How to Choose Where to Build Your Custom Home

Kevin Brunk lives in a pretty perfect pocket of California. Born and raised in the north central part of the state, he’s within striking distance of world-class skiing and recreation, the Pacific’s beautiful coastline, and some of the most renowned vineyards on the planet. In his words, “I grew up on the toe of the slope of the west side of the Sierra Nevada. I’ve always been of the land and a great appreciator of what’s provided for us in the outdoor space.” 

Maybe it’s a lifetime spent exploring outside, noticing all of nature’s aspects, that set Kevin up so well for his career. Or possibly it’s his background as a land use planner and architect that was part of his previous career path. His passion sits at the center of an architecture-construction-design Venn diagram. From this unique vantage point, he can look at raw land and quickly establish a vision for it with input from and on behalf of his clients. “I help clients understand the possibilities of properties they’re looking to buy.” Kevin has been with Hayden Outdoors for a handful of years now, capitalizing on his background to help buyers and sellers establish their own vision for vacant land, maximizing light, space, materials, and resources to create a home or facility that fulfills whatever the end goal might be. 

Recently, Kevin offered his insights into the benefits of custom home building, and working with someone who can make the most of your property.

Benefits of Building a “Custom Property”

The biggest benefit of building a custom property is just that – customizing it to fit your needs and lifestyle. As Kevin puts it, “Custom building allows you to master plan everything from beginning to end, and that includes phases over time. A master plan can span five, 10, 15 years, or longer. It doesn’t need to be all or nothing in one day.” This 30,000-foot view of your project lets you establish milestones over the course of the buildout, including exterior spaces, outbuildings, and landscaping. 

It’s important to consider your timeframe when designing a custom build. Doing so will help you establish long-term equity on untouched property. Whether your vision is to build a generational legacy property for family members to enjoy for decades or a shorter-term home you plan to sell in five years or less, designing for the end goal helps you save time and money and maximize the overall value of the home and the land. 


Sun set over distant fog bank casts golden glow over beautiful landscape in the Marin Headlands


Researching Potential Locations

When it’s time to take your dreams from simply scrolling through online listings to making an offer on the ideal piece of vacant land, Kevin encourages buyers to take the following key steps:

Explore different zoning uses.

“Get to know your local zoning [laws]. Learn about what the zoning and allowed uses are on your property, as well as… other things you can do on your property [that] can require a conditional use permit.” Understanding the zoning laws in your area helps ensure you don’t run into any surprises after you’ve purchased your property. Keep in mind that building something in the grey area of what is allowed might require a longer approval process. Also, zoning codes and regulations will stipulate how many structures, homes, ADUs, and outbuildings you can build. Finally, the zoning laws apply to your property and to your neighbors, so make sure to consider what landowners bordering your property are able to do with theirs. 

Evaluate amenities and facilities.

Before you put pen to paper on those closing documents, spend some time looking at any current improvements, amenities and facilities. These can include structures currently on the land, or amenities offered by a community HOA or other organization, such as walking trails, pools and fitness facilities, equine barns and pens, golf features, and more. 

Assess accessibility and commute.

While that picturesque piece of land miles from town might seem like the ideal spot to build your dream custom home, make sure you’re comfortable with accessing the property and any required commute to and from the closest resources and facilities, such as hospitals, grocery stores, shopping, and entertainment. If you’re looking to build a life-long home, consider how these property characteristics might impact your lifestyle and security over time. 


Assessing the Natural Environment

Another notable benefit of working with a custom home designer and builder? Consideration for how your home will interact with the natural environment. Kevin’s decades of experience immediately shine through when speaking to this point. “You want to consider topography, weather patterns, and wildlife. I like to look at the benefits and challenges the sun can provide, including shade, natural light, and solar [impact and] energy. How do you want your rooms, entryways, and windows to be oriented? Regarding your region’s climate and weather patterns, where does the snow [or rain] blow in? Are you going to be able to get into your home or out of the barn during a blizzard? Prevailing winds and existing tree cover and how those trees shade the house from the sun and other natural elements are also important.” 

These are some of the types of considerations a designer like Kevin can immediately see when looking at raw land – an invaluable resource when it comes to building in a place and in a way that will make the most of the natural surroundings. 



Factor in Budget and Cost of Living

When Kevin is consulting with clients on the most important considerations of designing and building a custom home, he doesn’t hesitate to highlight the two key driving forces behind any project: “Budget and timeline (and then I say it again!).” Analyzing construction costs is essential to a successful custom home build project. Establishing a realistic and attainable budget and timeline prior to breaking ground helps keep you on track and avoid major pitfalls or overages. And it’s not just the house you need to consider. “The overall budget is not just the home. It goes well beyond that, extending to the furnishings, exterior space, landscape design, and everything that goes into preparing for the build.” 

Utility expenses are another big – but frequently overlooked – home building expense, especially if you’re building in a more rural area. This is where Kevin’s experience as a builder, recreational real estate professional, and architect comes in. “If you’re working with a quality and knowledgeable real estate professional, they should be familiar with the process of assessing utilities.” Similar to working with the county on your zoning regulations, reach out to your local utility companies to make sure everything is where it needs to be. Kevin continues, “I don’t recommend assuming that just because you’re buying a piece of property that fronts a roadway or right of way, you already have utilities [in place and ready].” 


Understanding Local Regulations and Zoning Laws

Again, investing some time with your local county planning department can save you massive headaches after you’ve begun building. “I’ve done quite a bit of work with county planning departments, not only in my current role as a custom home builder and real estate agent, but also when I was practicing architecture. Just about every planner out there would much rather have you come spend some time with them up front and really understand… your vision for the project.” 

