resorts for sale

Small Resort Millionaire
Resorts For Sale in the Arkansas Ozark Mountains
Bull Shoals Lake - Norfork Lake - White River

Since 1995

Gary Cooley, Real Estate Broker Resort Specialist
Mountain Home, Arkansas

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Do You Need To Work With A Real Estate Agent?

The Value of Understanding Small Resort Culture
In this article I take you deep into small resort culture so you can truly learn the value of what an experienced real estate agent has to offer.  Understanding small resort culture is as important to the sales and buying process as legal and financial issues.

I believe small resorts have a very special place in American culture. Small resorts deliver special experiences for guests that few other vacation facilities can. I believe that if more Americans truly understood how wonderful staying at small resorts is, all small resorts would have more business than they could handle.

I also believe that owning a successful small resort is an extremely rewarding lifestyle. Since there are only about 1,700 small resorts in America, it is also a very rare lifestyle.  Yet like any business, owning small resorts can also be pure hell.

If you buy a resort for the wrong reasons, if you buy the wrong property for your personality type, if you don't manage right, and if you don't get the right information from the get-go, your operation will be mildly profitable at best, and at worst, you'll go belly up.

Bankruptcy usually results from bad or mis-leading information, not from people being stupid. Bad information comes from many sources, but it all comes from people who think they know what they are talking about but don't. Once you understand more about small resort culture, it is a lot easier to tell who really knows what they are talking about and who does not.

There is considerable variance in degrees of small resort experience among real estate agents, resort owners, lawyers, bankers, CPAs, and other professionals serving the small resort industry. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only professional in my area making 100 percent of his income by providing various services to small resorts and small tourism businesses. Therefore what I have to say about small resorts could well be quite different from what others tell you.

Buying or selling a resort is an exciting experience for both seller and buyer. The seller is excited because his nest egg is finally going to hatch. The buyer is excited because now they'll have a chance to get out of the Rat Race, grow their nest egg, and have a grand lifestyle while so doing. In such an environment it's easy to get off  the accurate information track and not know it until too late. As you will see, putting experience on your side is the only way to come out ahead whether you use an agent or not.

Pricey Commissions - Too High?
You need to know if commissions are worth the cost because they are expensive. Real estate commissions are expensive whether buying or selling. I have worked as an agent being paid a commission. And I have worked as a consultant helping buyers and/or sellers "do it themselves".   In other words, I've seen it done both ways, and several times each way, that is by agent or for sale by owner.

What I have learned is that it is not about the cost of the commission.  It is all about what you get for that money, which is experience from a good agent. A lack of experience can cost you a lot more than a real estate commission. Once you learn the ins and outs of what a good agent offers, you'll see that despite that expensive commission, a good agent can actually save you money. If you have experience close to what an agent knowledgeable in tourism has, you won't need the agent. Notice I put emphasis on being truly knowledgeable about tourism. This applies not only to agents, but to bankers, CPAs, and lawyers.

The Risk Factor
If you are a seller, you have worked hard to get your resort to where it is today. How much of that hard effort are you willing to gamble on your own knowledge of how to sell? For most buyers, investing in a resort represents risking most of their life savings. Thus a buyer must ask how much risk are they willing to place on their lifetime of work? Truth is, good and bad transactions occur both ways - with, or without - an agent.

The choice to use an experienced agent knowledgeable in tourism, or to go it alone, buying or selling, is a personal one. I have seen some buyers and sellers do just fine without an agent. I have seen just as many screw up in a very serious way going it alone. So it all gets down to risk in terms of experience. The more you know, the less risky it will be for you. On many issues you will need to do your own homework. You can't take the word of resort owners. Not because they don't know what they are talking about, or because they can't be trusted. Rather it's because each owner operates his resort in a different way. It is a matter of interpretation, not trust.There is no one universal "right" or "wrong" way to run a small resort. One resort's meat is another's poison as you will see below.

For Sellers
No matter how many years owners have operated a resort, no matter how many bits of local gossip about resort sales they have heard over the years, most owners have personally been involved in only one resort sale transaction - when they bought their resort!  While this is better than no experience at all, it does not mean an owner knows the best way to structure a sale. A successful resort operator does not automatically make a successful deal closer. Owners may, or may not have, been through a good transaction when they purchased their resort. When I list a resort for sale I frequently hear things like, "Well when we bought the place we did not do that." or "When we bought the place we did not need to do that." Then I have the tough job of saying, "Well if you had done this or that, this is the advantage you would have gained." It is only then that the sellers learn there was a better way to do things.

