Safety Tips for Previewing Rural Land During Deer Hunting Season

Alabama’s gun deer hunting season on privately-owned lands is scheduled to open shortly. If you are in the market for a rural property and plan on heading out to take a look at land during the winter months, it pays to exercise a few precautions to make your excursions safer and more successful.

Here are a few tips to follow when heading out to the winter-woods.

1. Schedule an Appointment. A “for sale” sign on a property does not constitute the right to enter a property: it is an announcement, not an invitation. You should call the landowner or listing agent before walking onto any rural property in Alabama. All listings with AlaLandCo are shown by appointment only.Calling first will help ensure that you do not surprise someone who is hunting, and will minimize the possibility of being shot by accident.

2. Wear Blaze Orange or other Bright Colors.The goal here is to be conspicuous. In the event there are others in the woods, you will be readily identifiable. November 20 to January 31 is a bad time to field test your new buckskin jacket on someone else’s land. Wear a blaze cap or better still an orange vest.

3. Stay with the Agent. Generally sticking with the agent will keep you within the boundaries of a property. Hunters may be using adjoining lands, so hanging close to your guide is a good idea. I don’t do much exploring of new ground during this time of year.

4. Keep it between 10 and 2. Your driver’s ed teacher hammered this home in highschool, so apply that same lesson to previewing hunting properties and timber tracts during deer season. Most hunters are in the woods early in the morning and mid-afternoon. Hunters often break for lunch and come out of the woods for a brief respite during the middle of the day. This is a good time to look at a property so as not to disturb a hunter who is in the stand. If you can’t visit a property in the middle of the day, try to avoid dawn and dusk situations. You can’t see the qualities of a property in low light conditions and a hunter isn’t able to discern what is moving down the trail as easily either.

If you will follow these tips you are more likely to be safe in the woods and also get more from your time previewing the land. If you are looking for a quality hunting property or recreational tract in West Alabama, please contact me to see how I can be helpful.

Article used by permission from Jonathan Goode, Land Agent with AlaLandCo serving West Alabama.

Talladega National Forest Land For Sale

At AlaLandCo, we just started a new website: http://talladeganationalforest.com/

This site will be dedicated to land, farms, hunting property, and timberland for sale in or near the Talladega National Forest. Visit the site, and sign up for the email updates if you have an interest in properties in either section of the Talladega National Forest. We will also post news and events related to the Talladega National Forest. If you are a seller, talk with us about listing your property on TalladegaNationalForest.com

The Talladega National Forest has two distinct sections located in East Central and West Central Alabama.

In East Central Alabama, Robert King serves the counties where the Talladega National Forest is located. These include: Calhoun County, Cherokee County, Clay County, Cleburne County, and Talladega County. This section contains the Talladega and Shoal Creek Districts. I-20 runs through this portion of the Forest. Mt. Cheaha State Park is located inside this portion as well. It stretches from Sylacauga, Alabama at the south northeastward to Piedmont, Alabama. Anniston and Oxford, AL are located just to the northwest of the Forest. There are many that use this section of the forest from Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama

In West Central Alabama, Jonathan Goode serves the counties where the Talladega National Forest is located. These include: Bibb County, Chilton County, Dallas County, Hale County, Perry County, and Tuscaloosa County. This section is known as the Oakmulgee District. This section lies in between Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Selma, Alabama. The Cahaba River flows through this section of the Forest. People from Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Montgomery all utilize this section of the Forest.

LandThink Summit 2010

Yesterday, I attended the LandThink Summit 2010 along with a few of my colleagues from AlaLandCo and land industry professionals from all over the country.  The goal of the Summit was to bring together professionals from different aspects of the land industry.  There were land brokers, investors, land lenders, foresters, consultants, surveyors, and other professionals there.  We had a number of speakers on topics ranging from financing land purchases to real estate trends to timber prices.  It was a great opportunity and a great success.  My hats off to the folks at LandThink for organizing and hosting the event.

The keynote speaker was former Florida State University coach Bobby Bowden.  He presented a great motivational message on some of the aspects of successful leadership.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear Coach Bowden speak, take advantage.

