Buy a Farm
Whether you want to start making a living as a farmer or to grow enough crops to sustain your family, purchasing a farm is a big commitment. Much like purchasing a home or raw land, you will follow similar steps when you buy a farm. You will need to find a property that you are interested in, determine whether it is right for you, and negotiate with the seller to purchase the farm.
Financing and Completing a Purchase
- Set a budget. Your budget should reflect the cost of the land, realtor fees, zoning or construction permits, mortgage payments, and the operational costs for your farm. The cost of land will depend on the land’s location and whether it has any structures on the property. A plot of land with a newly built barn will be more expensive than a same size plot with no barn or an older barn.
- In the United States, farmland is an average of $3,020 per acre. However, this figure varies depending on your region. For example, farmland in the Mountain region is $1,100 acre and in the Corn Belt it is $8,000.
- Talk to an experienced farmer in the area to learn more about the costs associated with operating a farm. Go to your country’s Department of Agriculture website and see what resources they have available to help you budget.
- Get prequalified for a loan. Most people will need to secure a loan to help them finance a farm. There are a number of leasing companies that offer agricultural financing to help you buy a farm and operate it. You should talk to your bank to see if they offer financing for land purchases and for their recommendations for agricultural financing.
- In the United States, the USDA Farm Service Agency can help you get a loan, especially if you have low credit or a low income.
- Pre qualifying for financing can help to speed up the process of actually buying the property.
- Talk to your realtor. Now, if you have retained a realtor, you will need to contact your representative. The guidelines for submitting offers will differ based on your area, but in general you will submit an offer to your realtor who will then forward that offer to the seller’s representative. The seller will either accept, reject, or make a counteroffer.
- Make an offer. Along with your real estate agent or lawyer, you can now submit a bid. If your bid is accepted by the seller, you can go through the escrow process and become the official owner of your new farm.
- You should try to gather information about recent farm sales in the area to make sure you are getting a fair price for the property.
- Enter into a contract. Make sure that your offer is contingent upon you being able to secure a final mortgage (if necessary), that the property and any structures pass inspection, and a guarantee that you can do a final walk through inspection 24 hours before closing.
- You may need to make a good-faith deposit with the seller. This is usually 1% to 10% of the purchase price and goes into an escrow account. If the deal falls through, you get this money back.
- You will need to make a down payment on the property. The size of the down payment will vary, but it is typically 10-20% of the property’s appraised value.
- Hire an inspector. Since your offer is contingent upon the property passing inspection, you will need to hire an inspector who will make sure any structures on the property are up to code.
- If the property does not pass inspection, you will need to decide whether you want to spend more money to renovate the structures so they meet code regulations, or to walk away from this property.
- If the property passes inspection and you are satisfied with the results, you can move to close the escrow process.
- Close escrow. The escrow closing process varies by state and country, but generally you will need to complete paperwork that both you and the seller will sign.
- Once the paperwork is signed, the escrow officer will draw up a new deed to the property, you will receive the title to the property, and you will pay your down payment.
Finding the Right Property
- Determine how much land you need. The amount of land you need will help you to eliminate potential farms and to focus your search. If you are planning to make a career out of farming, you will need more land than someone who wants to have a lifestyle farm. Once you know how much land you need you can limit your search to properties that match your needs.
- Lifestyle farmers, where you are growing crops for your own pleasure, can have as large or small farm as they want.
- Sustenance farmers will need 1 to 5 acres of land.
- Career farmers will need anywhere from 500 acres if you want to sell hay to 5 acres to grow vegetables.
- Decide on an area. Now that you have a good idea of the type and size of farm you want to purchase, you can begin to look at available properties. You may already live in a rural area that is close to farmland, or you may be in an urban area where you will need to relocate in order to farm.
- For lifestyle or subsistence farmers, you or another family member may need to be within a certain area so you can commute to another job.
- You will need to be close to a market where you can sell your products if you intend to be a career farmer.
- Narrow your search to a certain area, but realize that you may have to expand your search if there are not available farm properties in that area.
- Find available properties. You should keep a list of the addresses and list prices of properties that you are interested in. It is important to keep this information organized so you can narrow your search when you find properties that you like.
- Drive around the area and look for “For Sale” or “For Sale by Owner” signs.
- Search online for local listings for farms.
- Speak with farmers that you know to see if they know of anyone who is looking to sell their property.
- Look at land auctions and foreclosures.
- Contact a realtor. Look for a realtor that specializes in country or rural properties. A realtor can help to streamline the process and take some of pressure off of you. A realtor will typically receive 5-7% of the final purchase price as a fee so they have a vested interest in getting you a good deal.
