Things to Consider When Shopping for a Horse Property

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Whether it’s on the East Coast, West Coast, or somewhere in between, searching for an equestrian property can be overwhelming and exhausting. There are so many things to consider when purchasing an equestrian property so we’ve asked some equestrian real estate experts to share their thoughts on what to consider when looking for a horse property.

Shirley Sullivan,  Principal Broker,  Farms and Barns  Real Estate, NH
Serving New Hampshire’s  Horse Community Statewide

1. The List

Want Vs Must Have… The first piece of advice I can offer is that you write down what you must have and what you would like to have. Be realistic. Your budget and cash on hand will determine what you wind up with.

2. Financing Facilities vs Backyard Barns

Before you set foot onto a property, find an agent who knows horse properties, whether you are planning on the purchase of a full-fledged facility or a 4-stall backyard barn. It matters. It can be risky to work with someone who’s just starting to figure out how to get into construction or real estate. Depending on your plans, ask the agent to recommend lenders so that you can come to the table preapproved – being prepared speaks volumes to a seller.

Facilities require special financing because they are viewed as commercial endeavors by “regular” banks. Most facility buyers are in the horse industry already and that is  great because most facility lenders  or commercial departments in local banks will want to see a resume and most ask for a business plan. Why? Because you will be using the income history from the property as part of your “income” to qualify for the loan and they want to know that you know what you are doing.

Backyard barns can generally be financed conventionally, although a bank appraisal will not assign much value to the barn regardless of its quality and condition. Conventional financing wants to see the majority of the property’s value in the house.

3. Know Your Zoning

We have this  specific information on our website for a reason ‘We highly recommend that you contact the local zoning, planning and/or building department to confirm your intended use of any property as part of your due diligence prior to purchase. Don’t assume that because you see a property for sale or neighboring properties being used a certain way that you can do the same. Zoning regulations can change, some properties may “grandfathered” or operating under a variance or special exception that may not be transferable to you so you should always verify for yourself that you can use, expand or modify a property in the manner you intend.’

These days you can view most property assessment cards online and check things out. Local zoning and individual town ordinances about keeping horses should be reviewed. How many acres per horse? (Yes, several towns in New Hampshire have limits). Don’t assume that what you see is allowed.

4. Topography

As you approach a property, note the topography. New England gets a lot of rain. Where does the runoff go? Good drainage is critical. Our pastures are rarely flat here. They range from slightly sloped to gently rolling to hilly. There should be a level place closer to the barn for safe winter turnout. While looking around, note or ask how drinking water is handled to these outdoor areas.

Some horse owners are happy with a large paddock setup and feeding hay year-round. Some horse owners prefer 24/7 turnout with run-in sheds. If the latter is you, be sure they are adequate in size for the number of horses you have and are in good repair. Pastures require serious manure management, weedwhacking fence lines and weed growth control, fertilizing and mowing. Whatever your preferences, keep your eyes wide open.

5. Fencing

Is it adequate and safe for now? You will always do things to make the property your own, but the basics should be there. If the fences are not, as in the case of a retired owner who hasn’t had horses on the property for years and removed the fencing, can you afford to do this immediately after your purchase?

6. Where will you ride?

Is there an outdoor arena? Is the footing in good shape and is it well drained? If there isn’t riding arena, is there room for one?  Where can it go?

7. The Barn

You know what you want in a barn, whether it’s 2 or 200 years old. Are the stalls large enough or is there adequate room to add what you need? How is the hay, bedding and tool storage? Is the electrical up to snuff? Where is the water? The tack room should be dry and able to be secured. This goes for facilities as well. There will be more space and bigger systems to consider. Does the barn complex have a well separate from the house? If there is running water, does it have a septic system? A heated tack or viewing room might mean there’s a central heating system to have inspected.

Make sure your home inspector also inspects the barn, especially the electrical system. Let the inspector know this when you request an appointment so that enough time is allotted.

8. Indoor Inspection

Ceiling or truss height for jumpers, footing for certain disciplines, what kind of lighting is in use? Generally, the wider the building, the more expensive the construction. And the roof, have someone check the roof. They are expensive so have it thoroughly inspected.

9. Trailer Parking

Is there room for trailer parking and the ability to maneuver a truck and trailer if you take your horse off site? Is there storage for things like a manure spreader, tractor and implements?

10. Your Home!

Oh, and don’t forget!  Get a look at the house that comes with the property.

For more info contact Shirley Sullivan:


William Landesman, 
Kienlen Lattmann  Sotxheby’s International Realty, Bedmintser, NJ (also licensed in CA)

Real estate on the West coast differs from properties found on the East coast but when shopping for an equestrian property the considerations are the same. I’ve broken it out into two different categories “Farmettes”, which I consider to be a house and a few stalls on smaller acreage, and “Facilities”, which are professional-type training and boarding facilities. There should be some overlap and you should always consider room for expansion of the property you are looking at.

Farmette Considerations

1. Know the local zoning rules… as to how many horses per acre  you can keep.

2. Proximity to trails: i.e. Can you ride off the property or do you have  to trailer-out to trail ride?

3. Topography… Is the property  level and dry?

4. Is there a riding arena on property? Or if not, is there room  to add one without sacrificing something else like turn-out?

5. Fencing… Is the current fencing adequate or do you have to update?

6. Local Horse Community…  Is there a local riding/trail association,  a community to get involved in.  Are there trainers in the area?

Facility Considerations:

1. Lay of the Land… Is enough  of the land level and open with adequate turn-out and drainage for  the number of horses you intend to have on the property?

2. Are there boarders there now?  One of the major concerns from a Seller’s perspective is that they will lose their boarders if they decide to put the farm on the market but one of the most asked questions I get when I’m selling a boarding facility is if the boarders will stay. Many prospective Buyers would like a business in place so there’s cash flow from day one.

3. Room for Expansion…  Are the number of stalls adequate  for a business to be successful or  can more be added?

4. Professional Housing…  Staff/grooms housing

5. Ease of Access…  Access for trucks and trailers

6. Local Amenities/Services… Proximity to veterinary support, highways, feed stores and horse shows.

7. Existing Amenities…  Size of indoor and outdoor arenas  and quality of the base and footing.

For more info contact William Landesman: 
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