Building Your Team

Without professional input you're not investing in land, you're simply gambling.

Let's face it: Buying land can be complicated. There are aspects of evaluating and owning land that simply are not intuitively obvious. The truth is, you can study and research all you want, and you still won't learn everything you need to know about land, timber, water, financing, regulations and permits. If you are serious about owning land, there are times you will need professional help.

You may know what a survey is, and what a boundary line looks like, but most of us are not qualified to actually verify a boundary line encroachment. You may know trees and be able to identify which types are the most valuable, but cruising timber on your own or determining its real value is another story. And there are serious issues concerning appraisals, wildlife, wildlife potential, lake construction, easements, utilities and many others that require the perspective of someone with experience and expertise.

Most land buyers are not willing to pay for information, and it can be an expensive proposition. But when I began investing in land, I quickly recognized it's a team sport.

So I assembled a team of people who had knowledge and experience in specific areas where I did not. I partnered with a forester and I hired an appraiser. Now I have a wildlife biologist, a lake builder, financial people, a forester, and a land services guy on staff. The reason I have those people on my staff today is because they are incredibly important to my land investment business. Even though I've been doing this for a long time, I still need professional advice. You probably do, too.

To be successful on purpose (rather than by accident), you'll need professional input. Without it, you're not investing in land, you're simply gambling. And the stakes are too high to roll the dice on a land purchase.

Be aware, however, that there is a big difference between experts who are merely "book smart" and those who are "woods wise" and can effectively apply what they know in the reality ot today's land market.

One problem is that bonafide experts and complete idiots sound exactly the same the first time you meet them. So before you go and bet the farm (literally) on the expertise of someone you hardly know, take the time to ask that person some questions. If you don't know the right questions to ask, get a referral from someone who does, or better yet, someone who has experience (both good and bad) with experts in that particular field.

If you're looking for a forester, go to a local Forestry Association or Forest Landowner meeting and ask existing landowners who they trust and use themselves. If you need a reliable surveyor or appraiser, go to a local land lender and ask who they trust and use regularly. If you want the services of a real estate agent, don't just pick the one with the most listings in the local paper. Ask a closing attorney or a banker or a land investor to tell you who they think does the best job for their clients.

Ask bankers and agents for recommendations on real estate attorneys. Get to know the folks in your state's Forestry Commission or Fish & Wildlife Service. Besides knowing who the local experts are, these state agencies often provide consulting services, and sometimes those services are even free!

These suggestions are just a starting point. You may need other kinds of experts I haven't mentioned, and you may not need all of these folks on every land transaction. But to avoid costly mistakes, you better know someone you can call when you need expert answers to land questions.

Don Webb is the author of "Maximizing The Land Ownership Experience" and president of Greenwood Land Company, which provides land acquisition and consulting services. Contact him at (706) 575-4178 or go online to

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