Aging owners, changing legacies will benefit agents
More U.S. farm and ranch land will grow for-sale signs in the next few years because most owners are 75 years and older. Millions of acres are projected to be changing hands, much of it into the hands of investors and high-net-worth people.
What does this mean for specialty-land real estate agents? Opportunity and growth, many say.
Legacy generational links to big farms and ranches often dissolve with a family death. Many large, historic ranches have been owned and operated for several generations and many added family members as owners. The children, though, often don’t have the sentimental attachment to the land and the pride of ownership of earlier generations. With added complexities of taxation, agriculture economics, and taxation, it becomes easier to put farms and ranches on the market and divide the proceeds.
Most of the nation’s remaining large tracts of private property are now owned by CEOs of major corporations, from media mogols to lumber giants. Only the historic King Ranch in Texas, one of the largest tracts of private U.S. land, is under family ownership, corralling more than 800,000 acres in four separate parcels. King Ranch, a diversified conglomerate of livestock, horses, and luxury goods likely will not be leaving the family any time soon.
In recent years, international agriculture giants from China, the Middle East, South America, even Canada are acquiring U.S. land for farming, with much of the produce and benefit returning to owners homelands.
If you don’t get invited to the mansion parties, though, how do you get in touch with these mega-buyers?
A Different Approach
Top agents realize wealth is defined by net worth – assets not salary. Higher wealth classifications mean marketing differently, and for the highest asset classifications your marketing is going more to advisors and hired directors than individuals.
Some broad differentiations from traditional real estate marketing include positioning you and your agency as thought leaders in your category. Thought leaders are informed opinion leaders and trusted sources of information and expertise. They are on the leading edge of trends and often inspire new trends. They interpret meaning to trends and offer appropriate advice.
Another consideration, like all marketing, is understanding your customer and why they want to buy. Know their motivations. Many buy out of a sense of accountability and may be driven by a personal vision of preservation or conservation. Environmental, social, and governance issues may pique their interests and justification.
Or they might be like everybody else and just want respite from the city, a place to follow passions of the outdoors, and an investment in the future.
Know Their Advisers
One-on-one selling is unlikely with those in higher levels of wealth. They buy through advisors and executive directors who make decisions on large or complex purchases or luxury purchases. For many who sell in this stratosphere, the top strategy is building relationships with these trusted advisors.
Finding the mega rich and their advisors may seem problematic, but there are ways to narrow your focus and lead search. Using consumer data, agents can refine data to select geographic areas, job classifications, income, and profession, for example.
These customers are in very small groupings. Only 500,000 people have net worth in the $11 million to $25 million range. That narrows considerably in the range of $26 million to $50 million where only 35,000 people live. Only about 400 people have $1 billion or more in net worth.
According to Dianna Huff, contributing editor for Marketing Sherpa, a top strategy to connect into these groups is building relationships with those trusted advisors, and remembering that the rich are different, as the Great Gatsby said.
Connecting with high-net-worth people via the internet has proven ineffective, says Michelle Horowitz, a sales director for a luxury marketing agency, who uses opt-in email and events to attract clients.
Gerald Dolezar, a marketing consultant for a French wrought iron and bronze door company, says he reaches clients through centers of influence. His audience includes owners of estates valued at $20 million or more. His primary lead generation is direct mail to architects.
He qualifies his leads to ensure he is dealing with architects who work with clients in his target market, people who need $400,000 worth of custom-made railing or $350,000 bronze doors.
For large property purchases, architects who specialize in major project remodeling or mansion-building might be people to approach. Other referral influencers might be contractors, private jet operations, yacht brokers, interior designers, investor companies, or others that cater to high-net-worth individuals.
Joseph Meerbaum, president of Meerbaum & Co., recommends speaking at industry programs and conference on topics of that relate to high-net-worth people and their advisors. He speaks on buying commercial real estate and equipment leasing, which relates to his company.
Other services and programs would interest high-net-worth people and advisors looking for ranch or farmland and recreational properties. Positioning yourself as a consultant in this specialty enhances your authority and thought leadership.
Another strategy might involve experiences that money can’t buy. Special events and interactions that can only happen on specific properties may attract individuals considering purchasing and investing. Much like yachting events, collector events, or other specialty categories, ranch and farmland experiences may appeal to those considering land purchases or those who may want different property types.
Most high-net-worth people are action oriented and efficient. They didn’t inherit wealth but built it from new ideas, innovations, and hard work. Messaging to this audience must reflect that.
They also like data and information that support decision making. Present on value, not price. Most advisors and wealthy people know they’re a target. Trust is important.
They’re not “retirees” but see themselves as vital, healthy, active people, and marketing images and messages should reflect that, says professional coach Suzanne Muusers.
She also encourages people to be absolutely expert in what they do. The wealthy don’t want to waste time and money on inexperience or uncertainty, she said.
Direct mail should reflect your expertise and knowledge of your customer in design and branding, messaging, and expertise.
Presentation is everything
Muusers also advises that you should look the part when personally connecting or networking with high-net-worth audiences. That also applies to your marketing and advertising.
Present yourself as a specialist, an expert in your category. Show your uniqueness and why you know the property, history, value, and significance of the purchase or sale.
Your design and brand should reflect the people you want to communicate with. In direct mail, that could relate not only to your design, but also paper quality, format, and timing.