When you  want to sell I recommend consulting with both legal counsel and a CPA. I recommend a CPA, not a book keeper or accountant. Use a fully certified CPA that is experienced with small resort operations. Same with legal counsel. Use an attorney who has experience with small resorts. Don't be afraid to ask if they are experienced with small resorts. Don't assume that just because they are a lawyer or CPA they automatically understand small resorts. I recommend this procedure whether or not you are listing with an agent. Real estate agents are not attorneys or CPAs.

Price Advice
Both buyers and sellers understandably agonize over the "right price" for any given resort. I could write a small book on all the different pricing theories I have heard over the years. When it comes to pricing a small resort, forget all the so-called pricing models. For example, you have heard models like, "take the net income and multiply it by six. That is the price you should ask." Or  "take the gross sales and multiply it by 3, that is the price you should ask." Such pricing models are called "gross rent multipliers".

Gross rent multipliers are normally based on similar sales in the same market. Therefore no single formula will be accurate for all markets. A multiplier for a retail store in any given location or city might be 3 times net profit. Another 200 miles down the road it might be 5 times net profit. It all depends on location and market conditions. So don't use any universal gross rent multiplier to price your resort until you have the comps to back up the multiplier you are using.

Anyone who knows anything about small resorts will have much better advice for you about the "right price" than the above models. I won't give that advice here because pricing is one of those things which has taken me years of experience to learn. Since my competition reads this Web site, I'm not about to give away all my best trade secrets here. But I will give you one good example.

Can You Answer This Important Question About Price?
This is an important factor that the "multiply gross income by X " formula (gross rent multiplier) does not take into consideration. Both buyer and seller will have to know the answer to this one. If they don't, one, or both, will get screwed, and maybe for more money than what a commission would cost. Here it is:

"How do you allocate the purchase price in the sales contract? What allocation values are to the seller's best interest, and what values are to the buyer's best interest? Are allocations negotiable, or must they stick to tax law requirements?" At what price point do all of the allocation rules change? If you don't know, don't feel bad as most buyers and sellers are not familiar with purchase price allocations. Quite frankly, many real estate agents aren't either. But if you don't allocate the price right, someone is getting screwed, and most likely without even knowing about it.

1031 Tax Deferred Exchanges
This program has a tendency to cause some confusion, even among some qualified intermediaries. A truly competent intermediary will have a fidelity bond. If they are not truly knowledgeable they cannot get the bond. If they don't think the bond is necessary, then they are not truly qualified. Its that simple.

For Buyers
Buyers your challenge is being able to sift through all the differing options, ideas, and theories you'll hear from owners and others. Small resorts are a very rare breed within the American Travel and Hospitality industry. Out of America's approximate 79,000 lodging facilities, only about 1,700 are small resorts. Because small resorts account for slightly less than one percent of the multi-billion dollar American Travel and Hospitality industry, few people, including experts, know much about small resort operations and their market.

The reason so few people know much about the small resort sales process is only a few in any given year sell. This being the case, it is impossible for most attorneys, CPAs, and especially real estate agents to get any real experience in resort sales. Finding people who really understand small resorts on a broad scale is the proverbial hunt for the needle in the haystack.

The Four Challenges Applying To Both Buyers and Sellers
Yes, I am biased in favor of experience, whether that experience is yours, an agents, a CPA, or anyone else's. The biggest challenge you face as either a buyer or a seller is putting experience on your side. Where most buyers and sellers screw themselves is thinking they know it all and don't need help. You need assistance in four areas: 1.) Consumer trends in travel on a nationwide basis; 2.) local tourism industry history; 3.) the Due Diligence process of the sale itself; 4.) and for buyers, picking the right resort property for your personality and financial statement. I'll show you the benefits of understanding all four.

1. Consumer Travel Trends
If you are a seller you can't expect a buyer to just accept what you have to say on why your resort is successful. This will be the most frustrating thing for you in the sales process. YOU are successful. YOU understand why your guests keep coming back every year, but don't expect the buyer to take your word for it. As much as they want to, any buyer is not going to fully trust you. 

