Sign in to save favorite properties, save your search parameters and more
Don’t have an account yet? Sign Up Now
Already have an account? Login Now
Farmland for Cash: Turn Your Unused Land into an Income Stream
Whether you’re a potential or existing landowner and assuming you don’t farm yourself, learning how to earn capital from your farmland by renting a portion or all of it can be valuable in the viability of your property. It’s important to understand some key steps, leasing rates for your local area, and how to protect yourself with a valid property or lease contract.
Establish an Arrangement that Works for You
While the details will vary and are specific to state rates and regulations, there are generally two ways to rent or lease your land: cash per acre (or cash upfront) or share in cost of profits and harvest. The choice should be based on how involved or uninvolved you want to be in the maintenance and harvesting of the land. Cash upfront typically requires less collaboration between you and the person leasing your land, while sharing in profits and harvests might mean you need to be more involved in work and decision making.
Determine the Right Rental Rate for Your Area
Given the fluctuating prices of crops, federal subsidies, and local and regional factors, this is an important step that requires some research. Consider multiple factors, not just the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which is an average that can skew specific characteristics of your land.
Any existing business plan for your land that maps rental income
Current land values
Your carrying costs
The previous harvest
The USDA provides a variety of tools to help determine baseline land rental rates, including the Cash Rents Survey, current agricultural land values, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and current USDA assistance programs.
Follow Insurance and Tax Rates and Regulations
Talk with your accountant and insurance agent about the implications of renting your land. Doing so might require additional or higher tax payments and added insurance coverage. Protect yourself and your property against liabilities.
Choose the Right Farmer
Just like renting an apartment or home, it’s important to vet potential farmers who want to rent or lease your land. Due to our pulse on the local Ag market, advertise your land through our team of agents, and interview multiple people. Make sure the person you choose shares your vision for the property, and check references if available to ensure you’re entrusting your property with someone who is knowledgeable, committed, and passionate.
Draw Up a Lease and Then Stick to It
Even if you’re leasing your land to your most trusted friend or family member, it’s extremely important to draw up a lease that outlines the rental or lease agreement, profit sharing, timeline, and any additional considerations, restrictions or qualifications. Then check in as needed to ensure both parties feel the partnership is valuable and beneficial.
How the Living Timber on Your “Cabin in the Woods” Property Can be a Money Maker
Peaceful cabin, fresh air, trees that go on for acres or miles. It’s easy to gaze out from your cabin in the woods at your forested land and see just that – a forest. But have you ever considered those trees as an investment?
Given the current skyrocketing demand for lumber, it might be time to. Lumber offers a unique way to diversify investment portfolios given that it is a sustainable, renewable resource, one we all need and use every day. The suggestion here is not to clear cut your land by any means.
Healthy forest harvesting can produce some additional income for your land, but only if it’s done sustainably. With local timber mills clambering for mature, healthy logs, there is a way to responsibly harvest trees that generates profit.
Talk to your local mill.
Pay a visit to your local lumber mills to see which woods are in the highest demand, and whether or not your timber fits the bill. Ask about what buyers are looking for and if there are any restrictions or standards your timber needs to meet in order to be profitable.
Proper forest management and wildfire mitigation are important whether you plan to sell your logs or not. A big part of this is thinning the trees, which means selectively going in and cutting down trees of varying sizes to allow for future growth.
Pro Tip: Reach out to the United States Forest Service in your area to see if they offer grants for thinning. Sometimes they do, providing incentive and income to keep your land healthy. For undergrowth, fell trees that simply aren’t thriving and allow enough space between each tree for new saplings to take root. Additionally, as you look for larger timber, select trees that might interfere with your views in coming years, but again, ensure you don’t harvest too many. Healthy trees grow most effectively in concert with each other, with the larger stands offering shelter and seeds for smaller growth.
If your land is home to stands of younger trees, it’s best to wait until you have enough mature trees to harvest, creating a balance between larger and smaller stands. This will most likely result in an ebb-and-flow revenue stream – something to keep in mind to help manage finances and expectations. Depending on the current size of your timberlands, it’s wise to plan for at least a few years between mature tree harvests.
Living in forested land comes with the inherent value of being so closely intertwined with nature. It also offers opportunities to make your timberland profitable while simultaneously keeping it healthy and thriving.
If you want to learn more about owning large-acre timberland, including what you’ll need to do to properly maintain and monetize it (if that is your goal), the expert team at Hayden Outdoors has you covered. Connect with industry-leading expertise on the best way to find the best land for you.
