A Horse Lovers Guide to Buying Property
If you are a horse owner, or even just somebody who has dreamed of owning their own horse, I bet that you have fantasized about having your horse on your own property. I have owned horses on and off (mostly on) for the past 36 years. The times when I have been able to sit on my front porch and see my horse grazing peacefully in an adjacent pasture have been some of my favorites!
If you are purchasing property for your horses, there are a lot of variables to consider. Here are some tips on what to look for when you are searching out your perfect horse property:
Your current needs are important, but remember to think long-term, too: Give some thought to what your current property needs are and how those needs can evolve. Are you looking for a property with pasture where your horses can graze and take shelter under the natural windbreak of trees or a run-in shed? Will you be looking for a property with a barn or building a barn? Do you need a riding arena? Are you looking for trails you can get to on horseback or will you be planning to trailer to your riding destinations? Is the property for pets, pleasure riding, performance animals, or breeding? Decide how you want your property to function so that you can select a property that will have some longevity for your vision.
Location Location Location
Location is everything, especially for the horse owner. In Western North Carolina, there are some locations that, while rural and beautiful, may be very difficult to drive a horse trailer to. Pay attention not only to the physical location, therefore, but to the potential drive to and from the property. Will you be riding on your property? On nearby roads? Adjacent trails? Will you be trailering to and from some of the beautiful trail systems that we have access to in Western North Carolina? You might consider purchasing property that gives you easy access to Dupont State Forest, Turkey Pen, The Biltmore Estate, or Coleman Boundary so that, once the truck is hitched to the trailer, it is a short and stress-free drive to your ultimate riding destination.
Are you pasturing your horses? If so, a reliable creek running through the property can be a god send – it provides a constant source or water to your horses, is in contact with the earth so remains warmer, meaning it is far less likely to freeze over. When water freezes over or gets very cold, horses can drink less and their chances of a deadly colic episode increase dramatically. If your horses are going to be stalled – or if the pasture does not offer a natural water source – is there city water or good well water (with a good well water pressure) readily available. Hauling buckets of water from your home to the barn is difficult, time consuming and can get old fast.
Speaking of water…if you are pasturing your horses, you will want to consider the water drainage of the property you are considering. Pay attention to flood plains and flooding patterns. Is there higher ground where your horse can get to if the streams and rivers start overflowing their banks? Is there a grade to the pasture that allows natural runoff of excess water? You will want to find a pasture graded with some run off but still flat enough that it is usable. What is the soil like? Very rocky soil can be a challenge to good pasture land. Do you have enough land for the number of horses you plan on grazing there? Unless you are planning on supplementing with hay, the general rule is to allow at least two acres of grazing for the first horse and one acre for each horse or pony after that. Provision also needs to be made for every part of the pasture to be rested for at least six weeks, twice a year. Ideally you set your pasture system up in a way that you can rotate horses from one pasture to another to allow recovery time to each pasture.
Know Your Community Ordinances
Remember to research what can be done on your property. Is livestock allowed? How many buildings can be built on your property per the local zoning laws and ordinances? Are you planning on running an equine-based business out of the property? What are the zoning regulations in regards to that? Be careful that you learn how your vision aligns with the local laws and ordinances before you become financially invested in the property.
Buy? Build? And Great Expectations
It might be tough to find just the perfect property with both your dream home and your dream barn. If you find a property that “has it all” but is not what you had envisioned, assess the bones of the property. If the basic structures are in good shape, it might make financial sense to consider renovating that property. This takes the ability to “put on your future goggles” and see the property for what it COULD be. If you find the right property with either the right home or the right barn, it may be worth building either a home or a barn in order to have the property you desire. In a perfect world, all the stars align and you find just the right place with everything you need at a doable price. Rarely is it a perfect world scenario, so be prepared to think out of the box.
Know your budget before you begin your process, and keep a wary eye open for properties that might require a lot of extra investment after purchase that will take you far beyond your budget and delay your dream. It can make more financial sense to spend more up front on a property that is ready for use than to buy a piece of land that costs little initially but requires a lot of investment when it comes to adding roads, driveways, utilities, correcting drainage issues, building structures and fences… In short, make sure to be looking at the BIG PICTURE when assessing a property.
Don’t Go It Alone
There is a lot to consider when purchasing your horse property. A qualified real estate broker will be a great partner for you on your quest for the property of your dreams. They will be able to connect you with properties you will otherwise miss, alert you to the strengths and weaknesses of a property and be able to advocate for you so that you get the best possible price on the property. Choosing a Broker who knows the area and is an experienced rider / equestrian will give you a big advantage as they will be able to recognize properties that are good fits for your dreams and will be able to steer you away from properties that should be avoided. Don’t be afraid to research and interview your broker to be sure they are the professional you are hoping for and that they are a good personality match for you as well. You will be spending some time together as you find your property – you may as well enjoy the process!
Julie and her horse, Hershey.