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Any other permie realtors out there?

 
Posts: 9
Location: Northeast Arkansas
dog forest garden homestead
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Hi there my name is Cathy and I'm a real estate agent in Northeast Arkansas.  My family and I have been practicing permaculture for about 8 years and 2 years ago we bought an old house with a large yard in the center of town and are working on our urban homestead-in-progress.  I am new to real estate and interested in building a business that helps permies and other homesteaders buy and sell the kind of properties they are interested in.  I know I have been through a fair share of frustration myself dealing with realtors who just didn't "get it" and know how to search/market properties suitable for permaculture.  So are there any other permie realtors here?  Looking to connect with like minded folks.  
 
pollinator
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Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9-10, 60" rain/yr,
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I hope there are, we need more realtors like you!
 
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Hi Cathy! Welcome to Permies!!
Oooh, I wish I could have found you when we were property shopping! Tried to think of how to find an agent I'd like, so I went to Chamber of Commerce in the biggest town in my search radius, and said "I need a real estate agent, do you know any female agents who homeschool their kids and sell brown eggs on the side?" They didn't, the best the lady could suggest is a very nice lady, who didn't know the difference between rocks and good dirt. Basically we found our own, and she did the paperwork, which she did well.

There IS a niche for you! I hope you do well :)

:D
 
Posts: 34
Location: Cache Valley, Northern Utah (zone 6a, 4,900 elevation)
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Welcome Cathy!
We Permie-Folks finally have a centralized place to search and talk with each other about properties for sale, as well as to list Permaculture Properties.
We just launched The Permaculture Properties Project which lists properties of interest to permies. (I am not a real estate agent. This is a not-for-profit project).
It covers the US at this point. We will link an additional page w/raw land offerings soon.
See link here: https://padlet.com/jmwallacephd/ppp
Anyone can post properties of interest. Just double click and add (moderator will approve).
If you visit a property, you can share comment or notes about the site.
 
master pollinator
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I think this is a great first step.

One of the biggest problems I see in Real Estate Sales is that it is so much a numbers game, that real estate has to fit a very generic profile so that it appeals to the masses. Any deviation from the normal, and it tumbles in price and potential sales. That is too bad.

Here is an example of what I mean. I have quite a bit of land, and yet there is 10 acres that we won in a water rights dispute back in the 1860's. Its a nice retangular 10 acres piece that juts off from the rest of the land. I can use it for farming of course, but it makes an ideal spot to break off from the main farm due to it being only 10 acres of land, and being off to the side. Its got a nice road going to it, a nice view, and I would add fencing, a barn and a house. Yet there is NO WAY you could ever get electricity from the grid to it because it is 1.5 miles from the closest power pole.

Now in the regular real estate market, it has a limited price and appeal because it is off-grid, yet for many Permie People and Homesteaders, 10 acres off the beaten path, with land clearing, a barn, a house, long road, and fencing done (the really hard work already being accomplished in other words), has real appeal. The fact that it is off-grid is only so much better. But how do you find a buyer?

This is a great first step in that endeavor, because it gets like-minded buyers and sellers together. It is a real need.





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10 Acre Homestead I Might Someday Sell
 