- A realtor can also help you identify properties that meet your needs.
- You will also need to contact the realtors that represent the properties in an area that you are interested in whenever you are ready to make a bid.
- You can also act as your own real estate agent, though this will require more time and research on your part.
- Assess the land’s potential. A thriving farm begins with good soil. If the soil on the property is poor, it will be very difficult to grow anything or to feed livestock. You will need to assess the soil quality, the topography of the land, and the fertility of the land.
- Fertility goes hand in hand with the soil quality. If the land has been used as a farm for generations, the soil may not have as many nutrients as an un-farmed plot of land would. However, if the land has been diversified, meaning that the previous owners have been rotating crops, the soil may still be good for farming.
- Take a small sample of the soil and smell and feel it. Heavy clay is difficult to grow in, sandy soil offers good drainage but might not hold water for crops, and dark and loamy soil is ideal for any type of farming.
- The topography of the land is also important. It is difficult to grow crops on sloping and steep hills but would be alright for grazing animals. If the land is filled with trees, it will be expensive to clear cut the area.
- Check local zoning laws. Before you draw up an offer, you need to check the local zoning laws to see whether you can farm or build a farmhouse on the land. You will need to contact the state or county to get a copy of the zoning codes to see whether you can build and develop a farm on the land.
- The realtor should be familiar with zoning laws, but you should do this due diligence and not make assumptions about your realtor’s knowledge.
- Determine whether you have access to utilities. This is especially true if the plot of land that you are considering buying has not already been used as a farm. Farm work requires access to water, sewer, electricity, and heat. You will probably want access to Internet or cable, especially if you are considering living on the property.
- You will need to contact local utility companies to see if this plot is within their service area. If it is not, it can be very costly to have utilities installed.
- Have the land surveyed. A piece of land might look perfect, but there can be significant issues lying below the surface. It is important to hire a surveyor to come and evaluate the land.
- You will need to have the following assessed: soil type, water tables, drainage, and slope or gradient of the land. These factors can determine whether the land is suitable for farming.
- Ask questions. Before you make an offer on a piece of land, you need to make sure you have all the information that you need. You should consult with your lawyer or real estate agent about any contingencies attached to your bid, whether you will get the mineral or water rights to the land, and if there are any protective covenants on the land.
- If you intend to build a home, barn, or other structure on the property you will need to speak with the town’s Building and Planning Departments to see if there are limitations on construction. For instance, some areas put a restriction on the size or number of rooms allowed in a building.
Assessing Your Goals, Desires, and Limitations
- Set your goals for the farm. Whether you want to become a subsistence farmer, have animals, or grow crops for commercial sale, your goals will help to shape what type of property you buy. The farmland that you buy should fit your goals and your budget.
- Define whether you are looking for a farm that is for your lifestyle, subsistence, or career.
- Gain farming experience. If you have never worked on a farm before, or are unfamiliar with farming operations, you will need to gain experience prior to starting your own farm.
- Find a farming apprenticeship or volunteer on a farm near you. Hands on experience is the best way to determine whether you’re ready to start your own farm. Ask local farmers if they would be willing to offer you an apprenticeship.
- Talk to local farmers who either grow the same crops or raise the same animals that you are interested in. Ask them about their costs, how they budget, and how long it took for them to make a profit.
- Consider leasing a farm. You may be able to lease a farm if you prefer leasing over buying it outright. A lease allows you more flexibility and can save you money if you did want to move properties in the future.
- Leasing can be a good option if you do not have farming experience since it allows you to start farming and learning without fully committing to purchasing an entire farm.
- It may be easier to secure financing for a farm lease rather than for a land purchase.
- Be realistic. Farming is hard work and is not right for everyone. It can be very expensive to establish and maintain a farm, let alone to turn a profit.
- Farming isn’t just a career change; it’s a lifestyle change. Starting a farm can be a rewarding and fulfilling process, but it will also be challenging.
- Your budget and location may limit the size of your farm. You may not be able to grow or raise exactly what you want due to climate, soil type and fertility, or cost. You will most likely need to make adjustments to your original plans along the way.
- Keep your financial information organized and accurate. This will be very helpful when you are applying for a loan or lease.
- Ideally, you will pay your down payment in cash. So as soon as you decide to start looking at properties, you need to start saving money.
- Having a strong credit score can help you get the best interest rates on a loan. If you have a low credit score, work to raise the score before you look for a loan.
- Land prices vary throughout an area. You will need to research the closing prices of comparable properties to make sure you are getting a fair price.
- If the seller won’t allow an inspection to take place you need to walk away. They are probably trying to hide some significant issue.