You will need to site tourism surveys or other evidence from respected third parties, like TIA, that support your claims. You will need to be able to site national, regional, and local travel trends, and explain how your operation meets those trends. This is especially true if you expect to get full asking price.

Buyers, you can't make a prudent choice if you are not familiar with current trends in American Consumer travel. Yes, you can see that people are coming to the Ozarks to vacation, but you need to know WHY. Unless you do, you can't make as good of a decision on the property that is right for you. For example, a major change is taking place in a certain resort feature. Some resorts have it, some don't. If you have it, your operation will do much better than those who don't, especially five years from now. Do you know what it is? Buyers who work with me do.

2. Local Tourism Industry
The Ozarks as a American tourism destination is a well established fact. Anyone who you work with should be able to explain in detail why Americans come to the Ozarks. And I mean beyond the obvious, like we are centrally located, the lakes, the rivers, the clean water. Anyone knows these basic things. As a buyer you need to understand in travel industry terms why the Ozarks draws people.

Sellers, you know why your guests come to you instead of going somewhere else. Be prepared to tell your buyer prospects why that is. Buyers, the challenge you have is sorting through all the different claims you will hear from sellers. It is not that what each seller has to say will be wrong. All of them will be right from their property perspective.  But as you will see below, you need to know WHY each owner is right, even when they seem to be in contradiction with each other.

3. Due Diligence
This is the actual legal side of the sale, after the buyer and seller have reached an agreement and the offer and acceptance contract is signed. Selling a resort, if it is done right, is a lot of procedure and process. It can take 60 days or more to get all the paper work done. Almost every deal will, at some point, seem to dangle by a thread which threatens to snap at any moment.

This is stressful, and it is normal. The secret is keeping a cool, calm, clear, and determined attitude. It takes experienced people to keep the deal together. It is not so much that the buyer and seller argue, but rather that the bank, the survey, the title search, the inspections, or other third party discoveries throw legal sand in the gears. Not because they are being jerks, but because something was found that nobody knew anything about. Prior to an accepted and signed contract, there is also a lot of leg work. Every well written contract has several contingencies in it which require detailed documents. Running to the courthouse, the attorneys, the CPA, and a long list of other support duties take a lot of time. Either you, or those you are working with, need to follow up every detail. More than once I have had a document lost under a desk, even in a trash can. If you don't follow up and ensure the paper trail keeps moving, the deal falls apart because there are time sensitive elements in place that must be met.

4. The Culture of Resort Personalities
Resorts are like restaurants. There is no one particular "menu" that works better than another. Talk to any resort owner about what it takes to make a great small resort, and you'll get some universal answers. And you'll also get conflicting answers. The secret is understanding that one resort may be like an Italian cuisine restaurant. The next may be like an American cuisine restaurant. The resort "menu" takes on the personality of its owners. Each is successful under a different menu. Beyond obvious basics, there is no one "right" or "wrong" way to run a resort in terms of a business model.   If the property is making money, then it is being run right. If it is not making money, is is not being run right. Like small Mom & Pop restaurants, no two resorts are exactly alike.

Some resort owners allow pets. Others do not. Some resort owners allow smoking. Others do not. Some resort owners swear you have to have a swimming pool. Others do not. Some owners say you must have a lake view. Others are very successful without a lake view. Some say you must cater to fishermen, others say you'll go broke doing so.

The owner's confidence in his property is a valuable asset. When the phone rings with a possible reservation, the owner needs to impart that confidence to the consumer making the inquiry. The owner needs this same level of confidence in order to keep faith in his own operation, especially in tough years, which occur every so often as a natural swing in the nation's tourism cycle.

When showing his resort to a buyer or to someone who is just thinking of staying there a week as a guest, the owner has the tough job of saying why his resort is a better place to buy or stay at than the resort down the road. He has to make his place sound better without slamming the other area resorts. Most owners don't want to insult their neighborhood competition, but on the other hand they want to survive and prosper too.

When talking with resort owners bear in mind many of them don't know other resort owners outside their immediate area. And aside from resorts in their own immediate area, they have never set foot on the other guy's property, or if they did, it was years ago. Much of what they tell you about resorts other than their own is only what they have heard from disgruntled guests who have stayed at The Other Guy's Resort. If an owner starts running down another resort, take what they say with a grain of salt. It may, or may not be, true.

Most resort owners are honest and decent people. If they have an opinion, they usually will say it is just their opinion. They will normally try to be helpful, and in so doing, will give you their view on any given topic.