Ranch Squared? Your Guide to Buying Land in a Community Ranch
Ranch living offers a lifestyle that more and more people crave in a world that is otherwise in constant motion – wide open land, winding creeks and rivers teeming with trout, panoramic vistas, lingering days and plenty of room to roam. While owning and managing a ranch by yourself might be more than you’re willing to take on, the idea of living in a ranch community is well worth considering.
Ranch communities are gaining popularity, offering land owners the best of ranching life without the pressures of managing the entire property alone. Common types of ranch communities include sporting clubs, communities of smaller ranches within a larger ranch, shared private access to resources and shared agriculture opportunities.
What are the benefits of a community ranch?
The pros column is full of reasons to consider buying community ranchland, including:
Shared ranch responsibilities such as land maintenance, cultivation and improvements
Shared costs among ranch community owners
Convenience with less isolation due to connectivity to others in your direct ranch community
Access to shared natural resources associated with the community ranch, such as rivers, streams, lakes, trails, mountains and more
Many ranch communities also offer world-class amenities like lodges, dining, guest cabins, and recreation opportunities
What should I consider when looking for the right community ranch?
There are many things to take into consideration when looking for community ranch real estate that fits your needs and expectations. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
How you want to use the property – many ranch communities offer a variety of land and recreational use amenities including guided fishing and big game hunting, skiing, livestock and equine opportunities.
How much land you want – Communities of ranches offer lots that can range in size from small acreage (two to three acres) to expansive ranch land (300+ acres). It’s important to assess how much land you feel is enough or too much.
Existing infrastructure – If you find a ranch community that interests you, work with your ranch real estate specialist to inquire about existing utilities, common areas and homeowners’ association fees and services.
Ranch communities are an excellent way to enjoy the extraordinary benefits of ranch living without the isolation or demands of day-to-day upkeep. The real estate professionals at Hayden Outdoors understand the unique aspects of community ranch ownership and are happy to guide you through the process of purchasing your dream ranch land.
Own the Hunting Property of Your Dreams — Small Steps You Can Take Today
Ask the avid hunters in your life where they harvested their trophy deer or elk and you might get this answer: “In the Nowhere Region of the Never-tell Mountains.” Prime public hunting land is often considered sacred to sportsmen and sportswomen and for good reason – there are plenty of other people out there exploring those spaces looking for the same thing.
But what if you owned your hunting property? You determine how many people can hunt on the land. You know the prime terrain where the animals graze, gather and rut. You get to discover other hunting opportunities, such as ducks, turkeys and pheasants. Sound like an unrealistic daydream? Actually, purchasing your own hunting property is possible, especially when you consider these small steps.
Step One: Put the dream down on paper.
Which is to say, outline your goals for the property. It’s important to articulate what you’re looking for in a hunting property. Deer? Elk? Fowl? Are there good water sources on the land? What about food sources and areas of protection from predators? Be realistic about how remote you want to be, current infrastructure available such as cabins, a well or areas for a hunting camp, habitat improvement opportunities and migration corridors.
Step Two: Adjust the dream accordingly.
Which is not to say you need to make drastic compromises to turn your hunting land purchase into a reality. But it is important to be realistic about the fact that your first hunting property might not be your ultimate dream property, and that’s okay. In fact, it can be an excellent way to help you invest and work toward an end goal of owning more acreage down the line. For now, have a good grasp on how much land you can afford and effectively manage.
Step Three: Calculate your down payment and financing.
You will need approximately 20% of the total property cost as a down payment, or $20,000 on a $100,000 piece of land (for example). While it might seem like a lot now, small monthly savings can add up quickly. If you don’t have enough cash on-hand for a down payment today, put together a savings plan. Once you have down payment funds secured, it’s important to calculate how much your monthly payment will be using a mortgage calculator so you don’t become over extended.
It’s worth mentioning each of these more than once because both are so elemental to making your dream a reality. Spend time learning about the area that interests you. Talk to local wildlife biologists. Read up on any recent diseases that have affected local deer, elk and bird populations. Google Earth and other mapping apps are excellent tools when it comes to getting a comprehensive bird’s-eye view of the land. Invest the time upfront to ensure your purchase meets your expectations.
Step Five: Find a real estate agent who specializes in hunting properties.
This is an important one if you want your purchase and experience with the land to be successful. Real estate agents who understand the nuances of rural property ownership know which questions to ask, both of you and of the seller. A good and helpful agent will understand the region in which you hope to purchase hunting property and can help guide you to the ideal fit.
Step Six: Likewise, find a lender who specializes in rural property mortgages.
