Using A Buyer's Agent

For most folks, the land-buying experience is a once-in-a-lifetime event. So the combination of "never done it before" and "a lot of money on the line" can be pretty scary. And if you've never done something before, how are you supposed to know how to do it? Wouldn't it be great if you could "borrow" the knowledge and experience of someone who buys and sells land every day?

Well, you can. By hiring a real estate professional as your buyer's agent, you provide yourself with a pro who can represent you throughout 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 valuable services that can make the transaction a lot smoother and less frustrating than doing it alone. Good agents can provide the experience of having been involved in numerous land deals, and they can be a voice of reason when you get emotional. They represent a buffer between you and the seller (or seller's agent) during negotiations. Because an agent knows the process and the key players, they bring a calm assurance to the process.

But how do you find a good buyer's agent? Just having a real estate license doesn't qualify someone to handle this specialized task. Not all real estate agents understand land, and very few specialize in it. 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 held a real estate license for many years; experience with land is what's important. A great agent may be someone who has been a forester for 20 years and only recently obtained his real estate license.

Is this your full-time job, or 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, and 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 $9 million in sales one year, and that he did 600 transactions. That turns out to be $15,000 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 similar to the size you want to buy.

Do you have references I may contact? Keep in mind that they will only give you good ones. But that's okay, because you are going to asking specific questions that will let you know if the agent is good at what he does, such as whether or not the agent connected you with the professionals you needed, if they walked the land with you, or if you would use him or her again.

Buying recreational land is a big decision. Make sure you have the help to do it right.

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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