Seasons – Winter 2014
From the Plateau Land & Wildlife Management Team,
Today it’s officially winter and we are all getting in the holiday spirit. This time of year is full of joy, relaxation, and celebrations. We are very happy to celebrate another year because we have quite a bit to be grateful for.
For one, we work at one of the best companies in the world. This company allows us to do what we love, which is consistently helping landowners enjoy their legacy. The holiday season is also a time for evaluation of our successes and failures- a time of looking back, and forward too. Here at Plateau, we encourage you to include your land and wildlife management in this review process and to share with us your challenges and successes of 2014.
So, as you tie your final ribbons on gifts and reflect on the closing of another year, be sure to add Plateau to your list of those things you did right this year- because an investment in the enjoyment of your land and the heritage of land ownership is something that will be around for many more years to come.
Happy holidays to you and yours.
Table of Contents
Announcing: Plateau Seminars and Webinars this Winter
Adventures in Wildlife Management: Service Agreements
“What Happens If…”: Estate Planning for Landowners
Just Some Thoughts from a Guy in Wildlife Management
Staging a Rural Property For Sale
Announcing: Plateau Seminars and Webinars this Winter
Wildlife Management Seminars
Every winter, Plateau Account Managers travel around the great state of Texas to educate folks about the many benefits of Wildlife Management Tax Valuation (WMV). These seminars are free and open to anyone interested in learning more about WMV. During each seminar, Plateau Account Managers, will cover:
- An overview of Wildlife Management Tax Valuation (“Wildlife Exemption”)
- The 7 wildlife management activity categories
- Traditional Ag vs. Wildlife…is it right for you?
- State & county requirements
- Concrete answers to concerns that plague many landowners
- How Plateau can help
Though some of you may already be under a WMV, these seminars will also benefit you, and anyone who owns rural land in Texas, including those who are currently in Ag.
To learn more about dates, times and locations of these seminars, visit our web page.Back to TopBack to Top
Adventures in Wildlife Management: Service Agreements
By Kameron Bain, Business Development Manager for Plateau Land & Wildlife Management
Wow, another year at Plateau has flown by. This year has been full of new adventures and many lessons learned. I am so amazed how year after year my knowledge of not only the wildlife management valuation but of land and wildlife in general keeps growing. I always thought I had to leave the Plateau office to find adventure, but over the past few months I went on adventures with many members of my team without leaving the cool, and just recently warm, comfort of the office.
As over 200 of Plateau landowners know when the air starts to cool and pumpkins begin to be replaced by wreaths and bright lights, Service Agreement proposals start hitting the email boxes. While it may seem to just suddenly appear like an unexpected surprise, there is a lot of planning and research that goes on behind the scenes. Plateau Service Agreements are annual contracts that assist landowners in fulfilling the goals of their wildlife management plan as well as other property goals or interest of individual landowners.
Agreements can include everything from Annual Reports to feeder refills, bird surveys to consulting time with your biologist so you can learn more about your property. I personally love service agreements. It is in my nature to make lists and spreadsheets and to plan and organize. I love seeing all the activities lined out so the landowner can view what will be done over the coming year.
The adventure all started back in September when the Plateau biology team reviewed the 2014 agreements and offered recommendations on changes, additions or input they received from the landowner.
By November, it was time to build the agreements. I could not have done this part without my service agreement partner in crime, Steve Parker. Steve is Plateau’s Products and Services Manager who is committed to giving each landowner exceptional client service. Hours upon hours were spent pouring over client history to make sure all bases had been covered to guarantee that each individual client was in compliance with the wildlife management guidelines. Log sheets for 2014 were reviewed to check on missing nest boxes, and products and services suggestions made by our awesome wildlife services technicians. Slowly, we put all the pieces together to build each agreement, sometimes with multiple reviews by the biologist or account manager.
With the change of seasons this December, almost all of our 2014 Wildlife Management Service Agreements are in the client’s hands. Now the fun can begin when I can interact with the clients, discuss their property and look forward to a new year.
Until next Seasons and next service agreement season, have a Happy Holiday!Back to TopBack to Top
“What Happens If…”: Estate Planning for Landowners
Your land is one of the most valuable assets you own. Most landowners spend significant time and resources managing and protecting their land, including implementing Wildlife Management Planning to reduce their property tax burden. However, there are other legal steps for conscientious landowners to consider to further protect their property. This article presents some basic information about estate planning, especially for those who own rural land.
