This episode of In Our Expert Opinion Real Estate Podcast is joined by Mike Matre, ALC, RF, ACF, Senior Advisor at our Thomasville, Georgia office. Mike is a forestry consultant and broker who is able to advise his land clients on how to maximize the return and management of their land. Through the episode, Mike discusses his career as a consultant and how proper land management can help landowners meet their investment goals.
Below is an excerpt from the interview. Listen above for the full podcast.
What is a forestry consultant? I help landowners manage their timber and wildlife. Whatever a landowner needs, we can help make it happen. We oversee road building, pond building timber sales, timber appraisals, prescribed burning, and reforestation. If the landowner needs it, we do it.
When a land buyer comes in, whether they are a seasoned landowner or a new landowner, they often need help with management. They may not have the expertise, they may live four or five hours away, and they just need somebody local to help them meet their objective. That's what we try to accomplish. It helps us meet a lot of people, so it kind of leads to listing activity and buyers. It's a natural fit: land management and land brokerage.
How does land management help landowners reach their objectives? The first thing I like to do is just get to know the objective of ownership. That is usually, first and foremost, hunting and recreation (in Southwest Georgia). The close second would be the investment part of it. From annual income like agriculture leases or periodic income like timber sales, but wildlife management is the big driver.
It goes hand in hand with timber management. A lot of times, timber gets overcrowded and there's technical things like basal area, trees per acre, and canopy closure. On the general side, when a stand of timber closes the canopy and there's not much sunlight getting on the ground, it shades all the vegetation out that wildlife prefers. So, a lot of the things we do for landowners is thinning out timber just to put some money in the bank and get some sunlight on the ground. Then we start introducing fire to the stand to promote early successional habitat.
Every once in a while, a typical landowner may want to clear cut an area and replant it. That accomplishes age class diversification for income streams, but it also provides different habitat on a property. One thing that we've learned is that deer, turkey, and quail like habitat diversity. That's one thing we try to accomplish when we're helping a landowner manage their property.
Have you seen more first-time landowners? Since the pandemic, there seems to be a whole lot more buyers in the market. We've always had the investors and the hunters in our market, but now it seems like there's a new group of people. They also like to hunt and invest, but they just want a piece of land to get away to. If they're from bigger cities like Atlanta or Orlando, after some of the things taking place, they might want some acreage to get out sometimes.
What is the importance of prescribed fires? On your land management expenses are little things like prescribed burning, which really doesn't cost much. I can't remember the exact ratio, but a wildlife biologist with UGA estimated that three acres of fire-maintained woods is equivalent to a one-acre food plot. If you had a 100-acre stand that you burned every other year, that could be almost the equivalent of a 30-acre food plot.
We know this for a fact: it's good for wildlife management and timber to maintain that with fire. Pine timber primarily, but oak can handle a fire pretty well. We also do some burning for hardwoods.
The stocking of timber affects the sunlight getting in, but what the fire accomplishes is growing early successional vegetation. Say a stand of timber hadn't been burned in eight years then you come in and introduce fire to it. That spring, you’ll get a flush of early succession vegetation growth, which is the most nutrient and desirable vegetation for your wildlife.
Why do your clients want land management? Most of our clients plan on owning their property for a while, but they realize that good management practices will add value to their property. One day when they might sell or their children may sell, all those years of good management are going to pay off big time.
Why did you join SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler? Since around 2009 or 2010, I’ve had my broker's license and have been brokering real estate deals through my own company. A few years ago, I wound up co-listing a couple of properties with Bryant Peace, started getting to know him, and started seeing the benefit and the power of the team at SVN | SRD. When Bryant proposed joining up, it took a little while, but I finally jumped in and I'm excited that I did.
On one of my listings, the landowner initially interviewed three other land brokers. The reason why he went with me is because I was the most responsive and provided the most data. The landowner was also impressed with the SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler marketing material that I gave him. He was just blown away by the Landbook.