I found myself staring at the computer screen. The blinking cursor on the Farm and Ranch Contract drummed a little beat to the tune of “What exactly am I doing here?” There were so many things wrong with this property, it was hard to know where to even begin. In fact, the problems began off the property: The road is, to put it mildly, a mine field. It is paved…. in places. However, in the 80 percent of places that it is not paved, it is mud. The potholes could swallow a Smart Car and no one would even notice.
Unfortunately, this is a fairly common issue with rural property. Lightly populated agricultural areas just do not produce a lot of tax dollars. I surmised that the road would hopefully be re-paved sometime this decade, and proceeded forward. The next and oh-so-important question: What to offer?
I had stopped counting halfway through my tally of updates and improvements needed in order to make the property serve my needs. I had a genuine fear that if I kept thinking about it and stacking up the “What ifs,” the entire idea was going to crash like pulling the wrong block in a game of Jenga. And I’m a pretty big believer in the age-old mantra: Life is short, just buy the damn house. So, I took my own advice for once. I put in an offer fairly close to asking, but not so close that I might look needy.
The lesson of the day is this: Farm and Ranch property is not residential. Just because people are clawing each other’s eyes out in the M Streets in Dallas does not mean the same applies to farms. As previously discussed, there are about 2,743 factors that contribute in the search for the right farm, and unless you’re willing to compromise on at least a handful of these points, you’re going to be farm shopping for a longgg time.
The owners of the home in question were also typical of most ranch sellers — not all that motivated to move, retired, convinced their property was worth way more than it was, in possession of 50 years worth of junk, and in need of at least a 60-day leaseback. Every and all real estate agents reading this just groaned out loud. Combine all this with the fact that the property was, let’s be honest, really only going to finance with a farm loan and chunk of cash down, and you have yourself a good old fashioned F.A.R.M. … Farm And Ranch Mess.
Needless to say, they accepted my offer, and after just one tiny hiccup with the appraiser (whom I made cry, if you can believe it), we finally closed and I was quickly staring down the barrel of The Move.
PSA Of The Day: Be warned, gentle prospective farm buyers. You will inherit stuff. Not cool stuff, or neat stuff, or stuff that is worth anything. Prepare for American Pickers on its worst day, crossed with Hoarders:Buried Alive. There’s a joke in farm and ranch real estate: “No HOA!,” which is the short, polite way of saying “This is the country, people will do, keep, and stack up whatever the hell they want.” Until death or sale do they part.
When you’re on acreage and not all that pressed for space, the tendency is to just “put it in the hay barn.” Several decades of crap-collecting go by, and now there is one heck of a pile of broken lamps, scrap wood and metal, tools, furniture, paint cans, tractor parts, boxes, wire, and baling twine. And probably a dead raccoon. Appliances seem especially popular. It’s really just not a genuine ranch purchase if you didn’t get at least an old washer, fridge or vacuum cleaner out of the deal. (I got all of the above, plus bonus trophies and broken Christmas decorations with the Poetry property purchase.)
Formulating a game plan is key, especially if you are moving out of another property that has sold (and you’re on leaseback), or is about to sell, meaning you have a limited amount of time to vacate.
30 Days Before Moving:
- Start Packing All Non-Essentials
- Throw Away and/or Donate Anything You Really No Longer Need. Remember, anything you don’t get rid of, you have to move. Hold onto this thought.
- Research and book UHaul, professional movers, and/or professional shippers for your animals.
- Determine what fencing needs you will have to have in place in order to move your horses to their new home. Large orders of materials may take 2-4 weeks to even arrive, the time to order is now. Evaluate the existing fencing, if any, and determine if you need to purchase temporary portable panels, etc.
14 Days Before Moving:
- Pack everything but your toothbrush and essential clothing.
- Have the veterinarian out to update Coggins, health certificates and vaccinations. Remember, horses will need these to travel, especially across state lines. Have the farrier out to trim or reshoe now, to avoid any foot soreness from traveling.
