The Magazine of the American Landowner presents our 2020 survey of the leading real estate brokerages that specialize in land. – Edited by Cary Estes
AMERICAN FOREST MANAGEMENT
AMERICANFORESTMANAGEMENT.COM | (704) 527-6780
2019 Sales: $500M – $1B
Who: National leaders in the sale and acquisition analysis of timberland, recreational properties, farmland, hunting plantations, and conservation properties. We have the ability to bundle a multitude of brokerage services including property inventory, spatial and attribute data management, recreational and environmental assessments, and market presentation.
What was your take on the 2019 market? Institutional, midlevel, and small-level markets remained solid. The market continued to demonstrate a strong interest from investors – domestic ones as well as international – looking to acquire land as a stable vehicle to diversify their investment portfolio.
What are your predictions for 2020? The land market will be characterized by the impetus of investors seeking land as a fundamental investment. Look for continued activity from both buyers and sellers. Transaction volume will include several large deals in the industrial timberland sector, more capital placed from foreign investors, less to agriculture, and more to recreational/small level investments.
CUSHMAN & WAKEFIELD LAND ADVISORY GROUP
CUSHMANWAKEFIELD.COM | (858) 558-5685
2019 Sales: > $1B
Who: A national land group with more than 100 transactional professionals with expertise in industrial, office, retail, urban and suburban residential, hospitality/resort, and agriculture. We work with both institutional and private buyers and sellers of land. We have extensive, market-specific knowledge and regulatory and entitlement expertise to help evaluate the best use of any parcel of land. Our global professionals can help identify investment goals, then provide the resources, support, and brokerage expertise needed to maximize market presence and the value of land holdings, from single assets to nationwide property portfolios.
What was your take on the 2019 market? It was one of the best years in the past decade.
FARMERS NATIONAL COMPANY
FARMERSNATIONAL.COM | (800) 346-2650
2019 Sales: $500M–$1B
Who: We have an extensive network of local agents specializing in real estate sales, auctions, mineral asset sales, buyer’s agency, due diligence, and appraisals. We manage $9.2 billion of land that consists of farms, ranches, timber, and hunting, as well as mineral management and insurance services.
WOW: Increased our total acres sold by 25 percent over the previous year, the most since 2014, as sellers were looking for the best ways to get their landholdings sold in a slower market.
What was your take on the 2019 market? Land values once again bucked the prevailing depressed mood in agriculture to hold steady or even increase slightly in some instances, except for the most depressed areas or segments, such as dairy. With generally more cautious buyers, some markets saw a move to private treaty listings or bid sales instead of the traditional public land auction. The lower supply of land for sale had much to do with land prices being mostly steady, as did having adequate demand for quality cropland.
What are your predictions for 2020? There are a number of factors that indicate the land market will continue to be steady. Interest rates are low and poised to remain so during the foreseeable future. Government support, mainly through the Market Facilitation Program, brought a cash infusion for producers over the past two years that boosted optimism and the financial footing to help afford a land purchase. The supply of good cropland for sale remains lower, and demand is more than adequate to support steady to slightly higher land prices.
FAYRANCHES.COM | (800) 238-8616
2019 Sales: $100M–$250M
Who: Specializing in the marketing and sale of large farms, timberlands, ranches, plantations, and vineyard properties with sporting attributes, conservation value, and investment value. With the addition of Fay Ranches Southeast, we have reach from coast to coast.
WOW: Fay Ranches represented the seller on the historic and well-established Mallard Rest, a 4,553-acre duck-hunting haven in the Mississippi Delta.
What was your take on the 2019 market? It was another incredibly busy year for us. Our clients continued to be very active in buying and selling land. Our demographic has done well the past 10 years, and as a result, has been investing more confidently in ranches and land.
What are your predictions for 2020? The year started out with strong market and consumer confidence. But with recent developments in the market correction and concerns over the coronavirus, we are in somewhat of a holding pattern. We predict our clients will be spending significantly more time at their land holdings than at their primary place of residence. In times like this, the lower-level properties may have to adjust their value, but the A-list properties will continue to hold theirs.
HALL AND HALL
HALLANDHALL.COM | (888) 557-3090
2019 Sales: $500M–$1B
Who: An integrated partnership of individual brokers with a passion for land, deep market knowledge, and transactional expertise. We cultivate long-term client relationships, and provide full service that includes valuation, financing services, and property management.
WOW: Had core transactions of $1 million to $20 million properties in 2019, augmented by larger transactions from listed and off-market properties as well as a number of large auctions.
What was your take on the 2019 market? It was a strong year across a variety of regions and price points. Recreational/retreat driven purchases outnumbered production agriculture sales.
What are your predictions for 2020? We feel like our target markets are in a good place. We have buyers in the market, are adding new inventory, and see growing interest in ownership of rural property for investment, utility, and diversification.
LANDLEADER.COM | (844) 281-4301
2019 Sales: $250M–$500M
Who: A leading real estate platform that offers a diverse and highly efficient approach to marketing. LandLeader members represent rural, farm and ranch, recreational, and plantation properties, as well as rural and recreational-affiliated resorts for sale throughout all regions.
