CLT Wealthy Land Grab

CLT Wealthy Land Grab

The world's wealthiest people are accumulating a larger share of the world's rural land.​

There is a land grab going on by the rich. And that’s probably a good thing.

The average number of acres owned by the top 100 landowners in the United States increased from 145,000 acres to 250,000 acres between 2008 and 2017 (per The Land Report, 2018).

When buying land, many high-net-worth landowners describe an emotional attachment to the idea of owning a family compound, country home, or hunting property. It’s like they are creating their own Camelot, where their family can embrace the wonders of the outdoors in the safety of their own compound.

Here’s an example of a fine property being offered for sale by Cardinal Partners ideal for a conservation easement. It’s a unique 625-acre property near Statesville with .8 miles of Catawba River frontage easily navigable to Lake Norman.

Although high-net-worth families may have various motives for purchasing land, it is undeniable that buying land for conservation makes sense. These landlords frequently offer a passion for land uses that promote social and environmental goals such as protecting endangered species, watershed protection, and rehabilitation of impacted areas as landowners in crucial conservation zones. Indeed, many high-net-worth landlords claim that conservation efforts have provided some salvation for humanity.

Land conservation also offers high-net-worth landowners tax shelter opportunities.

Landowners who contribute a conservation easement give up a portion of the value of their property. But, in return, they can be eligible for various tax incentives that offset some of the loss in property value. This makes conversation a sensible choice for landowners who want to protect the land they care about.

Private landowners can use conservation easements to control the development of their property. A contributing landowner, for example, might keep the right to cultivate crops on a plot while giving up the right to erect new structures on the property.

The inappropriate use of federal income tax deductions for land and conservation easement gifts can result in potentially abusive tax shelters, which landowners and land trusts should be aware of. As a result, the IRS has increased scrutiny over conservation easements, especially large easements with small or new land trusts.

The land trust is in charge of ensuring that the landowner follows the conservation requirements of the easement. An easement may cover the entire land or only a section of it, and it may or may not allow public access. A landowner who donates a conservation easement can sell the property or pass it on to heirs, and the easement’s stipulations obligate future owners.

Over the past 25 years, the amount of undeveloped land in the area has been reduced by 50%. Charlotte is projected to continue its growth trajectory, and natural areas are disappearing. My prediction is that in the next ten years, the Charlotte region will have nearly 100 square miles of protected land and a really cool trail. And this matters because we have a population of nearly 1.5 million people and having green space is essential.

I’m a former board member of the Catawba Land Conservancy. If you are considering donating land, I highly recommend working with this group. In my next newsletter, I’ll talk more about my work with the Conservancy.

Are you considering donating a conservation easement or want more information about how the process works? Send me an email asking about how you can protect and sell your land.

Real estate transactions can be fraught with frustration and pitfalls.

Sometimes the hardest part turns out to be working with your broker, the person who is supposed to help you through the complexities. Veteran commercial real estate broker and client advisor John Culbertson discovered that brokers’ interests aren’t always aligned with those of their clients. He realized there was a better way to advocate for clients and get the deal done.


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