Options for families who can’t manage their farmland but don’t want to sell it

Marion Steward
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From time to time, we share some of the comments we receive on columns.

Comment from reader: In your recent column discussing the sale of land owned by a family, you didn’t mention another option for people. When these owners are uncertain of how to manage the land left to them, especially when it has some sentimental value and they do not want it sold, the land can be rented or leased out. Especially with farmland, someone else can farm the land or use it for grazing animals. This can be done between individuals or through a land management company.

I would recommend a land management company. You can find an independent one or go through the trust department of a bank in the area where the land is located. Yes, there would be a management fee, but that is often based on the size of the land and the entity that is handling the service. These companies usually do a better job of overseeing the work of the tenant on their behalf. An individual farmer might not keep the overall condition in mind and make decisions on only their interest.

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Depending on where the 200 acres are located for the person who wrote in to you, they could receive some income from the property instead of selling it. We have done this for decades with land we own in Illinois, and it is a very satisfactory arrangement. The land stays in the family, we are able to receive income, profits are used to help maintain and improve the land for future use, and it will be there for other generations.

Ilyce and Sam respond: Thank you for the great suggestions. We hope our readers find it useful.

Comment from reader: Just read your article about a home sold with no septic system. The buyer said that the seller was a building inspector, not a home inspector. Likely they meant the seller worked for the municipality, and not a private home inspector performing pre-purchase home inspections. Still, the seller should know if there was a septic system. Believe it or not, determining if a home has a septic system or city sewer is not within the scope of a home inspection.

Also, the listing agent may have “coached” the seller through the disclosure. I’m sure the odor of the sewer wafts over the property on a nice warm day and everyone was aware.

Why didn’t they have a septic inspection? An absolute must, even if an “as is” sale. The selling agent should have proposed that (especially on an older home). If not, I think it’s professional negligence. Just thought I’d throw in my two cents as a 30-year ASHI [American Safety and Health Institute] certified home inspector.

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Ilyce and Sam respond: Thanks for your comments. Whether the home was owned by a home inspector or a building inspector, either would have or should have known that their home did not have a septic system and that raw sewerage was dumping off the property. We agree that the homeowner should have had a septic inspection.

You mentioned that home inspectors do not inspect septic systems. That is true. But in just about all home inspection reports, Sam sees a note about whether the home has a septic system or is served through a municipal system. Whatever sort of inspection the buyer had, it’s our belief that the seller knew more than he shared. And the buyer was left holding the bag.

Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (Fourth Edition). She is also the chief executive of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them through the website, BestMoneyMoves.com.


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