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Right of Way Agent Duties and Responsibilities
There are several core tasks associated with right of way agents, no matter their industry. An analysis of job listings shows that right of way agents are typically responsible for these duties:
Identify Property Owners Before a construction or maintenance project begins, such as laying an oil pipeline or building a road, right of way agents review the project proposal and use mapping software to understand what property will be affected. They then determine ownership of the properties by accessing public records.
Negotiate Acquisition of Property Rights Establishing a positive relationship with property owners is crucial to advancing a project smoothly. Right of way agents take time to explain what exactly the project entails, then answer any questions an affected property owner may have. Whether the property rights are being bought or leased, right of way agents research the property's value before making the owner an offer.
Secure Permits and Licenses Making sure that a project is compliant with local and state laws is also the responsibility of a right of way agent. They coordinate consultations with local officials, inspectors, and assessors to determine which permits and licenses they will need, then organize and deliver all the required documents for obtaining such permits.
Review Progress of Projects The right of way agent's job continues even while the project is underway. They routinely inspect the worksite to ensure that the project remains compliant with laws and permits, as well as to mitigate damages to property.
Settle Damage Claims If a project causes damage to property, right of way agents receive and process claims from property owners. Right of way agents draw upon their knowledge of the property both before and during the project to assess the legitimacy of the claim, then offer a settlement for the damages.
Right of Way Agent Skills and QualificationsRight of way agents are highly effective communicators and problem solvers who possess a strong understanding of local real estate and construction laws. Entry level positions often require a bachelor's degree in business administration or real estate, although an associate's degree with a few additional years of experience is sometimes sufficient. In addition, employers look for candidates with the following skills:
- Legal knowledge - from land rights to permits, right of way agents must be able to understand different types of legal documentation needed to begin a construction or maintenance project in their region
- Map reading - right of way agents are adept at interpreting maps, blueprints, and property records to ensure that they are securing the appropriate rights and permits for a project
- Research - long stints in courthouses or online databases may be necessary for determining property ownership and securing records, so right of way agents should be adept researchers
- Document management - right of way agents deal with a large number of documents and processes at all stages of a project, and therefore must be highly organized and efficient coordinators
- Analytical ability - complex problems may arise during projects, such as conflicting interests between property owners and utility companies, so it's up to right of way agents to analyze alternative approaches and offer solutions that are agreeable to all involved
- Communication skills - right of way agents must not only be able to negotiate with property owners for the acquisition of land rights, but must be able to tactfully settle claims if there is property damage during projects
Right of Way Agent Education and TrainingWhile employers prefer that candidates possess a bachelor's degree in business, real estate, or a related field, some are willing to accept an associate's degree and at least two years of relevant experience. Coursework and certifications provided by local authorities on topics like safety or industry-specific regulations are also ideal. In addition, entities such as the International Right of Way Association offer education and credentials for a variety of industries.
Right of Way Agent Salary and OutlookWhen considered in the same class as a civil engineering technician, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the median annual salary of a right of way agent is $51,000. Those in the lowest 10 percent earn around $32,000, while top earners get around $78,000. These figures are congruent with the job listings we analyzed. The country's infrastructure will always require repairs, and as the population increases, more upgrades and new construction will be needed. The BLS predicts that employment in this sector will grow nine percent from 2016 to 2026, outpacing the seven percent average for all jobs.
Ready to take advantage of the low barriers to entry and high pay-off for a right of way agent? These resources will help you develop into a valued professional:
International Right of Way Association - this non-profit organization has been around since 1934 and serves nearly 10,000 members. Considered the leader in right of way education, they offer professional credentialing for the oil and gas, electric and utilities, and transportation industries.
The Land and Right of Way Encyclopedia - this two-volume set by William E. Bauer includes every letter and document used by right of way agents in the utility industry and is described by one customer as "the most significant and useful compilation of utility and pipeline land agent material ever assembled."
Real Estate Law - author Roger J. Aalberts gives a comprehensive view of real estate law by offering case studies and practical applications from around the country. Described by one reviewer as "one of the best written textbooks I have ever used," this book may be a good resource for those already working in an infrastructure industry but are looking to shift into a career as a right of way agent.
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