Atlanta, GA, Logan is a true Southerner. He attended the University of Kentucky before transferring to the University of Georgia where he obtained his Real Estate degree from the Terry School of Business. During his time at UGA he was a member of the Real Estate Society as well as a leader in HEROs, a nonprofit club. From 2012-2015 Logan established NLR's office in Atlanta where he represented landowners and buyers in Northern GA. He holds a Principal Broker's license for the state of GA and is also licensed in SC. He has been involved in land transactions in several states and works to support the over 400 agents and brokers at National Land Realty. In 2016 Logan became the EVP of Sales for the company and has been working to build NLR into the nation's largest land brokerage firm. Logan enjoys traveling across the southeast for college football/basketball games, relaxing at Lake Oconee in GA and spending time with his wife Maddie, their sons, Henry and Charlie, and their Golden Retriever, Dill.