What does your dream setup look like? A cozy cottage with a view of your horses grazing out back, or a commercial spread complete with indoor arena? Whether big or small, horse properties are a special niche; equestrian realtor Andria Allen of WK Real Estate in Boulder, Colorado, shares key points to keep in mind before you start shopping for horse property.
Partner With a Horse Property Pro
Ask questions when you are vetting your agent: does he or she have horses of her own? Do they have first-hand experience with the type of setup you are looking for? What about the geographic area you are interested in? You can also ask inside your equestrian circle for recommendations.
“If you are serious about purchasing a horse property, please find an agent who knows about horses,” Allen says. “You may see realtors, like luxury home realtors, who market horse properties without knowing a thing about horses. This is essential if you are in the market for a commercial facility.”
While you’re at it, also think very clearly about your own lifestyle. Allen encourages shoppers to really consider their needs, separate from any idyllic visions. Are you a competitor that needs an indoor arena? Do you work a nine-to-five job that could make horse care difficult? Does easy access to trails figure into how you like to spend time with your horse?
Specifics of Shopping for Horse Property
Once your search is underway, due diligence is key even before you place an offer. Critical points to consider include:
◆ Covenants and deed restrictions (also known as CC&Rs, or covenants, conditions, and restrictions)
◆ Zoning (think: residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, etc.)
◆ Number of horses allowed per acre
◆ Water rights for irrigation
◆ Water permits specific to horses
◆ Whether existing permits for the property and buildings are transferable to new owners
◆ Distance buildings must be set back from property lines
◆ Percentage of the property that may be covered (with buildings, asphalt, or cement)
◆ Critical area buffers that protect ecosystems
◆ Any planned development changes in the area
◆ Specifics relative to your individual needs, from turnaround space for large hay shipments to manure management
Yes, it’s a lot to consider! Your agent should be very familiar with the regulations of your municipality, county, and state that could impact your purchase, including any future renovation or construction.
“A knowledgeable agent doesn’t have to know everything but has to be able to find the resources to refer you to,” Allen says.
Local zoning, planning, and building departments should be on your list to reach out to. Don’t forget to tap your state equine extension, which can often offer a wealth of information regarding horsekeeping in your area.
“Each county has different regulations, such as how many horses are permitted per acre,” Allen explains, noting that, in some areas, horse owners may have many horses on a property, while in other areas that number is quite restricted.
To avoid any miscommunication, Allen takes it a step further, and creates a direct dialogue between relevant agencies and perspective buyers.
“I always encourage my clients to speak directly to county officials, so I’m not interpreting anything,” Allen notes. “While you will find the bulk of information on the county land use website, I recommend making an appointment together with your realtor to meet the land use department. Access zoning, planning, and other relevant documents and make copies.”
Show Me the Money
Most of us don’t have cash on hand to cover the full value of a real estate purchase, so knowing your financing options ahead of time is a must. As with any real estate transaction, getting preapproved is always a good idea.
Buyers that are shopping for a private residence have the traditional lending options—think conventional mortgage loans, and for those that already own a house, a bridge loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC) can help get them into their new place.
Commercial enterprises are another matter, however.
“An agriculture-zoned equestrian center or boarding facility requires a very specific lender,” Allen explains. “A good realtor will have referrals for you.”
Be prepared to present documentation like a business plan that demonstrates your ability to profitably operate.
Final Steps in Shopping for Horse Property
Whether purchasing a move-in ready property, building from scratch on raw land, or getting a fixer-upper, your ideal choice when shopping for horse property depends on factors like the local market and your budget.
“A blank slate sounds exciting, but you’ll need deep pockets and lots of time” she notes. “Building in today’s world is much more expensive and time-consuming than renovating.”
Don’t despair if what you want isn’t within your reach. Allen explains that while there are very few true turnkey facilities that come on the market, with a little work, you can take a property that has the right layout for you and turn it into just what you want.
“I had a hunter/jumper client buy an equestrian center that had all the right bones,” Allen shares. “Did it need work? Yes. She turned it into gorgeous facility within two years. Number one, you probably couldn’t have gotten the permit to build what she was able to purchase, and number two, you couldn’t have done it for what she spent.”
With some research, some legwork, and maybe some elbow grease, you can find just the right place for you. Be realistic about your budget and your needs. And then start searching—we know you are going to check out the barn first!
This article about shopping for horse property appeared as an online exclusive for Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!