Some things county planning and building departments can help you navigate as you design your custom home build include:

  • Local building codes
  • Square footage allowances and restrictions
  • Zone restrictions
  • Permitting processes

“Not everybody thinks working with the county is fun, but it’s a part of the overall process. I consider them a part of the team when I’m working on a custom [project]. I recommend getting to know them and spending time with them up front, because it’s going to pay off in the end.”


A new construction home being framed on a hillside with a view


Understanding Your Needs and Lifestyle

Transferring your daydream custom home to the reality of construction plans and architectural renderings can be overwhelming. Again, this is where a design professional can really help you bring your vision to life. Here are a few examples of custom home design essentials Kevin recommends discussing with your architect, builder, or designer: 

  • How much space do you want to dedicate to living spaces versus bedroom spaces or entertainment areas?
  • The proximity of the kitchen to different indoor and outdoor spaces around the house.
  • Light exposure, sun exposure, and orientation to weather and views
  • The flow of interior spaces to exterior spaces
  • Natural and custom landscaping
  • Exterior recreational features, such as outbuildings, hunting facilities, gun ranges, ponds, pools, walkways, paths and courts

Additionally, it’s important to think about how the design choices you make now will affect your home’s equity over time and how you’ll be able to use the house in years to come. If the home is a short-term investment, these considerations are less personal (but certainly no less important to potential buyers). However, a long-term custom home should account for lifestyle changes as the years come and go, such as expanding families and accessibility. 


Understanding Infrastructure and Utilities

Unless you aim to live off the grid, utilities and necessary infrastructure are key elements of your custom home build. Talk with your design and real estate professional about water, sewer, and electricity access. The farther from an established community you build, the harder – and more expensive – it will be to get these utilities to your property. 

While not as necessary as water, sewer, and electrical, internet and telecommunications access are also important. As technology changes, there are more and more opportunities for telecommunications access, including satellite internet. Whatever you decide, just make sure your property is within reach of the utilities you need to be comfortable and successful. This has become increasingly critical in recent years as more and more people work from home or work remotely. 

Finally, consider transportation infrastructure as part of your overall custom home build. If you need to put in roads, widen an existing driveway, or extend established transportation access, you need to make sure to include this in your overall building budget. 



Assessing Resale Value and Market Trends

Custom home builds are just that – highly customized to your needs and style. But when it comes to the latest social media home building fads and design crazes, Kevin waves a flag of caution. “Trends are, by definition, trendy. Within five years, you can almost pinpoint when a home was built if the designer, client, and builder chose to incorporate the latest trend.” He recommends steering clear of anything that feels a little too of-the-moment and instead opting for timelessness and quality. “Flavor-of-the-month designs can become dated very quickly and look tired, so my own perspective is to look at quality design and finishes that have withstood the test of time.” Not sure where to look? Kevin recommends going back decades and identifying design elements we still turn to today. Custom home architects and designers can help you identify timelessness over trends.

Opting for longer-term design elements can help your home retain its resale value over time. “Sellers typically don’t want to have to tear out a kitchen or completely redo a homesite 10 years after the home was built.” 


Consulting with Real Estate Professionals

Like his dedicated team members at Hayden Outdoors, Kevin approaches his work as a custom home designer, builder, and real estate professional as a partnership. To him, real estate isn’t just transactional; it’s an investment in his clients’ personal, homeownership and property goals, many of which span hundreds of acres and multiple generations. “A highly trained and experienced real estate professional has an understanding of end land use and development. This can really make a difference in choosing a partner in this process. I discourage people from going with a brokerage on brand name alone. When choosing a real estate professional, turn to a person or an agency with a proven track record of locating and purchasing land for a custom home.”

It’s an important point. “Just like I don’t recommend going to a quickie oil change place to get a transmission rebuilt, I also don’t recommend going with the status quo to help you locate, negotiate, and purchase [farm, ranch or] recreational real estate.”  



To wrap up, Kevin reiterates one of his key points when bringing your dream home to life, “Managing expectations is a huge part of building custom. I’m a big fan of having a complete project. I believe in the design principle of trying to keep everything at the same level of quality and completion.” 

His clients come to know Kevin as a visionary – someone who can combine custom home design with the beauty and potential of raw land to create timeless, comfortable, long-lasting properties. They also know him as a partner, a trusted resource as they navigate the ins and outs of the custom build process. He would probably tell you he’s both things, the product of a lifetime wandering forests, fields, mesas, mountains, meadows, and cliff sides to find the perfect view…and help clients achieve their dreams.



Add Value to Rural Property with Expert Landscape Design

Spend some time talking with Co-founder and Principal Designer of Garland Design Group, Susan Garland, and a few words catch your interest. Words like flow, functionality, circulation, and longevity. Susan’s expertise in landscape and interior design – and seamlessly marrying the two – extends from coast to coast. She began her landscape design career on grand estates in the Hamptons before migrating west where she received an MBA from CU Boulder before launching Garland Design Group. Today, Susan specializes in unified design – flowing exterior elements into interior design, and vice versa, and maximizing beauty and functionality throughout all corners of her clients’ properties. 

She loves the work – especially when it comes to rural properties. “I love larger scale projects that have a land aspect to them. There’s so much to think about even as you’re placing buildings or structures on a property. How does it all flow well? When you’re incorporating plants and trees that will last 80 – 100 years, you’re envisioning what that will look like for multiple generations of a family.” It’s this generational influence – truly understanding how clients of every age want to enjoy a particular property – that drives Susan’s talent for capturing the essence of both indoor and outdoor spaces. She sat down to give us a few tips on how to add value to rural property with flawless landscape design. 


Garland Design Group T-Kay Wineland Exterior View add property value with landscape design
Photo courtesy of Garland Design Group.


