Gar Lile founded Little Rock’s Lile Real Estate in February 1993, at a time when land brokerage agencies like his were few and far between. He is a licensed real estate broker in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas; an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and an Arkansas state Certified General Appraiser.
Since 1989, Lile has been involved in the valuation, brokerage and development of agricultural, timberland and recreational properties in the Mid-South. He has been the lead facilitator in the placement of hundreds of thousands of acres and is credited as the founder of the two largest Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) joint ventures in the United States.
His commitment to conservation has been recognized nationally, specifically his work to return marginal farmlands to their natural state through government conservation programs.
Lile specializes in the ownership and development of farms and recreational properties in Arkansas and is managing partner of Lile Farming Co., which is actively engaged in farming row crops and rice.
Arkansas Money & Politics recently visited with him for a quick lesson on supply and demand, pandemic migration and why family business is his specialty.
AMP: In what part of the region do you deal mostly?
Lile: The core of our work is in eastern Arkansas, in the Mississippi River Valley. Other than our timberland work, we are heavily focused on our agriculture sector, so any of the major crop-growing areas of the state are typically our focus area.
AMP: Who are some of your clients? Are there ever any tough sales?
Lile: We work with a lot of individual and family investors to acquire farmland and timberland. Our sellers are often third- and fourth-generation families that have just gotten dispersed geographically, emotionally — from not only the land, but their other family members as well.
So, the best way for them to have peace is to sell the land and split the money. When the families get split up like that, a lot of times there may be a daughter or son that’s kind of been the shepherd of the family property for years and still has a lot of emotional ties to it. Then, you have the others who don’t really want anything to do with it — they just want the money. And land values have increased so much over the last two or three decades that, the one family member who wants to keep the family ownership intact, more often than not, can’t afford to just buy out the family. So, there’s some real heartburn at times.
A lot of our clients in that sector are the estate and tax attorneys who are representing the various family members, trust departments for banks, things like that.
AMP: How have recent soaring lumber costs affected landowners?
Lile: Timberland is still, really… the actual stumpage values haven’t increased that much. But, the retail prices have increased greatly. And the cost to take that tree to a finished product, what is called the cost of goods sold, increased dramatically. But, the value wasn’t passed back to the landowner, necessarily. So the price of the raw material didn’t necessarily go up to benefit the landowner or logger, but the cost to produce that piece of plywood rose dramatically, and then the retail craze. Because everyone started wanting to build decks while working from home — things skyrocketed on the retail side.
AMP: Why did that happen? Was there a lack of supply?
Lile: The supply of the wood didn’t necessarily change due to any number of factors — the ability to get logging crews on it, the ability of mills to handle the product, etc. But over time, there have been fewer and fewer mills able to handle the wood supply, which kind of created a choking or bottlenecking effect on getting the finished product to places like Home Depot and Lowe’s. So, you not only had the cost of goods situation to increase the price, you also had the bottleneck of getting the supply to them due to lack of capacity to handle the increase in demand.
AMP: Speaking of pandemic trends, what about people leaving urban areas for rural areas? Is there any truth to that?
Lile: I think that’s very true for certain parts of the state. My wife and I met a woman at church a couple of months ago — she and her family left Massachusetts or somewhere near there. They wanted out of the big city because of safety issues, COVID restraints, etc. We work some on timberland tracts In north central Arkansas, and what we’re hearing from agents in that area, is that they are bombarded with calls from people seeking 40 acres, 80 acres in the Buffalo River area, just in the mountains.