Pro’s Perspective on Buying Real Estate in the West

Dec 06, 2022 - By Hayden Outdoors

Advice Before Buying Land in the Big West


There are the real estate agents who know the square footage, can speak to how many bathrooms are enough, and whether or not the school district fits the bill. Then there are the uncommon real estate agents who offer a different kind of experience. They know cows, grazing limits, water rights, minerals rights, and irrigation systems. And if they don’t have the answer, they know the experts who do. Austin Callison with Hayden Outdoors is a mix of both – equal parts seasoned residential real estate agent and highly knowledgeable farm and ranch land real estate specialist.

As the West becomes a hotbed for real estate activity, Austin knows the questions clients should ask when trying to find the perfect property in Idaho, WashingtonOregon and even California,  since that’s where Callison grew up ranching. And the former collegiate defensive lineman doesn’t shy away from sharing his real estate knowledge, ensuring his clients are buying land that will offer a healthy return on investment. 

Austin is a ranch kid at heart, as he grew up in a small ranch community in Northern California. He moved to Boise in 2002 after playing college football in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He’s been in the Treasure Valley ever since, enjoying the ways of the West and tapping into the intrinsic beauty of it. He’s an expert in both real estate and the nuances that come with buying farm and ranch land in the region. He gave us a glimpse into what he’s seeing in the market right now, and what he looks for on behalf of buyers and sellers. 


Two Types of Buyers and a Potential Market Correction


“We’re seeing a couple of different market drivers right now. Relocation buyers are driving the housing market in my territory, mostly those relocating from California. I also work with people who are selling property somewhere else wanting to move out here and live on a little bit of acreage. It could be a horse property or maybe they want to raise their own food. That trend has definitely driven the market up. In order to stay in business, local farmers need to step up to California prices.” 

While the market continues to be one of the fastest growing in the country, Austin notes a downward trend in real estate prices. “In Ada County, prices have increased 5x in the past ten years. It’s not sustainable. But we are starting to see some sort of correction, especially with rates going up. 



The Ins and Outs of Buying Ranch Land


As hit shows like Yellowstone evoke the romance of the West and ranch life, Austin notes it’s not quite as easy as simply pulling up stakes, hitching the U-Haul to your pick-up, and purchasing some ranch property. “I work closely with buyers to understand which leases are in place on the property. We’ve run into situations with gas and mineral leases. These can be a real ‘gotcha’. Purchasing ranch land should always be contingent on a title report. I also look at the productivity of the land and water with the property, which can be significantly impacted by drought.” Austin is the first to tell you he might not have all of the answers, but when he doesn’t, he knows who to turn to. “I like to think of myself as a resource. When it’s time to bring in an expert, I know smart people I can put clients in touch with to help them with due diligence.” 


Advice Selling Ranch Land


When it comes to selling your ranch, Austin has a cornerstone piece of advice.

“If you want to get top dollar for your ground, make sure fences and water are in place. Also, the ground shouldn’t be over-grazed. Whenever someone owns land and they don’t know the specifics of running cows, they can quickly ruin the land.” The same concept applies to farm land, especially if you plan to rent it out. “Make sure your tenant is set up to succeed. Clearly outline what is going to be planted and harvested, and have a good irrigation system in place.”


Tower View Ranch Wyoming

Key Questions to Ask When Buying Farm or Ranch Land in Idaho, Washington or Oregon


Austin has a few questions he always asks the realtor when buying large acreage land:

  • Are there any leases in place?
  • How many water rights or shares are included? Cost?
  • What type of fencing is on the property?
  • How are the neighbors?
  • What’s the carrying capacity of the land?
  • How many cows has the owner run on it in the past?
  • For farm ground, what is the productivity of the land? For example, if the farmer is growing alfalfa, how many tons to the acre are they getting, and how many cuttings are they getting?
  • What are the power costs?
  • Are there any easements?


How a Real Estate Agent Helps in Development Projects


For buyers searching for development projects in his region, Austin says due diligence needs to be front and center. “In most cases, there is a significant amount of due diligence required for development projects. Make sure you understand which hoops you’ll have to jump through.” So, what are some of those hoops? Austin quickly rattled off a list, just to name a few. “Understand water rights, soil types, how deep the water is, where the utilities are located and whether or not you’ll need to bring utilities to the property. Is the project high or low density? Does it have a private septic system or is it on a public county or city sewer system? Are the neighbors going to push back?” 

Developing land in the West has gone from luxury to necessity as rural areas absorb larger populations. “Once again, I’m a resource for my clients. I connect them with the engineers, county planners, water rights specialists, and architects to make sure the development is a successful one.” 

Austin calls Idaho’s Treasure Valley home because he knows they call it the Treasure Valley for a reason. He hunts, fishes, ATVs, and snowmobiles. He adventures through the foothills and sage-lands with his wife and two kids. He’s a family man, a ranch kid, an outdoor enthusiast, and a real estate agent. Austin gets the West in the same way the West gets him. His career is built on sharing that connection with his clients, helping them find their own tillable, ranch-able, or development acreage. Learn more about large acreage real estate in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California by visiting our website or getting in touch with a Hayden Outdoors real estate professional today.