Understanding the Importance of Landscape Design

The most exquisite property can easily go unappreciated if it’s surrounded by overgrown brush, neglected trees, and dilapidated out buildings. Susan encourages clients to consider landscape design as vital an aspect of a property’s value as interior elements or the buildings themselves. When thinking about landscape design from the 30,000-foot view, keep these key factors in mind: 

  1. Quality landscape design enhances curb appeal, and first impressions matter. From the driveway material you choose to the natural trees, shrubs, and stonework that frame your entryway, it’s important to thoughtfully incorporate landscape design into your property.
  2. Consider landscape design an investment in long-term returns. As Susan points out, one aspect of a property’s natural elements people love is fully grown trees. “I always recommend planting new shade trees early on and maintaining the existing trees onsite.” This is an example of the generational impact of quality landscape design. Planting trees today will provide shade, privacy, tree forts, and natural beauty for decades to come. 
  3. Use landscape design to create functional outdoor spaces to maximize utility and enjoyment. A well considered patio, fire pit, bbq area, or portico extends living space and year-round value of your property. 


Assessing Your Property and Identifying Needs

The first step Susan takes with her clients when establishing the landscape design is understanding what the property currently offers, what it lacks, and what her clients want to accomplish. So, how does she start? “I go to the property and I walk it. It is so telling. I can start to see and feel the land. Land is living. I can see how and where the sun falls. Are there certain mounds that will work for a build site? Do certain aspects offer better views than others? It allows me to notice things that are already existing that we can foster and create special moments around. It allows me to literally get a feel for the land.” 

From there, she considers the actual elements that make up the property, such as sunlight, soil, and climate. It’s important to identify native plants that grow well in the area and be mindful of how much water is available and how much the landscape might need. It’s important to talk with a landscape architect or designer before investing in plants and materials to ensure any landscape elements you do incorporate into your property will be maintainable and have a good chance of success.

Finally, Susan talks with her clients about their lifestyle needs and wants. “I like to work with my clients to design for longevity. For example, what are their goals for the next five, ten, and twenty years?” If they enjoy pickleball and basketball, it’s worth considering placing the courts close together for easy access. People looking to use their property for large events will need to think about multiple outdoor structures and where to put them. Long-term vision helps ensure minimal changes as the property ages. 


Designing for Long-term Sustainability

One of the best ways to landscape your property in a way that will last is to incorporate native and low-maintenance plants. These species are naturally equipped to handle the soil types, climate, and elevation without requiring too much effort or resources. Talk with your landscape design partner or local native plant supplier to learn more about which plants thrive in your area and how to combine them for a beautiful look with minimal effort. 

As long-term droughts become more common, especially in the West, water conservation within your landscaping is becoming more important. Look for ways to conserve and capture water, as well as opportunities to incorporate water-saving elements. “In Colorado especially, it’s not sustainable to have a bunch of lawn on your property. Native plants won’t need as much care, water, or maintenance, and they can help keep costs low.” Also consider eco-friendly materials that occur naturally in your area and on your property. Susan looks to materials as creative opportunities. “Local stones and rocks are a great way to incorporate color into your design – color that can flow from interior to exterior spaces.” 

When it comes to plants and materials, it’s also important to keep scalability and durability in mind to help plan for future growth and maintenance. Rare materials might be hard to scale while untreated wood can be prone to rot and decay, depending on where it is and how it’s incorporated. Materials like concrete and engineered wood can add definitive, usable elements to your landscape design that will wear well over time. 


Open farm house pergola with rustic bench, chair and flower pots
A rustic pergola on a farm.


Enhancing Value with Strategic Design Elements

Turning to landscape design is a great way to elevate the value of your property as well as infuse unique design, creativity, and utility into your outdoor spaces. Creating a welcoming entryway not only entices people into your home, it provides access – a concept near and dear to Susan’s heart.

She explains, “I like to talk about access and future access with my clients. We consider which vehicles will need to access certain areas of a property. So for example, let’s say you want to put a basketball court and a tennis court on your property. Maybe it’s better to put them close to each other. If someone in the family wants to play some tennis while everyone else is playing basketball, you have the same circulation and same pathway to those areas. Even if you don’t need to access certain areas of the land right now, if you’ve planned well, those decisions can be easier to make down the road.” 

Your property is the perfect place to build what you love to do, and that’s a huge benefit of owning larger tracts of land. From archery ranges to adding a gun range, pools and waterfalls to entertaining areas, it’s really up to what your mind can envision and your pocketbook will allow!

Landscape design also offers a fun opportunity to incorporate color and texture into your outdoor spaces. Plant and material combinations can create vibrancy and visual interest without taking away from natural vistas and established property aspects. 


The Beauty of Unified Design

Perhaps one of Susan’s favorite elements of her design process is “the beauty of unified design.” This comes in the form of balancing hardscape (built materials that are incorporated into a landscape) and softscape (the landscape itself) to create harmony in design composition. “COVID really encouraged people to think about outdoor living spaces. A lot of what I do involves creating areas that are good for congregating, like a fire pit, bbq, hot tub, or patio.” Working with a landscape architect or designer allows for the seamless integration of softscape and hardscape to create an outdoor venue that is welcoming, functional, and beautiful to look at. It’s also a great way to address any fencing your property might need to help protect plants, gardens, or trees and shrubs. 


Maximizing Functionality and Enjoyment

To that point, these outdoor living spaces have become just as important as indoor gathering hubs like kitchens and dens. Susan and her team work with clients to design outdoor living spaces that cater to lifestyle. If you’re considering adding a pool, playground, sporting area, gazebo, or other outdoor venue on your property, working with a landscape designer can help ensure the seamless assimilation of recreational features and natural elements. In some cases, one can become a part of the other, such as a natural element playground, pool waterfall, or rockwall-backed patio. 

