Why You Should Be Staging Your Land For Sale
So you’ve won the listing on your next great land deal. You have motivated sellers offering a
slice of the country that will evoke a sense of idyllic countryside life and nature appreciation
in any prospective listing client. So now what? Convention would dictate that the first step
would be to head out, grab some photographs and get this thing on the market as soon as
possible in order to maximize your exposure to the market. But what if convention is wrong?
Land normally does not sell itself, and requires a special touch to maximize the inherent
value to new clientele. That is why we all got into this business right? It is the unique ability
of a land agent to communicate to new clients the promise of opportunity in a listing; what
assets set this parcel apart from the rest, and how it is a strong investment value in a market
which can offer many similarities, all competing for buyer views. So how do you set yourself
apart from the fray? Let’s take a cue from the residential side of the business to see how a
land agent can consider maximizing their resources to reach a better end result; staging a
land parcel for sale.
Who Says Staging Works?
In considering why there is even a staging industry surrounding residential listings, the only
conclusion that we can come to is – it works! But don’t take my word for it. The National
Association of Realtors Research Department authored an entire study on the practice in
2017, and their own findings levy the reasoning as to why staging is not only a common
practice, but a preferred practice. Respondents across the country noted that as sellers’
agents, 38% preferred to stage prior to listing, with 14% noting they only stage if a home
proves difficult to sell. Combining those stats together, we can see that over one-half of all
polled residential agents considered staging a must to move a property! Digging into the
numbers further, the study shows just how important both the buy and sell sides find staging
Buyers’ agents responded that 49% considered staging had an effect on a buyer’s view of
the home, in addition to 77% noting this staging made it easier for them to visualize the
property as a future home. One-third went as far to opine that staging a home increased the
dollar value offered between 1% – 5% compared to other similar un-staged properties on the
market. Sellers’ agents reported even more engaging numbers, with 39% citing that staging
greatly decreased the amount of time the home is on the market, 29% noting a dollar value
increase of 1% – 5% when compared to similar homes, and 21% reporting an increase in
dollar value of 6% – 10%.
Why Stage It Anyways?
I get it, land real estate is not residential real estate, so that make these numbers irrelevant
right? Well, not so fast. There is more than meets the eye when it comes to the concept of
staging a property, rather than how it is actually staged. While we may not be talking about
modern living room sets and finely placed decor accents, any land property, improved or not,
can still take some lessons from their residential cousins. Staging your land listing can create
an emotional impact, offer a sense of scale, and lead to a more positive impact for your
prospective buyer, as well as the surrounding community.
Make A Connection: An unimproved parcel is a blank canvas for sure, but it can
also feel like a vapid, empty space for some buyers. Not all prospective buyers have
an improvement/usage vision in mind, and many who do, might not have an idea
ready for your specific property. So, help your buyers get there and connect
emotionally with your listing! Staging a land listing, whether for photos or showings as
well, can make what was once just another acreage parcel now seem full of life and
Put It in Perspective: Just as with creating an emotional connection to your listing,
help buyers get a sense of scale with the property. A pasture that is overgrown and
has failing fence lines can feel not only neglected, but also appear smaller and less
usable. The fix? Consider investing in a little time with a bush hog and some post
hole work. What about a vast parcel with million-dollar views you might ask? Hereto,
consider lifestyle subjects for your photographs, such as horses and riders, giving not
only a sense of scale to those vistas, but also implying to buyers that this is a
property to be experienced, not just looked at.
Keeping Up with The Joneses: For rural land parcels, whether a small ranchette or
a thousand-acre ranch, a sense of pride in the land is evoked in every owner. While
some properties may fall into disrepair over time, small investments in the properties
along the roadway are noticed by adjacent neighbors, and they too will often consider
the ‘curb appeal’ of their landholdings. With the data from NAR to back up the idea
that staging can bring in a higher dollar value, it can be reasoned that sprucing up the
property to bring that value up not only helps in your sale, but also increases the
property values for the neighbors as well. And who wouldn’t be proud to invest in their
land whose value just increased as a result of your staged sale?
To take the most advantage of these considerations, plan to reach out to a marketing
specialist who can put a professional touch on your listing, and remove the stress from
managing the maximization of your ROI. White River Ranch Marketing specializes in
Lifestyle Staging on western mountain gentleman ranch listings to not only create an
emotional connection via aspiration marketing, but utilizing our horses and riders as lifestyle
subjects also serves to promote that sense of scale in your online and print presentations.
Wait, How Do I Even Stage A Land Listing?
We all know this for a fact: first impressions matter. With that elementary concept out of the
way, let’s look at how today’s land agent can take advantage of industry trends and use land
staging to increase their business. First, in considering those first impressions, we should
truly consider where your primary impression of a buyer is made in the 21st century. Is it at
the ranch gate on a client tour? Not likely! In an article posted on RLI’s Voices of Land Blog,
I argue that “knowing that 9 out 10 of buyers used a website, with 7 out of 10 researching
properties via a mobile device, any good agent should ensure their web presence matches
these up-and-coming trends and they are maximizing the extent of their online influence with
websites, aggregations tools, and social media.” In shorter terms; buyers are finding your
listing online, potentially before they may even reach out to an agent. So how does the new
century land agent use this in their favor?
