As a real estate broker who also happens to be an equestrian (and past board president of the Washington State Quarter Horse Association), I have a lot of experience working with clients who are buying or selling horse properties. There are all sorts of things to consider when evaluating a horse property for purchase – things that you wouldn’t necessarily think about during a typical real estate transaction.

17 Things to Consider When
Buying or Selling a Horse Property

1. Are you planning to clear land to create pastures or space for additional outbuildings?

If so, you’ll want to make sure the county will allow you to do that. Regulations for tree removal can differ from county to county.

2. Were the existing barns and structures built with necessary permits?

If not, the county can force you to remove them. Make sure everything was built with permits, especially covered arenas.

3. Are you thinking about adding an indoor arena?

Only a few counties in western Washington will allow the construction of a large free-span covered arena in an area that’s zoned primarily as residential. Check local codes before buying a property with the intent to expand.

4. Is the property zoned to accommodate the number of animals you plan to maintain? If you want to board horses for other people and/or or run a tack shop, are those commercial activities allowed by the county?

Make sure you find out.

5. Is the property impacted by wetlands?

Most counties in Washington State have rules against clearing, developing or grazing animals on wetlands, which can significantly impact usage. Wetlands can also be a sign of flooding risk. Of note, wetlands may not be readily apparent if you’re touring a horse property in the summer months.

6. How is the house sited in relation to the barn and arenas?

In my experience, potential buyers don’t want the barn too close to the house or too far away.

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Outbuilding

7. If you plan to have additional homes for farm workers on the property, is it zoned for that and can the existing septic system(s) legally accommodate those extra dwellings?

I’ve seen quite a few properties with illegal septic systems, which often have to be permitted after the fact or removed.

8. If the property is served by a well, does the well produce enough water to accommodate a horse facility?

An adequate year round supply of clean water is critical so it’s also important to make sure the water supply isn’t contaminated.

9. Is the property wired for a generator?

Losing power supply for your well pump and heating your house during or after a major storm can be dangerous for you and your horses. If the property is dependent on an external electrical supply, you’ll want a propane-fueled backup generator.

10. Is there adequate storage for your equipment?

You don’t want to leave your tractors, trailers and tools outside or uncovered in the elements, especially in Washington State.

11. Is hay storage sufficient?

Having a dry storage space for hay is critical in Washington State, where fog and moisture in the air can easily mold perfectly dry hay. Heated tack rooms are also critical to prevent molding of leather tack.

12. What are the manure disposal regulations, if any?

Many counties regulate manure storage and disposal, which can be an added expense for property owners. Make sure to identify those costs before purchasing.

Center aisle
Covered arena

13. Is the fencing sound?

We all love wood fencing for its appearance and for safety, but it can be crazy expensive to maintain. Make sure it’s in good shape.

14. Are there any signs of wood rot?

Poorly maintained structures with improper wood to earth contact are susceptible to rot. You don’t want to buy a pole barn sitting on rotted posts.

15. How is road access to the property?

It’s important to be able to get a truck and trailer in and out, even during a storm. There’s a lot of wind and rain in Washington State so you’ll want to avoid properties on poorly maintained dirt or gravel roads lined with overgrown trees. Fallen trees and poor road conditions could leave you trapped on your property for days and/or make it difficult for emergency vehicles to reach you.

16. Is the property currently taxed assessed as an agricultural business?

Ag status can offer a significant savings on your property taxes, but it comes with strings attached. Make sure you understand what’s required to maintain an agricultural designation and what the implications can be at the time of sale. If you’re selling an ag-designated property and your buyer doesn’t plan to continue that usage, you may be responsible for back taxes at closing.

17. Lastly, and most importantly, is your real estate broker a horse person?

It takes a special skill set and knowledge base to represent clients effectively in the purchase or sale of an equestrian property. Working with a broker without those skills and knowledge will put you at a very real disadvantage. Don’t do it.

There’s a lot to keep in mind when buying or selling a horse property, which is why expert guidance and representation are critical. Without them, you could find yourself dealing with some unwanted, costly surprises. If you have any questions about buying or selling an equestrian home, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere Chambers Bay, specializing in residential real estate in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, University Place and Lakewood.

Jeff Williams: (253) 303-1135
JeffWilliams@windermere.com

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