And don’t forget about exterior lighting and irrigation. Adding outdoor lighting to these exterior living spaces can extend their use, convenience, and functionality throughout seasons. Irrigation can also play a part in maximizing your al fresco gathering spot. Sprinklers and misters can make a patio much more enjoyable on warm days. Adding a TV to a shaded eating area results in a fun place to catch the latest game. Tea lights strung from tree branches over a fire pit add just the right amount of ambient light to your family’s s’mores sessions. 


Maintaining and Updating Your Landscape Design

Like any aspect of your home, your landscape design requires consistent attention and maintenance. Establishing a regular maintenance routine will help preserve the beauty and health of your property. It’s important to understand required maintenance before you install your landscaping to ensure you can keep up with the upkeep of your property’s flora. 

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that landscape design is a living, growing aspect of your property. Make sure to integrate a design plan that allows for flexibility and new plant selection as things grow and mature. Consider refreshing and upgrading elements as needed, helping to keep your property current and appealing. 


Garland Design Group T-Kay Wineland Exterior View add property value with landscape design
Photo courtesy of Garland Design Group.



To wrap up our conversation, Susan takes things back to functionality and circulation. “I really focus on understanding flow from interior to exterior spaces and how it will affect views throughout the house and outside of the house. Also, I love to bring the outdoors in, thinking about materials used for the exterior that can be incorporated into the interior. I guide our clients in the broader aspect of the landscape.” 

It’s an important consideration – landscape design is much more than a few plants, garden, or patio. The outside is the foundation of your property. It’s a place to play, gather, connect, or take in the sunset with friends. It’s a way to conserve resources, and enrich the health of your land. It’s a unified design that expands your family’s home from thoughtful interior choices to every aspect, and every acre, of your property.

Expert Recommendations for Buying Row Crop Farmland

A century farm is one that’s been in a family for over one hundred years. It’s an obvious enough fact, but one you probably wouldn’t come across unless you were talking to a farmer who owns one, like John Herrity.

To clarify, he’s not the sole owner of his family’s ground – he and his siblings all claim a stake – but his family has been working the soil since 1888. Today, John mostly focuses on real estate as a recreational and large-land real estate specialist at Hayden Outdoors. But he didn’t get there by way of the city. John knows row crop farming as well as anyone can, because he’s been a part of it since he was born – a generational learner of loving and working corn and soybeans in rotation as constant as calendar years. 

On a recent afternoon, John talked through some of the most important things to consider when buying row crop farmland providing a glimpse into the life-long expertise that sets Hayden Outdoors real estate agents apart from the rest. 


Wheat outlined by golden afternoon sunlight Expert Recommendations for Buying Row Crop Farmland

What is “Row Crop Farming?”


In its simplest terms, row crop farming, or row cropping, is production agriculture. Plants are grown in rows and then harvested by the farmer. John adds, “It has its benefits, like tractors being able to move through fields without harming the plants, allowing for easier cultivation, watering, and maintenance. Row crop farming also facilitates the optimal number of plants per acre of ground.” 


What are some of the best crops for row crop practices in the Midwest and/or as an investment?


The Midwest is row crop country. South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and Iowa all offer premium farm land and growing conditions. Farmers can cultivate a variety of crops, including corn, soy, wheat, alfalfa, and organic vegetables. In the Dakotas, Iowa, and Illinois, corn and soybeans rotate because corn typically takes a lot of nutrients out of the soil while soybeans allow the land to replenish. In some parts of the region, and with the right fertilizers, it’s corn on corn combined with some no till practices. 


How can farmers optimize yield and productivity in row crop farming?


The short answer is a few words – good crop rotation, herbicides, fertilizers, and watering. To elaborate on that, optimizing crop yield and productivity involves using a combination of sustainable farming practices such as precision agriculture, soil health management, and crop rotation. Farmers can collect and analyze data and then make informed decisions about when and where to modify practices resulting in more efficient resource use and increased crop yield. 


What should a buyer consider when looking at farmland in the Midwest for row crops?


It depends on what type of buyer it is. According to John, “There are generally two types of row crop buyers – producers and investors. Producers should look at the land for what they can grow. These days, the typical ag land buyer is very savvy. They know what they’re buying, the crops, numbers, and yields. Investors are interested in the income of the land and will want to invest in property that provides a viable return.” 


Harvesters working in the soybean harvest Expert Recommendations for Buying Row Crop Farmland


Why is soil health important in row crop farming?


Soil health is important in any kind of farming, but particularly in row crop farming. It directly affects crop health and yields and the sustainability of the land. There are a variety of things farmers can do to improve soil health such as cover crops, composting, reduced tillage, and using fertilizers. John points out, “It’s important for row crop farmers to work with an agronomist who can take soil samples and determine which nutrients need to be supplemented.” Corn and soy rotation is considered best practice to help preserve soil health. 


What is precision agriculture and what are the benefits in row crop farming?


Precision ag turns the field into a grid and farmers can take soil samples within that grid, pinpointing areas within the field that need less or different fertilizer. It reduces waste and input costs as well as minimizes environmental impact. “A lot is happening in the farm world that is making farming easier and more precise. There are GPS tractors that don’t require steering. In Brazil, they’re testing autonomous tractors. Pivot systems that have GPS functions are another technological breakthrough in farming. You can be sitting on your boat on the lake and water your fields from afar.”


What are some of the technologies used in sustainable agriculture for row crop farming?


There are a variety of row crop farming practices that prioritize environmental sustainability while optimizing crop yield, including reduced tillage, cover crops, composting, and organic farming. Reducing tillage can improve soil health and mitigate erosion while also increasing carbon sequestration. Cover crops aims to retain soil moisture, reduce weeds, and provide habitat for beneficial insects. Composting contributes to soil health and fertility, which reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and organic farming eliminates the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. 


