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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.

    Owner Financing Maine Land

    If you are interested in buying Maine land with owner financing find some great land parcels at our listing page. Are you trying to sell your land? Maybe you should try financing your Maine land sale. Why should you consider this option? Because owner financing can help get your land sold faster and earn you more money. Here are a few reasons why and other things you should know.

    Most Banks Don't Offer Land Financing

    When a buyer for Maine land is looking for options to finance their purchase they usually start with the bank that holds their checking and savings accounts. In many cases, if the acreage of the parcel is larger than a simple house lot, the lender will not consider the loan. If they do interest rates may be high, or worse, the down payment requirement is not reasonable.

    Specialty property types such as Maine timberland investments, hunting/fishing/recreational land, larger waterfront land parcels, farmland and other large acreage properties can be difficult to secure financing for. In Maine there are traditional banks and credit unions that offer attractive terms for land. However, the average buyer looking to purchase land will not know who those lenders are and will often get frustrated with the search. They will naturally look for ways to make the process cheaper or less complicated.

    Buyers Prefer Owner Financing

    Many buyers prefer the ease and speed that owner financing allows them to purchase land, so they search land for sale with such offers. This gives the land owner who is offering financing terms competitive advantage over other sellers. Although owner financing interest rates are usually higher than a bank rate, the lower down payment requirements, fewer required fees and closing costs combined with a less hassle process are often preferred by potential land buyers.

    Amortization

    Not only does it help get your land sold faster, another good reason to finance your land is the interest you can earn. When your Maine land sells, what will you do with the proceeds? If you said "put it in a savings account" why? Unless you need the liquidity cash, your money could be working better for you with amortized payments for the land. The front end of an amortization is mostly interest. Even if the borrower pays off early, you will be assured to collect a return on your investment. Looking at all of the options out there, owner financing can be hard to beat.

    Less Risk than other investments

    If done properly, holding a first mortgage on your land is a safe position to be in. Should the buyer/borrower default on repayment, you will have the land as security. There will be costs to pay for the foreclosure action should the borrower default. To reduce your risk, require enough down payment to cover your legal expense of recovering the property.

    Things to consider

    How much down payment should you require? That depends on many factors. Among others these are a few: how much risk are you willing to take, the interest rate you will receive, the buyers qualifications and standing timber values that could be removed.

    The process for lending has become more complicated for the land owner than it was just a few years ago. The reason is the need to be in compliance of new federal regulations on lending. You will hear a lot of different opinions from lawyers, land owners, buyers and others about these regulations. We advise our clients to consult with legal counsel and private lending loan originators regarding owner financing to be sure that all legal documents, lending processes and disclosures are complete.

     

    How Snowmobile and ATV Trails Effect Maine Real Estate

    Why do you want to purchase a Maine log cabin or seasonal home for vacation with lots of land? Many buyers do for recreation opportunities. Acreage that fronts a local trail system or one of the statewide ITS snowmobile trails is appealing to many buyers who love outdoor power sports. ATV riders often enjoy rules in Maine that allow their machines to be operated on or along paved roads to access connecting trails.

    Are Trails an Easement?

    Riding the trails in Maine is a tradition that goes back nearly 100 years. Aside from a few state owned trails, snowmobile and ATV trails are on private land with land owner's permission. Keep this in mind while you are enjoying the ride and appreciating the views along the trail. The property owner has no obligation to allow this access. Large land companies allow this for public relations. Private individual landowners may allow access because they like to ride or just do so to help their neighbors enjoy Maine. All do this for free. You can help avoid losing this access by staying on the trails and practicing carry in carry out ethics.

    Trails Impact Market Value

    We are often asked if a trail on near a land listing has a positive or negative effect on the property's market value. The influence on value will be a positive if the majority of prospective buyers like snowmobiling and off road vehicle sports. A large segment of buyers do enjoy it and either live here or come to Maine for the extensive trail system. The trail can have a negative impact on value if it is poorly situated, too close to an existing home or camp and if it has damaged the property with deep ruts and litter left behind by irresponsible operators.

