Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How do you introduce kids to the outdoors?

                                        Teaching Children about the Outdoors
Coming from a forestry and hunting background my children had to chance to see and do things that many youngsters do not have a chance to learn nor enjoy. Many start early going to the camp where they enjoy romping through the camp and riding with their parents on ATVs and getting their boots dirty. Don't forget playing with their dog!
I like to first teach them things about the woods, waters and the critters. My approach has been more oriented toward teaching them to understand the outdoors and not from a hunting/taking game perspective. I suggest that you do it this way as they must learn to love and respect the outdoors before they learn to procure game. They will get peer pressure and watch too many outdoor videos which unfortunately today shows youngsters being focused on trophy game or acting plain silly like the young adults do on some of the shows.
Many parents are not outdoor types and they should use outdoor learning with their children to bond with them. If you take a child to the outdoors and show them wild places and things you will help them get an education of great value. You will also know where they are and who they are with which are big items on a parent's list.
I believe that a broader based introduction at a child's pace is best. They need to be taught about the wise use of forest resources at an early age. Once you turn them on to the whole system of the outdoors it is like a puzzle that they will eagerly try to solve. They will also ask you a million questions. Why this ? Why this? My Grandson, 6 years old,  loves the woods but to my surprise he didn't realize that paper products came from trees. It is important to constantly teach youngsters and even adults...Good Luck on some adults...about the wise use of the forest and land and water resources.
I would like to hear your comments on how you have helped your family enjoy and appreciate the great outdoors!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Today's Rural Real Estate Practice

  Rural Real Estate Practice- Working in the Wild, Wild, West

Those of us who are licensed and governed by State laws in real estate, forestry, appraisal and other disciplines wonder if we are being treated fairly, especially in the rural markets we work in.
Many have spent years trying to develop a professional practice following the state laws and ethics of various professional groups. While these accomplishments  please the ego it seems that we are constantly faced with competitors who are operating outside the state laws and getting away with it.
While many disciplines face this problem the rural real estate practice is especially impacted by these activities. Quite a few land and timber sales in smaller communities are conducted or originated by non-licensed individuals who have no licensing nor expertise in any discipline. They are therefore, not subject to licensing agency oversight. Local overseer's, timber buyers, hunting guides, feed store speculators and even some licensed in other regulated professions seem to be the ones who represent buyers and sellers. While they don't advertise this role they are behind the scences.  In many cases I suspect that there is a hidden agenda as the helpers want to buy the timber or set the stage for a straw buyer without the seller knowing about it.
Land owners continue to be uninformed when they buy or sell. I guess they see paying a commission as being a deal breaker but trust me they are paving maybe even more for trying to go ahead without the assistance of a good licensed , reputable land broker.

As I mentioned in an earlier post seller's and buyers sometimes find that they were not informed of such things as access, oil and gas interests, land line issues, timber prices or other factors that may have caused them to change their mind or the price if they had been aware.
I truly believe that on the closing statement the seller realizes that they had to pay real money for a commission. Since the amount that they actually lost on the land and timber was never a line item on the closing statement they felt good not paying a small fee for a broker. Since they never saw the real loss they they did not have to acknowledge that they got hammered. Ignorance is bliss! They didn't have to worry about the local coffee shop talk. All they had to say was "Ole Billy Bob done us good!" but Ole Billy Bob who was there at the coffee shop has a sly smile on his face while eating his donuts. A little humor helps make my point!

One last point is that some licensed brokers use an open listing to tag or attract other buyers or sellers. I have seen three or four listings of the same property on the Internet. While I suspect that this practice is legal I think it is unprofessional. How could a broker represent a seller and spend the time and expense marketing a tract? I suspect that not much really gets done but the bait for future deals has been cast!  Some agents in the country don't know a white oak from a pine but they seem to find their way into a sale. There is a competency issue as well and not every broker is a land specialist. Its a different critter than the residential market.

I would like to hear comments to see how your market works and how the real estate professional can over come these obstacles. Yes, this is sour grapes on my part, but why not put it out there for discussion. Let me hear from you!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

                           LEGAL ACCESS - LOOK OUTSIDE THE BOX!

In many situations involving land sales, timber sales and forestland appraisals I have encountered situations where legal access has presented serious problems.