- If you do own a truck and trailer, and will be moving your own animals, this is a good time to have them both looked over for any structural or mechanical issues.
- Research vets, farriers, hay dealers, fence builders, and feed stores in your new area. Ask the seller’s agent to provide a list of professionals the sellers have used.
7 Days Before Moving:
- Confirm with movers, professional equine haulers, etc.
- Schedule utility shut-offs with current home, and open accounts with new providers.
- Schedule maid service/carpet cleaning for after move-out on the home you’re leaving. Be a grown-up, don’t leave a mess for your buyers.
- If you have already closed on the home you’re moving into, this is a good time to have a junk clearing company over. For a few hundred dollars, they will remove most of the problem. Metal scrapers will come pick up metal parts for free. There are a million of them on Craigslist. (Proceed with caution, a lot of them are shady.)
- Get your temporary fencing completed. Make sure you have enough hoses to reach your holding areas, water troughs, feed buckets, a halter for each horse, etc before you start moving animals. Go ahead and buy enough hay and grain to last at least a week. This will make your life so much easier come moving day. This is also a good time to refresh your difficult loaders on the joys of trailer loading, since there is nothing quite like having a full-on fight with a 1200lb. animal the day you’re trying to move your entire life.
There are two schools of thought here, but I’m going to pick a side: Move the horses last.
Perhaps it is just my overbearing paranoia, but I like to be able to stay and supervise. If you’re coordinating moving boxes, movers, and everything else, it becomes difficult to ensure the fencing is holding up, and all of them are calm and not killing each other. The alternative is moving them first, and theoretically getting the hardest, most stressful part out of the way, but in all likelihood that will involve leaving them on the new property. Alone. Considering the equine species’ propensity for self-harm, I personally feel more comfortable being there to oversee the settling-in process, and ideally quell any shenanigans.
Day 1: Farm Life
I am going to take a little liberty here and suggest what might be interpreted as a rather Grinchy first order of business. If your property did not come with a lockable front gate, run out and get one right now.
Things are different out here. I get it. It’s the country. It’s all sunshine and rainbows and no one locks their doors. But I, dear readers, am from Dallas, where we have alarm systems and go in our garage entry back doors to avoid our neighbors, like normal, civilized people.
I walk around my house with no make-up on, in a bathrobe, with dishes in the sink. Let’s go so far to say that I do not like surprise “Howdy neighbor!” visits. When you move to the country, it is highly likely your neighbors will have lived there 30-plus years, and you, mi amigo, are fresh meat. Everyone in a 5 mile radius will be driving up your driveway and knocking on the door. They will be sweet, lovely people. And you will want to strangle them. They mean well, but trust me on this one, it is a serious culture shock.
The third day I lived here, a red beat-up truck followed me across my then-ungated entry and all the way up my almost quarter mile driveway. Turns out it was just another neighbor wanting to say hello, oblivious to the fact that the entire way up the driveway, all I could think was “OMG, I’m about to get murdered.”
Or, about a week in, I came up to the house from working in the back pasture, only to find a white truck parked in my driveway and two men casually sharing some beers and fishing in my front pond. They cheerfully waved to me while I stood on the porch, dumbfounded. I called the gate company that day.
Don’t get me wrong — you’ll get to know your neighbors at some point, and they will be awesome. They will be the kindest, most helpful people you’ll ever meet. And you’ll at minimum need their phone numbers for when one of their cows gets it’s stupid, fool cow head stuck in your fence, and is turning so blue that you feel like it’s a choice between administering bovine mouth to mouth, or sharing some really fresh hamburgers.
Welcome to the country, y’all.
Kathryn Roan is a Keller Williams Urban Realtor focusing on farms, ranches, and equestrian properties. Kathryn lives on a 55-acre working ranch in Wills Point, TX with her nine horses…. and counting. Contact Kathryn at Kathryn@TexasEquestrianProperties.com