safety and comfort of both you and your horses
What are some
of the most common mistakes first-time buyers of equestrian
A. Buyers fail to get adequate inspections and have a Realtor do a market analysis of property in the desired area. Fail to research the trails or other desired horse amenities (horse folks, services) where they will be moving. And, verifying the suitability of the zoning and restrictions for what they may want to do in the future or how they plan to currently use the property.
Q. What else is important for a new stable owner to know about owning and maintaining a horse property?
A. The answers to the following subjects are detailed below:
Horse Fencing & Gates
Note the kind of fences and see if adequate for your use. You see horse pastures fenced with a variety of fencing, as follows:
Fencing: Wood, while traditionally beautiful and generally safe, is
difficult to maintain and can be costly.
Fence Line: Horse properties without continuous fence lines or series of barriers encompassing the entire facility might create a hazard. With no ready way to quickly contain a loose horse, the chances of the animal making it to a nearby road before he can be caught are greatly increased. Putting in a perimeter doesn't necessarily mean having to install a whole new fence line. Look at the layout of your property and see if simply adding a few fences to join buildings and existing fence lines will complete the circle of safety.
Gates: A single gate to the outside world can be a safety item. When a horse gets loose, the first response is to close that one possible exit and afterward go after the escapee still contained on the home property.
Sagging Gates: Gates that are sagging and have to be lifted or dragged through the mud are a safety issue and should be corrected. Sometimes if the gates are heavy, a steel post must be installed. While moving your horse or during turnout, your attention needs to be focused on the horse, not manhandling the gate. A poorly maintained gate is headed toward complete collapse, which means loose horses and a number of possible dangers.
Leave where it is dropped. If you have very large pastures, the
manure can take care of itself and you will just need to clean up around
the barnyard, and feeding areas, and may need some fly control.
Spread into your arena footing. If it is mixed in with used stall
chips it can serve as inexpensive arena footing. This is what I do as
well as a few trainers I know. It eventually turns into a type of "arena
. continued at top of right column
Adequate stall size to suit your horse. Ideally have the stall open
so your horse can come and go into an enclosed or shared paddock area
for exercise. At least three sides should be enclosed with the opening
away from the direction of most winter storms. Standard Stall size is 12
by 12 for for some horses a 9 by 9 that is open at the end is
satisfactory for shelter. A foaling stall needs to be at least 12 by 16
It is a
good idea to use
pallets under hay and shavings bales to keep hay away from ground dampness (often obtained free or for a nominal cost
at feed or hardware stores). Also need a tight fitting lid
for containers of grain and
supplements. Additionally, a secure feed area is very important to protect horses that
get loose and over eat, making themselves dangerously sick with colic. Also to be
considered, is there room to install storage shelves or organizational systems to accommodate
everything from hoof dressing and winter blankets to hoof picks. This will make daily chores quicker
and easier all year round, and horse'N around much more enjoyable. While you’re thinking through grooming mode, consider
creating or improving a well drained space convenient for use as a wash rack and cross tie.
A portable hot-water dispenser is a very nice "luxury" to purchase for
washing your horses in the winter.
Proper Lighting makes your stable area more user-friendly at night and in the winter. Well-placed, low watt lighting (8 watt fluorescing lighting uses very little energy and can be left on all night.) This is what we use in our barn shed-row. Also, you might consider a combination of motion-activated, automatic timers and manual lights in your stable yard area, and in feed, tack areas, and walkways and, of course, stalls, for night care when necessary.
A clean, reliable water source is a must for every horse, and automatic waterers offer a huge improvement on buckets or tubs. A few competition/show-type owners may prefer to hand water to keep track of just how much their horses are drinking. A horse "off water" may be about to colic or be sick, if not already. Most horses, however, are fine with an automatic watering systems. Your plumber can help design and install a system tapping into your current water source. While you’re installing water lines (and be sure to install your water lines deep enough if they cross your stall or main paddock area), consider installing misters in stalls and shaded areas for those really hot summer days and nights you know are coming. We purchased our portable misters inexpensively at Home Depot and ran them along the top of the stalls, attached to a hose, for those 95+ degree days. It keeps the horse owner cool while grooming, feeding, or tacking up.
While flies are more a summer problem than winter, spring is a good time to consider installing a time-release insecticide sprayer system to minimize flies. Several vendors offer system installation and periodic maintenance and reservoir refilling. Just "google-it on the Internet for sources." Early spring is also the perfect time to order "fly predators" if your area is known for a fly problem (these are tiny unhatched eggs you scatter around your horse barn and paddock areas, allowing them to hatch and eat the fly eggs in the manure). There is also a product called "Solitude IGR" made by Pfizer that is thought to dramatically reduce fly populations. You might want to check it out.
