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Thinking about buying a ranch? 5 things you hadn’t considered -- until now

A look at the rural side of Texas.
A look at the rural side of Texas. (Photo provided by Heritage Texas Country Properties)

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Do you ever feel the itch to get out of town? Not necessarily on a vacation, but ... away from the city itself, getting some distance between you and the suburbs?

Maybe you crave a different lifestyle, apart from the concrete, traffic and noise that comes with city life.

Perhaps you’re not even sure why you want to take a break -- but if you do, just know that you’re not alone. There are many people out there who want to explore the idea of buying rural property, but it can be hard to know where to start.

When it comes to buying a recreational, farm or ranch type of property, people are usually drawn to the idea for one of three reasons: They want to go back to the country because it’s where they grew up, or it reminds them of the area in which they were raised. They want to invest in a second home. Or they want to retire in the country, said Cathy Cole, the president and CEO of Heritage Texas Country Properties, which has been voted a Top 100 Brokerages in USA the past three years and has three offices between Houston and Austin.

Cole, who has previously served as the president of Texas Realtors Land Institute and currently serves committees of national RLI, specializes in rural homes and properties. So we asked: What should first-timers look for when buying this type of house or land?

We’ll share some of her wise words.


Consideration No. 1: Think about long and hard -- what do you want?

Cole, who has twice been named Realtor of the Year, often hears from people who say they want a view, but you should probably think about what else you want, beyond your view. Or, what comes with your view? How far do you want to be able to see? Do you want water -- think creeks, ponds or streams? Do you see trees in this scenario?

And then once you nail down some answers, just know that you might have to adjust some of your expectations, depending on the area in which you’re looking, your budget and the land itself.

“You can (often) build a pond,” Cole said. “But when it comes to rivers or huge lakes, we can’t build those. They’re naturally flowing waters. And you can clear property to adjust for a home site on a hill. But then you’ll have to think about the trees.”

Needless to say, there is a lot more to think about than you might have imagined.

Consideration No. 2: What you want might change once you start exploring your options.

We just said to think long and hard about what you want -- but at the same time, it’s important to keep an open mind.

Often, once you start looking around and visiting properties, you’ll realize you want something completely different than you had once envisioned.

And that’s OK! It happens all the time, Cole said.

You should also consider what season we’re in as you’re shopping around and looking at land.

When the seasons change, the dirt changes. Pastures change. Things look different if the area is in a drought, or there’s ice, or we’ve seen heavy rains. Conditions were definitely different after Hurricane Harvey hit the area, as you can imagine, Cole added.

It’s just one more thing to be aware of.

“All of the natural happenings are highly impactful when it comes to buying or selling a ranch,” Cole said.

Consideration No. 3: Maybe you don’t want to buy something that already exists. Maybe you should build.

Just keep in mind, contractors don’t work as fast as you want them to. For example, it will likely take six months, at minimum, just to get the drawings done -- and that’s the case anywhere, not just when you’re building a ranch. And then you might want to make adjustments. You need to know that these things don’t happen overnight.

The natural resources can be big variables, as well. How’s the dirt in the area where you’re looking to build? Will the weather cooperate? You’ll have to be flexible.

Also, how will the team access your property?

“You can’t take heavy trucks out to a pasture,” Cole said.

Photo provided
Photo provided (Heritage Texas Country Properties)

Consideration No. 4: There will be a lot of give and take.

“Very seldom does someone look at one or two properties and say, ‘That’s it!’” Cole said.

Whether you’re getting back to your roots, finding a second home or truly seeking out an investment, it’s a process. It helps to have an expert in your corner.

“Take agriculture exemptions, for example,” Cole said. “You want to protect your property and not pay exorbitant fees and taxes. Let’s say you have 100 acres. You can likely get an exemption for if you choose to have horses, cattle or other wildlife. So there are many different variables to protect your tax dollars.”

But if you don’t read up about things like this or work with an expert, it could cost you. It’s valuable to be well-informed.

Consideration No. 5: The lifestyle element.

It sounds so perfect, doesn’t it? You’ll come up to the ranch Friday after work -- and with a glass of wine in hand, you’ll watch the sun set.

But … what else?

You might have to battle traffic to get to your home at a decent time. And while that Friday evening sounds lovely, what about Saturday?

“On Saturday, you need to be on top of that tractor, mowing,” Cole said with a laugh.

Speaking of upkeep, let’s say you have 2 to 5 acres. A riding lawn-mower should handle the job if you want to keep your yard maintained. But for 10 acres, you’ll need a small tractor. For anything more, you’re looking at heavier types of equipment.

“And then you’ll be buying a four-wheel-drive F-150,” Cole said. “You can’t drive your BMW across the pasture.”

But back to that weekend plan: Saturday, you’re mowing, right? What about Sunday?

“Is that what you came to do? Do you have kids? Are you turning around and getting them to school on Monday?” Cole asked.

And what if you get stuck -- physically stuck, or you’re just in some type of bind? You might be a mile from your nearest neighbor.

All of these questions come with the territory of looking for a rural property.

But they might not jump off the page if you’re in the early stages of looking.

And none of this should stop you from considering a ranch, Cole said. But you should pause and think about your own timing, location, budget, priorities and current lifestyle. Are you ready to take on the commitment of this second property?


It helps immensely, and makes a world of difference, to have someone looking out for you.

Cole’s company deals with these types of questions and issues all day. She can help you anticipate what you’ll need to ask yourself if you’re close to buying or you’re ready to dive in and start looking.

Many people think they know what to expect, but then they’ll start the process and learn some of this stuff the hard way.

Learn more or get connected with an expert today when you work with Heritage Texas Country Properties.