LandThink is a great resource for information about land-related issues.  It is a blogging platform with contributors from many aspects of the land industry.  I, along with Jonathan Goode contribute there regularly.  One of the founders of LandFlip.com, (which is one of the most successful Internet land listing sites) Ryan Folk, started LandThink.com as a way to provide information to a public that is eager to learn about land.  The readership there has grown tremendously and the information available there has as well.  I encourage anyone interested in land to subscribe to LandThink.

There was a great deal of valuable information presented during the Summit and some of it will be made available on the LandThink Blog.  As it becomes available, I will be directing you to some of it.  There was a great deal of insight into the market that should be interesting to all.

Finding Ways to Make Rural Land Pay- Justifying Your Rural Land Investment

By Jonathan Goode

Land ownership means owning more than “just land”; it means owning a “bundle” of rights associated with a particular property. In this economic climate many people are considering making an investment in rural land or are looking for ways to justify purchasing a recreational tract.

I always recommend having an exit strategy when buying land in the event that you need to sell your property in the future. It is also wise to evaluate what potential sources of income your prospective purchase can generate. If you were to split off pieces of your ownership bundle and lease or sell them, you could generate income and help with the carrying costs associated with your land. Here are some ideas about the pieces of your bundle of rights that can be sold or leased.

1. Hunting rights– Big game, deer, turkeys, dove, squirrel, you name it, someone hunts it. In Alabama owners are leasing their land to hunters for $6 to $17 per acre.

2. Timber– Timber can be thinned, harvested, or leased. One great thing about a timber investment is that it has the potential to generate some income with some frequency depending on the site index, species, and age of timber.

3. Mineral and Gas rights-This can be a  boon for a landowner if the lessee finds something of value. Exploration companies will often pay an up-front fee per acre for 5 to 10 years for the right to retrieve minerals or gas from your land. Royalties are paid to the owner if extraction is undertaken.

Desirable minerals and gases would include: oil, natural gas, coal, coal-bed methane, chalk, clay, gravel, chert, river rocks, iron, gold, silver, fill-dirt, and numerous others.

4. Conservation Easements- Wetland mitigation, native forests and grasslands, and many other options are available to consider placing your property into a conservation easement for tax benefits

5. Renewable Energy Potential- Solar, mini-hydroelectric generation, wind, and geothermal

6. Cellular phone tower, radio tower, electric utilities, and natural gas transmission lines– These entities pay to lease a portion of your land to further their corporate mission. Payments range from monthly to once every 40 or 50 years.

7. Carbon Sequestration Offsets

8. Cropland, Pasture, Livestock Grazing land- Cash rents in Alabama range from $25/acre for hay cutting to $90/acre for agricultural cropland

9. Fishing

10. Renting out your lodge or hunting cabin

11. ATV, horseback, bicycle trail riding, and hiking

12. Mud bogging and off-road competitions

13. Landing Strip

14. Water rights from wells, streams, or rivers

15. Billboards and advertisements

16. Birding and wildlife observation

17. Caves, waterfalls, or other natural formations that are of public interest

18. Weekend flea market

19. Boarding Horses or other animals

The preceding list was meant to jumpstart your thoughts about the potential of leasing some of the rights associated with your property. It is by no means exhaustive, but my aim is to show that there are ways to help generate some income from your tract.

Thinking creatively and looking for opportunities can pay significant dividends. I heard of a landowner in Alabama near a car manufacturer that was approached about leasing some of his land to the manufacturer for them to park some of their excess inventory for a few months while they waited on vehicle sales to pick up.

Be sure to weigh all of your income-producing options when evaluating a prospective purchase. This is one way an experienced land agent can assist you by providing information about potential revenue sources. You just might find that purchasing a rural property now is a reasonable and justifiable investment.
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Jonathan is a Land Agent with AlaLandCo serving the Blackbelt region of West Alabama.  If you are looking for land in West Alabama, get in touch with Jonathan.
Jonathan’s Website

Buy Land in Alabama: Lowest Property Taxes in America

Alabama has the nation's lowest property taxesBy: Jonathan Goode, Land Agent with AlaLandCo

Alabama has the lowest property taxes in the nation according to a 2009 report from the Washington-based Tax Foundation

The report was based on information gathered in fiscal year 2007. According to the report, Alabama landowners paid an average of only $455 of property taxes, ranking us #50 in revenue generated by states through property taxes. (This information is also cited in an October 2008, article on Landreport.com).