Tractors, Needed or Not
and pasture maintenance are the two horse-farm jobs most likely to involve
routine tractor use. However, if your acreage is small or your property is
largely wooded, a tractor would probably be underutilized. Likewise, if you have
fewer than three acres that require mowing maybe two or three times annually,
you can probably get by using a riding mower. In these smaller setups, you can
minimize the need to mow even further by your cross-fencing the area for your
Q. From a legal perspective, what should buyers know before purchasing a horse or equestrian property or any kind (ranch or commercial establishment)? <Sellers: please note also.>
A. To be sure, you must obtain a legal title to the subject property, free of liens, easements, and other encumbrances that are not wanted. This of course can be properly addressed if you go through a Title Company and/or Law Firm and ask for a clear title, guaranteed free of liens. The preliminary title search will show all the recorded easements, such as road easements, electrical easements, water line easements, road assessments or other assessments that the buyer may be responsible for in the future.
If the easements are just mentioned, and not spelled out, ask your Realtor or Title to obtain a detailed easement description for you.
If buyers are buying into a subdivision, such as a gated or up-scale horse community, you will surly have restrictions and rules and regulations, called CC&Rs; they should be read and understood as they will affect how you can use your property. If the property has been a rental property, unrecorded liens may be something to look into. Be sure the renter knows of the sale in case there is some kind of long-term lease or unrecorded deed in hand, or needed repair, that could hinder the sale at the last minute.
Most important, If you are purchasing a commercial property, check the zoning. You most likely will have to purchase it as a residential property (and cannot count the income from boarders into the loan qualification). Most residential horse properties have zoning which allows you to board horses but you must have a special use permit to train horses. Check it out. You can also look into a mixed-use loan, part business loan and part residential loan. Many lenders, please note, do not like to give you a residential loan on horse properties that are over 10-15 acres unless you put more than the standard 20% down. Some with 20-60 acres require a 40-50% down payment. Land only requires a 30-50% downpayment with often a 3-5 year due date, and higher interest rates, encouraging you pay cash.
PERMITS, ZONING, SETBACKS & VIOLATIONS:
if there have been illegal building additions or zoning violations
(such as construction or electrical or plumbing additions not to code and/or without
permits or steep driveways not paved (when required) to the home
(bathroom remodeling, family rooms, electrical additions,
grading violations, ponds or swimming pools requiring permits, or there
are illegal barns or outbuildings (such as electricity added to an Ag
Barn (Note: an Ag Barn in some counties can be permitted without any
physical inspection by the county and are not supposed to have water or
power installed to them, unless done with a permit). Also, check to see if buildings meet the county setback
lines and/or are grand-fathered in. In some Counties barns have to be 50 feet
from the property line; other counties only 30 feet. If you fail
to check with the building department before purchase and you later go to the county to
obtain a permit to remodel your home and/or make an addition to your
barn, all the unpermitted items may have to be made conforming with
their appropriate fees. That is why a number of owners remodel without a
permit. The permit is not as important as the work down properly and
meeting code requirements or your expectations. A number of owners do not get permits to
decrease the contractor's or their own hassle and, more important, to save money on property taxes.
Property owners are reassessed when they take out a building permit.
However, whenever you go to sell, the buyer
may ask for an inspection or perhaps go to the County to research all the
building/electrical permits pulled at this address and discover no
records. It may be a county housekeeping error, but permits, or no permits, should be disclosed. An
experienced Realtor will encourage you to make all inquires and
inspections, especially those that concern you.
Water, Water Rights, Wells, Irrigation
Water is a precious resource and must be considered in purchasing any piece of land, especially a Ranch or Horse Property with animals. The right to withdraw water from western streams, rivers, or lakes is governed by what is known as the "prior appropriation" system, which dates back to Gold Rush days when gold and silver miners needed an assured water supply for their operations. Because livestock need a guaranteed water supply, prospective buyers must make sure that they are purchasing a good water supply or water rights along with the land --if the source of water is reported to be a lake, stream or river. Chances are the water rights for any property you might buy were adjudicated decades ago, and this adjudication will specify the amount of water the property owner can withdraw each year. (especially applicable to large Ranches). Although ranch real estate can generally be expected to include water rights, some states allow property owners to sell their water rights separately. Experts should be consulted before purchasing land or improved property with water rights.