These specialists can help with the specifics of buying hunting property, including current mortgage rates and land classifications.
Step Seven: Consider land improvement and revenue opportunities.
You might want to limit your hunting land’s use to family and friends, or, you might be looking for ways to monetize it to help offset mortgage and maintenance costs. Consider farming, land lease opportunities or partnerships with local hunting outfitters. Small additions, fencing, small cabins and hunting blinds can also add value to your property.
Step Eight: Enjoy!
It goes without saying, but come hunting season, it’s time to get out, explore and enjoy your new hunting property purchase. Living so closely with the surrounding environment and wildlife can be an incredibly rewarding experience. The team at Hayden Outdoors can help you find the perfect piece of land zoned for hunting or bordering public lands with hunting access.
Off-grid 101: A Guide for Buying Your First Cabin Off the Grid
Living Off the Land and “Off the Grid”
Self-sustaining gardens. Star-filled night skies. Only the essentials in the best possible way. A quiet many of us haven’t heard in a long time – if at all. As the world becomes more and more connected and hectic, the idea of living unplugged and off the grid is gaining appeal, and the draws are more relevant than ever.
It can be an incredibly rewarding endeavour, especially if you’re prepared. And the best part? Living in a cabin off the grid doesn’t have to mean giving up some of your favorite creature comforts, like running water and flip-switch electricity (and dare we say – internet access, if you wish).
When people think of living off the grid, one energy source in particular comes to mind – solar. And it’s a powerful one. It doesn’t take a huge swath of solar panels to provide enough energy to get a small to mid-size cabin through a summer day. But what about a gray mid-winter sky in northern Montana? Or a drizzly week in your dreamy Pacific Northwest coastal enclave? For most people, living off-grid still requires some form of back-up power for life’s basic necessities. Buyers should consider an alternative power source to ensure you’re not left stranded. The most common is a propane- or gas-powered generator. Wind power is another option if your property offers the means to support it.
Back to propane, one or two tanks, depending on your property size, can be important. When buying off-grid cabin property, consult your realtor to make sure your parcel can safely support propane – and that a delivery truck can access your land at least once or twice a year depending on how much you anticipate using. Tip: Don’t wait until you’re down to your last drop of propane. Try to fill up proactively, ideally before high-use winter and shoulder season months.
Water: Vital to Off-grid Cabin Life
When people buy property off the grid, grocery store water dispensers and city taps are typically very, very far away. It’s important to understand what your water source will be. This varies from one region to the next. In rainy climates such as Alaska and parts of Oregon, some rely on rain capture mechanisms. In areas where natural water is prevalent, wells are more typical, but again, it’s imperative to know how deep your well is. If you need to drill down 100-plus feet to find a water source, your real estate purchase just became quite a bit more costly. However, tapping into a well just 20 feet beneath ground-level, or relying on filtered water from a nearby stream or lake, is easier.
In addition to a well, you’ll need an electric pump, which takes us back to a reliable energy source. If possible, it’s worth installing a hand pump somewhere on the property. Should you ever completely lose power, this will come in handy.
Septic: If You Have Running Water, You Need a Septic System
While it’s not the sexiest aspect of off-grid living, a viable septic system is as important as running water if you have it. If you don’t, an eco-friendly outhouse is perfectly sufficient. But for those who appreciate the occasional hot shower or flush toilet as much as they love the solitude of their cabin off the grid, a proper septic system and durable drain field are essential.
Location. Location. Location.
Real estate’s favorite catch phrase takes on a whole new meaning when you’re talking about living miles away from anyone or any modern amenities. Here are some things to consider:
It can be the driving factor behind your off-grid cabin real estate purchase, but it’s important to understand how others are using the land around you. Do you border Forest Service or BLM land? Is motorized vehicle use allowed nearby? Will hunters be walking the woods come fall?
It’s all fun and games until it snows three feet and you’re stuck in, or stuck out, of your cabin. Make sure you understand what it will take to access your off-grid property year-round.
Stocking up on basic medical supplies is a good idea. Have a well-tooled first aid kit handy. Additionally, understand nearby EMS access points, including ALERT landing zones.
Yes, you’re buying to escape. But you might find that your neighbors, even if they’re acres or miles away, provide a unique and elemental support system.
Sure, off-the-grid doesn’t typically mean high-speed access to the world wide web. And that’s not what we’re talking about here. But for those who are looking to combine the magic of an off-grid cabin with remote work options, you can. Rural Wi-fi and satellite internet is beginning to provide possibilities to those farther afield.
