By Mark Knight

With the beautiful summer weather and everything green, it’s a wonderful time to be outside in Arkansas. But as we all continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, people who have been thinking about buying a recreational property might wonder if they can safely go through the process right now. 

Fortunately, the answer is yes, because the sale of a recreational property is not a “high touch” process. Unlike buying a home, where you will want to tour the inside, 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. We are going to properties and facetiming our buyers and showing them properties before they come look in person.

For many Arkansas 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.

  1. 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. Be selective in the agent you choose. Your time is valuable, so do some research on the brokerage to make sure they have land specialists on staff who can educate you and your family on the perfect tract.

  1. 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 is good cell phone reception, walk the property while talking to your agent, by video chat if possible. 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. Just keep in mind, your broker is an outdoor expert and a business professional, and is using every method to keep himself or herself safe as well.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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. Land sales continue to be strong and are even showing signs of strengthening as buyers are looking for their perfect slice of heaven to just get away.

Before you know it, summer will be turning into fall, a great time to be outdoors in Arkansas. 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.

Mark Knight is a Partner & CEO of Davis DuBose Knight Forestry & Real Estate, a member of the PotlatchDeltic Preferred Broker Network, which sells properties around the state of Arkansas.