Here is the first issue every landowner should consider.
What happens if I become mentally disabled?
Paradoxically, with better health care many more people are encountering problems with mental disability, perhaps due to an accident, stroke, or dementia. If you become mentally disabled and cannot manage your affairs, how do you want to be cared for, and who is to make the many difficult decisions for you? Who will manage your property? What instructions can you give them to make their job easier and more successful in this stressful situation?
The horror stories in the news about the probate process or end-of-life decision-making usually involve people who did not plan their affairs. These people have an estate plan which can be called the “No Plan” estate plan.
If you do not take responsibility for yourself, your loved ones and your assets, then the State and Federal governments step in to answer these questions for you. If you do not plan your estate, the government has a ready-made, expensive, one-size-fits-all estate plan prepared for you which controls you and your property in the event you become mentally disabled. The government plan includes the federal and state laws and court cases regarding: conservatorships and guardianships to appoint someone to care for you and your property if you become incapacitated, statutes, case law and court proceedings governing end-of-life decision-making if you have not made your wishes known.
This “No Plan” estate plan is the most expensive plan for you and your loved ones, and usually produces the most disastrous results.
The Answers to This Question!
The good news is that it is relatively easy to implement a comprehensive estate plan to protect you and your property in the event of mental disability. To address the issue of planning for mental disability, your plan may include some of the following:
- Durable Power of Attorney for Financial and Real Estate Matters, including the necessary Certificates and Affidavits;
- Medical Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decision-Making;
- Pre-Need Declaration of Guardian for you;
- Designation of Guardian for minor children; and
- Living Will, or Directive to Physician and Family.
If you have these types of documents, and have named a family member, friend or trusted advisor to act on your behalf in the event of mental disability, you will likely avoid costly legal wrangling. Certain assets, such as a ranch or farm, or a small business, may require special planning strategies, including added instructions to deal with special problems involved with owning and managing these assets in the event of your disability.
Seek Competent Help.
For the peace of mind that comprehensive estate planning can bring, seek competent help. Thomas Hall, Senior Attorney and Attorney Margaret Menicucci at our sister company, Braun & Gresham, PLLC, are highly experienced estate planning attorneys. They can discuss your specific concerns and goals. Visit their website at www.braungresham.com for more information, or call (512) 894-5426 to speak with Thomas or Margaret personally about your vision for the future of your family and your land.
Just Some Thoughts from a Guy in Wildlife Management…
By Tim Milligan, Director of Sales
I’ve spent the better part of this year looking for ways that Plateau can help every landowner get more out of their wildlife management. More enjoyment, more flexibility, more results, more security and more vision for the future. It’s not something we think about all the time, but being in wildlife management provides benefits and opportunities that we did not have when we were in traditional Ag. I’m able to take steps now that impact the legacy I leave, and I can see some of those results. That’s pretty cool.
As I try to get my head around all that I want to do on my land I start thinking about how I am different now than I was when my property was in Ag. How I look at my property differently and have higher expectations for the future of my land. I’ve gone from performing certain activities like feeding cows and shredding fields out of necessity to other activities like predator control and invasive plant management out of a desire to see my land reach its full potential. I’ve gone from visiting the property to take care of livestock and fences and then leaving, to not wanting to leave when my day’s work of treating mesquite or building check dams is done. A change has definitely taken place. I’ve gone from ownership, to stewardship.
That word “stewardship” used to scare me. I thought it was something meant only for those who knew more than I did about the land. Who was I to consider myself a “steward of the land?” How could I ever attain so lofty a title? Then I realized, being a steward is less about what I know and more about what is in my heart, what I want to see, what I desire for my land, and most importantly what I choose to do with that desire. I did not care this much about my land when my land was being grazed. Not because I didn’t think the land was valuable and a legacy for my family, but because I didn’t see any where that I could make a difference. Now I see opportunities all around me and I kind of like thinking of myself as a “steward”.
In case you also feel like the idea of being a steward of the land is beyond your reach, here are a few examples of what I consider good stewardship that I have witnessed in the last year.
