Rural System
                Sustained rural lands; sustained profits

The Realtor Group

The Realtor Group is an enterprise with extensive computer mapping capabilities. Hopefully it can be developed as a project of an existing local realtor (or will be separate and serve several realtors). When active, it makes available to realtors and land buyers' information about any tract of land within the region.

To know it is to love it may be true for land. The working hypothesis for designing and implementing this unit of Rural System is that land will be better used and managed than it is now if people learn about it, come to appreciate it, and learn how to respect its limits and to exploit its potentials for the long-term well-being of the owner and neighbors (all of us). Beside many general public relations benefits of working with Rural System, realtors are likely to increase sales and repeat contacts, improve satisfactions for buyers, and enhance their role within the region. That's not a bad idea.

Highest and best use is a well-known real estate phrase for a building or tract of land but it skirts the questions of for what, for whom, over what period, and far into the future? It is possible to develop a computerized development advisory system for the county, one that avoids zoning issues, but addresses an idea or a proposal (e.g., a house, a factory, a road, a powerline, a dam), tests the proposal for where it fits within the county and the stated objectives of the citizens of the county, and then presents a report for decision makers. It's a system that accommodates new ideas, protects the existing structures and practices, avoids the ever-troublesome "taking-issue," helps developers find the right areas, avoids many environmental-impact controversies (and their costs), and reduces other costs to the county tax payers. It could be developed and operated for the county or developed and sold to a third-party impartial service group. The Realtor Group, when developed, will know (in its computer) almost everything about the lands of Virginia, then the region. There is no reason why this should not be used to improve decisions about how the lands and waters are used. Citizens as well as potential developers need help in making land use recommendations before they are brought before county planning commissions and Supervisors.

For example, detailed new temperature data based on a 30-year record exists for every spot in Virginia for each month. Here October average data are mapped for the entire state.

The Realtor Group is a system for people who are appraising, buying, selling, renting, or developing land. It is a system for realtors and their real or potential clients. It may also become a partnership development in which Rural System invests with realtors in efforts to sell or rent land. If successful (very likely with the combined work of the effective realtor and the services of Rural System), a small percentage of the commission of the realtor may be shared to improve the system and enhance Rural System.

Most people believe they know what they want and they express these needs or wants in simple terms such as "a good piece of land" or "a place in the country." It takes work to describe exactly what is wanted; it takes work to get people to state what they want. Equally or more important is the problem of describing what they will get. Most people do not even know the categories, what questions to ask about land, or what information they could get if they knew how to ask for it. Few people have much practice in making big purchases. Most only do it one or two times. Stating wants and needs becomes increasingly more difficult as the society becomes more urban.

The Realtor Group provides an expert system analysis of lands that may meet the criteria and interests of a prospective buyer and then suggests (if requested) three financial plans for assisting in achieving a sale or purchase. The report is like a medical "work-up" on a patient. It can also be compared to military intelligence. It is a system that produces reports, maps, and illustrations that help realtors sell land by providing the answers to questions that clients actually have or may ask about land. It is the best information currently available within a dynamic database and it is provided in cost-effective phases. It connects responsible buyers with land units (each of which is unique). It attempts to increase the chances that customers will be pleased, the land and resources will be used well, the people of the area will prosper, and the users of the real estate business component of Rural System will become increasingly prosperous.

A group of scientists can study a small tract of land for their entire careers and pass it along to their children for more study. There is no end to interesting questions about every piece of land. The Realtor Group does not answer all questions, only delivers information in three phases and in sequence. Each phase is of different intensity and depth. The Realtor Group staff and the foundation of Rural System can also develop a unique program of long-term studies for a client. Besides great taxation benefits, the public relations gains can be great. The report provides a baseline analysis as protection against future claims of excessive changes and abuses. Strategic project selection can usually be of direct benefit to companies (legal, environmental, and product development).

Here, for example, for a USGS topographic-size map, three layers of data are displayed together. These are slope, aspect, and elevation and when three levels of magnitude are used in each, together, they result in 9 classes of data shown here. The colors are potentially useful for selecting crop or building sites, timber site analyses, etc. They can be displayed separately or in combinations or specific one excluded.

In the same areas as shown above, when 5 rather than 3 levels of precision are used with the three factors, there are 125 unique classes that can be displayed as shown here. Here colors are assigned at random for each class but areas with certain characteristics can be assigned a desired color. There are hundreds of factors in our data banks suggesting the discrimination that can be made for sophisticated land buying and selling decisions or presentations to customers.