What are some of the best practice irrigation techniques being used in row crop farming to conserve water?


As water and irrigation become increasingly relevant issues throughout the U.S., finding ways to conserve has also become important to a farm’s sustainability. While there are a variety of new technologies out there, such as drop irrigation, soil moisture sensors, and remote monitoring systems, John notes the most effective water saving technologies are actually within the seed selection itself. “Seed companies are researching genetically modified seeds that require less water or rainfall. It starts with knowing your regional seed salesman. Seed companies help educate farmers on what works best for that region and grow zone. It’s key to establish a relationship with a local agronomist for precise soil testing and amendment requirements.” 


What future opportunities do you see coming up in row crops?


If you’re looking to get into row crop farming, it’s best to find a farmer who is looking to pass the farm along to a younger generation. Farming used to be very generational – changing hands from parents to children and so-on. But these days, some kids don’t want to take over the family farm. They think the life is too remote or too difficult. In some of these cases, farmers can find someone who is looking to get into row crop farming. Other times, older generations don’t want to burden the younger family members with the estate, so they’ll sell the farm. We are seeing farms being sold to investors or real estate investment trusts (REITs).”

There are also government programs that can subsidize farm ownership if your land is enrolled. Farm Credit Services provides great lending opportunities for both investors and producers, and the Farm Service Agency offers first-time farmer financing up to $600,000. 


In all, what makes the Midwest such great farm country?


In thinking about what makes the Midwest such optimal farm country – as it has been for hundreds of years – John replies, “Great climate, good rainfall. Farmers can increase their yields without additional irrigation. And of course, back in the day, pasture was important, too. Farmers found a good place to raise cattle, hogs, and families. And they settled and stayed.” Much like John’s family did in Elk Point, South Dakota in 1888. 

These days, farms must meet an ever-growing demand, and families don’t always settle in for generations like they once did. But row crop farmland remains a very valuable commodity, and finding the right real estate agent to help you buy or sell it is essential to success.

The land experts at Hayden Outdoors know soil types and how to put a value on them. They understand regional rainfall, how much water it takes to grow corn, and what type of irrigation a particular crop requires. They’re an effective go-between for investors and producers. These aren’t your typical real estate agent qualifications, but it is the type of skill set you’ll find in your Hayden Outdoors professional – someone who knows how to buy and sell row crop farmland because it isn’t just a job or a hobby; it’s a lifestyle. 

Expert Advice – Buying & Selling Hunting Land in the Midwest

hunting stand on hunting land

Allen Treadwell is many things – professional real estate agent for Hayden Outdoors, a contributor to the company’s leadership team, former Olympic shooting athlete, member of the exclusive Bass Pro Hunting team since 2003, television host of Life on the Land, expert whitetail, turkey, waterfowl and upland game hunter, father and husband.

One thing he is admittedly not? Desk jockey. “I can name every tree on my land, every species of animal out there, but I’m not great at Zoom.” 

This is also why Allen is so good at his job as a Hayden Outdoors recreational real estate professional – his understanding of the land, its purpose, productivity, and profitability run deeper than most. He might not be an expert at online conferencing, but that’s because he doesn’t spend his days in an office, stuck behind a desk or staring out the window. He’s out there, scoping the best hunting land opportunities, walking large-acre parcels with clients, and homesteading his own couple hundred acre farm in southern Missouri.

“At Hayden Outdoors, most of us don’t just sell land; we live on the land. It’s our heritage and our passion.”

When it comes to Allen’s selling region of Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri, that passion rings true in every word. We asked him to give us some insight into buying hunting and large-acre land in this nostalgic and plentiful corner of the country. 


3 Key Reasons Why People are buying Hunting land in Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri


1. The Land is Productive & Affordable

I think part of what is driving people here is how affordable the land is for being as productive as it is. With the price of land skyrocketing across the rest of the country, you can still get a sizable hunting or farming property in Kansas, Arkansas, or Missouri for an affordable price. Yes, interest rates have gone up, but they’re still relatively low compared to the past 30 years. Where I live in southern Missouri, if you own the land, you can hunt it. Every year. I think that’s a big deciding factor.

We see a lot of folks moving out of cities, or out of other places in the West that have simply become unaffordable, and buying in this area. They want 10 – 40 acres to themselves, where they can have a small garden, greenhouse and some animals. It’s becoming increasingly important for people to feel self-sufficient, and to raise their kids outside in the open land and open air.


2. Quality Climate Year-Around

The climate is also an important consideration. In a normal year, we typically get upwards of 40 inches of rainfall while our temperature fluctuations are relatively minimal. We usually don’t see temps above 100 or below zero. This makes for some really productive acres and friendly wildlife habitat. Land in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri – these pieces of real estate offer folks the opportunity to become modern homesteaders, farming, hunting and exploring their own land. 


3. World Class Hunting Opportunities

The hunting opportunities in the Midwest are incredible, especially for deer and turkey. You can even get those tags over the counter in many of these areas. There’s no draw system for Missouri & Arkansas, however, if you want a guaranteed landowner tag every year in Kansas – you must own at least 80 acres. (Be sure to check local hunting and game harvest laws in each state for up-to-date regulations.)

While other parts of the country are seeing a real estate slowdown, farms, ranches and recreational property sales in Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas don’t show any sign of slowing or devaluing. It’s a very good place to put your money; a very safe place to put your money.


How can you make Improvements to your Hunting land?


Trail Cam hunting land improvements


Tips for Increasing the Value of your Hunting Property:

– road maintenance (and possibly new roads),
– Repairing existing tree stands
– maintained food plots
– a history of trail cam and harvest photos and videos – anything you can add to your hunting property while you own it will return at the closing table. 

