Tips for Buying Rural Land and Ranches in Texas
Many folks in Texas grew up in rural communities or had family members that did. People dream of getting back to a simpler way of life, out of the rat race of the city and away from the dang HOA! If you’re thinking about buying rural land here are a few things to consider.
Property Exemptions – A minimum of 10 acres is usually best to maintain an ag exemption. Each county has it’s own requirements but most require at least a minimum of 10 acres. Once you’ve identified the county you want to buy in, it’s well worth a phone call to the county appraisers office to find out what you need to do regarding your ag or wildlife exemption. Ask the county appraisal office about property size requirements and how your exemptions are to be maintained. If you intend to maintain your exemption by letting someone else run cattle on your property, it would be best to get your grass lease in writing. I know some counties will ask for a copy of it. If you’re interested in a wildlife exemption, you’ll need to be ag exemption first. Contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife for more information on a wildlife exemption.
Property Use – Is your property going to be a future home site? Is it a place to hunt, fish or a place to get away from the city? If you’re going to keep animals on the property, pay close attention to what I stated above regarding exemptions. If it’s a future home site, you may need to consider schools and how close you are to groceries or the hardware store. One important thing to consider when buying rural land is first making sure you can use the property the way you want to. You will need to know if the property is deed restricted. Read more about this below. If it’s restricted, you’ll need to read the restrictions to see if it keeps you from using the property the way you want. Don’t forget to find out what utilities are available and what the cost would be to add them to the property.
Restricted or Unrestricted – Most people want unrestricted land because “I don’t want any one telling me what to do on my land!!” Actually most restrictions in rural areas are usually pretty light and are designed to keep the area looking nice and nice looking areas are great for resale and maintaining property values. I deal with restrictions all the time and they don’t bother me at all. If they seem too restrictive then that property may not be for you. It’s never a good idea to buy a deed restricted property and then think you can do whatever you want to on it. You may end up having to tear something down or end up in court! The most common restrictions I see are no mobile homes, no junk yards, no pig farms, no shooting ranges, no commercial businesses, etc. You can only imagine how bad it would be for a shooting range, dog kennel or junk yard to open up right next door to you. In that scenario having those items restricted from a neighboring property would be a life saver. The moral of this story, not all deed restrictions are bad and most help keep the peace and the community looking nice.
Utilities – The most important thing is to understanding where your power is coming from and who the provider is. If you need an easement from a neighbor to run power to a property you are buying, make sure you can get that easement before signing on the dotted line to purchase the property. Some rural properties are lucky enough to have public water but if not, get an idea of how deep the wells are in the area and the gpm that is to be expected. You can usually count on using satellite for your TV and internet. Sometimes local rural providers such as Western Broadband have other internet options. These days most folks don’t require a land line for their phone but if you need one keep that in mind as well. And always check on your septic costs for your particular county.
What’s Included – It is extremely important that your contract clearly states whats excluded and whats included in the purchase. A detailed list of non-realty items thats included with the purchase should be a part of your contract. If your purchase includes the portable panels, hunting blinds, feeders, troughs, etc, make a list and make it part of the contract. The same works for a seller on items on the ranch that is excluded. Always be crystal clear on what conveys and whats excluded in your contract.
Leases – It’s pretty common for rural properties to have grass, farm and hunting leases. I usually don’t recommend taking over someone else’s lease. When buying a property it’s best to have all leases terminate prior to closing. You can always continue a lease to the same person after closing but you will be signing them up 100% on your terms.
Survey – Always get a survey and walk your boundaries, find your pins, and be aware of possible encroachments and fencing that’s not on the boundary lines. BTW, fencing is never perfectly on anyone’s boundary but if it’s way off you may want it fixed. The survey will also verify the actual amount of acres you’re buying. If you are borrowing, your lender will require a survey.
Floodplain – Almost any property with a creek, river or lake is likely to have a floodplain. If you want waterfront or live water, thats just part of the deal that you’ll likely end up with some floodplain on your property. Some properties that you wouldn’t expect to have floodplain can be completely covered with floodplain. Viewing FEMA maps or mapping programs can help identify floodplain areas. Sometimes your survey will show the floodplain but not always. If you are getting a new survey always request the floodplain be shown. Just be aware of the floodplain areas and make sure they don’t impact your build sites or interfere with your intended use of the property.