In extreme cases I've had resort owners tell me all about how a certain resort was sold. They tell me what the price and terms were, etc. I tell them their information is incorrect. I then explain I was the one who wrote the sales contract, so I know for sure what the deal entailed. Even then they insist that what I am saying is not true. These folks are just plain hard-headed. Fortunately they are far and few between!

Unique Selling Propositions
Within the advertising industry there are certain men and women who are a genius at advertising and marketing. What proves them to be a genius is that their advertising strategies produce millions, and even billions of dollars for their clients. When they are this good they work as freelancers who consult and develop marketing and advertising for Fortune 500s and other major corporations around the world.

Understandably these experts are expensive. At the top of the heap is a man named Jay Abraham who many within the advertising industry recognize as the best advertising man in the world. His fees reflect this. The man gets $5,000 per hour with a $20,000 minimum, and he has a long waiting list. All I can afford are his books, which are sold on a limited basis and typically cost in the $5,000 range. I have purchased three of his books since 1986.

Jay stresses the value of something called a Unique Selling Proposition. (Jay did not personally come up with the concept of a USP, some other marketing whiz from the early 1950's did.)The USP is the starting point of all advertising and marketing campaigns. When I work with a resort owner on a Web site I do all I can to first ascertain what their USP is. When I first started working with resorts not a single one knew what their USP was. Like me, they had never heard of a USP. So we worked together to develop a USP that fit their property. This was a good experience for both the owners and myself.

The point is that when it comes to small resort success, effective advertising is extremely important. If you understand modern advertising that clicks with today's fickle consumer, then you stand a much better chance of understanding why some resorts fail and others succeed. Keep in mind that the type of advertising a small business can afford requires a much different approach than what a large corporation can afford.

What I See That Owners Don't
To date I have helped a little over 90 area resorts and tourism businesses develop their USPs in one form or another.  For many people it is a difficult thing to do. So most of the time I just ask them a long list of questions, then develop it for them. I learn from them, they learn from me. We help each other in the process.

Through this process I have spent a lot of time on the phone and on the property of most of the area's resorts. I have understandably set foot on far more resorts than any resort owner in the area. Moreover, I know from first hand experience a lot more about each area resort than any owner in the area. My point?

Trust me when I say owners don't know as much as they think they do about each other's properties. Some of what they know about each other is true, some of what they know about each other is not true. Keep in mind all owners are in that tough spot where they must convince both buyers and guests that they are the best place to stay or buy. That is their job, and many times they do a great job of selling themselves without insulting their competition. But as I said above, take any resort owner's statements about any property except his own with a grain of salt until you have had a chance to learn first hand whether or not it is true. On numerous occasions I have heard one owner say something about another resort that just is not true. I have also heard one owner say things about another that are very true. You never know unless like me, you have been there and seen it with your own eyes.

Guest Preferences Matching Owner Preferences Shape Reputations
Remember the old saying you attract what you are? It applies somewhat to resorts. All resorts depend upon repeat business for long-term success. Without repeat business, a small resort dies. All good owners  know this. Understandably they do all they can to get their guests to come back next year. In particular, they like certain guests better than others. Who wouldn't. So they especially focus on getting those favored guests to come back each year.

For example, if ABC Resort owners like to party until midnight around the pool, they won't mind if their guests do. But those guests who want to get up at 4am to going fishing won't like the late loud parties. In fact, they'll never come back to ABC Resort. However, the party crowd guests will come back. Over a few year's time, ABC Resort gets a reputation for being the party resort. And they'll be successful because there are a lot of people who like to party late at night.

But the disgruntled fishing guest who leaves ABC Resort and stays at The Other Guy's Resort instead will tell the owners of The Other Guy's Resort what jerks the owners at ABC Resort are. Of course the owners at The Other Guy's Resort agree because they like to go to bed at 10pm too. Over the years The Other Guy's Resort gets a reputation for being quiet and not allowing parties around the pool until the crack of dawn. And they will be successful because many people like to get up at 4am to go fishing.

You can apply this bias to all sorts of guest and owner preferences. Some owners will tell you what a pain family reunions are. Other resort owners can't get enough of them. Some owners will tell you that fishing tournaments destroy their spring business, while other owners want to attract more spring fishing tournaments. Such topics are well polarized in the area, as they would be in any other area. It is human nature.