As an example of land improvements you can make, Allen currently has some friends who bought a large parcel that was thick with old-growth timber. They went in and put in a road system and food plots, both of which make the land much more productive for either forest management and timber harvesting or hunting (or both). If they sell it, they could definitely do so for more than they bought it for.

Recreational properties are at an all-time high as far as value is concerned. Everyone believes their farm or hunting land should bring in the highest dollars, but not everyone has the talent of making the land great. Allen helps his clients identify what they can do to improve the property and maximize the value of the land.

Anything you can put into the land to make it better, you will get back when you go to sell it.


Why you need to have a Recreational Agent When Buying & Selling Hunting Land


If you’re in the market to buy a hunting property, I think it’s very important to find a good recreational agent who can represent you; someone who walks properties every day and will know – even faster than the buyer does – what a good property is. As a recreational agent, when I get excited about a property, the buyer I’m working with gets excited about it, too, because they know I can identify the value in it.

If you are selling a hunting property, you must have a recreational agent – someone who understands hunting, can talk hunting, and knows how to identify, buy, or sell a recreational property.  For example, to get the most out of a whitetail deer property, the agent needs to know everything about whitetail deer hunting. 

Additionally, my job as a buyer’s agent is to ask the buyer questions: What are you looking for in a hunting property? What do you want in your farmland? At Hayden Outdoors, that’s our number one goal, to represent both buyers and sellers with our expertise and levels of care. That’s where we outshine other agencies. We care about our clients and we do what’s right by them. 


The Experience Allen Brings to Hayden Outdoors


As an Olympic athlete and avid hunter, Allen has traveled the world. He has competed in countless countries, and shot on every continent except Antarctica. Yet, these days, you’ll find him content at home, in his coveted corner of Missouri. He explores real estate opportunities for his clients, or helps them prepare a property to sell.  He’s a dedicated member of the Hayden Outdoors team. “They run the company as a family, and everyone feels that. It’s so, so important.” 

He also spends his time wandering his own property, his six-year old daughter bopping behind him. He now gets to teach her how to spot a hidden whitetail deer or flock of turkeys, feed the cows, and harvest the garden bounty. Ask him about all of it, and Allen sums it up well, “I’ve been very fortunate. Now I like to share my experience with others.” 

To learn more about hunting property opportunities in Missouri, Arkansas, or Kansas, contact Allen or a Hayden Outdoor real estate professional


Hayden Outdoors Represents Tennessee’s Largest Mine for Sale

Over $11.5B Worth of Blue Gem Coal Available On This Property


Elk Valley is located in Campbell County, Tennessee, 50 miles north of Knoxville and about 25 miles south of Williamsburg, KY. Here lies over 8,000 acres and one of the most lucrative listings in the state of Tennessee with an estimated $11.5 billion worth of Blue Gem Coal, making it one of the best natural resource investments on the East Coast.

Blue Gem Coal is a scarce substance and one of the most highly valued grades of coal in the world and is recognized among industrial users for its very low ash and sulfur contents and extremely high grade. It is found in only 3 states in the US and is used to make solar panels, cell phones, and other critical technologies and commodities used around the world by consumers and businesses alike.

Located in the heart of Elk Valley, this rare property for sale is an ideal investment opportunity that boasts the largest proven underground reserve of Blue Gem Coal in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Elk Valley holds additional profitable natural resources on the other properties, such as timber, and natural gas. According to Hayden Outdoors broker and land specialist, Heath Thompson, “With Elk Valley having the largest proven underground reserve of Blue Gem Coal in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and the going rate of $350 per ton, the potential earnings from one natural resource is in the billions.”

Thompson explained more about the Tennessee land for sale, “Ketchen Holdings offers the investor or buyer a portfolio of properties with recoverable natural resources. There are 4 mineable tracts unique to this specific region of TN that offer over 33 million tons of coal including Blue Gem Coal, over 160+ million tons of Silica Sand, merchantable timber, numerous natural gas wells, and a major natural gas pipeline. The combined estimated value of Blue Gem Coal and Silica Sand is around $25 billion dollars. Making it extremely lucrative to the right investor. The royalties from natural gas and income from other revenue streams such as hunting leases or merchantable timber are an added benefit.”

  • Elk Valley | $17.5M | 8128 ac. | 33M tons of Blue Gem Coal | $350 per ton | $11.5B estimated total value
  • Buffalo Tract | $2.1M | 1272 ac. | Natural Gas
  • Mars Sand Mountain | $8.9M | 1976 ac. | 160+M tons of Silica Sand | $96 per ton | $15.3B estimated total value
  • Westbourne Mountain | $9.1M | 4115 ac. | 9.7M tons of Thermal Coal
    • Total Price for all 4 properties: $37.6M | total acreage: 15,491

To learn more about adding this natural resources investment property to your portfolio, please contact Heath Thompson at [email protected] | (912)536-5151

5 Things to Do Before Selling Your Farmland

Farm Land for Sale

Steps to Take Before Selling Farmland


Your farm might be a legacy property – a way of life that has been passed down from one generation to the next for centuries. It might be something you ventured into more recently. Either way, if it’s come time to sell your vast expanse of workable land, there are some key things you should consider before you do. Hayden Outdoors Director of Sales John Herrity has some tips on the important steps to take before selling your farmland. 

As a farm boy himself – John was raised on his family’s homesteaded farm in Elk Point, South Dakota before pursuing a career as a row crop farm appraiser, construction manager, fishing boat captain and real estate professional – his insight is particularly valuable.

 “Farmland sales can be complex. There are so many considerations that go into properly valuing farmland, including soil type and rating, percent tillable, the current ownership model and accurately mapping the property. It’s important that sellers and their real estate team be very diligent in doing the work up front before listing the land.”