- Thinned mesquite in a terribly overgrown area that was basically choked off by this invasive species. I did this with my kids and got to explain to them why we were leaving some mesquites for structure rather than clearing all without any thought about the end result. Half-cut some of those mesquites and had a great conversation with another landowner about how I knew that would not kill them, and that was the point. We all learned something.
- Sat in a pop-up blind with my daughter and documented various species of wildlife that happened by a baited area. We laughed hard when a hawk landed on the blind and I fell out of my seat. We talked about the health of the animals we saw and what we thought that might mean about the health of the property.
- Checked nest boxes with my kids before and after breeding season. We found a lot of evidence of activity in these, and a bunch of fledglings! I was able to explain to my children that it was okay to pick up the baby birds that hopped out of one nest box onto the ground, and pick them up and put them back in, they’ll be fine.
- Disced part of a pasture and raked in some native grass seed. We went back to check on it and watched its progress much like you would a garden. We placed some of the same seed in a pot at the house so we could identify what we saw growing in the field. It’s just a few strips for now, but it’s a start.
- Set the kids out on a fire ant Easter
- egg hunt with fire ant bait and cameras in hand. Whoever got the most pictures, was able to choose where we ate on the way home. If one of my kids got video of ants taking bait into a mound, that was considered a bonus and got to pick dessert.
As you can probably see, none of this took any special skill or even knowledge to accomplish, and this is just a piece of the fun we had on our place this year. It is not grand scale and it may not even be particularly meaningful to anyone other than me and my family, but steward we were. And stewards we will continue be, until the cows come home. And that’ll be a while.
If any of this still seems out of reach know that Plateau Land & Wildlife is here to help you. I knew very little about what was possible on my property until I became involved with Plateau. I learned quickly that what seemed impossible was well within reach with a little creativity and planning. The folks here are well equipped to help you make the turn from ownership to stewardship. Watching and helping a property recover and knowing you had even a small part in that, is one of the greatest rewards of being in Wildlife Management. I wish you all good fortune and good stewardship in the New Year.Back to TopBack to Top
Staging a Rural Property For Sale
By Craig Bowen, Managing Partner of Plateau Land Group
What is the second thing a residential real estate agent does after he or she gets a listing? Advertise. The property is photographed, put into brochures, flyers are made and emailed to thousands of people, and the property description included on countless websites. Potential buyers can access it online, on mobile devices, through word of mouth, and on cork boards all over town. And when a potential buyer goes to look at the listed property, it is spotless – the kitchen is sparse and elegant, the great room is inviting, the office looks studious, the beds are pristine, and the yard is immaculate.
Oh, the first thing? The agent has the property cleaned and staged.
Staging. Most real estate agents, even rural guys and gals, know what staging is and probably some of the tips on how to stage effectively. Why, then, is it so uncommon for rural property owners and listing agents to stage the rural land they are trying to sell? I doubt there is a way to quantify this fact, but I submit to you that there are more rural properties on the market that have zero make-ready work done to them than properties that have had some type of staging. Like I said, most of us know how to stage a house. How do we go about staging an entire ranch?
First impressions matter, so make an entrance. If the first thing a prospective buyer sees is a run-down gate with too much space along the posts and a rusty lock, I believe they immediately form an opinion about the property. Real estate agents try to shield them with words like “quaint” and “utilitarian,” but really, these eyesores can be remedied at reasonable costs, and with no additional labor than most brokers have at their disposal.
The showing route on a rural property is paramount and can lead to various other staging issues along its route. The route itself, though, should be free of rough patches. Imagine yourself a buyer thinking of spending a million or ten million on a property, and then being bounced around for an hour or two trying to justify your expenditure. It makes no sense at all not to put a qualified buyer through this when a week of road work only costs around five thousand dollars – it can literally make the difference to a buyer not accustomed to rough ranch roads!
Invasive brush is probably the most common large-scale defect of most rural properties, particularly in the Edwards Plateau and greater Hill Country. Consistent historical overgrazing has exacerbated already bad Ashe juniper and prickly pear problems caused by fire suppression and fragmentation, and most landowners do not have an actionable brush management plan. Controlling brush around the showing route and other main attractions like ponds, hunting locations, scenic overlooks, large, visible hardwood trees, and other key areas can really bolster the way a property shows. If he property has great views, do a little chainsaw or skid steer work to enhance these views by taking out less desirable trees and brush which may be obstructing a multi-million dollar view.
