Land

Maine Tree Growth Tax Confusion

Maine Tree Growth Tax Confusion

If you have been planning to purchase a parcel of land in Maine you have probably heard of tree growth tax status. These are a few common misconceptions about the program that we often hear from potential land buyers and land owners.

"I can't cut any trees if I have the property in tree growth".

The tree growth tax law was enacted by the Maine legislature to allow land owners to maintain their property as productive woodland to supply Maine's wood industry. Cutting trees is what this tax law was designed for.

"It is too complicated."

As a new owner you will have a few obligations to get the tax benefit from tree growth but it is a relatively simple process. You need to hire a consulting forester who will help you create a management plan, file some forms and then follow your plan.

"I don't want to give up control of my land."

While you do need to follow some rules, the rules allow for the owner to make their own decisions in managing the lands as long as they use sound silvicultural practices.

"I can't build on the land if it is in tree growth."

Once a property is enrolled in tree growth tax status a change of use is possible. A penalty will be imposed for the change of use. Also, portions of a property can be left out of tree growth to allow a penalty free building site.

For more information on Maine's Tree Growth Tax see:

http://www.maine.gov/revenue/forms/property/pubs/bull19text.htm

6 Ways to Get Your Land Sold Faster

  • Title Search & Title Insurance

This is the first thing you should do before putting your property on the market. If you did not do this when you purchased or inherited the property there is no better time than right now. Issues such as access and un-discharged mortgages to name two could cost you a sale, money or both. If any issues are discovered correct them now. A cursory title exam should cost from $400 - $750.

  • Survey

Do this when you purchase. If the seller has not already done so, try to negotiate this as part of the sale. Once done, be diligent about keeping the boundary lines cleared and painted. Occasional maintenance will save thousands of dollars later. Survey cost will run from $1,000 and up depending on the size of the lot and other factors.

  • Soil Test

Most every buyer asks if this has been done before coming to visit a property. Take this issue off the negotiating table by being proactive. A preliminary soil test in a choice location will satisfy most buyers. Cost will range from $250 for a preliminary to $400 - $750 for  full septic system design.

  • Offer Owner Financing

If you have no immediate need for cash, holding paper is an option which could help sell your land faster and for more money. Conventional banks often require down payments beyond the means of many buyers. Your reward will be a rate of interest much greater than the current rates on CD's, savings accounts and bonds. Hire a professional to help set this up and comply with government regulations regarding private financing.

  • Walking Trails/Clearings/Food Plots

A day or two of work on your land creating access trails, clearings to open views and establishing food plots for game is sweat equity worth the time investment. Potential buyers don't want bushes hitting them in the face any more than you do. Cost - Your time and equipment; $600 and up if you hire it done.

  • Driveways & Access Roads

Being able to drive onto a property is a BIG plus for most potential buyers. If your property has a driveway or existing road system maintain it over time. Consult a land professional before starting this project. DOT driveway permits and other issues may apply. The cost will vary widely depending on slopes, required culverts, the availability of local gravel and other factors.

Comments

  1. Mark on

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    WOODS AND BOUNDS

    by Terri & Roger Coolong, PLS, RPF

     

    Many times after a survey is completed, the client will look at a plat and say "Why is the magnetic bearing on this line N 42° W?  My deed says that it is supposed to be N 39° W!"  Although the use of true north would be a more accurate orientation for boundaries, magnetic north has been used in most of our local maps and deeds.  Magnetic attraction varies over time.  This is due to the fact that the magnetic poles of the earth are not located at the poles around which the earth spins, and the magnetic poles also move back and forth over a period of years.  The variation is usually called the declination, defined as the amount and direction by which the magnetic needle is off the true meridian.  Declination across the United States varies, but in Maine is approximately 17 to 22 degrees to the west of North.

    Chances are, the description in your deed was written many years ago, when the magnetic declination was different than it is now.  Charts are available from the United States Geological Survey which tell you approximately what the declination was in your geographic area during any given year over the last 200 years.  By adding or subtracting the difference in declination between the year the property was last surveyed and now, you can find roughly what your compass would have read at that past time.  Any map recently prepared by a surveyor should indicate the basis of bearing, for instance "magnetic north in August 1995", true north, or grid north. This will assist future surveyors in knowing what differences to expect when resurveying the property.   The directions we seek may vary from compass to compass because of the amount of magnetism in the needle.  Newer techniques in machining, combined with purer materials for the housings, have reduced many of the variations that were found in older compasses.

    Many of the staff compasses used for surveying in the early years of statehood were only marked in full degrees. A surveyor may have only read the bearing to the nearest degree, or might possibly have "eyeballed" it to the nearest 1/4 degree.  Older compasses did not have the dampening properties of a newer one, so it took much longer for the needle to "settle", or stop moving back and forth.  If the surveyor was in a hurry (often the case when miles and miles of line were surveyed in a day as is indicated in field notes filed at the State Archives), he may not have waited for the needle to stop moving completely, but just guessed at where it would stop based on the reading that it was moving back and forth around.  Keep in mind that should one run a compass line and have an error of 1°, in a mile distance the error is 92.1487 feet.  At that rate, one would have a 1.74 foot error every 100 feet!