1. Determine the Ownership Model

Establishing how many people or entities currently own the land is a great place to start when it comes time to sell. Is this a family farm property with one name on the title, or do multiple people have a stake in the land? If there are multiple owners, is everyone on the same page in wanting to sell? Is there a power of attorney for the owner or ownership group? The ownership model will determine how easy or more complicated the sale will be, including how sale profits will be divided. 


2. List all Debt, Liens, Easements & Encroachments

Owning the land free and clear is obviously the most straightforward way to sell it, however, farms are large, working entities that often require equipment loans and easements to keep them running. Talk with your real estate professional about any debt currently associated with the property, including liens on outbuildings or farm equipment. Easements are another important thing to consider. Because farms tend to be multiple acres in size, they often come with one or more easements to adjacent land that permit access for one property owner or another. Buyers will want a complete understanding of these easements before purchasing. Encroachments (features that wrongly extend onto your farm from a neighboring property, e.g. an old fence) can be another obstacle to selling farmland and, ideally, should be rectified before listing your property.


3. Map It Out

Let the Hayden Outdoors team create a land map that accurately shows every aspect of your property. Our agents and brokers are experts at MapRight, a dynamic land mapping software. These maps show property boundaries and easements, soil surveys, parcel data, GIS layers, buildings, fence lines, and more. A proper map is elemental for prospective buyers, and can also tell a farm’s history and story in a very visual way.


4. Establish the Soil Type Classification & Land Survey Comparables

While soil type and productivity is a pretty big and important piece of the farmland sale puzzle, it’s one that can also change from one producer to the next. This is the palette with which any future buyer will work to produce their own yield and establish their own style of farmland management. That’s why it’s important for your real estate professional to carefully consider your soil type. There are a variety of agencies, agriculture-based Universities, and websites that can help determine the value of your soil type by region. Once you and your real estate agent have established the value of your soil, they will help research comparables to give you a  look at similar sales in the area. Pricing the property based on price per soils ratings relative to nearby farms is a good starting point to valuation. If you have recent appraisals that were done by a certified appraisal, these also can help determine a listing price and marketable value for your farm.


5. Understand the Tax Implications or Penalties of Selling Your Farmland

When it comes time to sell your farmland, John suggests talking with a CPA  to discuss options with 1031 exchanges to see if this is a possibility for their sale.

 “I coach clients to get good advice from their accountant. Establish what the basis of the land is. If you inherited the farm and it’s been in the family forever, it will have a much different basis and tax implications than a farm that was bought in the last ten or twenty years.”

Selling your farmland might seem like a daunting task, logistically, legally and emotionally. But with the right guidance and proper resources, it can be a very freeing and lucrative endeavor. The real estate professionals at Hayden Outdoors know the ins and outs of selling farmland in a way that benefits the seller, the buyer and the land itself. The team has been doing it for 45 years, and like John, many of Hayden Outdoors’ team members are also farmers and ranchers themselves. They’re happy to help you navigate the complexities of selling your farm. Give them a call today to learn more. 

Top 5 Considerations When Buying Waterfront Property

Waterfront Properties for sale

A Waterfront property can be an idyllic escape from the everyday with its picturesque sunsets, enticing shores, and opportunities for recreation. It can also present some additional considerations for property owners.


Top 5 most important steps to consider before buying an ocean, river, wetland, or lakefront property. 


1. Taking a thorough Property Inspection

It’s important to determine if the home or property you’re considering buying can withstand the water surrounding it. Waterfront properties are often located in wetland areas, flood zones, or along river banks that see rising water levels every spring. Make sure any structures are far enough from high water marks that they won’t experience seasonal water or flood damage. On structures, look for quality structural support, such as stilts/pilings, storm shutters, and a solid foundation. If the home has flooded previously, inspect that it was remediated properly so that there isn’t hidden mold in the walls or in the cabinetry. If on the ocean or lakefront, check the quality of the seawall, lake wall, or rip-rap edge.  Consider the garage or storage shed – is it big enough to house all of your recreational equipment, including boats, canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and jet skis? If the property has a dock, is the dock a legal length and does it have a boat lift and cover? Something to consider is the maturity (size) of the sand dunes on oceanfront properties, which can help protect the property against storm surges. On riverfront properties, where is the high water mark in relation to structures? What is the recreational condition of the river for fishing and water sports?

Southeast Regional Manager and Florida Native Greg Liddle provides additional suggestion and mentions that “Homeowners should be aware of the depth of the water at their boat dock during low tide and winter months. While it might be plenty deep during their showing, some areas can become so shallow that homeowners can’t take their boat out during other parts of the year.”


2. What Insurance will I need for my Waterfront Property?

You will want to consider flood insurance for your waterfront property purchase. A combination of your flood insurance, homeowners insurance, and windstorm coverage in your homeowners insurance premium will ensure coverage for hurricanes. Check with local insurance agents who understand any unique aspects of the water and associated weather in your area, and the coverage that will ensure you’re protected in the case of water damage or natural disaster. Consider getting a quote before you buy the property so you can accurately calculate the overall cost of your purchase.

Waterfront Property for Sale

3. Hidden Cost of Buying a Waterfront Home.

Waterfront property is unique in the fact that homes and landowners typically don’t own the water itself (unless you’re purchasing a private pond or body of water contained entirely on your property). Federal, state, and local governments typically own and oversee the water, which often results in costs to lease the land bordering it. Work with your real estate professional to understand the cost associated with your property and if they offset property taxes.


4. Additional Responsibilities of Waterfront Property Ownership.

Waterfront properties often come with additional maintenance needs due to consistent exposure to salty air and moisture-filled climates. They can border pristine wetland habitats that can’t be disturbed. Lake, river, and ocean properties are often home to wildlife that should be considered and protected. All in all, before you purchase your dream waterfront property, ensure your real estate professional walks you through the specific responsibilities and community expectations of ownership.


