While the idea of owning an Loudoun County ranch or farm property certainly sounds romantic—there are a lot of things you need to consider first before buying in the Sterling area to help make your investment a successful one. To make the most of the rural living experience, you’ll need to do some research—here’s a guide on where to start.
1) Find the right farm/ranch real estate agent. Most agents are well-versed in their local city or town properties, so be sure to work with an agent who has experience with rural homes and can help give you insights into key decisions and things to consider when shopping for a farm or ranch.
2) Proximity to markets. How far away are local markets and distribution channels? If you have to drive 60 miles to bring your farm-grown produce to a local farmers market, is it worth your time and money? What other farms in your area are also selling their goods at these markets?
3) Infrastructure. Are there outbuildings or barns on the property? Is there fencing? What kinds of equipment are being sold with the land? Will you need to invest in any heavy equipment? With the help of your local real estate agent, make sure these questions have answers before purchasing a property which might require significant infrastructure overhaul.
4) Assess the land. If you can, visit the property a few times while in escrow to investigate farming conditions. Some things to look for include the slopes, how many hours of sunlight will your land see, and if the land floods after a heavy rain.
5) Good neighbors are important. Neighbors make the neighborhood, so try meet them before you close if possible– this will ensure you have folks on your side when you move in.
6) Tax status and zoning. What were Sterling area property taxes over the past few years? Are there any zoning exclusions or special taxes? Will it depend on how you use the land? Spend time discussing with your county tax assessor so you can plan accordingly.
7) Soil quality. Investigating your soil quality data before closing is a smart idea. You can find web soil survey information on the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) website by entering the farm’s address. You’ll want to know if your soil has any special conditions before making an offer. Also, if you’re considering organic production, you should test the soil for any chemical residue or heavy metals that may limit your ability to grow organically.
8) Water quality. Water is the most important resource to consider before purchasing a farm or ranch. Water rights law is complicated, so you’ll want to make sure you understand your rights. Review the water certificate and understand what it means in terms of water usage and area allowed for irrigation. Where’s your drinking water coming from? If it’s from a well, test it for contaminants. What are the water sources? Will you have an irrigation ditch? Does the property feature any wells, ponds, or creeks to irrigate from?
9) How much time will I need? People often buy farms or ranches only to end up devoting all of their free time to looking after it. Factor in how much time you’ll have after commuting to/from your job and don’t forget to estimate at least 20 hours a week for maintenance throughout your Sterling area dream property.
10) Does the land have a story? Who lived on this land previously? And before that? Are there any interesting stories or local legends? You might be surprised how much you can learn from potential neighbors. If you discover the property you’re considering has a rich history, you might want to consider how to weave this into your story.
Still not sure where to start? Choosing to buy a farm or ranch can be tough but, with the right realty expert on your side, it could turn out to be a really exciting experience. Reach out to your local real estate pro for more one-on-one guidance throughout this process.