    Generally, the greatest magnetic force at a point is created by the earth's magnetic field, but other natural and man-made elements can have local influences too.  The presence of iron deposits, reinforcing bars in roads and buildings, wire fences, underground utility pipes and electric lines all modify how a compass will behave in any given place.

    With the use today of high precision GPS, we can orient a parcel to true north or grid north.  True north is absolute north while grid north is slightly east of north according to the State of Maine grid.  The advantages of high precision GPS are that the orientation is not influenced by outside forces as with compass use and only one original monument is needed to orient a retracement survey.

    So the next time you are trying to follow an ancient compass bearing, be it on an old survey plan, in a deed, or on the secret treasure map left to you by great-uncle Blackbeard, remember to convert the declination to the current year, watch for local compass influences, and in the case of the treasure map, leave no stone unturned!

     

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    Deferring Capital Gains When Selling Maine Land

    Death and taxes are unavoidable but they can be delayed. The former by eating right and exercise and the later by employing the right strategy when selling your land.  If you are considering selling your land in Maine and will realize a large capital gain you may want to consider a 1031 tax deferred exchange, aka. Starker exchange.   Always consult with your tax advisor but be aware, not all CPA's have a comprehensive knowledge of the exchange process and the tax code involved.

    One of the most common misconceptions is the term "like kind property".   If I sell my undeveloped land, I will need to replace it with another piece of undeveloped land, keeping with the "like kind".   NOT TRUE!!  The term "like kind" means "investment property" for "investment property".   If John Doe owns a 4 unit apartment building in Florida that has been used 100% as investment, Mr. Doe may exchange that property for a timber investment in Maine.

    As with any topic, you will find tons of information on the internet regarding 1031 exchanges. One company that has been around for years is Asset Preservation.  Their web site can be found at http://apiexchange.com and you will find a lot of useful information.  Once on their site, click on the button "1031 Repeal Issue".  This will allow you to send an email to your Representative asking them not to repeal section 1031 of the IRC.

    Even if you never have any intention of using a 1031 exchange, the buyer for your property may be involved in an exchange. This type of buyer is motivated and must meet a stringent time table to comply with IRC.

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    Beginners Guide to using Google Earth

    Google Earth is one of the most fun and potentially useful technology tools we have today, and it's free! It is a great way to see the State of Maine from above. It is amazing how this change of perspective helps you better understand a state, county, town and for that matter, a piece of real estate. We use Google Earth every day in our real estate business to virtually show the land we have for sale in Maine. If you have never seen the program it is easy to use and takes just a couple of minutes to set up. First you will need to install the program. Follow this link to the Google Earth free download.

    http://www.google.com/earth/download/ge/agree.html

    On this page you should take notice that there are two boxes which are selected near the top of the page. If you do not want to change your browser to Google Chrome you should unselect both of these boxes.

    You are asked to review the terms of service and privacy policy. Once completed, click on Agree and Download. Complete the download process and launch the program.

     

    Screen Shot of Google Earth Startup

    Screen Shot of Google Earth Startup

     

    You are now ready to explore the entire world from a birdseye view. Now take some time to explore the world. To quickly navigate the globe, hold down on your left mouse button and by moving your mouse you can spin the earth to show the locations you want. Double clicking a spot on the globe will zoom in. Keep double clicking on the spot until you are at the resolution you want.

     

    Navigation Tools

    Navigation Tools

     

    Next play around with the upper right navigation tools. The top icon helps you to look around. It can change the angle of perspective and the north south orientation. The next icon will allow you to move around the earth horizontally north, east, south and west. The next icon shaped like a person can be dragged to the streets on the earth and you will get a 360 degree street view if available. The streets where this will work will be highlighted in blue as you drag the icon. The bottom icon + - will zoom in and out.

    This is just the beginning of what this program will do. In future posts we will show some more advanced features. Enjoy.

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    Permitting in Maine's Unorganized Territories

     

    Building a cabin in the Unorganized Territories of Maine

    Building a cabin in the Unorganized Territories of Maine

     

    Buying a home or a piece of land can be a very enlightening experience. One of the more overlooked pieces of buying real estate is the fact that in most instances you will at some point need permits to complete renovations or build new structures.  Permitting is different depending on the location of the parcel and can be overwhelming to a new purchaser if they have no experience with the permitting process.  Permitting is mandated by Federal, State and/or local authorities.  Though the permitting process in most regions of the State of Maine is straight forward, permitting in the Unorganized Territories can be arduous if you are not familiar with the regulatory requirements.

    Unorganized Territories in the State of Maine are overseen by the Land Use Planning Commission or LUPC. When you are ready to build, subdivide, mine, etc., you can go online to the LUPC website or call the representative in the jurisdiction where your parcel of land is located.  Generally, in either case you will receive a lengthy application with vague directions to complete along with a regulation manual, which are the regulations that must be followed when completing your chosen permitted activity.  Most individuals will struggle through the application process usually resulting in the submission of an incomplete application and much time wasted.  However, there are a few easy steps that can make this process less stressful.