Enter staging! Whether you choose to stage for photographs or for ranch tours (or both) you
can do so knowing NAR data backs up not only the need to do so, but also the benefit in
focusing on the buyer’s experience. In my RLI article, I quote NAR data showing that
“greater than 8 in 10 buyers found photos and detailed property information the most
important considerations in their research”. To follow, NAR’s Staging Study notes that 40%
of buyers are willing to walk through a staged home they saw online. Bringing this all full
circle, we can see that historical listing convention may not hold true, and the first step isn’t
getting photographs and marketing your listing; but rather take a step back, consider your
listing holistically from the perspective of the buyer, and work on a staging plan before your
first photos go out. Because that just may be the thing that brings you next buyer in!
Staging Plan – An Action Item List.
Having purchased dozens of rural land and ranch properties, I can attest from the buyer’s
side what an impression a well-managed property can make on prospective client. It’s the
details that matter, so work with your sellers to create a game plan and budget to elevate
their property to achieve the maximum amount of interest. Here are a few actionable ideas to
Curb Appeal: Start with the basics. Fix the entry gates, spray for weeds on the drive,
trim down low hanging branches and declutter the approach to the house or
viewpoint of the property. Focus on making that good first impression to those who
take the effort to tour the property.
Good Fences, Good Neighbors: Making a ranch ‘move in ready’ is just as important
as with a residential property. Work with the sellers to mend the fence line, gates &
livestock facilities. If the land is totally unimproved, consider placing brightly painted
lathe stakes as boundary markers when showing, so buyers know where their land
meets their neighbors.
Pasture a Plenty: Overgrown pastures signal undue work, and potentially property
neglect. Nothing smells better than a freshly mowed field. Arrange for land assets to
be properly taken care of prior to photographs and showings.
Know Thy Bounds: Buyers today are incredibly computer savvy, and if you’re
marketing a property online and they can only see a map with an address pinpoint,
you’re doing yourself and your seller a major disservice. Invest in a quality online
interactive acreage map, whether it be created in-house or utilizing a service
company to build one for you. The small cost of this investment can pay multiples in
convincing a potential client to call on your listing. Remember, 90%+ of buyers
research real estate online! If you’re marketing land, get a true land map.
Early to Rise: If the property has hunting or fishing assets, spend some time with the
seller to highlight and shore up these benefits. Make access easy and safe, and plan
to include this in your description and tours.
Born in a Barn: If there are equipment or livestock improvements, cleaning up and
repairing these assets can be a very valuable return on your time and dollar
investment. Buyers want and may need to make use of these right away if
transferring equipment or animals to the new property, so spend some time on
making that farm or ranch look and feel like a working farm or ranch.
Water, Water Everywhere: Do you know where the water for the property is coming
from? If it’s well water, spend time at the local water board to have title documents
and well data available for clients to review. Know the share allotment and withdraw
volumes, and seniority limits. Is the land ditch or irrigation fed? If so, know the
controlling entity and their contact information, and have proof of the original shares
transferable with the sale.
Accommodation Doctrine: Parcels large and small may be subject to underlying
mineral right claims, and knowing how these may impact the surface estate can set a
knowledgeable agent apart, and also influences the property valuation. Sellers may
have simple knowledge you can pass along to clients on existing claims, but it’s
always best to defer to a mineral rights attorney.
Warrantable Defense: Speaking of existing claims, not all happen underground.
More readily available and verifiable are other outstanding surface easements or
claims against the land estate that can impact the property. The status of easements,
rights-of-way, or entitlement claims can put the brakes on any deal, so an agent
should plan to research the clarity of title to the lands to paint a clear picture of the
true ownership of the ground.
Now armed with knowledge and data on how staging can positively impact your next land
real estate listing, be sure consider the above action items to maximize the value on your
listing and attract the most views. Focus on your online presence and presentation first, and
invest in those tools which can draw a large pool of clients into your listing. The more lines
you cast, the better the chance of a bite. The more bites, the better the better chance of a
“2017 Profile in Home Staging”, National Association of Realtors, 2017
“Real Estate Buyer Online Research Trends to Leverage in 2019”, RLI Voices of Land,
About the Author: Chris Noonan, CPL, MSc, is the President and Co-founder of White
River Ranch Marketing LLC. An AAPL Certified Professional Landman, Chris is lending his
decade plus of experience in energy land contracts, ranch buying, asset mapping and land
use affairs to the farm and ranch land real estate industry via his startup, WRRM – designed
to expand the virtual impact of land brokers and their listings throughout the US.