Phase 1 provides information about the state and counties. It gives the ecological region and general information about the forests and wildlife of the area. It provides exact location, rainfall, monthly temperatures, growing season, and an estimate of the number of species present. It analyzes area, boundary length and adjacent owners and problems and benefits. The most exciting unit is the maps. Based or a rough boundary map supplied by the realtor, the area is displayed within a topographic map "window" of about 25 miles on all sides (8 1/2 x 11 size). Expert survey sources are suggested and detailed mapping arranged as needed. An attractive, three-dimensional picture (in color) of the shape of the land surface inside this map is presented along with the rough boundary. The third map in color is the 3-dimensional picture of the land within the boundary that is for sale.

Phase 2 lists the major species known or likely present, analyzes the slopes, soil, aspect (direction downhill) of each unit, and provides extensive documents (all of these may be on a web site) about the forests of the area. A vegetation map is supplied. It includes a map based on the latest analyzed satellite images. Five other maps are presented - slopes, aspects, solar radiation, elevations, and watersheds.

Phase 3 provides other information about the area but its emphasis is on ideas for development, ecological limits, financial options, ecotourism potentials, hunting and fishing potentials, and bird watching and nature study and research potentials. Gross forest potentials are estimated but clients are referred, e.g., to EnviroFor, LLC. or Foresters, Inc. of Blacksburg, companies equipped to move past the Realtor documents, use them and the investment made in them, and to supply sophisticated cost-effective forestry services to enhance the land and stabilize its productivity and potential profits. Rural System may soon be able to assist landowners in having their lands classified as Certified Forests by SmartWood (see The Certification Group).

The proposed Content of a report from the Realtor is as follows. Parts of the system are now under development. It includes many GIS maps, at least one 3-dimensional map, and the following topics. Much of the text is general and educational, applicable to many local sites, but many sections are site specific. It uses Landsat and other information sources. Progressively, the reports will be developed to become more site specific, with heavy use of "expert systems" technology.
Land use maps of Virginia, developed from satellites and now in the computer, when linked to other computer data about natural resources, can significantly improve decisions, reduce risks, and reduce future costs. Image by Dave Morton.

The proposed components of the analyses are:
  • Title Page
  • Preface
  • The Ecological Region of the State
  • The Forest Region
  • The Area
  • The County and its History
  • Pre-settlement People
  • GPS and the exact location
  • Taxes
  • Area
  • In-Holding
  • Distance to Schools
  • Distance to Towns, etc.
  • Boundary Analysis
  • Elevations
  • Slopes and Flat areas
  • Aspects
  • Precipitation
  • Temperature
  • Solar relations and energy potentials
  • Soil (General: later detailed soils maps will be prepared
    and potentials and limits described)
  • Wind energy potentials (and wind hazards)
  • Streams, Ponds, and Water Resources
  • Stream conditions (as relevant)
  • Bridges and culverts
  • Fish (number of species)
  • Groundwater
  • Scenic Vistas and Landscape scores
  • Landscape Ecology
  • Forests
  • Forest Productivity with Management and Innovations
  • Wildlife
  • Birds (number and later a likely species list)
  • Deer Resource Management potentials (including damage control)
  • Bear
  • Wild Turkey
  • Quail
  • Squirrel
  • Other Wildlife
  • Plants, Botanical Surveys, Plant numbers, Rare Species, and Wild Flower Gardens
  • Toxic Plants and Allergens
  • Growing Season and Planting Dates
  • Butterfly Gardens
  • Roads, Trails, and Access
  • The Appalachian Trail
  • Mining and Mineral Resources
  • Reshaping the Land and Restoration
  • Recreational Sites and Opportunities
  • Air Quality
  • Noise
  • Wildfires and Protection
  • Rural vandalism and safety protection potentials
  • Potentials for the Future and Services of Rural System
  • Appraised values with and without such services.

The above information has not been readily available before. All or part of the above may now be on the web site (with security for the owner) or delivered on paper (or both). On the web, changes are made as they are found or occur in the neighborhood of a tract and these may be incorporated for the owner.

Work with commercial real estate groups may be explored. For example, agents created the web site "AgentsMLS" for other agents. Unlike other real estate malls, when a client searches for property, no other agents are listed. Properties selected by your client are dropped in a shopping cart at your site and you are notified of their selections, so you get prepared to answer questions or show the properties. The above free web site also contains current market information, great content, handy tools and calculators and marketing assistance.

As part of the service with each sale, we will list forests and wildland opportunities for the tract that is sold on our special web page. (Later we propose to enhance an expert system responsive to the stated needs of a client, one that sifts through available properties and gives each a "score" for how well the client's objectives and criteria are likely to be met.) We'll show sweeping digital pictures (e.g., IPIX) of tracts and their surroundings (on the Web) and list characteristics: production, forest yield, recreation potentials, hunting, birds, geology, opportunities, then try to make the purchaser of land a customer for our management.