Low property tax is one very good reason to invest in rural land in Alabama. If you were considering a piece of rural land in Perry County, where I live, you would be looking at a low millage rate of 47 mills. That means for every $1,000 of assessed value, you would only owe $47.00 in annual property taxes. (Assessed value is very different from fair market value.) If you owned a piece of property that was assessed at $100,000, you would owe $4700 in taxes.

How Alabama Property Tax is Calculated

According to the Alabama Department of Revenue, Amendment 373 of Alabama’s Constitution, “provides that all real and personal business property will be assessed at 20% of its fair market value”. So if your business owns a property that has a fair market value of $100,000, it will be assessed at $20,000 ($100,000 x 0.20= $20,000). 

To calculate the annual ad valorem (“according to value”) tax, one must multiply the millage rate by the  assessed value. For instance, if your business owned some land with a fair market value of $100,000 in Perry County, property taxes would be assessed at $20,000. The millage rate of $0.047 would be multiplied by the $20,000 assessed value for an annual total ad valorem tax liability of $940.

Assessment rates for individual owners can be as low as 10%, depending on the classification of the property. Much rural land in Alabama is Class III, which is defined as “All agricultural, forest and single family, owner occupied residential property, including owner occupied residential manufactured homes located on land owned by the manufactured home owner, and historic buildings and sites”.

This means your personal land in the scenario above that had a fair market value of $100,000 would be assessed at 10%, or $10,000. Your ad valorem tax liability would be reduced to only $470. This is extremely cheap compared with other states. MSN.com has an interactive map that lets you compare the property tax levels by state.

Alabama Timberland Taxes

Alabama timberland has a special tax of $0.10 per acre. Additionally, property taxes for timberland (agricultural Class III) are calculated on current use values.

Alabama is unique in that tax calculations are made based on the current use of the property and not fair market value. Fair Market Value is defined as “The estimated price at which the property would bring at a fair voluntary sale.” Current Use Value is defined as “The value of eligible taxable property based on the use being made of that property on October 1 of any taxable year; provided, that no consideration shall be taken of the prospective value such property might have if it were put to some other possible use.”

Allowing rural land taxes to be calculated on Current Use Value and not Market Value saves most landowners considerable money on property tax. This way, you are paying for what your land is actually used for, and not the highest and best use (HBU). Basing taxes on HBU or market value would force many owners to pay substantially more in taxes or sell their land.

Alabama Department of Revenue Website

The ADOR website offers lots of helpful information for landowners pertaining to understanding and calculating property taxes.

 Millage RatesThis link offers a break down of millage rates for every county in the state, including the municipality millage rates.

County Appraisals and AssessmentsThis interactive map links to all Alabama County Appraisal and Assessment offices with online records. The counties typically use Emapsplus, Flagship GIS, or Delta Computer Systems. All but 13 Alabama counties have some tax assessor information available online.

Land and Tax Delinquent PropertyFor anyone considering buying a property at a tax sale, you should first consult this page about Alabama’s guidelines on tax delinquent properties. Alabama has a 3-year right of redemption, so investors need to be certain about what they are purchasing before jumping into one of those deals.

 Tax Assessor MappingIf you have ever wondered how tax assessor maps are derived or how a parcel number is generated, here is a link to some faq’s about those maps.

Alabama has some of the cheapest land and lowest property taxes in the nation, making this a great place to own some rural property. If you are considering purchasing rural land in Alabama, please contact me and let me know how I can be helpful.

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Jonathan Goode is a licensed Realtor and professional land agent with AlaLandCo.  Jonathan works with buyers and sellers of rural land in West Alabama. He and his family live in Marion in Perry County.

Jonathan specializes in marketing hunting land, farmland, and recreational properties in Perry County, Bibb County, Hale County, and Dallas County, Alabama. Click here for a map of all of Jonathan’s current West Alabama land listings. You can see more pictures and get more information about all of his properties on his website.

Landowners – “Trails Help Make the Sell”

By Jonatan Goode,
Land Agent – AlaLandCo

If I could impart two pieces of simple wisdom to landowners about increasing your odds of selling your property they would be: (first) price your property correctly and (second) build and maintain a good internal road or trail system to let prospective buyers see what you are offering.