Birds Of A Feather Squawk Together
I can't remember all the times I have gone down to ABC Resort on business and during the conversation the owners tell me all about what a horrible place The Other Guy's Resort is. They tell me all about how they have people staying with them now that used to stay at The Other Guy's Resort but no longer do because The Other Guy's Resort has turned into such a dirt bag of a place.

Then, two weeks later, I'm doing business with The Other Guy's Resort and the owners there tell me all the horror stories about ABC Resort. They have several guests staying with them now who used to stay at ABC Resort because ABC became such a dirt bag. This switch happens all the time.

What always amuses me is that both The Other Guy's Resort and ABC Resort are successful operations. Both are operated by people I like and respect. What it all comes down to is just a difference between people who have a strong passion for what they do. If you, or the people you are working with, are not experienced enough in small resort culture to know this mutual squawking between birds of a feather is normal, you will be unfairly and incorrectly influenced.

Always bear in mind that when it comes to small resorts, both the guests that stay at them and the owners are birds of a feather that flock together. This is a good thing as it cements together repeat business. You will have to do it yourself. But when buying a resort don't let this issue of clashing culture cloud your judgement. The day will come when your resort too will take on your personality, and you'll attract a certain type of guest. While not all guests will match your favorite wish list, many will.

Books, Not Looks Please
Remember this little ditty, which is Cooley's First Rule of Resort Selection: Don't Judge It By Its Looks, Judge It By Its Books. I came up with this after working with potential buyers who could not make up their minds about which resort to buy. In other words, if a resort operation is making money, the owner is doing something right. Always learn from that! You may not like the way the resort looks. You may not like the owner's business model. But that does not make the resort a bad operation. You can't argue with success. Find out why the place is making money and learn from it, whether or not it impresses you.

Conversely, if a resort is losing money, it may be the owner's fault, it may be the lack of features of the property, it may be due to poor advertising, or it may be any combination of these factors. Only a person who really understands small resort operations will be able to tell you what is right or wrong.   Any CPA, any lawyer, or any real estate agent you are working with will know only from experience whether or not the loser resort can become a winner. You don't learn these things any other way except by experience. Here are some examples of what I mean.

I have worked with 185 different resort owners on some 82 different resort properties. (I also work with other types of tourism businesses, but for this article I refer to resorts.) The reason I have worked with more owners than properties is because several of these resorts have had at least two owners, and some three different owners, since I began working with them in 1995. I've seen old run-down bankrupt properties turned around into clean, popular profitable operations. And I have seen clean, profitable operations run into the ground in less than a year. What is the difference?

First Hand vs. Second Hand Knowledge
Now when I say "I've seen" and "I have worked" you need to know exactly what I mean. The above cases are where I have been hired and paid to perform various services. I may have been a consultant, I may have been producing a Web site or other advertising, or I may have been a commissioned real estate agent. When I say "worked with" or " have seen" I'm talking about being directly involved in the situation as a paid professional. That is first-hand experience. When you hear someone say they have "experience", ask if they were personally involved in the success or failure as a paid participant. If not, then rest assured chances are good their "experience" is second-hand street gossip. Not always of course, but that is why you must ask. In my case, I never discuss a particular resort's failure or success without the owner's permission. Instead I will just tell it like I am here, like "I have seen this or that . . ."

In the cases of good operations gone bad that I have been involved in, it was due to the fact that the new owners came here to show the rest of us "how it is done." No amount of historical evidence or proof of what does not work would sway their decisions. After these folks got done showing us dumb hillbillies how it is done, they had to spend some time in bankruptcy court.

Conversely, the biggest turn-around success stories I have seen come from new owners who came here to show the rest of us how it is done, and they did just that. The new resort owners are the ones who are "taking names and kicking butt." I have seen some really impressive results from new owners. I've seen old run-down properties go from $30,000 a year in gross sales to $270,000 and more in just three or four years. I've seen this happen more than once. It results from new owners taking a new look at things, then balancing out the old with the new.

Experts Are Open Minded
For me what makes my career in Ozark recreational promotion so much fun is that it is always changing. The challenge is keeping up with it all. What worked well five years ago may now be defacto. As a result I spend hundreds of hours and many thousands of dollars a year just staying up on the latest travel trends, and trends in travel advertising. I buy surveys and other information travel and advertising services that costs me anywhere from $250 to $8,000 a pop. I pay some experts $600 per hour to educate me. There is no other way to stay up on what is really happening. I can't hope to know it all.

