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 purpose.
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 closed deal!
“2017 Profile in Home Staging”, National Association of Realtors, 2017
“Real Estate Buyer Online Research Trends to Leverage in 2019”, RLI Voices of Land, Noonan, 2019
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. www.whiteriverranchmarketing.com