A computer "fly-over" (giving the observer some of the feeling of flying slowly over a property or part of a county) might be done for large tracts. After the sale (and as a major advantage of the sale being offered with the assistance of Rural System), we offer to help market the productive potentials of the land for the purchaser, presenting the services (and financial rewards) it might provide. Making connections and marketing for the realtors are encouraged for foresters, wildlife managers, and other aspects of Rural System Certification of forests as being sustained and well managed can be arranged. Boundary signs are sold; plans are suggested; Trust-land tax benefits arranged; fencing and trails and restoration offered; etc.

The business model of the conventional realtor is now flipped by the Rural System paradigm to one of providing entrance to long-term regional productivity, land and land value enhancement (related to later sales), and the realtor being the middle-person for sophisticated, modern, high-quality long-term resource management. Training programs will be offered to realtors to achieve effective use of the "intelligence reports" for clients.

Poudel, Pramila K. (1979. Capitalization of environmental benefits into property values: literature review, USDA Forest Service, Gen. Tech Rpt RM-69, Rocky Mt. Forest and Range Exp. Station, Ft. Collins, CO, 7p.) found economic theory predicts environmental benefits are capitalized as increased property value, and she found that confirmed.

The Warehouse Group

In some areas of the county near rail and highways there are areas that are unproductive of trees (often of anything!). There are soil borrow areas, dry ridges, and even areas with toxic materials.

In the new world of e-commerce it seems that pleasing surroundings for visiting customers may not be needed. It the appearances of, for example, the book seller needs only a warehouse, willing workers, and connections to transportation systems for personnel as well as shipping products from the site.

Some areas of the state are unsuitable for urban development and high human populations but may serve well as places for the new warehouses for e-commerce. Some land, removed from intensive forest-related benefit production, may serve.

This Group studies the needs of clients, used GIS to find sites that meet the criteria of the client, and arrange for land use, construction, etc. to continue to achieve the objectives of lasting Forests and to increase the profitability score.

A single person is involved at first and works with System Central.

Development costs.......$30,000

Estimated annual profits..$150,000

Rough Retreat Concept (August, 2004)

Lands being sold by the realtor (or other private land tracts) may be offered for solitary week-long retreats for people roughing it in the out doors alone, in couples, or small-families . Urban people do not know where to go, whom to contact, and many do not want the planned, scheduled, formalized systems for diverse recreation, poking around the woods, leisurely walks, and getting to know a piece of land fairly well. Small game hunting might be allowed but this is mostly for campers, walkers, and people with diverse nature interests who want to get away from the city and learn a little about the outdoors, practice campcraft, and enjoy nights under the stars by a campfire. Depending on the wishes of the owner, areas are rated by access, development, diversity, and size. These are usually 50 or more acres and the boundaries are well marked. A set of rules is provided. Parking at the edge is allowed but delivery and pick-up is encouraged. What is taken in must be taken out is a key rule. Pit privies are required. A small bond is required and returned after inspection. People may have an option to return. Tents are encouraged; no major cutting of saplings or timber is allowed. A sketch of the area is provided the guest and old campsites indicated. A supply of drinking water and firewood may be provided, depending on local conditions.

Sample correspondence (ideas only):

Darkest map cells reflect best residential sites for this 69,000 acre tract of land in western Virginia.
Dear Realtor:

You can sell your forests, hunting, and recreation lands more rapidly and at a higher price than normal by becoming affiliated with and using The Realtor Group of Rural System These services are available for local realtors and they produce satisfied customers that spread the "good word" about you and your company among potential customers.

Each realtor has special needs so we have developed a standard package - but with additions for you. We can customize analyses for you from among a set of options for your special customers. Typical analyses for areas include those such as:

We can deliver to you analyses of any tract in the region (now on paper but soon to be available directly from the Internet), providing more information than anyone has ever had before to help make a sale, interpret land and its potentials (and risks) to a buyer, identify possible buyers, and dodge potential problems and associated costs.

One alternative for getting started is for us to develop the system together, then engage in marketing it together to other realtors. Another alternative is for us to invest in the system and have exclusive rights, then offer it as a service to you at a specific cost per report produced. Another is to work together for a small percentage of the commission on each property on which the system is used. We work with you, enhancing your profits through sales. If our services do not work for you, there is no cost to you. (The more you make, the more frequently, the greater are the incentives.) There may be other options; let's work together. Please contact Bob Giles of Rural System at 540-552-8672 or

See also

Development has begun but the software costs may be high ($80,000). There are many combinations suggested above for work with local realtors. Work with Coldfusion-brand software from new regional organizations may provide advantages and the Conservation Management Institute of Virginia Tech as well as Foresters. Inc. have computer mapping capabilities.

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Related resources and concepts are available at The address of this web site is ../aRuralBusiness/realtorgroup.htm