    First, find your parcel of land on the LUPC Parcel viewer located on the LUPC website. This viewer will give you the information you will need to follow the regulation manual, such as which LUPC Zone your property is located.  In most instances there will be more than one zone.

    Land Use Planning Commission Parcel Viewer

    Second, make sure you understand what can be done in each zone to ensure your project fits within the regulations. This can be accomplished by reviewing the sections of the regulations that apply to the zone where your property is located.

    Third, acquire a copy of your deed. You will need to research the last 20 years of deed history and get copies of the deeds to submit with your LUPC application.  This can be accomplished by visiting your county registry.  Most of these files can be purchased online.

    Last, you are now ready to complete your permit application. Fill out all questions.  Refer back to the regulations to ensure your project fits the zoning requirements.  The last page of the application contains a check-off sheet.  Review this sheet and check all that apply.  This will ensure you have a completed application on the first submittal.

    Download LUPC Building Permit

    Though it sounds easy, if you have questions don't hesitate to contact a LUPC Representative or an Environmental Consultant that can answer your questions. It is a lot less expensive to ask when in doubt than to try to complete something you don't understand or to receive the permit and have your interpretation being different than LUPC.

    Why We Don't Use Drones For Aerial Photography

    Unmanned aerial vehicles also known as drones are some amazing pieces of engineering. The photographic and videography capabilities of these units offer a unique view of our world. Real estate agents are naturally drawn to this technology as an exciting way to show a property, especially large acreages and expansive buildings. When these units first came out I immediately started shopping for a unit for our business.  However, we received very quick warnings from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to not use them.

    Recently I have seen agents around the country and locally advertising and promoting the fact that they offer this service to prospective sellers. I sent an email to MAR legal counsel Linda Gifford, asking her if the FAA had lifted the ban. She told me without a doubt, as of this date the FAA prohibits the use of these vehicles for any commercial use, including the promotion of real estate. Linda advised me not to use them. As a Realtor, I am thankful for my affiliation with the Maine Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors. These two organizations keep its members up to date on rules and legislation both state and federal.

    The commercial use of UAV's  could draw the attention of the FAA with expensive fines for the real estate agent and their agency, but what kind of liability do their sellers have should an investigation take place? What if one of these agents accidentally crashes the UAV into a home, moving vehicle or another aircraft while using a tool that the federal government tells us not to use? I am no lawyer, but I would wager that the lawsuit the agent (and vicariously the property owner who hired them) would have filed against them would be a slam dunk for the plaintiff.

    So why is it that we are seeing blatant violations of FAA and NAR warnings? Non Realtor agencies and agents may have an excuse (though not a very good one) because they could be ignorant of the rules. But for the Realtors who are using the devices, shame on you. As Realtors we should be setting the example.

    United Country McPhail Realty will continue to get its aerial photography the old fashioned and legal way by hiring professional pilots and shooting photos from FAA approved aircraft. Once the FAA lifts the bans and approves the use, we will begin using this exciting tool.

    I welcome your comments.

    See the video from NAR explaining the FAA position and that of NAR.

    Comments

    1. Tony Cesare on

      Very interesting article. I can imagine that at the pace the FAA works it could be a few years before they develop the rules for UAV's. Until that happens we will be happy to provide the flying your business needs to help with your marketing of properties.

      Update - Ban on Drones for Land Photography Continues

      As we suspected the FAA is not going to meet their goal for drafting drone (UAV) rules and regulations for Maine and the rest of the country. The agency has announced a delay until 2017. We discussed the topic of Drone Use last month. The following link with news of the update was sent to us by the Realtors Land Institute and provided by the National Association of Realtors.

      FAA Drone Rules Delayed to 2017

       

      12 Great Apps for Maine Land Owners & Buyers

      phoneWe like technology that enhances our experience in the outdoors and ownership of our Maine land. Land owners may find a use for these and other smart phone apps. The list below are a few of our favorites. Keep in mind technology is great when it works, but as always, don't forget your compass!

      1. What tree is that?   Arbor Day tree identification guide for i-phone cost is $4.99 with mixed reviews. According to the reviews if the tree has leaves it works great. If it is fall or winter with no leaves the app is useless.
      2. Audubon Guides Box Set, Birds, Mammals, Wildflowers & Trees Cost $14.99 and received great reviews. Some of negative reviews was if no cell service is available, large app size.
      3. MyNature Animal Tracks.   Cost $6.99 with mixed reviews. Identifieds tracks and scat of 48 species.
      4. Backyard Scat & Tracks. Free. Identifies tracks and scat of 15 species. Paid version "Scat & Tracks of North America has more species.
      5. Soil Web for the iPhone
      6. Google Earth
      7. MotionX-GPS
      8. MilGPS Tactical GPS Navigation and Map. Cost is $7.99.
      9. GPS Compass for Ranger. Cost $1.99 with great reviews.
      10. Measure Your Land. Free. Received good reviews. Measures objects and distances on the ground.
      11. MyRadar Weather Radar. Free. Received good reviews. App displays animated weather radar around your current location, allowing you to see what weather is coming your way.
      12. Sunrise Sunset! By Brett Cato. Free app.