The way the pastures look on a rural property is important to most prospective buyers. Green grass and wildflowers sell property. An easy way to ensure the pastures look good on a ranch is to remove or reduce the livestock herd. This allows the property to take advantage of spring rains, heal a little from historical grazing, and put forth its best face to prospective buyers. If tax considerations are an issue, it is wise to file for a rest period with your county appraisal district, which can usually be done 2 out of any 7-year period. If there is a lucrative grass lease involved, talk to the seller and the lessee to work out a rotational grazing program or a rest period during key months (April – June) to ensure there is at least some fresh, green growth in the pastures. Another side effect of rest from livestock is that all those muddy ponds are likely to clear up with the absence of hoof action, and will photograph and show much better.
If the property has good hunting and wildlife potential, either leave current corn and protein feeders operational and full, or invest some money in new corn feeders and put them in appropriate areas around the property. These feeders will attract wildlife, and encourage the wildlife using the property to move around and potentially be seen more often than if they were not coming to artificial feed. An agent can also feed roads using a tailgate feeder (or a bag of corn hanging out the window) prior to a showing to attract birds, deer, and small mammals to the roads so they can be observed by a potential buyer. When feeding roads, make sure the attractant is thrown to the side of the road or between the ruts so the buyer is not looking at a trail of corn during the entire showing. Bird seed, chicken scratch, protein pellets, and standard deer corn are all good attractant choices for feeding roads. The positive effects of seeing wildlife during a showing cannot be overestimated or overstressed – most buyers today are buying for recreation, and most of the time that recreation centers around nature, so show them some nature!
Barns and working pens are a great addition to rural properties. Working pens show the prospective buyer that they are buying a “ranch,” and there is likely some good history to talk about with them. Barns offer places to store equipment, and when in good shape, add overall value to the property. However, these locations tend to accumulate junk, turning what should be an attractive feature into a blemish. Spend a day to clean up around these areas – rusty pipes, rotten wood, old trash, vehicles, and other items should all be cleared away. If there are troughs in the working pens and electricity at the barn, make sure these items are functional. Flipping on the lights in the barn and walking around looking at clean, full water troughs is a lot easier than explaining to a buyer that you are sorry for the mess, and can get that cleaned up later if needed.
If there are water wells on the property, know how many there are, their depths, their locations, and ensure that they are functional and look good. A “well house” or covering or a water well is a valuable addition and assures the buyer the well has been taken care of. If there is a windmill which needs reasonable repairs, make sure they get done – a working windmill is attractive to buyers, and solidifies the fact that they are buying a piece of Texas.
If minerals are part of the sale, it is imperative the listing agent is informed about the mineral ownership of the property, and what is available for purchase. Running a mineral title is not easy or cheap in some cases, but a lot of savvy buyers will not make an offer until this step is complete. Besides that, it makes the listing agent and the seller look ignorant to have to say, “Well, we don’t know exactly what’s owned, but we are conveying half at the asking price.” That type of information is not acceptable, does nothing for either side, and certainly does not help sell the property.
If there is a home on the property, pay special attention to the area surrounding the house. Rural buyers are buying land first, and a home, if it exists, second. The yard, outdoor kitchen, garage or carport, dog pens, and landscaping should all be kept as if someone was living on the property. Stage the interior of the home just as you would if it was in a suburb – clean, de-clutter, smooth out any over-personalized touches, and repair any obvious cosmetic or mechanical defects.
It is important to note that a listing agent is concerned with the maximum net amount from the sale, and many expensive improvements may not be warranted. However, helping a buyer visualize the potential of the property and its features will increase their likelihood of making an offer near asking price. Spending 1-5% of the asking price should be an acceptable risk for most sellers, especially if the listing agent educates them about what the end goal of each project is, and that the projects are part of the marketing costs to sell the property.
It does not matter whether you are selling a gentleman’s ranch with a valuable home, or a sprawling working cattle ranch, a little work towards making the property appealing can seal the deal for an educated buyer. The listed property is the product, so do not get caught in the trap that rural real estate products do not have to be shiny and look new – they do, and the better a rural property is staged, the better it will sell.Back to TopBack to Top