Using a Buyer’s Agent & Getting the Land

When we returned to Charlotte, we began looking online for land for sale. A very, very helpful site that we found was www.sue2.com. Unlike many other realtors’ sites, you can search for houses or vacant land here, and you can also put in the amount of land that you want. By doing this, we found a subdivision in Clermont with lots ranging from 1 to 20+ acres. However, the largest buildable lot was approximately 4 acres large. That meant that most lots in this community had a portion of their land set aside for conservation. The owners couldn’t clear cut the land. The animals would retain at least some of their habitat, despite the intrusion of this subdivision. To us, it looked like a win-win situation.

However…

The prices were a bit high. At the time we were looking to buy, July 2005, there were 2 lots for sale. One was 1.01 acres, and the asking price was $139,000. The other was 3.7 acres, all buildable, and the asking price was $175,000. We thought these prices were a bit high, especially for lots that the owners had purchased 1-2 years ago for around $30-40K.  Oh, to have been in on that investment: a $100K return in a matter of 2 years!  Most of the owners/investors lived up north, in Massachusetts, New York, etc., and were just hanging onto the land, waiting to flip it for this fat profit.
So we hired a buyer’s agent to help us negotiate. This was our very best decision so far. We loved the buyer’s agent that we used. Unlike a realtor, who is legally obligated primarily to the seller, not the buyer, the buyer’s agent was only obligated to us. Additionally, the buyer’s agent’s fee is paid by the seller; in Florida, 6% of the sale is commission to the realtor, paid buy the seller. However, if a buyer’s agent is involved in the sale, 1/2 of the commission goes to the realtor and 1/2 of the commission goes to the buyer’s agent. We ended up with someone who worked entirely for us, because her office didn’t accept listings, and who was paid by splitting the seller’s agent’s commission.

The buyer’s agent that we used was Joie Lane at Buyer’s Real Estate in Orlando (www.orlandobuyersagent.com). She was amazing, and so thorough in guiding us through the perils of land purchase. Her first task for us was to contact the seller of the smaller piece of land, the $139K piece. She found out that he was inflexible on price; he was not in a hurry to sell, and he said flatly that he wouldn’t even consider a lower offer.

My husband then had the great idea to pull up on the Lake County Property Appraiser’s website (www.lakecopropappr.com) and look for potential flippers. He ran a search for people who had owned properties in this community for a least a year, and who hadn’t begun construction yet. The website gave the names & addresses of the owners, so all we had to do was look them up on http://www.bigbook.com and then began the tedious process of calling each owner. We found several people who were willing to sell, and finally chose to purchase a 3 acre lot (1 buildable, 2 conservation) from a couple whose asking price was better than anything on the market, so we accepted without hesitation. The only problem with buying directly from the owner was that, since they hadn’t hired a seller’s agent, there was no commission for the buyer’s agent to split. Joie had been so useful, though, that we decided to hire her directly, with a 3% commission from our land. It was one of the best decisions we’ve made throughout the process, and we don’t begrudge the money spent at all.

Joie steered us through the entire process, screening surveyors and environmental engineers for us. We had a soils/perc test done before purchasing the land, to ensure that it was buildable. We did not need to have a pesticide test run, since the land had just been used as a cattle grazing pasture previously, not as farm land. On August 5th, 2005, we emerged as the proud owners of 3 acres of land in Clermont/Groveland.

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