Let me get on the soap box for a paragraph. I can't stand people who claim to know tourism but never bother to read a travel magazine, buy a travel survey, or make any other effort to educate themselves on our changing American times. These people go strictly by what they personally like or dislike, or by what their gut feelings are. While personal feelings are a great place to start, they are totally the wrong place to stop. I don't like these people because they do our local tourism market tremendous harm with their totally uninformed opinions. Watch out for them. Do your own research! Okay, off the soap box.

Anyone who is truly experienced to the point of helping you in an objective sense can discuss at length national, regional, and local travel trends, travel advertising trends, and a long list of other topics relating to travel in general. They will be able to spout off facts, figures, and definitions, plus give you the source for their information. While they have their own pet theories, they separate personal opinion from what the Real World is currently showing. Some are smart enough to capitalize on a new trend. When they are, they may be willing to talk about it. That is the time to listen.

If you have ideas that you wish to pursue, true experts can not only discuss your ideas relative to national, regional, and local travel markets, but also as your ideas relate to particular resort properties that have the necessary features you need to implement  your ideas. If they don't like your ideas, they will say why, and then say something like, "You know, I don't  think that would work well, but let's explore it further."

If your help is experienced enough to know for sure your idea won't work, they'll be able to sight all the proven reasons why.

Good Deals Without Agents
I have seen several transactions which did not involve real estate agents and everything went just fine. The seller and the buyer were smart enough to consult experienced CPAs and experienced legal counsel. They negotiated without getting into an emotional cat fight. The seller did not get grumpy, and the buyer was not inconsiderate. It can be done.

Commissions Can Kill The Deal
In many cases the 8 to10 percent real estate commission most agents demand is so high it kills the deal. On a $500,000 property commissions run $40,000 to $50,000. That is more than some $500,000 resorts gross in a year! On the other hand, I have also seen several sales where if there had been a good agent involved, money would have been saved. How?

Technical Knowledge
The trade off comes in how much either the buyer or seller really know about the sales process, and the Due Diligence I mentioned above. Serious mistakes made by both buyers and sellers due to their mutual lack of experience can cost them far more than that $50,000 commission. More than once I've seen no-agent transactions lead to expensive problems costing far more than what the commission would have been.

To make matters worse, I know of sales where there WERE real estate agents involved, and the deal still was not structured right. Not only did the agents get fat fees, but the new owners got stiffed for very expensive repairs or other problems any good agent should have known about.

I know of several cases where real estate agents or owners where taken to court over a bad resort deal. In all cases the buyers won because the owners or the agents failed to disclose known problems that suddenly popped up as a nightmare for the new owners.

First Get The Experts On Your Side
Whether you are a buyer or a seller, if you are going to work without an agent, I highly recommend that before you do a thing, get legal counsel and a CPA lined up. Contact both and tell them your intentions. Get their advice. Make sure they have experience with small resorts and similar tourism businesses. Not all attorneys and CPAs know how to handle these transactions. I had to learn that the hard way. Attorneys not familiar with small resorts can kill the deal with an infinite number of objections. CPAs not familiar with how wealth is created with a small resort will also kill the deal with non-applicable coverage ratios.

Sellers Need Emotional Detachment
Sellers, if you are going to work without an agent, detach yourself emotionally from the sales process. As a seller you can't get grumpy or feel insulted when prospects ask sensitive questions. This is true whether you are showing your property or negotiating the sale.

Some resort owners I know as good kind people turn into total grumps when asked certain questions. Understandably so. The resort is their baby. They have worked hard to get it were it is. The trouble starts because they think, "We are making it work the way it is, why can't the prospect see that?" A good point, and the answer is, the prospect wants to believe it, but does not trust the seller because the seller is obviously working for the seller. Actually, it is more about interpretation, not trust.

This is when a seller MUST stay detached. I know, it is hard. If you can't do it, you will not be the first. Buyers tell me all the time they don't want to insult a seller by asking the wrong questions. This is why sellers must detach themselves from the process if they are going to sell the property themselves.