    Liability

    Another question that is often asked us by prospective buyers is "What liability will I have because a trail crosses or fronts my property?" The State of Maine has a landowner liability law also referred to as the recreational use statute. The law favors Maine landowners and protects them from suits brought by persons on your land for recreation and other uses.  According to the Maine.gov web page, there has not been a single reported successful case against a landowner where the Maine Landowner Liability law applied.

    Join a Club

    If you love power sports you need to join a snowmobile or ATV club or organization. These groups are organized by community leaders who help maintain trails, work to get landowner permission for the trails, organize rides, do community and charitable fund raising, maintain club houses for a place to stop or trailer to and so many other benefits not mentioned here. If you do not have time to participate, at least make the monetary contribution of membership. This money will help keep your favorite trails open.

    Finding Trail Maps

    Maps are not always easy to find. Local club membership will help make locating a map easier. Club membership also will introduce you to experienced riders who often will show you the trails. Many of Maine's recreational trails are in remote regions, for safety, try to ride with others in case of a breakdown. The Maine Snowmobile Association has an excellent trail map of Maine's ITS trails. See the links below to help understand Maine liability laws, locate trail maps and clubs for different regions of Maine.

    Maine Landowner Liability Information

    https://www1.maine.gov/IFW/aboutus/commissioners_office/OutdoorPartnersPgrm/landowner_liability_explained.htm

    Maine Snowmobile Association

    http://www.mesnow.com/

    ATV Maine

    http://www.atvmaine.org/

    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.

    Investing in Maine Timberland

    A friend asked me today if Maine timberland is a good investment. I think it is and invest in it myself.  For me, there are many reasons for doing so.

    I became interested in timberland because it has been a proven investment for many of my clients and other family members. I have witnessed well managed land provide periodic returns of stumpage while the land remained well stocked with trees for future harvest. As an investment, one of the key features of timber is the ability for the owner to leave trees on the stump to grow and move up to a more valuable product class. Unlike other crops, if markets are not good, trees can be left for a later harvest when markets improve.  Additionally, with a number of other potential uses, land values over time usually continue to rise.

     

    Managed Clear Cut

    Managed Clear Cut

     

    I would also credit forestland for helping to improve my mental health. Spending time in the forest I own has a relaxing effect on my mind.  Doing the physical work of timber stand improvement not only helps increase the value of my woodlot, I find it the perfect stress reliever as it lets me forget about the complications of our modern world.  Improving land of any kind gives me and most others I know a great feeling of accomplishment.

    As a hunter, owning timberland gives me the ability to help our local game animals by managing areas for them. New growth from a harvest provides a desirable food source and cover for many of our favorite species like ruffed grouse, woodcock, rabbit, whitetail deer and moose. Areas left heavily wooded will provide good winter cover for those same animals.

    The State of Maine gives a landowner a better chance at the any deer permit lottery. Any private landowner is eligible for the landowner permit drawing if the person owns a particular piece of land that is: 25 or more contiguous acres in size; is agricultural, forested or undeveloped land; and open to hunting, including hunting by permission. Any dependent living in the household of a qualifying landowner is eligible.

    Maine has another benefit for timberland owners. The tree growth tax program is a special tax status available for owners who agree to manage their lands the commercial harvest of the forest. This reduction in property tax is the reward for the landowner to properly care for the forest and provide the raw materials that support our forest products industry. The requirement to have a Maine licensed forester provide a management plan also ads value to the ownership.

    Timberland is a great asset that can provide you with cash returns, pride of ownership and recreational pastimes; it is also a potential legacy for your children and grandchildren. Properly managed forests have historically supplied generations of owners with all of the above.

    If you are interested in learning more about timberland investing, United Country Real Estate's timberland specialty property group has an informative free E Book written by Eric J. Holzmueller PhD.  Eric is a forester and one of United Country's many licensed foresters who are also land brokers. You can download the free book at http://investintimberland.com/

    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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      SELL LAND IN MAINE FOR SALE BY OWNER

      Why offer your Maine land for sale by owner? Most who consider this option will say "I want to save the commission that would be paid to a real estate agent or broker". So what do you need to know and do to sell your land yourself?

      THE PRICE IS RIGHT - RIGHT?