All the Good Stuff
Views. Running streams. Surrounding mountain ranges. Open meadows. Sweeping prairies. Rugged coastlines. Choose land with which you connect. When you’re reliant on it, those points of connection will mean so much more.
Food: Going All-in on Living Off-grid
Yes, you can completely live off the land. But if you’re relying on your property as your sole food source, you need to be diligent in understanding what that means. Prior to your off-grid cabin purchase, work with your real estate professional to understand which soil types you’re dealing with.
If you’re a hunter, become well-versed in your state’s hunter safety programs, hunting licensing and local meat processing (unless you plan on doing it yourself). The same rule applies to any local fishing licensing and catch-and-release regulations. Growing seasons are also worth some looking into. The Midwest and Southwest offer plenty of prime days throughout the year to grow a harvestable bounty. But if you’re living in more northern climes, or areas where crafty wildlife find endless ways through your garden fence, maybe consider a greenhouse.
Land Improvements: Yes, You Can Improve the Perfect Place
Living off the grid isn’t just a lifestyle; it’s a way of life. It’s a commitment to your property, and forming a partnership with the land around you. More than a townhome remodel or upgrade to a higher-end house, buying a cabin off the grid is a way to establish a connection to wild and uncommon natural spaces, and to reconnect with yourself.
Hayden Outdoors specializes in finding clients uniquely remote, off-grid cabins and vacant land in a variety of states, including:
Whether you’re just beginning to explore the idea of off-grid living, or you’re in the market for a remote cabin where you can completely unplug, Hayden Outdoor real estate agents are experts in walking you through the important considerations, and finding you the perfect property.
Steps for Creating a Successful Ranch Management Plan
The relationship between ranchland and its landowner is one of America’s oldest love stories, complete with romance, reward, heartache, hard work and unending commitment to living a life on the land. Ranch ownership offers plenty of allure, but before you purchase your own ranch property, it’s imperative to create a comprehensive ranch management plan to ensure healthy land, profitable seasons and longevity.
Follow these Ten Steps for a Holistic Approach to Properly Managing Your Ranch.
1. Establish the “Big Picture” or Mission Statement for Your Ranch
Start by specifically defining the Ranch’s land use and general purpose. Do you dream of raising commercial cattle? Or is your ranch intended for your family’s sustainable living only, offering a collective means of living off the land?
Before you purchase your dream ranch property, it’s important to clarify what you want to do with it. This guiding philosophy provides a road (or trail) map for ranch operations, management, marketing, upkeep and profitability.
2. Qualify Your Key Resources
These can be the land itself. From pastures to quality soil and natural water sources – your livestock and other animals, and the people who manage the property.
It’s important to understand the unique aspects of your ranch and enhance them over time with special attention paid to natural resource management, proper equipment maintenance and providing a fun, engaging work environment for ranch managers.
3. Create a Management and Business Plan
Treating your ranch like a business is important to its long-term viability & sustainability.
Determine your goals and objectives. Establish key performance indicators you can track from season to season. Then revisit the plan frequently throughout the year.
4. Develop a Pasture Management Plan
Understand your soils, water sources, forages and potential for erosion to ensure your pastures remain productive and your cattle are happy.
5. And a Cattle Management Plan
Ranches are most productive when every element of them work in harmony – and this is certainly the case with cattle and the land.
Things to consider are which types of cows are best for your land, how you will keep them healthy and well nourished, and how they’ve been bred or if you will breed them.
6. Make Sure Your Bookkeeping is Organized and Up-to-date
Toss the shoebox full of old receipts and invest in proper bookkeeping software. You’ll want to keep track of revenue streams, spending, employee wages, invoicing and profits and losses. Being diligent about your bookkeeping throughout the year is an important way to ensure you’re working toward your ranch’s mission statement and it will save you time, energy and headaches come tax season. It’s also worth noting that profitable ranches are much more likely to be passed down from one generation to the next, ensuring their legacy in your family’s history.
7. Consider If and How You Want to Market Your Ranch
Is it family-owned and operated? Do you focus on raising organic cattle or does your ranch support speciality breeds? Establishing your ranch’s unique aspects and competitive advantages is elemental to a successful marketing plan. From there, consider how you want to communicate that message. These days, effective marketing can range from sponsorship opportunities at your local livestock auction to highly targeted social media advertising.
8. Keep Personnel Management in Mind
Happy employees stick around. It’s important to create a fun and inviting work environment for your ranch management team.
