Buying recreational property in the time of COVID-19

Brett Anderson Preparing For Online Site Tour June 2020 Copy
The author, Brett Anderson, shows property lines and land ownership maps using his tablet while in the field during a virtual site visit with a prospective buyer.

By Brett Anderson

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to cause concerns around Minnesota, people looking to buy a recreational property this spring might wonder if they can safely go through the process right now.

Fortunately, the answer is yes. A sale of a recreational property is not a “high touch” process. Unlike buying a home, where you will want to tour the inside of the home, it’s possible to tour a recreational property without getting anywhere near another person. Also, recreational land brokers are taking steps to make the sales process safe, whether it’s by showing buyers photos and videos to reduce the need for as many in-person get-togethers, or by having meetings with buyers outside or through videoconferencing.

For many Minnesota outdoors enthusiasts, this is good news: It’s a popular time to buy a property, knowing you’ll be able to enjoy it this fall as temperatures are appealing and hunting seasons draw near.

With this in mind, here are five things to consider if you are thinking of buying a recreational property this spring, even as we all deal with the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Make use of technology to learn about a property before you ever set foot on it.

Experienced rural real estate land brokers have a wide variety of methods to show a property, such as property photos, drone videos, and mapping. It’s quite possible to narrow down your buying choices to one or two without stepping foot on any of the properties you are considering.

2. Meet your sales agent outdoors or via videoconference to start the process.

Many real estate sales offices have limited hours, restricted visitors or have closed for now, but that doesn’t mean the brokers and agents aren’t working. Make an appointment outdoors or through a videoconferencing tool like Zoom or Facetime, so you can let the agent know what you’re looking for in a property.

This is a critical step at the beginning of the process, so you don’t waste time looking at properties that don’t fit your needs. For example, if your main goal is to find a quality deer hunting property, make that clear to the agent and don’t bother with looking at properties that don’t fit.

3. When it’s time for an in-person tour, make arrangements to do it by yourself, if that makes you feel more comfortable.

In areas where there’s good cell phone reception, walk the property while talking to your agent, by video-chat if possible. And if that approach isn’t feasible, do a specific walking tour of the property, take detailed notes and talk to the agent afterwards. This can be every bit as helpful as actually walking the property with the agent.

Many brokers provide specific mapping and GPS coordinates on their websites. If you are able to have GPS mapping apps on your cell phone or GPS device, these will often bring you within feet of the mapping pins. We do encourage pre-loading the GPS map in case you arrive at the tract and don’t have cell service.

4. Don’t be concerned about whether a sale will close, because closings are continuing to occur.

Title companies are increasingly using electronic signatures, and even if trading paperwork is a necessity, it can be done in a way that’s safe for all involved.

5. Remember that rural property investments have tended to be less volatile than the stock market over time.

We are seeing increased interest in rural properties from buyers who are looking for a different option for some of their investment money. In past years, rural land values have tended to stay steady even when the stock market has gone through significant gyrations. And even better, unlike a stock certificate, you get to use your own property for recreation!

Before you know it, summer will be turning into fall, a great time to be outdoors in Minnesota. For people who want a home base of their own for these outdoor activities, it’s a good idea to start your property search process now, giving you plenty of time to find a property that’s perfect for you.

Brett Anderson is a land advisor with Brainerd, Minn.-based LandRadar.com by Close-Converse, a member of the PotlatchDeltic Preferred Broker Network, which sells properties in northern Minnesota. (866) 403-LAND (5263)

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