WOW: Facilitated the sale of the renowned 1,318-acre Chinquapin Plantation in Thomas County, Georgia. The 18,000-square-foot main residence was constructed in 1910 for Standard Oil Company heir John Archbold. The home and plantation are located in the epicenter of wild quail hunting in the South and have more than five miles of frontage on the Ochlockonee River bluffs.
What was your take on the 2019 market? It was a record year for many of our brokerages, as consumer confidence was high, and we saw a very positive economic climate.
What are your predictions for 2020? Despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market has been holding strong. People still need homes and property, and people still have homes and property to sell. We are going to see a major paradigm shift in all industries, so we will have to find new and innovative ways to show listings. We will ultimately come out with a stronger market, an even better understanding of our niche, and a more efficient and fluid business structure.
LANDVEST.COM | (617) 723-1800
2019 Sales: > $1B
Who: An industry leader in integrated timberland and real estate marketing and management. We are the largest broker of timberland in the United States, and we specialize in large institutional ownerships as well as closely held legacy family real estate assets.
WOW: The 87,000-acre Tyler Timberlands set the record as the largest Southern timberland transaction for 2019. This Texas ownership was a premier collection of institutionally managed pine plantations in one of the most robust softwood markets in the US.
What was your take on the 2019 market? The last few lingering older transactions cleared the market with some very high-quality new offerings trading briskly at solid pricing. Unusually low borrowing rates spurred the use of leverage to enhance returns. Hardwood owners sang the blues as retaliatory tariffs from China depressed stumpage prices in some key species.
What are your predictions for 2020? The year got off to a great start. A break in the trade dispute has eased tariffs on hardwood species, which have responded with immediate price gains. The mild winter has boosted housing starts with lumber prices responding with positive gains. Investment capital seeking alternative assets is competitively seeking a dwindling inventory of quality land investments. Markets may be tempered with the prudence often witnessed in election years, but we are budgeting for a solid year.
MOSSY OAK PROPERTIES
MOSSYOAKPROPERTIES.COM | (866) 667-2289
2019 Sales: $500M–$1B
Who: Since our founding in 1999, we have grown to become an industry leader in rural and recreational land sales and now have more than 100 franchises.
WOW: Our network closes a property an average of once every 2½ hours. In 2019, our Tennessee Land & Farm franchise helped facilitate the second-largest land transaction in the history of Tennessee’s Williamson County: 686-acre Eagles Rest Farm near Franklin, which was listed at $30 million.
What was your take on the 2019 market? The rural and recreational land market was very strong. The Mossy Oak Properties network closed in excess of 3,500 transactions and $750 million in sales.
What are your predictions for 2020? Election years are always interesting in this business, but it appears activity only picked up in the early part of 2020. Interest in quality land brokerages and agents joining our team has never been higher.
NATIONAL LAND REALTY
NATIONALLAND.COM | (855) 384-5263
2019 Sales: $250M–$500M
Who: A full-service real estate brokerage company specializing in farm, ranch, recreational, plantation, timber, equestrian, waterfront, and commercial land across the country. We have created a seamless hub of knowledge and data, with game-changing technology that is accessible from anywhere. Our agents offer local expertise with the support of a national network.
WOW: Launched our new GIS mapping platform called LandBase, which not only allows our website visitors to view sold parcels in a particular area of interest, but also gives them a chance to dig into the DNA of any tract of land – as small as 1 acre – all across America.
What was your take on the 2019 market? It was a year of growth in all facets of our business as we were able to expand into five new states and add more than 70 new agents and brokers.
What are your predictions for 2020? We won’t know the true economic impact of COVID-19 on the land real estate market for several months, but we expect to see another migration away from the volatility of the stock market and into an asset class that has been much more stable over time. While we do expect the stock market to rebound, the upcoming election weighs on people’s minds, creating additional uncertainty.
PEOPLESCOMPANY.COM | (855) 800-5263
2019 Sales: $100M–$250M
Who: Specializing in brokerage, management, appraisal, and investment in the land market in 22 states. Our expertise is in handling transactions of any size, appraisals of all types and challenges, management of all size and scope, and investment opportunities for the small investor to the large institutional investor. We have added offices in Washington, California, and Nebraska, and an appraisal business in Michigan.
WOW: Held a multi-parcel auction of 31 tracts in Clay County, South Dakota, that was completed in 10 hours. There were more than 50 buyers in the room and many more on phones and online. All 5,302 acres sold that day.
What was your take on the 2019 market? The year started slow with a cool, wet spring, but ended with several major sales involving active buyers and sellers.
What are your predictions for 2020? Is 2020 a crisis, or is it an opportunity? We see it as both. Strategic investors who have never considered farmland before are now scrutinizing this rock-solid asset class. And current owners who are looking for liquidity are listing their farms. One thing is for sure: In the first quarter, the deck was completely reshuffled.