Cathy Guidry
Posts: 9
Location: Northeast Arkansas
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Thanks for the great feedback!  Pearl, Jeanne and Travis you all bring up great points that are getting my wheels turning....  It's becoming clear to me that the first step for me is optimizing my website so that other permies can find me through easily searchable keywords (permaculture, homesteading, etc.).  And then inputting listings with the appropriate keywords that signal permies that they are working with a permaculture-minded seller.  People are increasingly doing their property searches online and then only calling agents when they actually want to tour a property and do a transaction, so it seems that having a web marketing strategy that targets other permies would be optimal for a parcel like your 10 acres Travis...to the average buyer it looks like a problem but to a permie it's a dream, and it needs to be marketed in a way that helps your buyer find the needle in the haystack.  Some people would probably love to be off the electrical grid, it's just a matter of finding them.  I am also noticing that most of the listings I see are for rural properties...which is great, but after 3 years of trying to make a go of it in rural VT with a young child and having gone through some medical issues, my husband and I decided that the small-to-medium sized town was the right fit for us at our age (50-60 with a teenager), and moved to a city of about 70,000 in NE Arkansas, we are surrounded by rice and cotton farmers but there are a couple of decent hospitals and a university here, this is the only town of any size in our region and it's nice because it is not too big but we're not driving an hour to see a doctor or attend a dance class.  We purchased a 1930s cottage fixer-upper with a large lot in an older part of town that is beginning to have a resurgence, and are turning it into an urban homestead.  We found that a lot of families "hit the wall" with rural living when their kids became school aged and moved closer to towns for the educational opportunities and access to jobs that earned currency (which they found was still necessary despite their increased self-sufficiency).  The high cost of new construction and the scarcity of builders who have any clue about sound ecological design is also causing a lot of families with kids to reconsider retrofitting an already constructed home and yard to be more self-sustaining and beneficial to the overall ecosystem.  So I'm seeing a market with urban homesteaders in areas without HOAs that already have infrastructure installed, are walkable and have larger lots with the possibility for gardens.  Are you aware of the Strong Towns movement?  I am really geeking out on their content lately, lots of great information.  What I really want to do as an agent is help other permies find the scale/setting for permaculture that works for them individually, for some that's a farm or homestead away from town, for others it's transforming a town environment into a more ecologically sound system.  Thanks for listening to my brainstorming out loud....
 
Cathy Guidry
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Location: Northeast Arkansas
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Here's the Strong Towns link https://www.strongtowns.org/
 
Travis Johnson
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Cathy, I am frustrated too, and for good reason.

To try and connect homestead and farm buyers, with sellers, Maine has something called the Maine Farm Link, but I think it is a huge scam.

For buyers, they place themselves on a list, and when they get matched up with a seller, all would seem well. The problem is the number of people selling their farms is very few compared to the many people who have the interest in buying a farm or homestead, so they are on this list, for years, and years, and years. And of course, have to repay their annual fee to be there. Should they not pay, they get taken off the list, but if they choose to be added again, they are put to the back of the line. In the meantime, they put out a nice glossy quarterly newsletter showing the one or two farm links they make a year and make people with the dream of having a farm someday, think the whole thing is lollipops and roses.

For the seller it is a scam because the service is billed as “a forever farm”, so the programs actively goes out and sells their service as ensuring the farm remains a farm by taking away the right to development. Of course, if you read the fine print, this applies only to others, the Forever Farm People have the right to sell off small house lots…not exactly what they are telling the sellers who are signing up. Not exactly “Forever-Farm”. This affects the buyer because the group that does this “forever farm” nonsense gets a annual fee for this “Service”. Which pretty much means whoever buys within forever-farm or farm-link has to pay annually to have one of their land rights taken away…but not to the people they are paying the fee too. Now they can sell off development lots at any time.

If this seems quasi-legal, I will not get in politics here, but it was developed by a former Maine House Majority Leader when he was in office.

(Truncated for readability…and will continue)
 
Travis Johnson
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So, then there is selling a Homestead or Farm on your own. This too can be frustrating as there seems to be a major stigma to doing so. Some of that seems to be with buyers who instantly think there is something wrong with the place, or that the homeowner just wants to get as much as they can and not have to pay the real estate agent.

We had a real estate agent come to our house when we were selling it on our own, from a potential buyer who had found it on Zillow on her own. Yet she made it very clear she was NOT happy about the situation. She was very confrontational, telling us that we were breaking the law by not have a disclosure form. I did some research and found that she was lying. In Maine, a person does have to have a disclosure, but it does not need to be handed out to everyone, it only has to be disclosed to someone who gives the buyer an offer, that way if there is something that is wrong with the house they can back out of the deal. That is understandable, but there are a lot of tire-kickers out there, who have no real interest in the house…or could ever buy the house…so they should not get a history of the house.

