Earned Wisdom

Understanding the Family Dynamics of Land and Farm Deals is Golden.

There’s no substitute for learning more about your profession from someone at the top who’s experienced ups and downs over time. That’s the premise for “Confessions of a Land Pro,” a series of video blogs from RLI’s Future Leaders Committee. In a recent episode, longtime broker Randy Hertz, ALC, shared a wealth of ideas and tips with fellow RLI member Eric Zellers of Ary Land Co., in Tulsa, Okla. Hertz, who earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, runs Hertz Real Estate Services in Nevada, Iowa. His company manages 600,000 acres of farmland and averages more than one farm sale a day.

Aerial of small town in Autumn

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  1. Communication
    1. Learn the language your clients and prospective clients speak about the specifics of their farms, ranches, and other properties.
    2. Communicate and understand the emotional complexities of farm and land deals. “The families we work with aren’t always functional,” Hertz says. “If there are brothers and sisters involved in their parents’ land, they don’t always see eye to eye. Sometimes we’ve got to be the glue that helps them navigate the process. And we have to keep the lines of communication open.”
  2. Technology
    1. Use video wisely. Hertz works with 34 commercial drone pilots to take a bird’s-eye view of the properties his company manages and sells, and he recently hired a full-time video editor.
    2. Embrace technology ranging from lidar topographical tools that can identify a property down to the inch to other GPS and mapping tools, online auctions, and 360-degree land tours. Seek to optimize your business and better serve clients through tech advances.
  3. Relationship building
    1. Keep an ear to the soil by staying in touch with clients and prospective clients well before and after a sale. Hertz has a database of more than 65,000 farmland owners and sends them newsletters and check-ins regularly. “We keep a dialogue open, because you never know when a life change happens and they may need us,” Hertz says.
    2. Connect with emerging land buyers. “About half of farm owners are 70 years old or older. There are some big transitions ahead as land is passed down to the next generations.”

Finally, be ready to change not only one life but the life of a family for years to come. In one case, Hertz’s firm helped a widow properly value the farm she was preparing to sell. The result was an increase from $1,500 to $3,000 per acre—a difference that allowed her to create a more significant financial legacy for herself and her loved ones.

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