The Panel | The Lay of the Land Conference

June 22, 2022   |   Podcast

Our Senior Land Advisors gather together with Florida Senate President, William Simpson to discuss Florida's economy, the 2021 market, and predictions for 2022.

Recorded live at our annual land conference, Dean Saunders, Dusty Calderon, Bryant Peace, and Richard Dempsey reflect on the 2021 market and their predictions for 2022 while discussing everything in between. Additionally, Florida Senate President, William Simpson provides a Florida economic update.

Below is an excerpt from the interview. Listen above for the full podcast.


Have you ever seen a market like this? (Richard Dempsey): Absolutely in the early 2000’s. It was wild west times. Unfortunately, it was a false economy because money was so easy. People were buying houses just on their signatures and it was a very crazy time.

But now, this is organic. There are real people living in real houses. The world has discovered Central Florida, they're moving here from all over creation, and causing the market to go crazy. You're hearing stories of multiple offers on residential properties. If I had fifty 20 acre citrus groves, I could sell them all tomorrow simply because they were 20 acres. In the residential market, it's not unusual to have $40-50,000 above asking and waiving all contingencies, you have a cash closing in a short period of time. It's crazy and it's similar to the early 2000’s, but it was a false economy back then.

What do land advisors offer to new investors? (Bryant Peace): One very interesting characteristic of 2021 was the emergence of non-traditional land investors. We've been coming off of a great economic expansion and there have been a lot of people looking to park cash to take their winnings. These non-conventional land investors are looking to park cash in a quality, tangible asset. Whether it's timberland, farm, hunting properties, or transitional, they're completely green to it. They need a quality advisor and counselor to help them evaluate the asset and understand the fundamentals.

What's a quality number to invest? More importantly, how do you hold it? How do you manage it? Based on your time horizon, what's a realistic exit strategy for the property? That's the value we bring to the table, when you want to take your winnings and park it into a quality asset to weather any kind of downturn. Especially for someone that just doesn't have the experience investing in land.

Why hire a broker? (Dean Saunders) Because we're professionals and we know what we're doing. We're good at what we do and we're going to market your properties. I tell people, “You don't need me to sell your property. Just open your mailbox, open your email, answer your phone and you've got an offer for your property. But how do you know you got the best deal?” I love the market and the power of the marketplace. All we do is expose properties to the market. You need somebody to get it out there and that's what we do.

You'll hear me say this tons of times, but when I first got into the business, I used to think that the highest price that got the deal. After a while, you learn that it's really not. It's really where two parties have their needs met and that's where a deal is made. Our job as advisors is to help understand what your needs are and help get that accomplished. That's what we do. We're really good at helping you accomplish those goals and objectives.

Have you ever been scammed? (Dusty Calderon) I did meet a guy that did this all the time. He went out and he looked at big tracts and told a big story about how he had a foundation. When he first came to me, I had a friend of mine call me. He says, “Dusty, are you talking to so-and-so?” Then he continues, “Man, he's a really good guy, really nice, but he is full of it.” But I'm looking at the guy, listening to my friend, and I'm like, “You gotta be wrong, man. He's got his dough together and everything.” 

Long story short, that guy was full of it. He tangled up that piece of property with a Letter of Intent, ran north with it up, and tried to sell it to everybody he could for twice of what he had in the LOI. He only had the LOI for about five days, but he had everybody's hopes up. He had done that to a few people and actually blew up their life. He was wrecking people out so it was a good thing that we kind of caught him before we spread him out. He just couldn’t help himself. He wants to be a player but he should be on Broadway somewhere.

What is your main concern for the future of agriculture? (Wilton Simpson) One of the biggest concerns was taken care of last year in the Right to Farm Act. Recently, you had a lot of people moving from the cities to these agricultural areas and open lands because they didn't want to be locked down in a skyscraper downtown anywhere in the state. They started moving out towards more rural areas and by doing so, put us in a position where now we're starting to have neighbors that were moving in on top of us with different needs.

Now these farmers, having been there for multiple generations, are being told how to manage their crops and run their business. When we passed the law last year, we changed the Right to Farm Act to say that you can only sue a farmer if you live within a half a mile of that farmer. Additionally, if you sue the farmer and you lose in court, then have to pay the farmers attorney bills. 

We also gave a little bit of tax relief last year as it relates to fences, gates, and trailers. We changed the Greenbelt Law nine years ago and worked with agritourism for our small farmers that now have agritourism on their farm sites to produce more revenue. Allowing us to maintain a farming state. The bottom line is that agriculture is a leading driver of the economy. It is the major area of the state where we recharge our aquifer and our wildlife corridors. It’s what makes Florida, Florida and that's the importance of protecting it.

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Dean Saunders
Throughout his career, Dean has carried a deep passion for Florida land and conservation easements. During his time in the US Senate as Agricultural Liaison, Special Assistant, and Director of External Affairs, he fought for private property rights in tandem with the conservation of Florida&...