There is nothing wrong with our home, so I have nothing to hide, but it really angered me to be accused of breaking the law, when the Realtor knew otherwise, and was just using something we did not have to discourage the sale.

Sadly, it discouraged us because it was apparent, without getting a Realtor, any potential buyer who did have a Realtor would be discouraged in buying a Homestead of Farm For Sale By Owner’s.

So then the frustration began, we got a Realtor and the next day a potential buyer approached us who had found it on Zillow. He was incensed that we had a Realtor because he had just been screwed over by one. He wanted to deal with For Sale By Owner’s!

That sale looks pretty promising, but now we are paying a real estate agent when we have done all the work.

(Truncated for readability…and will continue)
 
Travis Johnson
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But for you specifically, trying to sell Homesteads and Permaculture Farms Only, you will have a real difficult time figuring out pricing, and this is my most frustrating part about real estate.

An outbuilding is an outbuilding, is an outbuilding. It does not really matter if it is a super nice insulated barn, or a lean too…they are assigned the same square footage price because it is “non-living space”. And items such as fences. My Real Estate Agent calls our 48 inch woven wire fence “convenient to a buyer”. Really? It took me three weeks to put up and cost $47,000…and it is merely “convenient?”

It just seems to me that there is just this huge injustice. A home is based up price, and so I have no issue with the price of my home, because it is what it is, but I think how ALL properties are valued is really messed up! I mean really messed up.

And I do not think buyers are to blame on that. Sure, they want a good deal, but many understand how much time and effort it takes to build houses, build barns, clear forest into field, build fences, and increase flock sizes. But I know many sellers, and buyers too, have had their dreams dashed when a Farm or Homestead appraisal comes back low because none of the things that really truly matter to a homesteader, farmer or permiculturist are given a value…not given a proper value mind you…but even assigned a value. Most times it is considered a negative reflection in value!

That all boils down to a great travesty. Whomever invested in these unique elements in sweat equity or financial investment, are glossed over. I mean $47,000 in sheep fencing…a person could buy a new vehicle in what I have invested in wire and fence posts, and it is not even reflected in the homes price! Yet because it is not given a value, it is unfinanceable.

What often happens is, a buyer loves a place because it has nice soil, fencing and a barn where they will spend 70% of their time, but because a place might not have a modernized kitchen or bathroom, what really matters like the barn, fencing and soil, is devalued, and what does not really matter like the kitchen further devalues the place, so that no financing can be obtained. The seller and buyer thus lose to a rather stupid system of evaluation.

If the financing world can get beyond that, a new system would start where people would be moving into houses they want to go to, and not merely accepting the places they can currently get funded for. You can never beat passion, NEVER! So not only would communities be stronger, but more food would be produced, and people would be happier over all instead of being stuck in places a bank determines they must live at.
 
Cathy Guidry
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Location: Northeast Arkansas
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Thank you thank you thank you Travis for all this information.  I am so sorry you had a horrible experience with an unethical realtor...that is NOT how it's supposed to be!  And yes, I totally get everything you are saying about the difficulty in pricing a property, and the problems with lenders and appraisals.  Here in AR you cannot get an FHA loan for a property with peeling paint.  The paint has to be fixed before the loan can happen.  Now think about how many properties there are that are older, might make perfect permaculture retrofits (urban or rural) but that have peeling paint and a seller who maybe can't afford to fix all that, and the buyer can't get the loan until it's fixed...it's nuts.  I appreciate your taking the time to write all of this because it helps me learn how to better serve sellers like you and the kind of buyer you're looking for.  I have kind of realized that as Bill Mollison said, "if there's something you want to happen in your community and it isn't happening, someone is going to have to get off their arse and make it happen and it's probably going to be YOU!"  So I'm taking up that challenge!  I'm also starting a Financial Peace University class at our church to help people get away from having to use the banking system to purchase property.  My husband and I got debt-free 10 years ago and now we are mortgage-free (it's old, it's got peeling paint, it needs work, but it's ours and has a big yard for gardens!) and I am just shocked by how crazy the mortgage system is in this country.  I was shocked to learn that 97% of the mortgage loans in this country are government-backed, not conventional.  That means a lot of people can't even scrape together a 20% down payment and their home is 100% financed, and they are at the mercy of appraisers in the purchase process.  It's nuts.  If people could begin to detach from the need for so much financing, they would have more freedom about what they could buy.  So many invisible structures to change....
 
