Beyond the Numbers: A Connection to the Land

BH wetland sunset

Author: Eric Gage

My background and experience has led me to specialize in a certain type of real estate, timberland properties, and more specifically, timberland investment properties. This type of real estate is very rewarding in that I get to deal mostly with numbers. How much is this property worth? What can I expect the timber to be worth? What is the site index? How old is the timber? For some properties I even develop a discounted cash flow so an investor can determine their rate of return on a certain property. I have been very successful selling timberland to and for investors. I guess I learned to speak their “language.” In order to be successful, I had to start with a forestry degree, but then keep educating myself so that I could be the “expert” in both rural land issues as well as timber investing.

I like selling to or for investors because there is very little emotion involved. Either the numbers work or they don’t. It is not uncommon for me to sell a property without leaving the office.

Recently though, I was reminded of how enjoyable it can be to work with someone who has a passion for the land. I have always experienced my greatest sense of spirituality while outdoors. For me, I feel most in touch with our maker while in the woods. God touches me in the sound of a small waterfall, or the wind rushing through a stand of trees, or the unique pattern of a frost on a young pine plantation. I came to be an avid bird watcher because of the amazing sounds and color palette God used to brighten our lives. Hunters I talk to love to brag about the big deer they got, but when asked why they hunt, you will usually hear about the spiritual effect on them from the still of the morning, or the sunrise they experienced, or the fellowship with friends and family.

The reminder came in the form of a recent client. This client is a businessman who runs a very successful company. He knows all about investing, and buying land is nothing new to him. So, we went out to look at a property early one morning. I had done my research and felt I had a good handle on what the property was worth and was ready to discuss the pros and cons of the land. The more we looked at the property the more visibly excited he became. When we got back to the truck, he said “OK lets get it.” I started to talk about comparable sales and how we should negotiate, when he cut me off. The buyer took me aside and explained that he had to own this property. That he felt the spiritual connection and that he would be perfectly happy to die on the property and be buried there, that this property represented more than an investment. He could already visualize the joy it would bring to himself, and more importantly, to his family. The next time I met with this client I was able to tell him the seller had accepted his offer and he would soon own the land. This very successful businessman, who has done hundreds of deals, gave me a hug. It might have been the cold wind blowing across our faces, but both our eyes were moist.

This experience reminded me that I am so lucky to have a career that allows me to feel a spiritual connection nearly every day. I am blessed to visit several properties a week, each unique and each with a feature that makes them special. Not everyone is so lucky. With some clients it may take a while and require them to see lots of properties, but when they feel the connection they are looking for, both of us know it. I never know what inspires this connection, sometimes an old Post Oak tree will do it, sometimes a rocky hill, or a running creek, but when a person finds a connection to some land, you can see the joy in their eyes.

Working for and with investors can be lucrative, but sometimes I forget the intangible benefits of working with other classes of buyers.   When I help somebody make a spiritual connection to the land, I become part of their family, and you can’t put a number on that.

One Comment on “Beyond the Numbers: A Connection to the Land

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