9. Continue to Observe and Adjust Accordingly
Ultimately, ranches are complex living entities at the cross-section of humans, animals and nature. It’s important to learn your ranch inside and out. Continually look for ways to improve soil and water sources. Stay up-to-date on emerging ranch and farm technologies and equipment. Tap into local scientists and land managers to better understand the environment around you. Then apply your learnings to your ranch management plan.
10. Enjoy the Process!
Owning your own ranch can be a dream realized. It offers an incredible amount of freedom and responsibility, independence and teamwork and an undeniable connection to the land.
When you’re pondering a farm or ranch purchase, or making plans for a recently acquired piece of ground, land and its limitless possibilities dominate your thinking. As you contemplate all that land can represent – opportunity, individualism, escape – here’s a collection of great books that offer inspiration, and remind you of why you wanted to own land in the first place.
Kittredge is one of the most acclaimed chroniclers of the modern American West. His memoir explores his upbringing in Oregon ranch country, and offers insight on the appeal of wide-open spaces, the value of land and its accompanying legacies, and the changing landscape of the contemporary frontier.
Doig, who passed away in 2015, was a novelist and journalist who centered much of his work on his native Montana. In this memoir, Doig explores – in part, through a collection of wartime letters between his mother and uncle – the influence of the western landscape on his family, with settings ranging from remote stretches of Big Sky Country to the American Southwest.
Subtitled Four Generations of Hunting and the Hill Country, this nonfiction work by Bass, also a novelist and writer of short stories, takes readers along for his family’s annual excursion to the “deer pasture,” the Texas Hill Country destination where the Basses have hunted for more than 75 years. The author shares insight on the lessons taught by hunting, and the value of maintaining connections to the wilderness.
This collection of vignettes by Galvin comprise a compelling narrative about a specific piece of the West: the ranchland along the Colorado-Wyoming state line. The author reaches back a century and tells the story of the area through its hardscrabble inhabitants. The landscapes and seasons serve as additional “characters,” bringing out the survival instincts required for life in the region.
In this short work Kittredge opines on the “second colonization” of the West, as it transitions from a mythical place of survival to a place often defined by tourism, recreation, and a modern interpretation of a love of the land and the hope for the future that it so often represents. Kittredge takes readers to locations as varied as Klamath Falls, Oregon, and his adopted home state of Montana, and populates his story with appearances by writers Raymond Carver and Richard Hugo, both of whom sought escape and reinvention in the American West.
A native of northwestern Wyoming, where he grew up on a guest ranch, Spragg shares the story of his childhood as part of a family dependent on the land and the mythology of the West for its livelihood. Spragg details winter solitude, an adolescence defined by physical labor, and the appeal of open spaces to an eclectic cross-section of urban tourists seeking a piece of a life that Westerners often take for granted.
Subtitled Hunting and Ethics in the Missouri River Breaks, this work by Jones, a former editor of Big Sky Journal, offers a philosophical look at hunting, and explores the ways in which the sport brings humans closer to a rightful place in the natural order, to a place in which they become participants in the natural world, rather than mere observers.
With contributions to magazines ranging from Big Sky Journal to Harper’s, Beer is perhaps the most under-acknowledged writer of non-fiction about the contemporary American West. In this collection of his finest magazine pieces, Beer draws heavily on his experiences working on his family’s Montana ranch, consistently illustrating the ways in which our identities can be defined by the land.
In this memoir, Doig looks back on his childhood in 1940s Montana ranch country and delves into the ways in which ties to the land can shape one’s life. Through his story, Doig shares with readers the unique nature of family life on a ranch, and the nature of a childhood spent in wide open spaces.
In a book instantly comparable to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Bass’s journal chronicles a winter spent in Montana’s remote Yaak Valley, a destination with no electricity, few comforts, and even fewer residents. The author shares the challenges of acclimation and the necessary acquisition of frontier survival skills.
This collection of magazine pieces by Kittredge offers an education on the differences between the West’s mythology and its reality, and the ways in which the former has often overshadowed, if not outright harmed, the latter. Readers are left with an appreciation for a culture and landscape unburdened by the characteristics forced upon them by popular culture.
Rural Internet Options – The Cabin with WIFI Dream
Moving to a Rural Property Doesn’t Mean Giving Up 21st Century Connectivity
For many real estate buyers, the purchase of a rural property is motivated, at least in part, by a desire to create a retreat from the outside world. Whether a newly acquired property will serve as a second home – visited a few times a year – or as a permanent, year-round residence, part of the appeal of owning rural real estate is the potential to escape the more hectic nature of an in-town lifestyle, to live life at a somewhat slower pace.