Owners or agents will find it easier to effectively show a property to a prospect if there is an adequate means of navigating the land. Buyers do not respond well to an agent pointing and saying “And just over there is a nice creek”. It is infinitely better when an agent pulls up to the creek and cuts the engine so the buyers can enjoy the sounds of the ripples on the rocks. Below are a few suggestions for building or improving trail systems to help sell your land.

At a minimum you need a trail system that a four wheeler can navigate easily. Trails of this nature should be at least 4 feet wide with all overhanging limbs and vines (that could unseat a rider) trimmed neatly to the edges. A step above the four wheeler trail is a small road that can be used by UTV’s. One of the best ways to show a property is in a “buggy” like a Polaris Ranger, Yamaha Rhino, or Bad Boy Buggy. These lanes need to be at least 6-8 feet wide to allow for easy passage to the important parts of your property. Many wooded properties will already have fire lanes around the perimeters of the tract or at least the margins of the timbered areas. Some forestry services recommend lanes of 10-20 feet in width to prevent the spread of fires. These lanes are excellent avenues for showing property when properly maintained.

Trail systems should provide access to the highlights of your tract such as creeks, property boundaries, ponds, food plots, caves, and scenic overlooks . Stream crossings are extremely helpful, and I find that your odds of hooking a buyer increase as you get the tires wet driving through a flowing waterway. Build roads so that you maximize the time spent observing the pretty parts of the land. Whenever possible construct trail networks so that you never have to backtrack, because this makes the property feel much larger to the buyer.

Four wheeler trails can be built using only a chainsaw and loppers. You may need to hire a dozier to push in some roads, particularly if your property has significant elevation changes. It is important to slope the roads for drainage and to build waterbars to prevent the erosion of your investment. In a densely wooded or shrubby area you might consider bringing in a woodland mulcher to carve out roads and foodplots. These mulchers are amazing and can turn mature trees into toothpicks in seconds. The rate for the mulcher may be a little more per hour than a dozier, but the finished product from an experienced operator often justifies the extra expense.

The bottom line is that you need an effective means of showing off the key features of your property to potential buyers. . Investing in a good internal road network will pay off, and in this market can help distinguish your property from others that are competing for your buyer.

See Jonathan’s Blog Here:  http://landforsaleinalabama.blogspot.com/

Land (and Life) in Perspective

An article by Jonathan Goode.  Jonathan is a friend and fellow Land Agent.  He was involved in a head-on collision a couple weeks ago.  I think it always helps to put things in the proper perspective…

Two weeks ago I took my 5 year old son with me to put up some signs advertising some of my listings. While we were out another realtor called and asked me to meet him at one of my listings for a showing. I informed him my son was with me, and that we would meet him in an hour. After tamping the last bit of dirt into the hole, I loaded up my tools and headed toward the showing. My son and I were going to stop at a gas station and fill up my truck and get him some Gummy Worms. While we were discussing the Gummy Worms, the car in the oncoming lane of the bridge slid out of control and hit my truck head-on .

When I woke up I could hear my son screaming for me and could see the total destruction of my full-sized truck. I’m not sure how I exited the vehicle, but I do remember the ambulance ride to the hospital. John David is fine, with no broken bones or major injuries, and hopefully I will be out of this neck brace in about 4 more weeks.

God was definitely watching over us and the driver of the other vehicle; all of us walked away. The past 2 weeks have allowed some time for reflection on the important things in this life. Family, friends, and faith top the list as far as I’m concerned. The big land deal I missed the day before suddenly vanished from memory, and every glance at my son, daughter, or wife brought an eruption of emotion that was not easy to conceal. This event has given me a chance to reflect on why I do what I do and who it is for. Being a land agent is fun and rewarding, but too often I let it consume my thoughts and energy. I have prayed several times in the past 2 weeks that I would not waste the lessons from this accident. Take a minute (or an hour) and think about the really important things, and why you do what you do, and who it’s all for. I don’t want to waste my life or be consumed by trivial things. My hope is that you, too, will take a moment to seek clarity on what’s important.

Jonathan Goode is a professional land agent with AlaLandCo. He serves the historic Black Belt of West Alabama. You can see more of his listings at http://www.jonathangoode.com