When investing in land, your exit strategy is an important consideration.
Timing is everything, particularly in how investments pay off. The investor in raw land needs to know when the asset will increase to its optimum sale price.
The goal of all investing is to make money, to sell at a price higher than that at which the investment was purchased. But that simple formula fails to factor in the extremely important matter of timing: how long it takes for the investment to achieve that optimal price, as well as how the timing affects the investor. Taking a good profit in one year might be disadvantageous over taking it in another, largely due to taxation.
The essential nature of timing – when to invest and when to disinvest – affects all classes of investments, both those in the traditional markets (stocks, bonds, REITs) and the less traditional real asset categories (strategic land/hedge, property funds, precious metals, minerals, rarities such as antiques and fine art, etc.). Much of that has to do with the intrinsic (some might call it organic) nature of the investment and how it relates to macroeconomic dynamics, while external factors such as government subsidies and regulations can affect it as well.
A good example is renewable energy in Germany. A robust government sponsored program (“100,000 roofs” and the Renewable Energy Act) fostered small and medium-sized companies (as well as university research in partnership with them) to develop photovoltaic, wind, biomass/waste and hydroelectric electricity sources. With government supports and guarantees, investors had a good sense of where things were going and when. The timing of their disinvestment and payback carried more certainty, which of course attracts more investors.
Notably, in German investors in solar PVs and wind can expect the timing of their returns to be shorter than those in hydroelectricity. It simply takes more time to achieve a favourable return-on-investment from dam construction.
In a different asset category, raw land in the UK, the macroeconomics are well understood: the UK population grew 7 per in the decade to 2011, even while the nation’s home builders have not been increasing residential inventory to keep pace. Consequently, there is a housing shortage that will need to be filled eventually (and the sooner the better). The government plays an important albeit indirect role in that local planning authorities are now given greater reign over decisions about land use designation. In other words, if a local planning authority strongly identifies an area for home building or other development, it is far more likely to happen.
To the land investor, ceding land use planning from national to local authorities is very important to timing – and was long awaited. The Kate Barker recommendations in 2004 (the Barker Review of Housing Supply) looked at rising housing costs and the inadequate supply of new homes to meet the need. The Barker recommendations were factored into the modernised core UK planning principles, which include:
• Objectively identify development needs of an area (housing, business, etc.)
• Drive and support sustainable economic development, which includes the delivery of homes, businesses and industrial properties
• Provide the necessary infrastructure to support new developments
• Account for market signals such as land prices and housing affordability, and set strategies for allocating land in sufficient quantity to meet the needs of people and employers
The well-managed land investment can meet these criteria, and as such is more likely to qualify for expedited approvals. The ability to deliver value to investors sooner rather than later is a clear advantage of this.
Individuals involved in any type of investing should get solid counsel from a personal financial advisor. This investment professional should work independently of any financial instrument to holistically review your investments, goals and anticipated expenditures to determine where an asset would be timely.