February 25, 2024

Growing up in the Dunwoody area during the 1970s, Bruce Carlisle had a front-and-center view of the transformation of Perimeter Center from farmland into an office and retail hub.
Carlisle mingled with successful business owners, many of whom worked in commercial real estate, while playing in competitive tennis tournaments. He gleaned their passion for working in the industry. That, along with the growth near his home, planted the seeds for his career in land sales and development.
Carlisle founded North Georgia Land LLC in 1993. He has helped owners sell acres upon acres of land to developers, builders and other real estate actors. A few of his accomplishments include brokering the land to build Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, an expansion of Suwanee Town Center and several residential subdivisions across the metro area.
Carlisle recently published “Top Dollar Dirt: 13 Proven Strategies to Be a Wise Landowner.”
Who was your biggest influence in your career? Without a doubt, my father had the greatest influence on my career and on the man I am today. He was the ultimate optimist. He helped me dream big dreams and believe they were possible. My first two bosses, Fred Freyer and Richard Uberto, founders of Property Systems Corp., were extremely impactful because of the structure and vision they created. They understood the value of data, were able to identify trends and could find opportunities before their competition. They knew what it took to be a successful land broker and helped me create a foundation I have continued to build upon.
What is the biggest challenge in your career? The biggest challenge in my career revolves around navigating the uniqueness of each family and their specific property. Every family member often has their own dreams, desires and opinions concerning the use, management and disposition of family land. Land has often been passed down through one or several generations, making land transactions different from other types of commercial real estate. Family memories and emotions can often impact how a deal is structured. Some transactions are created to emphasize a family’s legacy while other transactions are structured to create generational wealth. Ideally, both can be achieved if a family is willing to effectively communicate their desires. My job is to really understand the desires of the family and creatively structure deals to accomplish their goals.
How do you navigate sensitive family dynamics that come up when it’s time to sell a property? I have found being an empathetic listener is one of the keys to understanding each family member’s perspective, needs and concerns. I’ve also learned there are multiple solutions to each problem. We must be creative and stay flexible to accommodate the many parties involved in a land transaction. The process is long – and there are usually bumps in the road – but my goal remains the same: to understand the desires of the family and help them achieve their goals.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job? The most rewarding part of my job is guiding landowners through the complex maze of a land transaction and helping them understand that it is easier to divide dollars than acres. Many of these transactions have the potential to positively impact a family for generations, and it is exciting to see these funds put to good use. Whether it’s helping a grandchild purchase a home, paying off medical bills, taking their family on a dream vacation or donating to a local charity, we have the unique vantage point of watching the positive ripple effects made by wise landowners.
What’s the hardest business lesson you’ve learned? Land transactions require an immense amount of patience and perseverance. Throughout the process, there are numerous hurdles to overcome. Each property has a unique set of challenges. These could be related to a change in local government, rezoning and entitlement issues, sewer access and capacity problems, as well as changes in the local and national economy. After almost four decades in land brokerage, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be patient, persevere through the process and to continually seek to find creative solutions.
 What do you view as the most meaningful land transaction you’ve helped facilitate? In 1993, I met a family in Fayetteville, Georgia. We worked together to sell a portion of their land for a Kroger-anchored shopping center. For the last 29 years, I have represented this family based solely on a handshake. The relationship started with me representing the parents, and now I have the privilege of working with their three sons. I helped them sell properties to Walgreens and completed ground leases with several national retailers. We sold another portion of their land to a national homebuilder and negotiated several 1031 Tax Free Exchanges. This family’s relationship has become far more than a business relationship.
 What advice would you give a young land broker just now entering the business? The commercial real estate business is a surprisingly small community. Reputation and character are everything. Seek out mentors, ask good questions and outwork your competition. Find a boss who believes in you and exceed their expectations. Stay patient and persevere. As a competitive business owner, I often want to win every deal. I have grown to adopt the mindset that there is enough for everyone. Maintain an abundance mentality and never forget that helping others achieve their goals will ultimately ensure you achieve your own.
 What prompted you to write your book? Over the years, I noticed that many landowners desired more information about the complexities associated with a land transaction. In my book, I share some of the best land management practices and how to leverage the powers of politics, utilities, density and timing to increase a property’s value. The key strategies are accompanied by detailed stories to give landowners tangible examples of how owners have overcome complex challenges in managing and selling their land. “Top Dollar Dirt” seeks to empower landowners in their efforts to be good stewards of their undeveloped property, so that when the time is right, they can get top dollar for their dirt.
What’s the most common mistake you see landowners make? Selling property can be a stressful experience, and every family wants to make sure they’re getting the best deal possible. Not all developers are created equal, nor do they excel at developing every different product type. The proposed purchase price is obviously of great importance, but sometimes landowners don’t consider the other criteria in choosing the right developer. Land transactions are more complicated and time-consuming than most owners realize. The quality and reputation of the buyer must be considered, as well as the buyer’s ability to get the property entitled and closed. Oftentimes, owners will blindly trust the buyer and not have the contract reviewed by a qualified attorney. Spending a few dollars up front for good legal counsel will provide owners the peace of mind they desire.
Bruce Carlisle
Born in: Atlanta
Lives in: Cumming
Age: Early 60s
Current job: President and CEO, North Georgia Land LLC
Previous job: Land broker since 1984
Education: Florida State University
Family: Married for 38 years; two grown children
Hobbies: Hiking, gardening, “marriage enrichment programs,” traveling with family
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