POTLATCHDELTIC REAL ESTATE
POTLATCHDELTICLANDSALES.COM | (509) 835-1500
2019 Sales: $50M–$100M
Who: A real estate investment trust that owns nearly 2 million acres of timberland in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Mississippi. As a certified forest practices leader, we are committed to providing superior returns to stockholders through long-term stewardship of our forest resources. PotlatchDeltic also conducts a land sales-and-development business, and we operate wood-products manufacturing facilities through our taxable REIT subsidiary.
WOW: There were three. Sold approximately 1,800 acres in Arkansas west of Little Rock for nearly $20 million to a developer who intends to use the property as an exclusive recreation club; completed the second of five annual 8,000-acre transactions in Minnesota with The Conservation Fund involving Minnesota School Trust lands in the Superior National Forest; and sold 148 residential lots for approximately $13 million and 37 acres of commercial property for nearly $10 million in Chenal Valley, a master-planned community in Little Rock.
What was your take on the 2019 market? The market for rural real estate was strong for us, with 165 total transactions. High levels of consumer confidence continued, as buyers diversified holdings and exhibited a strong affinity for recreational property.
What are your predictions for 2020? Our business was off to a strong start before the coronavirus crisis began. The question is how quickly the economy will recover in the coming months after the crisis passes. While there tends to be increased interest in investing in land when the stock market struggles, buyers may need to have confidence in the overall economy to make major buying decisions.
SPORTS AFIELD TROPHY PROPERTIES
SPORTSAFIELDTROPHYPROPERTIES.COM | (714) 622-2774
2019 Sales: $500M–$1B
Who: Our network is comprised of experienced brokers and agents who are countryside real estate specialists. Specializing in ranch, recreational, agriculture, hunting, horse, fishing, woods and forest properties, with or without top-quality homes.
WOW: The Sun River Ranch in Montana and the White Ranch in California both stand out. We also had a record number of multi-million-dollar properties listed in Alaska, Colorado, Michigan, and Oklahoma as well as Canada and New Zealand.
What was your take on the 2019 market? The rural and recreational land market continued to remain strong. It was definitely a seller’s market throughout our geographic footprint. The upper end of the luxury recreational marketplace remained solid.
What are your predictions for 2020? Our brokers expect another excellent year. Overall demand is increasing, and the market will continue to search for listings. We foresee similar growth trends in 2019 and stronger-than-average growth in recreational property sales.
UNITED COUNTRY REAL ESTATE
UNITEDCOUNTRY.COM | (800) 444-5044
2019 Sales: > $1B
Who: The largest, fully integrated network of conventional and auction real estate professionals in the nation. Since 1925, we have specialized in selling farms and ranches, recreational property, and more than 40 specific specialty property groups in rural America. We support more than 500 offices and 5,000 real estate professionals with a comprehensive marketing program that includes specialty property marketing websites, national print advertising, an internal real estate advertising agency, and an extensive buyer database of more than 950,000 opt-in buyers.
WOW: Sold a gorgeous piece of property in North Carolina for nearly $16 million. It was 795 acres that could be used as a private estate, residential development, resort, or corporate retreat. Part of the property was originally planned to be used for Tiger Woods’ first US-designed golf course. It has an 8-acre lake stocked with fish, mature hardwood and pine forests, long-range mountain views, and miles of hiking and equestrian trails.
What was your take on the 2019 market? Recreational land sales increased dramatically, while farmland and ranchland remained stable. The economy continued to support recreational land as trade challenges and commodity prices kept farm and ranch sales stable but showing less growth.
What are your predictions for 2020? Continued strength in recreational land, and much stronger farmland and ranch demand, as significant trade deals have been accomplished. Additionally, we anticipate further integration trade agreements favorable to the US farm and ranch markets to be accomplished in 2020, again spurring stronger ag land sales.
WHITETAIL PROPERTIES REAL ESTATE
WHITETAILPROPERTIES.COM | (217) 285-9000
2019 Sales: > $1B
Who: We represent buyers and sellers of recreational and hunting properties, ranchland, farmland, and timberland, as well as country homes. Since our founding in 2007, we have expanded operations into 34 states. We also reach more than 31 million households through Whitetail Properties TV, an award-winning show on The Sportsman Channel. Our programming showcases the benefits of owning and enjoying recreational real estate.
WOW: Sold an average of six properties per day in 2019, totaling more than $1.3 billion in sales. Closed the largest transaction in our history, La Bandera Ranch in Texas, which was listed at more than $54 million.
What was your take on the 2019 market? Land prices trended up from 2018, which brought some solid buyers forward as well as interested sellers. Commodity prices were still quite low, which led to farms changing hands. Timber, specifically white oak and walnut, was stable and resulted in increased values and great sales. All in all, it was a great year with steadily increasing values and inventory of properties for sale.
What are your predictions for 2020? We have obviously all been thrown a huge curveball with the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, we think listings will continue to be steady, trending up with property available for sale. The buyer frequency is showing a steady increase in the early part of the year, and we are predicting a surge of buyer activity as the year progresses, depending on the timeline and outcome of COVID-19. Land prices will be attractive to buyers and investors. With a volatile stock market and historically low interest rates, more people will be looking for the stable, long-term investment they can actually touch, feel, and enjoy that land offers.