5. Are Waterfront Properties a Good Investment?

While owning waterfront property can come with additional costs, maintenance, and challenges, but it also offers a variety of ways to maximize your ROI. Waterfront properties are often highly desirable rental properties. If you want to rent your property throughout the year, do some research on premium rental rates in your area (both short-term and long-term as permitted). Additionally, waterfront property can appreciate in value more quickly than other types of property given its limited availability. Waterfront Specialist, Courtney Liddle agree and adds “There is only so much waterfront land. They aren’t making any more of it. This is one of the reasons it is in such demand and so valuable.”


Waterfront Homes for Sale

Whether it’s a cabin overlooking a winding river, a house on a large lake, or oceanfront views, waterfront property offers a variety of inviting ownership possibilities. Learn more about waterfront property available near you, and connect with a real estate professional who understands the important considerations and questions to ask before purchasing your dream waterfront property. 

Bobby Norris Team Joins Hayden Outdoors in Fort Worth

Rancher, horseman and real estate broker Bobby Norris recently made a move in the real estate industry, and the deal should send a ripple through the Texas ranch broker industry.

Bobby Norris and his team of agents in Fort Worth, Texas have partnered with the Hayden Outdoors Real Estate brokerage to help serve Texas and bring land, game ranches, livestock and working horse knowledge to accompany the firm’s already growing Lone Star team.

The move involves all of Norris’ team to switch brands to Hayden Outdoors, but the land specialists won’t miss a beat with real estate service and will increase exposure in Fort Worth, Dallas and Texas as a whole. Norris was most impressed with the marketing and advertising plan of the Colorado-based firm.

“The Hayden Outdoors marketing plan is second to none and recognizing this in past transactions made this move eminent. Their level of cutting-edge marketing is not done in Texas, and we are thrilled to join their team and serve our landowners with an incredible amount of real estate exposure. It’s light years ahead of the Texas land market.”

Dax Hayden, Managing Partner at Hayden Outdoors, knew this would supplement their footprint in Texas, the largest ranch market in the US. “Bobby and I see eye to eye on branding, knowledge and delivering landowners REAL marketing. After we agreed that this was a mutually beneficial, we were “all-in” on bringing their firm into our family. We’re just really excited to have their team join ours!”

Hayden Outdoors jumped into the niche marketing that Bobby Norris had experience with, and in a couple weeks they’ve launched multiple partnerships in the Cutting and Reining Horse industry. “The NCHA Futurity and World Finals Sponsorship made complete sense to me and with their promotion on the hit series Yellowstone, all parties are sure to benefit from the timing of this launch. Other Texas working horse and livestock events will surely fall in our marketing and event calendar. Having an experienced team of land brokers in this industry is key to serving landowners selling specialty properties,” said Dan Brunk, Director of Marketing for Hayden Outdoors.

Bobby Norris bring over a dozen qualified agents and brokers to the Hayden Outdoors team, specializing in equestrian facilities, game ranches, cattle ranches, luxury estates, rural ranchettes, and recreational properties in Texas. Ricky Gohmert will continue to hold the Managing Broker status in the State of Texas for Hayden Outdoors.

Bobby Norris Team Joining Hayden Outdoors:

Pictured Below:

Bobby and JJ Norris with sons Rhett (14) and Gates (17)

Your Guide to 1031 Exchanges: Upgrade to a Tax-Deferred “Replacement Property”

Article by:
Steve Chacon
First American Exchange Company
(303) 876-1161

[email protected]

As a large property owner or real estate investor, you might be familiar with 1031 exchanges. As a newcomer to investing, or as someone who is preparing to sell a long-held piece of real estate, you might not be. Either way, it’s important to understand the opportunities a 1031 exchange can offer you during your next real estate transaction, and you should consider taking action quickly. President Biden’s new tax proposal dissolves the possibility of deferring taxes on property gains over $500,000.


First, what exactly is a 1031 exchange?

Simply, it’s a process that allows you to sell an investment property (the key word here being investment) and then roll the proceeds into the purchase of a new investment property, preferably of equal or greater value, to defer all capital gains taxes. 


Am I eligible for a 1031 exchange?

If you plan to take advantage of a 1031 exchange, it’s important to understand which types of properties and transactions are eligible. Your property must be an investment property; 1031 exchanges do not apply to primary personal residences. Investment properties are real estate purchases used to generate profit, such as office buildings, ranches, farms or rentals. If you’re looking to fully defer the tax ramifications of the sale, you’ll need to roll the money into the sale of a property that is of equal or greater value than the one you’re selling. This isn’t a requirement, but using the money to purchase property that costs less than the original will leave some tax exposure. 


How do I accomplish a 1031 exchange?

There are specific steps you must take in order to take full advantage of the 1031 exchange tax deferment and it’s important to note that timing is paramount

  1. Sell your property. This obvious first step starts the snowball process of rolling the money into a new investment property. 
  2. Identify a qualified intermediary (QI), or middleman. While you don’t have to use a QI for the sale, the IRS does require some sort of exchange facilitator. A QI will have experience in this type of transaction, and will help ensure it is done properly. QIs typically charge between $800 – $1500 for this service. 
  3. Find up to three new properties. Again, timing is key here. Upon the sale of your property, you’ll have a 45-day window to identify up to three “like-kind” new properties
  4. Close on a new property. You will have 180 calendar days from the sale of the original property until you close on the purchase of the new or replacement property. Look to your QI to help manage this timeline. 


Most importantly, don’t wait! Contact your real estate professional today to learn more about possible 1031 exchange opportunities. It might be the perfect time to invest in the ranch, farm or hunting property of your dreams. 

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.

Alpaca FarmAs 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.


Alpaca Farms can generate big income, but are they a Nuisance to neighbors?

pig farmCovenants 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.