Thursday, December 26, 2013

Real Estate Ownership....What Are my Bundle of Rights?

Question: What is The Bundle of Legal Rights of a Real Estate Owner?
Answer: Owning real estate carries with it a traditional "bundle of legal rights" transferred with the property from seller to buyer. These are the recognized rights of the holder of title to the property and include:

  •  the right of possession - the property is owned by whomever holds title;
  •  the right of control - within the laws, the owner controls the use of the property;
  •  the right of exclusion - others can be excluded from using or entering the property;
  •  the right of enjoyment - the owner can enjoy the use of the property in any legal manner; and
  • the right of disposition - the title holder can sell, rent or transfer ownership or use of the property at will
Actually your ownership of real estate extends from the center of the earth and includes all the airspace above. Over time some of these other interest have been excluded such as the mineral rights and the air space. For example, commercial and military air traffic are permitted to fly over your property.

Ownership of land is holding "title" to it. The evidence of that title is the deed. The seller executes a deed to transfer title to real property and the bundle of rights that go with it.  Examples of deeds include: Warranty Deeds, Limited or Statutory Warranty Deeds or Quit Claim Deeds. To know exactly what you own or are buying have a real estate attorney examine the chain of title or provide a title abstract!

For Information on Buying or Selling Land contact G. Kent Morris, ALC, RF at      (706) 457-0090

Friday, November 1, 2013

I Own Land...How Can I Save Money On My Tax Bill?

There are two programs that landowners can enroll in. One is the Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) and the other is Conservation Use Covenant

Conservation Use Covenant - Owners of agricultural land, timberland and environmentally sensitive land may qualify for conservation use assessment under O.C.G.A. Section 48-5-7.4. The Georgia Revenue Commissioner has the responsibility of annually determining the values for ad valorem tax purposes of this type land and publishing rules and regulations to help county tax assessors determine the values of property that qualify for conservation use assessment. 
Conservation use property is assessed at 40% of current use value which gives a reduced assessment to the owner of this type property when compared to other property assessed at 40% of fair market value. This favorable tax treatment is designed to protect these property owners from being pressured by the property tax burden to convert their land from agricultural use to residential or commercial use, hence the name "conservation use" assessment. In return for the favorable tax treatment, the property owner must keep the land undeveloped in a qualifying use for a period of ten years or incur stiff penalties. Owners who breach their conservation use covenant must pay back to the taxing authorities twice the savings they have received over the life of the covenant up to the point it was breached.

These Conservation Use Covenants are regulated by the County Tax Assessor's office. Therefore there may be some differences between counties i.e. some counties have a 10 acre minimum and some counties have a 25 acre minimum.

Forest Land Protection Act - The GEORGIA FOREST LAND PROTECTION ACT OF 2008 (O.C.G.A. 48-5-7.7) provides for an ad valorem tax exemption for property primarily used for the good faith subsistence or commercial production of trees, timber, or other wood and wood fiber products and excludes the entire value of any residence located on the property. 
Forest land conservation use property may include land that has been certified as environmentally sensitive property by the Department of Natural Resources or property that is kept in accordance with a recognized sustainable forestry certification program.  The property may have secondary uses such as the promotion, preservation, or management of wildlife habitat; carbon sequestration in accordance with the Georgia Carbon Sequestration Registry; mitigation and conservation banking that results in restoration or conservation of wetlands and other natural resources; or the production and maintenance of ecosystem products and services such as, but not limited to, clean air and water. 
This 15-year covenant agreement between the taxpayer and local board of assessors is limited to forest land tracts consisting of more than 200 acres when owned by an individual or individuals or by any entity registered to do business in Georgia.  Property that qualifies for forest land conservation use assessment and that is already receiving preferential or current use assessment can be changed one time to a forest land conservation use covenant without penalty.

Let's look at some comparisons between the two programs.

