Turn A Dream Into Land

Learn how to connect the dots between "I want it" and "I have it."

If you're like many sportsmen, you dream of someday owning a piece of land in the country, perhaps where you can hunt, fish or just relax with your family. You may even have a vague mental image of what it will look like.

But most people have no idea how to connect the dots between "I want it" and "I have it." So they drive around looking at land, and they decide to keep looking until they see something that strikes an emotional chord. Waiting for that "eureka" moment, however, is not a very efficient way to conduct a land search. Because without preparation, you won't be in a posi-tion to make a good decision should an opportunity arise. That could result in a bad deci-sion, or a missed opportunity and an unfulfilled dream.

I believe everyone needs a plan that will help them determine what they want and how to get it. Here is the process that I follow, which has allowed me to sort through the variables, make good decisions and turn dreams of land into the reality of ownership.

  • Get a plan: A wise man once said, "Most people want, but most people won't." You can't "want" your way to a place in the country. You need to put a plan in place to get you there.
  • Know what you want: If you don't know what you're looking for, you can't find it. It's not enough to understand the land; you also have to understand yourself. You need to decide how far is too far, how big is too big, how much you can afford, how you want to use the land, and what you want it to look like.

  • Think like an investor: Everyone should be looking for a return on investment, whether that return is measured in dollars, trophies or memories. Even if you don't think of yourself as an investor, you need to understand how professional land investors evaluate and ana-lyze property before they buy it. By doing so, you'll be able to judge the potential and value of different tracts.

  • Educate yourself: You must learn to really understand land. It's amazing how many people want to buy property but have no idea about the characteristics, components, potential or value of the land they want to buy. Knowledge is power, and ignorance is expensive.
  • Assemble a team: You cannot be an expert in every topic, but every topic has an expert and you need to find them. Learn all you can yourself, but also find people who have knowl-edge and experience in specific areas, such as cutting and selling timber. You may want to essentially assemble a team of people to support you.
  • Locate the land: It doesn't have to be a wild Easter egg hunt, but you do have to actually look. There are ways to find land that are obvious, and some that are not. The best land deals are usually not the ones in the real estate flyers or on the Internet. You need to learn where to look (we'll explain in upcoming columns).
  • Evaluate the land: Understanding what a piece of land is will help you determine what it could be. Your ability to understand "properties" of the property will determine your success in getting the tract you want. You must be able to see its potential as well as its limitations.
  • Acquire the land: Financing, negotiation, offers, real estate agents -- the whole thing can be a confusing process. And for most people, it's a process they have never attempted before. Acquiring land is not like buying a house, and for most of us, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • Enjoy the process: Owning land is fun, and finding it should be, too. Both the journey and the destination of land ownership are opportunities to have fun, whether it's spending a day in the woods looking at land or spending a day on your property planting trees or food plots. Don't turn it into a chore.
  • Share the experience: For me, one of the greatest joys of land ownership is the ability to share the land with others. Be sure you involve your family in the process, right from the beginning. Land can be the focal point for family gatherings and memories, and a terrific place to share friendships. Be sure to make the most of it.

If you want to own your own piece of property, by all means go ahead and dream about it. But it won't happen unless you actually kick-start the process. In future columns, we'll ex-plain exactly how you can do that, and provide you with more tips on how to negotiate each step of the process.

ABOUT THE AUTHORDon 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 www.greenwoodproject.com.

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