Five Buying Tips for Ranch & Recreation Properties

For many people the thought of owning a piece of the Wild West is a reoccurring fantasy. Whether you see yourself as a part-time cowboy, a city escape artist, a fisherman, hunter, or a person who wants to spend time in a special outdoor setting with family and friends, maybe it’s time to get the lay of the land and make your dream a reality.

Here are just five tips to help guide you in this exciting endeavor:

  1. Pick the Right Location. While property location has a great impact on the value of real estate, looking at travel time to your ranch for you, your family and friends is of equal importance. Most of our clients who live and work in California end up buying a ranch or recreational property within the state. It’s logical that the shorter the distance to your property, the more you and your guests will go there and enjoy it.
  2. Check Income Possibilities. Ranches are often set up to generate income for the owner. At a minimum, the revenue might offset some or all of your operation costs and could provide tax advantages. It is worthwhile to investigate if livestock can be grazed on your land, crops grown (hay is popular), and if hunting or fishing access privileges can be sold. You can also look at generating income from short-term rentals for corporate or family retreats, development opportunities, mineral rights, and more. For recreational properties, some of the same income opportunities apply.
  3. Investigate Conservation Easements. Properties with special wildlife habitats and/or sensitive ecosystems may be candidates for conservation easements. In turn for agreeing to protect a portion of your land from development, you may receive a payment from a conservation organization and/or tax benefit that can often help offset a substantial amount of your property acquisition cost.
  4. Consider Water Access and Rights. If there is water on the property – above or below ground – it is very important to understand the water rights. In general, the older the rights, the better they are preserved for the owner. Properties with streams, creeks or springs are always in demand, but can be hard to find. It is good to keep in mind that access to nearby water resources in state and national forests for recreation can often satisfy your needs without the cost of ownership.
  5. Vet Your Development Dreams. There have been plenty of people who have purchased land and have created some truly amazing ranches and recreational retreats. It’s exciting to start with a blank palette, but because these properties are unique, it is often worthwhile to get some professional opinions on the value of your planned improvements should you wish to sell some day.

Ironically, advances in technology are opening up more possibilities for getting away from civilization. Off-grid utilities can solve challenges that have kept many people “out of the woods.” For example, solar panels, which have been a mainstay of off-grid systems, can now be coupled with Elon Musk’s new Tesla Powerwall, a battery that can store enough solar electricity to provide around-the-clock juice to power lights, appliances, and more. Sophisticated and large-capacity rainwater catchment and storage systems can supply tremendous amounts of high quality water for drinking, bathing and landscaping. Satellite Internet connections are now available in 48 states and the speed of some providers is said to be comparable to cable.

Is there going to be a better time to pursue your ranch or recreational property dream? Life passes too quickly and treasured time in the great outdoors, especially with family and friends, is irreplaceable.