      Assuming you have a good idea of what you own, with good property boundaries, good title with insurance and legal access the first thing you need to do is establish a price for your land that will cause it to sell. Because there is no rule of thumb that will dependably set a price, you need to do a lot of research of sold properties and those land parcels for sale that your real estate will be competing with for buyers. This is critical for two very important reasons. First, you need to be sure that you do not underprice your property. Obviously if you do you will be leaving cash on the table. Second, and more important than the first, setting a price too far above market value will result in no sale at all or may cause you to sell below market value many months or years later. Accepting a less than market price after a longer time waiting for your cash, your losses may be hard to calculate.

      FINDING MONEY

      Next, you need to be prepared with ways for prospective buyers to get financing. Do you know what current requirements are for credit score, down payment and acceptable income to debt ratios that will satisfy conventional lenders? Call a few and see what the underwriting guidelines are. Are you going to offer owner financing? If so, what will your terms be? Do you have an attorney and loan originator ready to go with the legal documents and disclosures?

      CYA

      Do you have a Purchase and Sale Agreement ready to fill in when you locate the right buyer? If not, you need to see your attorney and get one drafted. Have you prepared disclosures about the land that will help limit future liability? These and other legal details should be covered before the property is shown or marketed.

      FSBO MARKETING

      Now that you have decided on an appropriate asking price, not too low not too high, you need to attract prospective buyers; hopefully lots of them. The amount of land out there for buyers to see is vast. How do you make your property stand out? Spend some money and invest some time. To reach buyers interested in your land you need to understand who you are marketing to and how to reach them. What are the minimum of things to do to get your property noticed?

      With nearly 95% of all buyers using the internet to locate property, you will need to build a web page or pay someone else to do it. Then you will need to buy space on sites that will get your webpage found. There are a number of webpages that do not charge for listings but most usually don't appear high in searches. Do not discount print advertising as some prospective buyers still look there. Which publications you should use depends on your target market. Also, have you put together an informative package of details, high quality photos, maps, disclosures etc. that buyers want to know and see. You need to do this because most buyers outside your immediate area will want those details before making a trip to look at your acreage.

      QUALIFYING - SHOWING - NEGOTIATING

      Now that you are getting emails and phone calls from prospective buyers; how do you separate qualified buyers from the unqualified? Ask a lot of questions. If you need to travel any distance to your property gasoline alone can eat into your bottom line. So showing your land to someone who is not ready, willing and able to buy should be avoided. Do they have a down payment, good credit? Are they ready to buy now or next year?

      Showing your land should be easy for you. Make a plan to show the property's best features. Be sure to bring a map and your compass.  On land of any substantial size you can get confused walking in the woods while talking with someone.  Getting lost in the Maine woods is a sure way of turning off a prospective buyer.

      It pays to make a plan and try to stick with it when negotiating a transaction. Decide what your bottom line is and stick with it. This decision should be made with the knowledge you gained while studying the market data mentioned earlier.

      WRITE THE OFFER - DISCLOSURES - ESCROW MANAGEMENT

      You had a successful showing and your customer wants the land. What's next? Fill in the purchase and sales agreement you got from your attorney. Enter the names, dates, price, terms, disclosures etc. Both of you sign it, get that deposit to seal the deal and consider letting your attorney keep it in his/her escrow account. Follow through with any due diligence items agreed to in negotiation. Finally close at the location both you and the buyer agreed to. Let an attorney or title company handle this to be sure all required tax forms are done. You don't want Uncle Sam or the state tax man looking for you and your buyer after a closing.

      IN CONCLUSION - WILL YOU SAVE MONEY

      If all of this seams overwhelming consider this. Why do buyers like to buy for sale by owner property? Why would they go to an owner who has just one property to offer them? They look directly with the owner because they hope to discount the price by the cost of a real estate brokerage commission or more.  Wait a minute, how is it possible for you and the buyer to both save on the commission?

      Unless you are a professional land dealer (often mistaken by buyers as a "for sale by owner") with multiple properties available and all systems above in place, you are going to pay a real estate commission. The real question is do you want to pay it to the buyer of your property, or to a professional land broker who will take care of all the above items, takes the risk of paying the cost of all or most of the marketing expenses, and not get paid unless and until the land is sold?