Our guest speaker on “tax day” 2014–Tuesday 15 April–had at least something indirectly to do with taxes; local real estate appraisal entrepreneur Robert W. Young (accompanied by his son and business partner Durkin Young).
Prior to class, few students realized the nature or need for land appraisal; a critical service called for any time there is a transfer in the ownership of land. By the time the class had ended, much had changed; although the complexity of what a land appraiser does–and how they have to be certified and trained–led to what was learned being a bit overwhelming to fully comprehend given the short time frame.
One general theme that has been heard more than once this semester is “being in the right place at the right time.” In the case of Robert Young, this meant a surprise promotion in his first post-college job which provided him a crash course in the highly valued yet rare skills that he today uses to run his own highly successful entrepreneurial business.
But there is much, much more than ”blind luck” to this ongoing success story… A story told nicely below by today’s student blogger Matt Homscheid.
Robert Young, born in a small town just outside of Roseville, is the owner of his real estate appraisal company, R.W. Young & Associates, Inc. Robert, his son, his wife, a secretary, and a student here at Monmouth College work for this small company appraises land within the 10 neighboring counties of Warren County. His company appraises anything from housing to farm land to land for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Growing up on a farm, Robert worked vigorously and constantly. However, because he was challenged mechanically, he couldn’t stay in the farming business no matter how much he loved it. So he made sure to take away one thing from farming, “hard work pays off.” This being said he worked constantly from elementary school all the way up to the end of college. Into his senior year in college he had a summer internship working with the Federal Land Bank (FLB). Here he picked up skills working with people and appraising land for farmers that were looking to sell or buy the land. Before graduating college he was offered a job to work for this company. Robert was set upon graduating because he had a job right away. Upon starting his job at the FLB, he noted that the price per acre of land was around $2000 and within a few year after that the price doubled. But, due to the economic downturn, the government raised interest rates on the farm land, driving the price per acre back down to $2000. This dramatic fluctuation in land values had takne place in a matter of a few short years; something Mr. Young learned early that is always possible in his business.
With the stress of inflation, pricing changes, and customers getting rather enraged by the appraising (a constant in the business), Robert’s boss at the FLB became extremely stressed causing him a heart attack. Needless to say his boss stepped down, which put Robert in the number one spot. In this new position, with the economy as it was, Robert quickly became what he called “the collector of loans instead of the loan maker” (due to a large number of foreclosures and bankruptcies). Fresh out of college, still young, this was a very hard position for him to fill.
After several months of going to court and dealing with enraged customers, his employer offered to pay him seven months’ severance. He accepted the offer and decided to start his own business, R.W. Young & Associates, Inc (utilizing the skills he learned quickly and by surprise as a result of being thrust into this high position at the FLB).
When starting his business, Mr. Young asked his former boss to join him in his company, but in this case, his boss would have a very low stress level position. Robert had heard that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) was looking to get the land between Monmouth and Burlington, Iowa appraised to continue building Route 34. He took the initiative to send a letter to Peoria informing them he could be of great assistance. Within only a couple days, someone was knocking at his door asking for an appraisal of the land on which they’d be building. This started him off on a good foot because it lead to him working consistently with the Illinois Department of Transportation, a huge consumer of appraisal services, in the neighboring counties.
After a few years of working, Robert’s former boss had to retire due to the circumstances of his heart attack earlier in life. This led Robert into contacting someone in Galesburg, a small competitor, and bringing him into his business. This is what expanded his business into the ten neighboring counties instead of the original three he had started with. With business being so vast, he decided to ask college students to come assist him in his business. The students worked on computers and with spreadsheets creating a list of numbers for the appraisals he was doing. He’s had roughly a dozen or so students come in and help him with his business. One of the biggest things he covers with his business is inheritance taxes on properties when someone in the family passes away. Because there is a loan involved in most inheritance properties, it requires an appraisal and Robert is always the one to be there if he isn’t too busy at the time.
To become someone of his stature, one needs to get a college degree, get certified by the state of Illinois, and have over 3,000 hours of experience in order to gain the title of “Certified General” like Robert Young. Robert is known very well for his appraising abilities in the 10 counties around Monmouth. He will take on mostly farm and income land appraisals because that’s what he knows best. Due to the nature of his business, he isn’t able to charge customers by the value of the land, so he instead charges people by the acre. He does give discounts to customers so that they are able to save large amounts of money on taxes for their purchase. It will take Robert anywhere between 60 and 180 days to come out for an appraisal. This is dependent on whether the customer is a residential or farm land customer or the state. The residential or farm land customer will take around 60 days to come out with a full appraisal. State jobs, because they are bigger, take around 180 days. The land or property that needs appraising must be done by someone that is certified by the state or it isn’t a good appraisal. Robert rates the land based on the soil productivity and puts it into different classes ranging from “A” to “D.” “A Class” is the top notch soil for farmers, while “D Class” isn’t worth as much, somewhat less than half of “A Class” per acre.
R.W. Young & Associates, Inc. is a business that is promoted almost exclusively by word of mouth. The only formal advertising that Robert does for his business consists of putting his business contact information in a plat book that local farmers look through to either buy or sell land. The bankers and farmers are the ones that will see his information and contact him for an appraisal.
To finish strong, Robert said that he was “in the right place at the right time or [had] just dumb luck” to get his job and business going and started on the right foot. Obviously, there is much more to his success than this. To make sure we took one thing away from this, he made sure we knew and understood that “hard work pays off.”