We have only looked at these topics on the surface. There is more information at:

For information on Buying or Selling Land, Contact G. Kent Morris at (706) 457-0090

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pines Vs Hardwoods....Why Is There Hardwood On Some Areas and Pines on Others?

I decided to write this blog in response to questions I get about trees. I am ask ‘why are there hardwood trees here, why are there pine trees here?’ Generally speaking you will find pines on the ridge tops and hardwoods in the bottom. There are some exceptions to this however. ….past logging practices can change tree species i.e. sometimes a logging contractor will remove pine only! Great questions and a favorite topic of mine. In order to explain we must talk about 3 topics: 1) Shade tolerance  2) Aspect and 3) Water Availability.

Shade Tolerance – This subject was covered in my ‘Forest Ecology’ course and was probably the most interesting course I had. It showed me through scientific terms why certain species grow in certain places. Some areas grow pine best, others grow hardwoods best. Below I have a simple table with species by shade tolerance (this is an incomplete list but still helpful).  In simple terms….shade tolerance is a measure of a tree tolerance to shade. Some trees simply will not grow in the shade. Interestingly, trees are discussed in their ability to tolerate shade NOT sun!!

Shade Tolerant
Intermediate Tolerant
Shade Intolerant

Water Availability – Bottomland hardwood forests are a type of wetland community found along the floodplains of rivers and streams. The timing, duration, and frequency of flooding play important roles in determining the type of vegetation present in these forests. Bottomland hardwood swamp communities have soils saturated with water much of the time. Pines do not grow in the sites referred to as “poorly drained” in simple terms these are sites where water pools and ponds for long periods of time after a heavy rain event. Typical tree species might be gum, oaks (Cherrybark, Nuttall and Shumard) and bald cypress

Aspect – This refers to the direction of the land in relation to the sun angle. I remember walking a deep hollow in Jefferson County, AL with a hardwood buyer. He ask me…’do you see any difference in the timber here?’  After a moment I noticed the hardwood on one side of the hollow was much better than the other. He ask me to pull out my compass, I noticed the timber on the northeast facing slope was better than the southwest facing slope. WHY? The southwest facing slope is exposed to long hours of hot afternoon sun and the soils get hot and evaporate water quickly. The sites typically grow pines and drought tolerant species like hickories, Mountain Oak and Black Jack Oak.

Well now you have a layman’s understanding of forest ecology. I love talking about and sharing these things as I walk a client through property they are consider purchasing. I have sold lots of property as I engage people in discussions about the flora and fauna of a specific property.

If you are considering buying or selling property, call G. Kent Morris at (706) 457-0090

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?

I have written about this before, but I just can't help myself..... I love the fall, it's exhilarating, the weather is nice and it motivates one to get outside and enjoy GOD's creation

(courtesy of John Pyle Photography,

WHAT CAUSES THESE LEAF COLOR CHANGES?  During winter, trees slow down their processes including photosynthesis. There is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process whereby they take up water and nutrients from the soils and use sunlight to convert them into food for the plant. This all takes place in the leaf. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow, red and orange colors or pigments called carotenoids and anthocynins.  Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along. We just can't see them in the summer, because they are covered up by the green chlorophyll. 

The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in the fall. In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the leaves turn this glucose into a red color. The brown color of trees like oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves.
This is a list of some (but not all) of the trees that provide some of the best color in the southeast United States: Baldcypress, Maples, Black Gum, Sweet Gum, Sourwood, Sassafras, Birches, Redbuds, Hickories and Poplars. Fall colorations adds millions of dollars to our Eco-tourism business with leaf-lookers driving the Appalachians during peak fall season. I have meet many of these good folks on my fall motorcycling excursions with my wife while traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway. What Fun !!

I have provided a map of the United States which is colored coded showing peak fall coloration for your use. Get out on enjoy the great outdoors!

For Information on Buying or Selling Land contact G. Kent Morris, ALC, RF at      (706) 457-0090