Except, of course, when it comes to internet access.
As the World Wide Web and its utility have grown, so has our dependence on the internet for basic communications, news, entertainment, and everyday business needs. All but the most anti-tech property buyers now regard reliable internet access as a vital utility, even in rural locations.
Fortunately, there’s a growing list of internet service options to stay connected – no matter where you live.
Familiar land-line service from mainstream internet service providers is often available throughout farm and ranch country. A given area, though, might have no more than one land-line internet provider, potentially working with an infrastructure that hasn’t yet caught up to in-town service capacities. Rural property owners newly transplanted from areas boasting lightning-fast download speeds might have to adjust expectations for service speeds but, in general, should be able to use the internet just as they would in other locations.
When the concept of satellite internet was introduced, it seemed like a connectivity miracle: regardless of your location, if you had a clear view of the southern sky, you could connect to the internet via a satellite dish. Reality, though, left something to be desired, as consumers reported satellite service as being slow and unreliable, with service at the mercy of weather conditions. Satellite services have worked to improve connectivity, but typical download speeds still might not hit 15 Mbps, with upload speeds in the 1-2 Mbps range.
Something of a cutting-edge approach to online connectivity, microwave internet service (often referred to as “fixed wireless”) builds upon radio-transmission technology that predates the concepts of broadband and WiFi. Signal transmissions are sent wirelessly point-to-point, so there are no land lines or satellites involved. Line-of-sight links (via relay towers, if necessary) are needed between the service provider’s on-the-ground transmission tower and a consumer’s antenna. Advocates say microwave service can be faster and more reliable than satellite options and, because of the way in which microwave data is transmitted (using narrow beams), it can be safer than cable service, in terms of protecting data from being intercepted.
A key theme of late in lawmakers’ discussions regarding nationwide infrastructure improvement. Legislation passed in the U.S. Senate would speed permit approvals for wireless expansion, and facilitate “dig once” strategies, in which broadband infrastructure would be put in place concurrent with highway construction projects or other below-ground improvements. The Federal Communications Commission has introduced a plan to offer tax incentives for private-sector broadband investment in low-income (including rural) areas. Such initiatives, paired with the ever-increasing demand for quality, high-speed internet access among rural property owners, should help ensure a future in which online connectivity is a given at any property, regardless of its location.
Covenants: Good or Bad for My Property’s Value?
With rural properties – restrictive covenants needn’t be a dealbreaker as covenants can help maintain a property’s value.
During the course of a property search, land buyers – particularly those looking at acreage that’s been subdivided – will almost certainly encounter the concept of restrictive covenants.
Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions
CCRs – for short, are usage requirements (and limitations) placed on a property by a subdivider or developer. Layered atop any municipal zoning regulations, these rules further govern what a property owner can and can’t do with the property. Created to protect property values and owners’ abilities to enjoy their properties, covenants might prohibit certain activities, or set standards for home construction or other improvements.
Understandably, many buyers bristle at the concept of being told how a property can or can’t be used after it’s purchased. Experiences with suburban CCRs might only add to a buyer’s hesitation. In some in-town locales, covenants can be both stringent and wide-ranging; they might require vehicles to be garaged at all times, or have strictly enforced rules regarding yard-maintenance standards, or even the color palette available to a homeowner when painting a house. For many buyers, the concept of purchasing land carries with it a sense of individualism; an overabundance of rules and regulations in the form of covenants can tend to erase a buyer’s enthusiasm.
Are Covenants Still Relevant if I Live in The Countryside?
When it comes to purchasing rural property, though, covenants needn’t be a dealbreaker. Specific provisions can vary greatly, of course, but, in general, covenants applied to rural properties don’t tend to be as restrictive as CCRs one might encounter in a suburban neighborhood. Developers subdividing rural acreage tend to write covenants with the realities of “country” life in mind; they know that rural landowners use their properties in a variety of ways – keeping horses or other livestock, growing crops, constructing various types of outbuildings – and that marketability of land will depend heavily on preserving a buyer’s rights and options.
As a result, covenants on a rural parcel might amount to little more than a short set of regulations that could easily align with a buyer’s intentions. It’s common to find prohibitions on manufactured homes, hog farms, and commercial marijuana cultivation (in locations where it’s otherwise legal at the state level). Often, rural covenants will specify that campers can be used only for short-term recreational purposes, and not as permanent residences. There might be minimum square footage requirements for homes, and home exteriors may need to fall within a broad color category, such as “earth tone.” Properties that are genuinely in ranch country – rather than in exurban locations – will generally have horse/livestock-friendly covenants, and accommodate numerous types of outbuildings.