For a smaller horse property (less than 20 acres) it is best to have access to public and, if possible, a good well along with canal or ditch water (this is the best of all worlds). the more sources of water the better. Properties with year-round streams are always desirable and enhance the properties value. Holding tanks can also suffice for irrigation. Using public water to irrigate will, of course, be more expensive. A well should always be checked-out. Order a report or ask to see the seller's well report, which should include productivity (gpm) and potobility (drinking water quality). The original drilling report will most likely be filed at the environmental department of the county in which you are buying (though not all records in rural counties are complete). Although the original drilling report provides useful information (depth, production, and pump size), the buyer will probably want to get a current report because water levels change and the buyer will want to be sure the well is not beginning to dry up (note: the winter draw-down may show more gallons per minute than one done in late summer when there is less rain. ) If a new well is needed, the costs can run anywhere from about $8,000 to $25,000, depending on area. A four-hour draw down and well check by a local well company may cost about $390 - $400 including a potobility test to ensure the safety of the water to drink. It the well does not pass the potobility test, showing some contamination, the well company can bleach out the well with a recognized process and/or filters and blue-lights can be installed, some very costly, and then the water re-checked. If the well only produces a few gallons per minute, a holding tank is suggested and may even be required. A well producing 80-100 gallons a minute minute is a very valuable addition to your horse or ranch property. The same applies to good water rights and/or irrigation water. Many horse property owners are satisfied with 5 to 20 gallon-a-minute. If irrigation is needed then a 2,500 gallon holding tank may be suggested, depending on the number of animals and the amount of irrigation. The well, landscape contractor, or county Ag agent will be able to give you more exact information.
Finally, check out the septic system and leach fields before completing the purchase. If buying land, be sure the land has a "perc and mantel test" (usually costs about $700-$1000, verifying the soil is suitable for a septic system; add the complete septic design into the package from a civil engineer and it costs more; if the property does not "Perc," you may not be able to build without the expense of a mound or other specialized septic system costing upward of $20,000 range or even more). Be sure the septic tank size is big enough for the number of bedrooms you have or might wish to add in the future (perhaps later for quest quarters. If not, Your inspector can advise you. If more bedrooms are added, usually a licensed civil engineer can expand the leach field. Or, if necessary install a second system. It is recommended that you to be there for the septic inspection or have your Realtor represent you. A licensed septic person (often a licensed plumber) should be hired to inspect the septic tank (if seller does not already have a report and certification to furnish you). Either buyer or seller may be responsible to have it pumped, as needed, after the inspection; the inspection and pumping will run somewhere around $500 in Northern California and is often negotiated, but most often the seller is expected to pay for pumping and the buyer, the inspection. This cost can sometimes come out of close of escrow funds, like all inspection fees, and sometimes with a small additional surcharge.
Note: You should not paddock horses over the septic leach field without possibly damaging the lines, especially if the lines are close to the top like some systems (as with mound septic systems). Casual grazing over leach fields is sometimes permissible, as long as horses don't live there; but, not systems with a mound (usually meaning there was lots of clay and underground water in soil so property requires a more expensive septic system (i.e., $20,000 or more). Another reason you should order a "perc and mantel" before you buy a vacant piece of land so you will know if you can install a standard system. More Septic Information here.
All inspection fees are usually negotiable between buyer and seller, depending upon the county and state in which you are purchasing or selling property and/or its customary procedures. Your Realtor can advise you. If you are the seller, inspections should be ordered up front, if at all possible, so you know where you stand in selling your property and about how much you should net after all fees and corrections. These inspections should include an natural/environmental hazard report which is mandatory in some states such as California, which will tell you if you are in an area of high fire hazard, earthquake hazard, high probability of radon gas, etc. etc. etc.
Also, in California now, buyers have to check the insurability of the property long before completing the sale. If they wait till the last minute they may find that the property cannot be insured adequately, especially if it has had a history of claims. Ask about Farm and Ranch insurance to help with liability of your horses and guests.
Manufactured, log homes, and/or A-frames sometimes present specific problems in insurance and with getting the best loans with lenders.
Q. What trends are you currently observing in the sale of horse/equestrian properties in general? And, what is driving these trends?
A. I see more and more people leaving the crowded city areas to escape to the peaceful and uncrowned rural hills and grasslands of California and other desirable areas. They are tired of paying high boarding fees and prefer to have their horses in their own "backyard." Many are willing to commute as long as one hour or more to enjoy some acreage and serenity where they can allow their horses to graze around their country homes. Also, more and more people are arranging their jobs where they can work at home part of the week and/or telecommute.
A number of buyers are wanting to purchase property with room for a second home for family members or purchase acreage enough to enjoy building a covered arena and large barn. Others find that they can now enjoy the "good life" and either live in the city 3 days and come to the Ranch for 4 days (especially if horsy neighbors can fill in for them on days away). Often the wife and children stay in the country taking care of the animals, sometimes the husbands with a role reversal. You are also seeing more and more people wanting to stay at home, Mr. Moms. Congested cities and a desire for a more spiritual and peaceful way of life ---yes, back to nature, I feel, are the main driving trends. --- Marie Griffith, BuyHorseProperties.com
Copyright © 2007 Marie Griffith. All rights reserved. The above article is the property of the Author, Marie Griffith, and may not be duplicated or redistributed in any way without permission
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NOTE: The above
information deemed accurate but not guaranteed. This is for general
information only and buyer and seller should make their own investigations
to confirm with other reliable sources.