Travis Johnson
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Cathy Guidry wrote:I'm also starting a Financial Peace University class at our church to help people get away from having to use the banking system to purchase property.  My husband and I got debt-free 10 years ago and now we are mortgage-free (it's old, it's got peeling paint, it needs work, but it's ours and has a big yard for gardens!) and I am just shocked by how crazy the mortgage system is in this country.



Good for you!

Katie and I just got done doing Financial Peace University ourselves, which is the whole reason we decided to sell. We have too many houses as is (three), so we opted to sell two of them. You said you were from VT which is interesting becaue the other house we have is in New Hampshire, but on the border with Vermont. (Near Woodsville/Wells River).

Our church continuously does Financial Peace University, but Katie and I are hoping our house sells before the next class starts because we want to donate $2000 to the class. $500 we want to go to advertising so that others outside the church will hear about it, and take the class so they can handle money better...and be DEBT FREE. The other $1500 we want to go to participants that take the class, and at the end, a name is drawn from a hat and they can use the money to help further pay off their debt. That is how much Katie and enjoyed Financial Peace University, believe in the Dave Ramsey System, and show how much we believe debt is hurting this country.
 
Travis Johnson
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I was told that another problem today is that homebuyers are just not as house savvy as they used to be. By that I mean, they are just not skilled with a hammer and saw, and so now lenders are very afraid to lend money to anyone if the house needs work. Like you said, if the seller is being prodded to sell, but lacks the money to sink into the house to pay for the repairs, then both buyer and seller lose out. Both buyer and seller!

But I had a 16 year old child (not mine) say his family, "we use our brains, not their hands", and refuses to do anything around the house. That is really too bad because it means that teenager will spend hard earned money for the rest of his life paying others to do what he cannot do himself. THAT IS AN EXPENSIVE way to live.

Another loss is the character and history of the town. More perfectly good old houses have been destroyed here simply because the house was unfinanceable, until the local Fire Department burned it down and the land was sold as raw land. Here in Maine, it is almost an old house epidemic.

I have always said, financial institutions are realling holding this country hostage, and it is like the whole country is stricken with the Stockholm Syndrome.

But how does a realator convey peace of mind aboout a home...like in my case, that right close by I have tractors, equipment, and knowhow so that when the homesteader wants to spend a weekend away for their anniversary or something, I am right there to feed their animals so they can get away. It is hard to reassure people I will never get in their business, yet at the same time, there is a lot of freedom and peace of mind knowing a person can be trusted with your livestock if the need arises. You just cannot put that down in a listing though, but that has a lot of appeal...especially if you have ever had animals and have been unable to get away due to their care. Having someone you can trust to take care of your animals, is HUGE.
 
Cathy Guidry
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Location: Northeast Arkansas
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Travis that is so spot on about neighbors being part of the value of the property (for better or worse), especially in small towns or rural areas where you must rely on each other a lot.  We heard so many stories, good bad and ugly about neighbor experiences when we were attempting to settle down (ultimately unsuccessfully) in VT, and that is something that you can't put in a listing, but a realtor can discuss with their clients.  It's our job to provide the human touch and look out for our clients interest in a transaction, no matter how internet-based the business becomes.   We lived in the Mad River Valley for 2 years and then moved to Brattleboro/Putney area for a year.  Loved many things about VT but ultimately it was not workable for us for a variety of reasons.  Glad to find some other permies into Financial Peace out there!  
 
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