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What to Ask a Realtor When Looking at a First Farm?

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  • #21
    Originally posted by Jealoushe View Post
    Does anyone have suggestions what to ask a realtor when going to look at a farm?

    It's a small 1900s farm house with an old barn that has stalls already. Would only be for 4 horses. 20 acres hay/woodland.

    Thank you for any input!
    How old is the septic system?

    That would be my first question. The answer might surprise you. Also - verify your zoning, and verify where the land lies within the Comprehensive Plan. You don't want to buy your horse form only to find out zoning doesn't permit horses, or that you're going to have a firing range or townhouses behind you in a few years.
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    -Rudyard Kipling


    • #22
      Yes, I am sorry, but most realtors just don't know that much about the properties they are selling. They are acting as agents for the seller generally, and unless the seller has collected all the county paperwork and left it on the coffee table they (agents that is) will not know the precise status of any property. So, be prepared if you find the perfect place, to write in contingencies on your offer to protect yourself until you can verify easements, septic, property lines, zoning and permit status on existing structures as well as your jurisdiction's policies regarding dealing with non-permitted structures. You just do not want to buy a house with the idea you will add on and find out that half the existing house isn't on record and your barn is too close to the property line to boot. Policies are sooo different from town to town, town limits to county, and so on.
      And bear in mind that most places will have something that will break or fall down first thing, no matter how many inspections you have done.
      Good luck in your search! I know all this stuff sounds daunting but it is so nice to verify independently and not have any horrid surprises!
      Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
      Incredible Invisible


      • #23
        Make sure the well is good, both in water quality and in the amount of water it can provide. I grew up in a house where we were not supposed to be drinking the water due to high nitrates and there was not enough water to run the washing machine most of the time.


        • #24
          Originally posted by horsetales View Post
          Always look at drainage. Get the exact zoning for the property and the definition of use (especially for re-sale some day) - We saw a home buyer here get into a fix as they put a contract on 16ac horse farm zoned ag/residential with the hopes of doing boarding and lessons. After the contract was signed come to find out here ag/residential does not allow for lessons.

          Might want to look at permitting requirements if you will be doing any building or remodeling.

          Do not, repeat DO NOT believe a thing anybody tells you until you see it in writing. Nothing is ever, ever, ever a go unless you have documentation that it's a go. It doesn't matter what your neighbors are doing, it doesn't matter what the home owner is doing or telling you, and take everything the real estate agent says with a grain of salt. Check the regs!!
          Chronicles of the $700 Pony
          The Further Adventures of the $700 Pony
          www.blithetraveler.com <-- My Blog


          • #25
            imho, the best money you can possibly spend is to get a general contractor out there to give you a general sense of needed repairs and a quote on any upgrades. I have several friends who are GCs and have looked at houses for me for the price of a nice dinner and in ever single case it's been cheap at twice the price. The second best thing you can do is talk to the neighbors.

            Don't believe a word the realtor says unless it's in writing and double check that. They generally know shit. I manage construction projects for a living and have had realtors tell me the most ridiculous crap imaginable about structural and financing issues. Ask them to get you all relevant disclosures, past inspections, previous sales records, tax records, utility bills and stuff it's easy for them to get. Be open to anything else they tell you because they know a lot of gossip. Other than that you are on your own.

            Get a REALLY good inspector and an independant appraisal, that's my advice.


            • #26
              Yup, check zoning, but be aware that zoning can change. And usually NOT to be more horse-friendly. Meet with the local planning department to see what is planned for the area, what is happening, and what is projected to happen. AND the likelihood of the above. Don't miss the opportunity to ask where horse-friendly areas actually ARE. And as has been alluded to, don't forget to find out how many animals are permitted, AND neighbors' tolerance for them. New suburban residents tend to HATE horsey smells, etc., and have non-horse-aware offspring.


              • #27
                Be sure to walk the entire property, even areas that are hard to get to. It is amazing what you will find on some older farms. And double check the zoning.


                • #28
                  My suggestions have already been stated. Ask about the drainage of the land. Check how deep the well is. Check out the neighbors and the septic system (not necessarily in that order!) But my biggest suggestion is to get a home warranty with any house you buy. Add well and septic to the policy. I got one with my second farm. It was a realtor package. I had never heard of them. It will basically fix or replace anything that breaks (system wise). It was a godsend in my first year because my well was hit by lightning. And both heat pumps decided to give up the ghost. This was about $9K in repairs/replacements that the warranty company paid for. They promptly dropped us after the second heat pump, but I got another company to buy a second policy from. My policy costs around $500 per year including the well and septic. I've used it in my current place for pipes bursting. They pay for the plumber, but not any damage.

                  So, if you buy an old place, DEFINITELY get a home warranty!


                  • #29
                    The very first thing our realtor did when he walked into our home (when we were looking to purchase) is turn on every tap in the house on FULL and flush both the toilets. This checked the water pressure and the pump capacity. Both things that can be easily overlooked. If you have horses you want a lot of water and you want good water pressure.

                    It turned out that our well pump was one of the best on the market and is still going strong after 23 years.


                    • #30
                      I second the idea of doing all of your own research and believe nothing anyone who is not an authority tells you, especially the current owner and the realtors. The owner of my property told me the girl across the street 'fell in with bad companions and moved in with relatives for a while to get back on the right path' the reality was she was in jail for running a meth lab in the house and will never leave permanently. People will say or do anything to get rid of a property.
                      You can't fix stupid-Ron White


                      • #31
                        Speaking of the above post......I would find your local Police Department and go speak to someone in the office. Just let them know that you are new to the area and are looking at a property such and such. The police can offer a lot of information (good and bad) about which areas are nice and which areas perhaps not so nice......

                        Totally forgot about that idea.


                        • #32
                          I'm a realtor who sells horse properties. I'd second asking the township the zoning, etc. questions yourself because that way the liability is on YOU if something goes wrong, not your realtor - and things do change. In NJ, contracts for sale are contingent on the home inspection - I don't know where you're looking, but have that written into the contract so you have an escape clause if the home needs excessive repairs and the seller won't accomodate you. Use a good licensed local home inspector - someone from two counties away may not know the issues in your town. For older homes, I've had my buyers get a home inspection before making an offer to set everyone's expectations about the true condition of the home. Obviously, get a well and septic inspection and check the county regulations about what is required vis a vis permits - here in Hunterdon County, if a septic needs more than ___% of repairs to be functional, it must be replaced...


                          • #33
                            **** HUGE PROBLEM WE GOT STUCK WITH ***** TWO natural gas pipelines -- one 20" one 12" -- very old **running all the way from corner to corner of the horse section of our new property!! You can not build on top of them or 33' within them --- not on title search -- our realtor didn't see hidden markers in the woods nor did we. Pipelines not disclosed on Title search -- found out the hard way - Title insurance means nothing!!!! Total waste of TiME and Money -- no re-sale value ! Yes took Title company to court won -- but we only won the equivalent of a bath tub!!!!! Have any property staked for H2o electric, ,, all lines before you buy!We are sooo unhappy!!!
                            Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                            • #34
                              Iforgot about the cop thing too That was the first thing hubby did was ask around the office. Nope, no criminals around. We did look at one house where the only criminal in the neighborhood was the seller. Also, ask about the neighborhood, not just the criminal records but just ask. Also, ask the post office folks if it's a small post office.
                              Hubby is a Mason as well. That's what sealed the deal for us. The owner is a Mason too and they knew a lot of the same people. The owner knew his house that he grew up in would be in good hands. Considering they had another full price offer on their hands, it helped a lot!
                              Even duct tape can't fix stupid


                              • Original Poster

                                Originally posted by Foxyrab View Post
                                I'd be sure to check that all mineral rights go with the property.
                                WOW, great suggestion. I just recently watched a show about how some peoples farms were destroyed due to mining. It happens a lot in Ontario too

                                Don't be too sure!
                                Zoning can change and how unhappy would you be if you bought and found you could only have one horse there legally?
                                Other places could be grandfathered for more.
                                Realtor might not know, but you can check with the zoning board in your county.

                                Ditto on the perc test for the septic - a new one is $5K or more.
                                And repair/replacement is not optional...
                                There was over 15 horses there last year. Could there still be a change in zoning?

                                I was told it is residential zoning. It is in the country but still within city limits. Ottawa is odd that way.

                                The house needs to be completely re done. The shell is in great shape as well as the foundation but the inside is old and gross and will need to be completely torn out. Luckily we can do most of the work ourselves and are not in a hurry to have it done quickley. The plumbing and electrical was recently updated however.

                                The well was new but they had no idea about the septic tank. I'm going to say it probably needs replacement. The hydro and water are shut off currently as the house is vacant (the old farmer died).

                                The barn is the selling point. It's in great shape, just dirty and not used in awhile. There is a massive hay loft and equally big run in shed attached to the side of the barn. The feilds dry, the main area of the property is on a hill and there is a small creek on either side of the property line.

                                They gave me an ariel shot of the property with the lines drawn. Should I still double check to see where the lines definitly are?

                                Oh, I found this on the city website
                                Q - Can I have horses on my property?

                                A - Yes, but you must have enough acreage. For new horses, the amounts below are permitted per zoning district.

                                1) Rural Residential - For parcels under 5 acres in size, the amount of land area devoted to the first horse must be 2 acres. For each additional horse, 1/2 acre of area must be devoted to the horse. For parcels over 5 acres, there is no limit or area requirements.

                                2) Agricultural - For any parcels, there are no limits or area requirements.

                                3) One- Family Residential - For parcels under 20 acres in size, the amount of land area devoted to the first horse must be 2 acres. For each additional horse, 1/2 acre of area must be devoted to the horse. For parcels over 20 acres, there is no limit or area requirements.
                                I have 2 horses now and would most likely get at least one, most likely 2 more.

                                Thanks again everyone
                                Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                                • #36
                                  It may be obvious, but make sure any oil tanks are above the ground. If below and there's even a small leak it is expensive to clean up (and you must clean it up).

                                  Do you know the town well? If not, CALL THE NEIGHBORS and ask if anything is going on in the neighborhood you should know about. Also subscribe to the local paper, and call the editor to ask if there are any controversies around.

                                  Fifteen years ago, three garbage facilities were proposed for a one mile stretch of my road. We fought them off, but it took 4 years. In the middle of that, one of the houses in that stretch was for sale. The lady who eventually bought it called me, talked to the paper, etc. and decided she thought it was worth the risk because she thought we'd win. So she got a beautiful house at bargain-basement prices!

                                  Currently, there is a developer in the next town over who's applying for a HUGE subdivision that will double the population of the town and undoubtedly completely change its character. You will want to know about something like that if you are buying into a town.

                                  Finally, even without controversy, the small towns around me each have different characters. Some value and are trying to protect farming/open space while others are keen to embrace strip mall development. Do your research and figure out which town suits you best.

                                  Of course, we did none of this 20 years ago when we bought our house but we got lucky and ended up in a great town with great neighbors!
                                  Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Good suggestions. There is no oil tank. There is a wood burning/electric furnace. I hope for an outdoor wood burning furnace eventually.

                                    The area is pro-farming. It is still close enough to the city that there could be development in the area in the future though. Not sure if in THAT exact area, but in the township.

                                    The garbage thing - there is an issue with that in the area of my parents farm, it's scary sometimes the thought of them expanding to hold TORONTOs garbage Luckily that's not happening now.

                                    There are several garbage facilities in other townships around the city.
                                    Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                                    • #38
                                      I got royally %$@!-ed over concerning a property I bought in Florida some years ago. The seller had totally lied on the disclaimer form in terms of the "no leakage", "no water damage", etc,. sections. In addition, the inspector that MY real estate agent recommended, totally missed (on purpose?) key areas in the attic, roof, etc that showed water damage (I did not climb on the roof myself....who woulda thunk it?)...and so after receiving the keys after purchase...I discovered entry of water, wall staining (be careful of newlypainted rooms/ceilings...are they covering up water stains?) and when I actually did climb on the roof...it had apparently been repaired by a 5 year old (with caulk! ).

                                      What I can recommend now is to hire, on your own, a company who does infrared water detection. Before commencing with the repairs, I hired a company to pinpoint all water entry...they have a nifty hand held device that actally sees through the drywall and ceiling to show moisture INSIDE...kinda looks like "Ghostbuster" stuff! Very cool and accurate. I used Infrared Consultants of Estero,Florida. They travel also, but probably there is such a company in your area.

                                      My message; don;t believe ANYTHING the seller or YOUR or SELLER's real estate agent say. Get your own neutral inspector. Two if necessary. Find out all you need on your own! The maddening thing? You will STILL have to fork out the commission!
                                      Founder & Donor/Account Advisor
                                      Brennan Equine Welfare Fund


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by Jealoushe View Post

                                        There was over 15 horses there last year. Could there still be a change in zoning?

                                        I was told it is residential zoning. It is in the country but still within city limits. Ottawa is odd that way.


                                        They gave me an ariel shot of the property with the lines drawn. Should I still double check to see where the lines definitly are?
                                        Another voice for not believing everything you're told.
                                        • Check the zoning, in person, yourself... not just for the property you're interested in, but for the adjoining properties.
                                        • Have the property lines verified... etc
                                        • Check with the city planning office wrt any possible deveopment.
                                        • The current owner's 15 horses - or other uses - could have been grandfathered in and will not be allowed for a new owner.
                                        I live in nothing as complicated as a farm(ette) and you would not believe the deliberate lies I was told by the realtor and information that was withheld by her and the seller when I bought it. I actually consulted with a lawyer to investigate having the sale reversed soon after it closed, but would have lost my sizeable down payment because it all went to the seller's creditors at closing. Thought about suing the realtors, but none of their lies - er, erroneous claims - were in writing.

                                        To repeat a saying popular with a dead president, 'Trust but verify.'