Buyers, Slow Down!
Buyers don't let your excitement get the best of you. If you are not going to use an agent, take things at a sensible pace. Some people come to the area to run a marathon instead of looking at resorts. They fly around at 100 miles an hour, running from resort to resort, looking and talking and whirling around with all the strength and noise of a hurricane - but with as much direction as a straw in the middle of the storm.

Buyers who run around looking at as many resorts as they can in a day miss a great deal. They think the more they see, the more they learn. They talk to anyone who will talk to them about resorts. They even go to resorts NOT for sale and talk to the owners.Then at lunch ( if they stop long enough to eat) they ask the waitress what she knows about the resorts in the area.

I don't laugh at people who do this, even if it seems crazy. Understandably they don't have much time. They have to get back to work, maybe they only have two days. If they are not working with a knowledgeable agent, what else can they do? This is not something they have done before, so how would they know the right way to proceed? This happens even to people who have considerable business experience. They take in too much, and end up suffering from information overload.

By the end of two days the marathon runners can't remember all they have seen, can't remember all they have heard. They are confused and worn out. To make matters worse, they have listened to several resort owners pontificate on the best way to run a resort, and all had a different opinion on what a good resort was. The last resort owner they talked to did not want to sell his place, so they asked him about the one down the road that was for sale. They really liked it, but this guy told them it was a real dirt bag. Now what?

Now my phone rings. "Cooley, we have looked at so many places we don't know what to think. And George down at XYZ told us that resort ABC is a real dump and we really liked ABC. What is your opinion?"

This is no way to make a smart purchase, and a good agent will not let this confusing whirl wind of activity take place. A good agent has worked resort showings so many times they know the right pace to proceed with so that the buyer does not get confused. Confusing resort tours lead to wasted time and disappointments.

Many buyers decide they don't like the resorts they have seen, so they go to several resorts and ask if they want to sell. If you are a buyer thinking about doing this, be forewarned it is nothing new. Most resort owners have several people a year drive up and ask if they want to sell. They hear it all the time. This is not  bad exercise if you have the time, and if the owners have the time. If nothing else, you'll see and learn quite a bit. But again, take what any owner says about any resort other than their own in perspective.

More Of What I See That Others Do Not
In addition to real estate services and producing Web sites for many area tourism businesses and resorts, I do a lot of commercial photography for these same operations. I have photographed resorts on both lakes, both rivers, and all points in between. I photograph inside, outside, and from the air. You'll see my work in most of the area's Web sites and many brochures. My photo shoots take from 2 to 10 hours on the property. Many resorts I have shot more than once as they improve and remodel. Why is this important?

I see many more resorts than resort owners and other folks do who claim to have area resort knowledge because it is my job to get out into area resorts.  It is what I do, and have since 1995. That is an advantage to both seller and buyer that only an experienced agent can offer. If you are going to sell or buy a resort, you have to deal with the truth in any matter if you expect to be competitive. What few people stop to think about with that high commission is just how much clutter you WON'T have to sort through.

When it comes to scary gossip that threatens a deal, I will ask the owner in question what their side of the story is. When politely asked most owners respond well. Out of the many times I have asked owners sensitive questions, I have been lied to only twice that I know of.  Not bad out of 185 owners. But then, I know how to ask the right questions because I have a lot of respect for the owners I work with. I have worked with very few I did not like. I have learned a tremendous amount from these owners. They have learned from me. And that is what a good relationship is all about.

Other Helpful Information For Resort Buyers & Sellers
1. Cooley's Guide To Buying A Resort
A candid and comprehensive look at finding, buying, and operating a small Ozark resort. Explains what to look for, and how to determine if the resort owner lifestyle is really for you. Based on over 35 years experience of those within the industry. A definite must-read for the serious would-be resort owner!

2. Do You Need A Real Estate Agent?
Not a sales pitch to use an agent, but a realistic look at the experience needed for anyone buying or selling small resorts.

3. Frequently Asked Questions - For Buyers and Sellers

4. Back to Main 2Cooleys Resorts For Sale Page

2Cooleys OMW Tourism Sites
See what area resorts and tourism businesses look like and what they offer. Links lead to main directories for each lake and the rivers. OMW Main directory gives links to many area resorts in one place.

Norfork Lake - See resorts operating on Norfork Lake
Bull Shoals Lake - See resorts operating on Bull Shoals
White River & North Fork River - See resorts on the White and North Fork Rivers
OMW Main Directory - See resort links for rivers and lakes in one place

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