Covenants will generally include language prohibiting “nuisances”, but might not specifically define what constitutes a nuisance. This leaves the premise open to interpretation, and brings common sense into play. If an activity – an afternoon of target shooting, a bonfire, fireworks – infringes on your neighbors’ enjoyment of their property, including their peace and quiet, it could be defined as a nuisance and become the subject of a complaint to an owners’ association. For many buyers, though, that open-ended “no nuisances” language is a positive, helping set expectations for community norms before property purchases are made.
Are Some Nuisance Neighbors Good for Our Ag Economy?
By contrast, properties without covenants – and bordering other properties without covenants – offer much more freedom to prospective buyers; usage limitations are largely limited to local zoning regulations. However, that freedom comes with obvious risks, particularly when it comes to neighbors’ potential behaviors and their standards for property maintenance. If a neighbor engages in “nuisance” behavior – collecting junked vehicles, erecting shoddy outbuildings, engaging in loud or even dangerous activities – even the most independently minded landowner may suddenly adopt an appreciation for the concept of covenants.
Your Best Fencing Options
That ideal parcel is unfenced. What are a new owner’s options?
You have big plans for that undeveloped property you’ve just purchased, and fencing is early on your to-do list. Building a fence, especially on a sizable parcel, is never a small job, but taking on such an effort carries with it the opportunity to make sure the job gets done to your specs. And, depending on your needs, options and costs vary widely.
In evaluating a fencing strategy, a property owner should first think about his or her goals. First: Do you even need fencing? Will you have livestock on the property? Do you anticipate issues with trespassers? Are your parcel’s boundaries unclear? If the answers to such questions are “no,” it might be worth contemplating the zero-dollar-budget option of leaving the property unfenced, maintaining an open environment that can help maintain the land’s natural aesthetic.
If a fence is in order, though, think about the function that fence will need to serve. Will the fence simply mark the property line, or will you count on it to contain horses or cattle? When it comes to selecting fencing material, do you value aesthetics, or are you concerned only with function?
Before making any decisions about fencing, confirm your available options with respect to protective covenants or other applicable regulations. Some rural property owners’ associations specify the types of fencing materials that can be used.
With all of the above in mind, let’s review some of the most common fencing strategies.
In terms of labor and time, steel corral panels are perhaps the ideal fencing solution. Panels go up quickly and connect with just a couple of pins. There’s no wire to stretch. And postholes might not even be necessary. The downside: because of their cost (a 12-foot panel can easily run $100 or more), steel panels aren’t generally practical for fencing a pasture or a property’s perimeter, and are instead better suited for a smaller area, like a corral or an outdoor riding arena. Where panels are a realistic option, it is usually worthwhile to set fence posts at regular intervals along each fenceline to provide better stability. A well known brand of corral fencing sold nationwide is called Priefert, and most ranchers will tell you they’re the best.
Priefert Corral Fence offers strength and versatility for corrals.
Continuous Steel Rail
Compared to interconnected steel panels, this option is better suited for containing larger areas – a pasture or an entire property – since fence segments aren’t “hinged” as they would be with corral panels. With continuous steel rail, wooden posts are set to support panels; the steel rails of each panel then connect to the rails of the next panel, forming a seamless fenceline. Costs for continuous steel-rail fencing, though, can rival figures for traditional corral panels.
Traditional Wood Rail
While offering a classic look, wooden rail fencing is both costly and labor-intensive. And, a wood-rail fence requires maintenance – painting/treating and, on a regular basis, re-painting/re-treating – to keep them looking attractive. Many landowners who opt for wood rails grow to regret the choice, as ongoing upkeep becomes an issue.
This option offers the look of a traditional rail fence, but without the need to paint or treat rails. Vinyl-rail fencing isn’t quite maintenance-free, though, and has limited uses. Some of the most common options are designed more for aesthetics than for utility. Rails insert into posts and often just rest in place, without much securing them. Horse owners report that such fences can be next to useless, as one bump from a horse can knock rails out of place.
A great alternative to solid vinyl rail options, flexible rails can be solidly attached to fence posts, and offer some “give,” making them a good option for horse owners. The polymer rails are close to maintenance-free, and are attractive; at first glance, they can be taken for a traditional wood-rail fence.