Many new land owners become so excited about the property within the lines of the tract that they are buying that they fail to realize, or have not been informed by their agent, that external access issues can present management and ownership issues that may be very difficult to overcome. Once the new wears off of their purchase they discover that they missed some things. The agent earned a commission and is now hard to find and the old saying "Caveat Emptor" ( Let the Buyer Beware) starts coming to mind.

I remember a long time ago a roadway to a bottom land hardwood tract was contested for use and the owner then had to access the land by boat , about 12 miles, until the access issues could be cleared up.

It is very wise, in every situation,  to make sure your attorney verifies access to your land before you close the sale and take title. DO NOT ASSUME that road access is legally perfected until you verify it.

Lenders may also get a surprise when they discover that the property that they made a loan on is not as good of a deal as they thought, especially if they ever have to foreclose. Legality of access is a major deal as lenders shy away and even avoid loans where access is poor or inadequate to protect the security interest.

Fires suppression in woodland environments is also a major issue as local VFD's may be unable to help in the event of a wild fire as access may be blocked or denied thus causing them to be delayed.

The availability, or lack thereof,  of power , telephone and other public utilities MUST be considered prior to purchase. 

I guess my appraisal training made me think early on about the external influences around the property as much as the features and amenities on the property. Many landowners, foresters and timber buyers tend to not see the forest because of they are focused on the trees and sometimes overlook these critical external factors. Many have discovered the hard way that unknown issues such as road width, distance to a public road, responsibility for upkeep and maintenance of a road, easements, either exclusive or non-exclusive, or licenses granted by an adjacent land owner may present a costly proposition.

Be aware that a temporary license agreement ( "Oh,  you can use my old field road anytime you want to") to use a road for seasonal use such as hunting or to haul timber on an infrequent basis is a very different situation that when utilities are to be established or funding is sought for construction of a residence, etc.

In many cases land owners have to buy access at a premium or resort to legal action which may or may not cure the access issue the way the landowner wants it to. Be sure to check state laws, through your attorney, to verify how access might be cured if that process becomes necessary.

I hope you will post comments and war stories about this issue. There should be plenty of examples to discuss!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Little About What We Do

We work with landowners every day on timber sales. Thought it might be a good idea to outline some of the procedural steps a landowner should go through with their forestry consultant when considering a timber sale.
The landowner should understand that numerous roles are played in the timber industry and many timber owners have been contacted by timber procurement professionals who work for companies who want to buy timber from the land owner. An ACF consulting forester works exclusively for land owners and has no conflicting interest as we sell timber and do not buy timber. Procurement foresters are trained, honorable professionals whose job description requires them to perform honestly in dealings with the public but they are paid to buy timber at a price that benefits their principal. ACF consultants represent the landowner in dealing with the forest industry professionals based on a fee that is negotiated with each landowner in a timber sale.
The first step should include a pre-sale inventory or assessment of the timber and an evaluation of logging access and property boundary verification. Legal access is a major factor that will make or break a timber sale effort. Ground and weather conditions have a major role in the sale planning phase.
After this preliminary step is completed the consultant will inform the land owner of the market conditions that influences the value of the products that are on the tract as well a developing a sale objective that is sound. The market conditions also includes the topography and terrain which greatly impacts the logging prospect as well as prices. Timing is critical in the decision to sell or delay a sale.
The next step, if all conditions are GO, includes the solicitation of bids from reputable buyers. This can be in the form of informal or formal bid solicitations. Once bids are obtained and an offer is accepted the contract phase or step is reached.
The consultant will prepare a contract with language that holds the landowner harmless from liability, backed by a certificate of insurance. The notarized contract defines the goals and objectives of the sale and other performance standards of the project. Upon closing the buyer will place on deposit a perfomance deposit to insure orderly contract compliance. When all logging, auditing of payments and Alabama Best Management Practices BMP'S have been performed the buyer's deposit will be returned, upon approval of the landowner.
The consultant's main role is to monitor the progress of the sale on a frequent basis to insure that the buyer is performing in compliance with the contract and that all loads and payments are accounted for.
The last phase of the sale is the post sale evaluation where the consultant evaluates the result of the operation in financial and biological terms and identifies future timber stand operations for sound forest management decisions to be made.
I am sure that I have not covered everything. If anyone has any comments, questions and or needs assistance in this area of forestry practice give us a call. We handle and manage sales in all of SW Alabama and in southern Mississippi.