lay of the land
The idea of DreamDirt started on a hillside in Harrison County, Iowa in 2003. We had met and fell in love in 1995, married in 1997. We had lived busy lives! As I neared my law enforcement retirement, I wanted to start a business as my second career. At that point, I was also studying Marketing at Bellevue University. Nicole, my wife, and I had gone on a hike in the Loess Hills and stopped to rest in a spot overlooking the western sky. We began talking about what we would do with our future. The idea of me selling real estate and moving to a farm was discussed and before we left that spot - we decided just that. I was going to get a real estate license and we were going to move to the country.
Nicole and I both came from non-farm families. Nicole was a little closer to agriculture, only being one generation removed, but I was three generations removed; Nicole still had farmers in her family, whereas I had zero. For some reason, though, we had this calling to farm life that interested us, at least on a small scale. We wanted to have the picturesque farm with a few pigs, cows, and chickens and be able to raise our kids in the country.
Slowly, but surely, this plan came to life. I began studying for my real estate license and achieved that in October 2005 and then retired from law enforcement in 2006. Before retiring, I started selling real estate and was fortunate to find success rather quickly. I found that I loved selling real estate, but first had to start out selling homes to learn the ropes. I initially brokered with a very experienced broker and appraiser that was willing to spend a lot of time with me. While selling homes I was afforded several opportunities to sell land. They were few and far between, but I knew I had a passion for it. I genuinely loved the land assets themselves as well as the people involved. It didn’t take me long to decide I would specialize in land sales only.
Ready, Set, Launch
After two years, I decided to change brokerages to one that specialized in land only. From this, I was able to sell with a nationally-known land broker. We developed a great relationship as I would shadow him for weeks on end, learning the “ins and outs” of selling land, executing small details, and ultimately observing his sales process. This would prove to be extremely beneficial. I quickly became a top producer in the company and was producing a high sales volume selling listings.
It was at this time that I launched the blog, DreamDirt.com. From my experience in the industry, I noticed that there were many things sellers, and buyers, did not understand yet no one offered advice on the internet. Instead, multiple dealers and traders kept valuable information secret, creating an advantage for themselves. In turn, I strived to be the guy that was squarely in the seller’s corner, somebody they could get a straight answer from that was free of self interests. Bottom line, I wanted to help people understand the farmland market as well as the lifestyle aspects of owning land.
2008 proved to be a big year; we finally moved to the country and I attended auctioneering college. This decision really changed my mind about the best way to sell land and it became clear to me that auctions fit land 3 sales very well. My broker presented me with the opportunity to build and lead the company’s auction service, which was exactly the direction I wanted my career to go. I traveled all over the Midwest, auctioning and marketing land in seven different states.
In 2009, we began to experiment with online bidding and testing online land auctions. We found some initial success, but knew it would be a while before we achieved consistent success. Meanwhile, we were also expecting our first child, Ty, who was born December 28th. In the midst of this, I knew I didn’t want to travel as much and wanted to be closer to home and my family. I was confident in my garnered experience and felt like I could concentrate my sales in Iowa. I sought out a well-seasoned land auctioneer who happily added me as a salesperson. We agreed that I would work under him while launching the new DreamDirt.com - a combination of a real estate website and blog, and ultimately, the brand for my sales.
From blog to business
The DreamDirt blog flourished and in 2011, I was offered several opportunities to be interviewed by national news outlets about farmland prices. This boosted our business tremendously and DreamDirt grew rapidly. However, I was still working for another broker. There is no doubt that during my time with that company I learned a great deal about tillable farmland auctions and gained considerable recognition. My broker had sold hundreds of farms by auction and knew the methods for achieving the best price for the seller. My experiences at this brokerage strengthened my knowledge and, as a result, put me in a position to be a competent representative of clients at auction.
In 2012, Nicole and I decided that we would make DreamDirt a full fledged real estate company. We set to work assembling the assets and resources to start the company and in August of 2013 we opened our own real estate brokerage and auction firm named DreamDirt Farm & Ranch Real Estate, LLC. We made the decision to solely open our doors as a real estate and auction company, and not a farm management company. We knew of many companies that provided auction services, but were primarily farm management companies, having long-term relationships with the buyers they managed land for. Due to the nature of the farm management industry, these companies are incentivized to only pursue buyers they manage farms for. DreamDirt’s promise was to stand solely by our sellers, so we wanted to distinguish ourselves in this way. We also launched DollarsAndDirt.com - a first-of-its-kind website which broadcasts agriculture land values from sales in all 99 counties of Iowa.
Now there’s no denying that the initial start of DreamDirt wasn’t as easy as expected. Between the administrative duties, expenses we’d never had before, and the declining volume of farmland sales, we had a lot on our plate.
With that being said, we still managed to rise above it.
a step above the rest
I have often said that our business was born to breathe new life into an exhausted industry. At DreamDirt, our unique approach to farm real estate quickly captured people's attention. Our cutting edge advertising techniques combined with the simple yet effective auction services quickly commanded the attention of many people. We started winning state and national marketing awards from #1 auction company website in the nation to #1 Real Estate Auction Video in the nation. But, more importantly, our sellers were attracted to the idea that we would confidently take their side and be a true cheerleader for them. Since we only offered auctions, and not Farm Management, it gave us the freedom to truly represent the sellers best interests with no appearance of impropriety.
In 2015, Tom Bradley joined as a partner in DreamDirt. We merged his business with our online bidding capabilities, and Tom took over as the lead bid caller and Auctioneer at DreamDirt.
I have marketed over 500 tracts of land from the Canadian border to Paraguay, South America, mostly by live auction. Nonetheless, over the years we’ve led the industry by introducing online bidding for land auctions. In 2017, we started to develop our own software now known as BidCapture. Our focus has been to bring efficiency to the land auction process, maximize a sellers net profit, and remove stress for buyers and sellers. Fast forward to 2019, and we are now conducting 90% of our land auctions using Timed Online Auctions.
Today, DreamDirt consists of a talented in-house team who take great pride in caring for our clients.
As an auction company, and only an auction company, DreamDirt’s allegiance is solely to our sellers. Our sole job is to deliver the success you hope to achieve with your sale. With that responsibility, we aggressively pursue every potential bidder and encourage diverse participation in your sale. Our vision is to be the farm real estate company that eases the burden of selling and buying farm property. We will add value with our knowledge, skill, and resources. Our promise to each client is honesty, enthusiasm, and commitment.
DreamDirt used to be just a dream. With hard work, patience, and determination, a simple goal was cultivated into a thriving reality. Through our experiences over the past decade we’ve come to understand the buyer’s journey and turned it into a process that benefits the seller’s outcome and eases the burden for buyers.
If you’re toying with the idea of selling, or even have questions about owning land, we want to be a resource for you! I’d be happy to chat no matter where you’re at in the process.