Over the years, I’ve been asked by buyers, sellers, and fellow agents alike about being an equestrian properties specialist. As a buyer or seller, do I need to work with a real estate agent specializing in horse properties? As an agent, do I need to be an equestrian to serve farm clients? The answer is simple—no. You do not need to work with an equestrian properties agent and, no, you do not need to be an equestrian to work with farm clients….but it definitely helps. I do find that I often rely on my the contacts I’ve made as a lifelong equestrian to help me provide the best possible service to my clients.
I am a real estate agent specializing in equestrian properties in Maryland. I am also licensed in Florida and I assist clients buying and selling horse properties in and around Wellington. I have seen non equestrians learn the ins and outs of the farm market and provide excellent service for their equestrian clients. However, based on what I’ve experienced, I will give you the top three reasons why working with an equestrian Realtor might make the process of buying or selling your horse farm much smoother.
Jargon. Honestly, this is likely to be the number one complaint. A Realtor who doesn’t know what a tack room is or the difference between a shed row and a center aisle barn may struggle to find suitable properties for their buyers. Where sellers are concerned, it is very difficult to market a horse property properly when you have no concept of what equestrians and farm buyers are looking for. From a fellow agent’s standpoint, it is often difficult to search for equestrian properties in the MLS because so many agents don’t enter the information properly. The MLS sends listings out to thousands of websites like Zillow and Realtor.com. Getting this part right is critical since the buyer pool is already quite small. I recently saw a property marketed with very unflattering photos of the horses, pastures, and barns. The ad mentioned something about “horse buggy trails.” No, the trails were not suitable for driving. Again, I’m not saying a non equestrian agent can’t learn to market, price, and show horse properties, but they have to be committed to providing top notch service to that client. Sometimes that just means asking for advice. Sometimes that means referring the client to someone else. It really depends on the situation and the agent.
The Sale. There are a few elements of equestrian property contracts that many residential Realtors might not deal with on a regular basis. Most notably, easements and zoning. Easements are quite common on farmland and might throw a wrench in a buyer’s plans for a property. It is important to remember to check with the County since sellers and listing agents often either forget to disclose or are genuinely unaware that there is an easement on the land. It is also common for smaller outbuildings and equipment to be included in the contract. Is the seller planning on taking the barn cats? Yeah, you have to ask. Additionally, almost every farm is on well and septic and these inspections can be deal breakers if they don’t go well. Typically, I include extra language in a water quality contingency because the basic document is often lacking. This will be especially important for families with young children.
A major misconception common amongst non equestrians is that every farm is worth seven figures. I’ve talked to other agents who’ve said as much and I have seen farms listed hundreds of thousands of dollars above what they are worth because an agent made promises that he or she couldn’t keep. This results in farms that sit for far too long and sellers that take a major hit on the eventual sale (if the farm ever sells). Regardless of the type of real estate, all agents know that pricing a property right is the best way to get it sold. Here’s the thing, the vast majority of farms for sale in Maryland are listed at under 1 million dollars. Right now there are over 250 farms for sale in the state of Maryland for under a million dollars. I will concede that pricing farms can be tricky because every farm is a custom build and there won’t be exact comps. In fact, I often find that I can take a dive deep in to sales records and fail to find a comp that even comes close because no farms have sold within a 15 mile radius for a number of years. This is where knowledge of the equestrian community comes in handy. I can begin to figure the best price range for a particular horse property based on the area and equestrians’ standards today.
Safety. Not too long ago, I was showing one of my farm listings and I had to stop another agent from climbing over a metal gate with a hot wire running over the top because they had had it with figuring out the double ended snaps. I’ve also met agents who allowed their clients to wander the pastures alone because they were either unable or unwilling to walk the property with their clients. This is a safety issue since there are tremendous liability risks in selling a farm—particularly a farm that still has equine residents. And let’s face it—it’s been a while since I’ve shown a farm that is only home to horses. Cattle, chickens, dogs, and goats are often present as well. Typically, I leave very specific showing instructions for buyer’s agents when listing farms to ensure that all animals and humans are kept healthy and safe. If a potential buyer doesn’t have an agent, I will be present at the time of the showing. Rules such as: all gates need to be left as you found them (open or closed) and don’t pet/feed the animals are paramount in keeping the showing process safe for everyone involved and might not be obvious to agents who are not familiar with farm life. Since not every farm buyer has farm experience, it is vital that an agent accompany buyers throughout the showing. The last thing a seller needs is to find that a buyer or an agent has been injured on their farm. Farms and farm animals come with inherent risks and in order to understand the scope of liability, you may want to check out my article on Farm Owner’s Insurance.
So, if you are a farm buyer or seller, interview a few agents. Be sure you are comfortable with the agent you choose. Regardless of their status in the equestrian community, you need to be confident that they are trustworthy, knowledgeable, and willing to invest the time necessary to effectively suit your needs. If they tick these boxes, they will be able to serve you effectively. If you are an agent interested in working with an equestrian client, do your research and be sure that you have the time to really commit to the client. Just like every farm is a custom build, every farm client has unique needs and it may take some time to find the right farm or the right buyer. Not to mention, working with farm clients often means putting a lot of mileage on your car. If you are up to it, working with equestrian clients can be an incredibly rewarding experience and you’ll make lifelong friends along the way.
For more information, check out my articles on the top mistakes to avoid when selling a farm and buying a horse farm in Maryland. You’ll find these articles and more on my blog. Be sure to stop by my new YouTube Channel for more helpful information!
Sarah is an equestrian properties real estate agent in Maryland. She also serves Wellington, Florida.