Make a List
5:20 AM – August 8, 2016
It’s “dark thirty” and so with coffee in hand I will attempt once again to draft something worthy of your time. If you have not noticed, my schedule has lacked consistency for the past week, but per our original agreement there are no promises on my delivery and as stated last week, it’s August and likely only two of the four readers are even paying attention.
In looking back into the Acreage Blog archives I found a piece written nearly two years ago and I will bring it back to life this morning. I like lists and I admit to being a “planner” and having met hundreds of folks who own and manage land, here is a good but likely not exhaustive list of steps to take in managing your land.
- Road or trail Assessment – A walk or buggy tour around your land will help you see what type of maintenance might be needed for downed trees on roads, or culverts that may have been damaged due to the spring and summer rains we have experienced. That 5 inches of rain a couple weeks ago was damaging as one of my friends had a 36″ pipe blow out and we all learned the term “Areal Flooding” (when rainfall occurs in short period of time and can lead to threat of life and property). Maintenance of roads on your land is one of the most important assets you have and keeping road systems in working order will be critical to your own use and enjoyment.
- Boundary Survey – When you buy or sell land knowing where boundaries are and their legal descriptions are significant. Many properties have almost ancient records on their boundaries and as property owners change around a piece of property or as management changes on adjacent lands, boundaries are sometimes mistakenly altered for new land uses. Over time these physical changes on the landscape can become difficult to correct on your property. Keeping accurate up to date surveys are important for understanding what your true taxable landmass is and an accurate survey is the only way to verify the assessment record. Clearly, there is practical financial reason and long term management benefit to documenting the boundaries of what you own.
- Forest Management Plan and Timber Appraisal – A forest management plan will assist in maintaining your agricultural land status for your forestland based property and it is important to verify it with your local assessment office to ensure this information is in place and your tax bill reflects this management status on the property. Evaluating the value of the timber on the property is also a valuable planning tool to have as you consider when to sell timber and take a return on your long term forest investments. Sound management of timber resources can be a strong part of any financial portfolio in mitigating against volatile swings in financial markets.
- Zoning Update and Regulations – Staying informed of current zoning laws and local regulations can be critical in maintaining long term value in your property. As land use laws evolve, regulations are clearly moving towards more restrictive patterns in land use. Having the opportunity to make decisions with your land based on these changes can only occur if you remain informed of local, state, and federal land use regulations.
- Conservation Plan – A plan can be developed by the local USDA office in your county and is a free service to landowners interested in learning about the myriad of conservation programs available for their land. The U.S. Farm Bill authorizes a wide array of incentive based programs focused on conserving soil health and natural resources on private land.
- Soil Data and Maps – The Natural Resource Conservation Service offers a free website where you can outline a given property and obtain accurate soil information and a range of descriptive resources on the characteristics of the soil on your property. Check out the website here.
- Tax Maps and Natural Resource Data Layers – A website called MD Merlin offers a unique set of information for property owners including tax maps, wetland maps, hi-resolution aerial imagery from 2007-2008, topographic maps, watershed boundaries and even political boundaries.
- Appraisal and Financial Records – When buying land the purchase price and initial appraisal are utilized for establishing the benchmark from which you measure future capital gains when a property is transferred. An accurate appraisal is important for tax purposes and maintaining strict financial records for costs and improvements to the property are critical in mitigating against future capital gains. The Land Group can help you here as well as we maintain land transactional data on a quarterly basis.
- Estate Plan – Establish a plan for conveying land to heirs in order to minimize tax consequences. This is critical to maintaining ownership for land which has long history in a family with potentially high capital gain consequences. A sound strategy established through your tax or financial advisor is important to the transfer of your land legacy. Review your options with your accountant or a certified financial planner to review the scope of options for you and your family.
- Insurance – Ensure insurance policies for current use and tenants on your land is adequate. Accidents happen and maintaining the proper type and amount of insurance could be invaluable if something unforeseen does occur. Specifically flood insurance on structures is important to review as many times flood maps can indicate incorrectly the threat to buildings on a property. This data is evolving as factors relating to sea level rise are being evaluated throughout coastal regions.
Let me know what I forgot to mention