So, you want to sell land in Alabama? Timberland, farms, and other rural properties in Alabama are in high demand. Investors from around the world, deer hunters, turkey hunters, farmers and CSA enthusiasts, people who desire to live on some quiet acreage and those who want a weekend getaway are all looking for the right piece of property for purchase.
I’ve sold literally thousands of acres across the South over the last 30 years for individuals, trusts and companies. There are a number of important considerations and steps in the process that will help you have a successful adventure with your land sale.
This step may seem very simple and obvious, but it’s important. Often times, a landowner will have a very clear mental picture of what land they want to sell, but there may be a fence line or creek or road that serves as a boundary that may or may not be exactly on the actual property line. The definitive documents that establish what land the seller owns and is selling are the deed(s) to the land and, if the landowner has one, the survey(s).
If you are the sole owner of the property, this is not a consideration. You may have partners, family members, and/or others who have an ownership interest in the property. They will need to consent to the sale, in most cases. They may need to sign the deed that conveys ownership to the buyer.
Get them on board early in the process. This may require ensuring that they understand important issues around the sale, such as tax implications.
The one professional that virtually every seller of land in Alabama should consider is a good real estate attorney. As I said, I’ve sold many rural Alabama properties over the years. Not once have I gone it alone without an attorney helping me.
Many individuals and families who own land already have a family attorney who has helped and/or can help them with a land sale. If you don’t have an attorney, you can usually find a good one within a relatively short distance from the county courthouse. In rural counties, they are often with in a block of the courthouse, if not directly across the street. That is because these attorneys are constantly moving back and forth between their offices and the courthouse, where they do much of their work.
Sometimes, a landowner has a personal relationship with a potential buyer and, in fact, wishes to sell to that buyer. If you are in a similar position, it may be just as easy to agree with the buyer on price, etc. and let your attorney take it from there.
However, if you want to take your property to the open market and pursue the best price it has to offer, you should strongly consider hiring someone like me – a real estate broker who specializes in timberland, farms and other rural properties. A rural land broker has the knowledge and experience needed to access the competitive market value of your property. He/she will evaluate any timber on the property, its road systems, its soils, any water features, wildlife/game, existing hunting facilities (stands, greenfields, etc.), lodges, out buildings, property access, general location, utilities and many other attributes of your property.
This photo: Registered Foresters and their staffs use a “d-tape” (diameter tape) to measure the diameter of the trees that they sample during a timber cruise (timber volume estimate). Each marked “inch” on the d-tape is actually 3.1416 (equal to Pi) inches, since Circumference divided by Pi = Diameter. This tree was about 15.8 inches in diameter when this measurement was taken. The d-tape is to be wrapped around each tree approximated 4.5′ from the ground to arrive at a measurement of the tree’s “diameter at breast height.” That diameter and various tree height measurements are, along with measurements from many other trees, fed into calculations of timber volume to arrive at an estimate of the volume (usually expressed in tons, these days) of the timber in a whole stand of trees. The forester and potential buyers can use the volume estimate to arrive at an estimate of the value of the timber on a tract of land. Oftentimes, a potential buyer will perform or have someone perform his/her own timber cruise on a tract that is under consideration for purchase, as a part of the potential buyer’s due diligence.
The broker may enlist other professionals for help, based on those property attributes and on the ease of establishing property boundaries. If there is significant timber on the property, a timber cruise and value estimate may be needed. A professional registered forester provides that. Timber is often one of the prime components of the value of a rural property. A professional surveyor may be needed to clearly establish where the boundaries of the property you are selling actually lay.
Your broker will then access the local market for properties such as yours. As brokers, we have resources to draw upon for prices of recent sales of comparable properties in your area. We can then give you our informed opinion of the relative market value of your property.
Whether or not you work with a broker, at some point you will need to determine what your asking price is going to be.
We all live in a capitalist system. I don’t need to tell you that, in general, the lower your asking price, the more likely it is that you will sell the property quickly. And, of course, the higher your asking price, the longer it will take you to sell it.
I’m not going to tell you which route you should take. It depends largely on your situation and your comfort level with timing.
As a broker, I work on a commission percentage. I want to see you get as much money as you possibly can for your property. But, at the same time, I want to SELL the property. What’s this all about, otherwise, right? We need a realistic chance to find a buyer at or near the asking price.
Market prices for land, like most things, go up and down. You and your broker should set a price based on the CURRENT market for a property such as yours. That give you the best chance of a successful sale.
To the extent that it is economically feasible, enhance the look of your property in preparation for showing to prospective buyers. If your road edges, fields, a yard around a lodge, etc. can use a little sprucing up, work with your broker/agent to get that done, without breaking the bank.
A lot can usually be done with a bush hog, a mower and, in some cases with a few hours work with a dozer. This sort of investment can pay dividends when the property goes on the market.
Finally, the time will come to put the land on the market. A good rural land broker knows how to go about this. There are several heavily-used websites (see links here) that specialize in rural land, farms, timberland, etc. Even Zillow can be helpful. I recently had a prospective buyer for the biggest listing I ever took took to market find us on Zillow. He was in Belgium at the time.
There will for sale signs posted on or near the property, in most cases, unless you choose otherwise.
I’m sure I’ll return to this page many times in the future to add other considerations that come to mind. But, selling Alabama land can be a real adventure. It can be exciting. It can be frustrating. But, there’s a lot of help out here for you, if you want to take advantage of it.
I’ve spent the last 30 years managing land & timber in Alabama and Mississippi for the Buchanan family of forest products companies and other individuals, families, trusts and companies. Now out on my own, I am available to help with your land and timber management needs on a consulting basis. Just give me a call for a no-cost evaluation of your project. If it appears that we want to that further into actually helping you manage your land and timber. Whether it’s reforestation, thinning timber, selling timber lump-sum, painting lines or whatever, I’ve been there.
I’m certainly happy to help. Please give me a call and let’s discuss your goals for your potential land sale.
Best wishes for success!
NatVest is here to help you with Alabama timber sales, harvests, cutting, logging, etc. across Alabama: