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

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

    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!
    Boss Mare Eventing Blog

  • #2
    Well, I haven't found my farm yet, but here's what I would look at...

    I once asked the seller's realtor where the back property line was (7 acres) and they had no clue...

    Old house--ask about insulation and what the owner's avg. heating a cooling bills are per month. When was the roof, furnace, ac, wiring, water heater, etc. replaced last? Where does the water come from (well or rural). Are their any easements or anything legally on the title? Check out the neighbor's as much as you can (I once turned down a super cute farm because of the neighbors, their mean roaming dog, and the shooting range they had built up at the back of the property).

    I don't know where you are at but now is the PERFECT time of year here to look at farms and what the flooding/low lying areas (and the basement) do with all the moisture we've had and are getting.
    DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


    • #3
      Honestly, most realtors don't know squat about horse arrangements.
      If you're incredibly lucky and the realtor is not a liar (as you can tell, I don't like many of them), then ask about the neighborhood and how horse friendly it is. That is your #1 priority. Check out your neighbors!
      For big ticket items:
      Ask about well, electric, plumbing, roof, septic. When they were installed or updated.
      Look at the windows, see if they are old, single paned.
      Go into the basement/crawl space. How dry is it? How many dead animals/people are there?
      Check the attic and the ceiling there. Leaks? Damage?
      Are the fireplaces working? If not, why not?
      Check out the window casings for water damage and leaks. Also around the foundation.
      Look at the lay of the land. Are there water issues? Standing water near the house and barn?
      Check out ALL the fencing. How old is it? Check the tops of the posts for rotting.
      I will think of some more in a minute.
      Give you an idea of our house.
      1866 house on 8 acres. Ripped out fencing, torn down barn, HUGE garage. Mostly open
      Our neighbors: Cow farm on 2 sides, timber farm on other. Cow farmer is fabulous. Has horses. Good ol' boy. And your horse WILL get out! And they will get caught by a stranger! We warned our neighbor about Winston. Don't even try to catch him or pet him. Ain't gonna happen. So when they decided to go running down the street at 5 am, neighbor just herded Winston onto his property. Love him! Timber farm has no one.
      House: new septic, well, roof (2001), most of the electricity, plumbing to the house. Thank God! Wiring in the house is screwy. New windows in old part of house, old drafty windows in new part (newer, 1969). Insulation was blown in about 40 years ago too. It's a cold house! Crappy job on re-doing the MBR downstairs with crappy carpeting since the floors were too bad to refurbish. Horrid upstairs bathroom. Getting that redone right now for 7400. The downstairs bath and kitchen need to be redone. Old furnace, very inefficient. Good working a/c and small water heater.
      We keep finding wire and mtn. dew cans all over the pastures. Horses lead us to them. We put in new fencing. Barn is going to have to wait a bit.
      Needs new gravel everywhere. And our sacrifice pens are in horrible shape. So check that out in this place that you have mud-free sacrifice area and paths.
      Even duct tape can't fix stupid


      • #4
        Ask about permitting and wetlands.

        Good luck, it sounds lovely.

        Also, test the water.


        • #5
          Originally posted by TrotTrotPumpkn View Post
          Old house--ask about insulation and what the owner's avg. heating a cooling bills are per month.
          Excellent advice! Depending on how the home is heated, you could be shocked! Our older farmhouse had natural gas, but literally no insulation, so we spent more than we needed to the first winter to heat the place. Our newer home has propane heat and it's just plain expensive! We keep the house in the 58-62 degree range and our heating bill has been averaging almost $700/month the last two winters. (We just ordered a more efficient boiler to be installed later this spring.)

          This can make a huge difference in how much it costs to live in a particular home.


          • Original Poster

            Thanks guys!

            There are TONNES of little horse hobby farms in the area so I know that's a go.

            The house is vacant right now, thus should be going cheaply. Any added questions on a vacant house?
            Boss Mare Eventing Blog


            • #7
              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.

              Look at wiring - any updates.

              Might want to look at permitting requirements if you will be doing any building or remodeling.
              Epona Farm
              Irish Draughts and Irish Draught Sport horses

              Join us on Facebook


              • #8
                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.

                Look at wiring - any updates.

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

                Ditto...getting a permit (even to put in something like an outdoor riding arena) can be a nightmare if you are at all close to the city...
                DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


                • #9
                  If the house is currently unoccupied, check the plumbing and the septic. It may all go to cr_p once you actually start to use it, and septics are really expensive.


                  • #10
                    Check the zoning yourself! Make sure that the use you have in mind for the property is permitted, and that the number a types of animals are allowed. The previous owner's animals or whatever might be grandfathered in but it doesn't mean that you'll be okay. Get a survey yourself. Find out about all easements and setbacks, landscaping or wetland areas that you have to plan for. Get a good home inspector (word of mouth is the best for this). Make a list of must-haves, a list of like to haves and deal breakers and stick to it.
                    You can't fix stupid-Ron White


                    • #11
                      Check the county website for zoning in the area and any applications for variances that are pending. We bought a house on 5 acres in a nice neighborhood in Southwestern VA. Adjacent to the neighborhood is a small parcel that is zoned commercial. Someone tried to put a huge outdoor kennel covering the entire small parcel. Fortunately, the good neighbors got together and brought a big group to the public hearing. The kennel was not permitted.

                      You want to know about commercial zoning, flood plain maps, easements, and any planned changes to the community. You don't want to inadvertently buy next to a future shopping center or 6 lane highway. You also don't want to buy a place like the house we looked at where all of the land except the tiny piece with the house was in the flood plain. You need to check crime reports for the area, and also talk with the neighbors. We talked with a local police officer who reassured us that we were in a low crime neighborhood without any well known/frequently arrested crazies. Our only local crazy was the man who kept beating his wife. Eventually, he went to jail and she left the area. The weekly crime reports should be publicly available, and may be published by the local newspaper.


                      • Original Poster

                        These are great suggestions thank you. I will be taking pictures tonight so maybe I can show you all tomorrow for input.
                        Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                        • #13
                          Local covenants, restrictions, and ordinances that might cause a previously zoned property to have to change due to expiration of a grandfather clause or new zoning. This information is available from the pertinent local township office, usually they charge a few bucks, or it's sometimes on-line.

                          Well quality, water quality.

                          Are there any wetlands, and will this be a problem if you want to add a driveway, culvert, etc.
                          Click here before you buy.


                          • #14
                            Everyone has listed the things that need to be checked out and they are absolutely correct..but hire your own inspector...one who only answers to you. I know it means you will be out of pocket for 250-400..but it will be well worth it. You can use his professional findings to negotiate the price down to cover what needs to be fixed.

                            Trust me on this...the last time we sold a house, the 'inspector' the buyers realtor used never actually showed up at our house...only the inspection report did that said everything was a-okay...


                            • #15
                              To add to equusvilla's suggestion, arrange to meet your inspector at the house as soon as he is done so that he can walk you through anything he finds. Definitely have the property surveyed yourself. Never ever take anyone's word as to where the property lines are unless they take you by the hand and show you each pin. You might also want to have a soil survey done. We found out the hard way that our soil sucks. We have a 6 acre mud lot from November- May. It just doesn't drain well!


                              • #16
                                I'll second (or third) the recommendation to check zoning. Someone I know bought a nice piece of property with a barn. It was advertised as 'horse property'. Real estate agents agreed it was horse property. Friend moves in, gets horse, and THEN finds that the property in within city limits and no horses are allowed. Now she's stuck with this place and NO place to keep horses..
                                Visit us at Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society - www.bluebonnetequine.org

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Jealoushe View Post
                                  Thanks guys!

                                  There are TONNES of little horse hobby farms in the area so I know that's a go.
                                  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...
                                  *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                                  Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                                  Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                                  Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                                  • #18
                                    I'd be sure to check that all mineral rights go with the property.


                                    • #19
                                      walk the property and look at what plants are growing -- if you have marshy/boggy plants growing then you have marsh/bog, no matter what realtor thinks

                                      re septic -- laws were changed here a few years ago such that, if you have a problem you can a) fix it yourself or b) hire a company to REPLACE THE ENTIRE SYSTEM - there is no option c

                                      so my recommendation would be to get a septic specialist to inspect that system seperately - really
                                      Nothing says "I love you" like a tractor. (Clydejumper)

                                      The reports states, “Elizabeth reported that she accidently put down this pony, ........, at the show.”


                                      • #20
                                        Concurr on the zoning. We put a deposit on a place subject to zoning and financing. Everyone said it was zoned for horses, and technically it was. I went to the county and discovered that the four acres were actually split into three zoning areas. Only one of them would actually allow horses, and only if it were greater than two acres...it was 1.6. We got our deposit back.

                                        The best thing you can ask the Realtor is if he/she has plenty of time to wait while you traipse all over the property. Then spend plenty of time researching country records--zoning, rights of way (our property once had a Potomac Edison right of way through it for huge power lines), septic, well, tax liens, etc, etc.
                                        Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.