Simple in their construction, these mesh panels are built from heavy-duty welded rods, and are generally a low-cost option – a 16-foot cattle panel might cost as little as $30 – for the consumer who values utility over aesthetics, and is determined to avoid handling wire. Mounting these panels to wooden posts can make for a stout fenceline. However, since stock panels tend to have a “flop factor,” bending and curving if not solidly secured, fence posts might need to be set as close together as every eight feet. A vital point: select stock panels based on the size of the gaps between rods; panels with wider gaps are unsuitable for horses.
This woven-wire option is designed with a tight mesh so that a horse’s hooves are less likely to get caught in a fence. A relatively affordable option, horse fencing unrolls so it can then be attached to fence posts. Quality products are key to durability, and fencing companies like SASCO have years of experience making high end fencing products. Stretching woven wire evenly is an art form, as it’s easy to pull the wire out of shape. Woven horse fencing, especially when paired with wooden posts, can make an attractive fence, with security on par with that of higher-cost strategies. Other woven-wire options exist, including game fencing to contain deer and elk; as with stock panels, pay attention to the size of the gaps in the fence, as large openings in a woven-wire fence almost inevitably lead to livestock injuries.
Horse fence and other game and wildlife fencing must be strong and durable. Don’t skimp on lesser quality products to save a buck!
When it comes to wire fencing, cable options (to the extent that cable is “wire”) offer the advantages of strength and flexibility. Livestock making contact with a cable fence won’t encounter solid rails; instead, cable will offer some give. Cable can be paired with steel posts to create a high-end version of a wire fence, but with greater durability and better eye appeal than ordinary wire options.
A good alternative to cable fencing, coated wire is constructed from electric fence wire that’s been wrapped in a polymer coating. As a fencing material, coated wire offers the simplicity and utility of a wire fence, but with greater strength and, with a white polymer coating, better visibility. Depending on the variety purchased, coated wire can be electrified.
With this option, we’re venturing into budget-conscious choices that are likely more realistic, and certainly more common, for large acreages. Smooth wire is, essentially, barbed wire without the barbs. Constructing a smooth-wire fence is a labor intensive option, as each strand of wire will need to be unrolled and stretched individually. (Although the same is true with cable and coated-wire fencing.) Heavy brace posts will be critical at each corner and, intermittently, along longer fencelines. Between brace posts, smooth wire is most often paired with steel t-posts, which need to be driven into the ground; doing this by hand, with a t-post driver, is incredibly labor-intensive, but produces the best results. While an infinitely better and safer choice than barbed wire, smooth wire still isn’t the ideal choice for horse owners, but is commonly used as a low-cost choice for pasture fencing.
This low-cost, labor-intensive option is best suited for cattle. You’ll often see horses pastured inside a barbed-wire fence, but that combination, sooner or later, will lead to serious injuries. Fence-construction strategies are akin to those used with smooth wire, but complicated by barbs, which snag on just about everything they touch; plan on wearing durable gloves for this fencing job, and plan on those gloves having plenty of holes in them by the time a barbed-wire fence is complete. With both barbed- and smooth-wire fences, expect strands to loosen and require re-tightening.
Barbed wire is found on most cattle ranches across the country. It’s cheap, durable and always in a rancher’s truck.
Electric Wire and Tape
Electric fencing was once regarded – and most often used as – a temporary option in lieu of a permanent, more substantial fence, or as a supplemental strategy to pair with a “real” fence. For some consumers, though, an electric fence’s low cost and ease of construction made it an appealing option for permanent fences. Electric fencing, though, tends to be fragile (easy to put up, easy to tear down), and traditional electric-fencing wire generally has low visibility due to its small diameter and its metallic color. Wider electric tape can be much easier for livestock (and humans) to see, but offers little advantage in terms of strength. Moderate winds can force a strand of electric tape to essentially saw itself in half against an insulator. Despite the convenience offered by electric fencing, it’s still best suited to temporary uses, and requires constant vigilance to be sure it’s both in place and functioning.
When it comes to gates, property owners need to be diligent – militant, even. Convey, through signs, if necessary, that gates are to be left as they’re found.
Made of durable materials are your way of communicating to neighbors, passersby and potential trespassers – a sign with your address number placed at the head of the driveway will be a vital landmark for the UPS driver. And, especially if a property was previously unfenced, “no trespassing” signs indicate that, as a new owner, you have your own expectations. When contemplating signage – whether it’s needed, and how it should be worded – think about preexisting behaviors that may have been created by a property’s prior owner. (Maybe the neighbors have been in the habit of hunting or riding on what is now your property.) And, think about the “clueless wanderer,” the hiker or hunter who may not see a fence line as a boundary.