• Sarah Lipkowitz

Downsizing A Horse Farm

Updated: Dec 30, 2019

Many equestrians seek to downsize to a smaller farm at some point, but as you might imagine, this is a major undertaking. The thought of packing a house alone is enough to make many homeowners stay in place for years, but what if you have a farm and the maintenance gets to be too much? It isn’t unusual for me to hear from farm owners who are looking to downsize. Here’s what you need to know about downsizing a horse farm.

Keep Your Horses In Mind. This seems obvious. If you plan to keep your horses, you will need to find an appropriate piece of property, but there is more to it than that. If you don’t want to part with any of your horses, you need to keep that in mind when you are looking for a farm. If your horses are used to grazing on multiple acres of land, you will have to help them adjust. A smaller farm generally means more controlled turnout. Depending on the amount of acreage you will have on your new property, you may need to budget for supplementing your horses’ diets. Some owners find that they struggle with stalling horses when they downsize. If at all possible, begin getting your horses used to being in a stall at least part of the time.

If you plan on selling some of your horses, then you will want to do so before you list the farm for sale. Selling horses is time consuming, as is selling a farm. It is best not to allow these tasks to overlap. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you are making a big change. Knowing what to expect when it comes to you horses’ needs is a big part of the puzzle.

Make A Plan. A list. Multiple lists. You’ll need them. First of all, things accumulate over the years. You will need to get organized around sorting through your belongings and getting prepared to move. Selling an equestrian property is going to be a longer and more difficult project so you want to have the farm looking as presentable as possible. This means making a task list. Make repairs, clean out your closets and tack rooms, and put horses that won’t be coming along on the market. Click here to read my article on selling farms.

You will also want to make your list of needs and wants. Why are you downsizing? Is it because of financial or time constraints? Are you simply tired of maintaining a large farm? Your reasons for downsizing will effect how you go about planning for your move. What do you need in a new farm? How many acres? How many stalls? What could you do without? Get a clear picture of what the move is going to look like. Be prepared. It may take some time to find the right property and you may end up making some concessions.

Budget. In an ideal world, you would be able to buy and prepare your new property while you list your current farm, but this isn’t always possible. Depending on where you are moving to, downsizing may not leave you with a ton of money leftover from the sale of your current farm. Do your research. Talk to an agent who specializes in equestrian properties to get an idea of what your farm might sell for and how much it will cost to buy your ideal property. An agent should be able to put you in contact with a lender who specializes in working with farm owners and, from there, you will be able to get an even clearer picture of your budget.

Keep in mind that you will also need to budget for expenses having to do with preparing your farm for sale. Things like repairs, upgrades, staging, and landscaping are often necessary to get top dollar offers on your farm. You will need to budget for the move itself and you will need to budget for start up costs. If you already have a farm, you know that there are some hidden start up costs associated with purchasing a farm. You may be able to bring your equipment along this time, which will help some, but you may find that certain items, like your tractor, will need to be replaced. It isn’t unusual to find that you need to add fencing, storage, or stalls to your new farm. As any farm owner knows, there are always repairs that need to be made. Sorry to say it, but even if the farm is brand new, something will break—probably within the first week. It’s a good thing you love horses.

Find A Property. Easier said than done. If you have a day job, you will want to consider the commute. Doing chores after a two hour commute isn’t fun and you want to be able to get home quickly in case of an emergency. I said earlier that you might have to make some concessions. This is often true when buying property, but you need to pick and choose carefully when it comes to horse properties. The first concerns will be the location, acreage, the house, and the barn. Location is paramount because it will affect your commute and your access to things like city water and veterinary care. Next, consider how much acreage you want. Come up with a range that you feel would be manageable.

Consider your minimum requirements for the house. I know equestrians tend to look at the barn before anything else, but keep in mind that the house will need to be livable. You will likely want a farm that is as close to turnkey as possible.

That being said, what outbuildings will you require? This is often where the concessions will be made. I encourage buyers to take their time to find the right property, but remember that your options are much more limited when it comes to horse properties. You will likely want more stalls than you think you need because they make good storage and, let’s be honest, you will probably end up with more horses, but do you need a hay shed or an arena? Can you make due? Can you add them? (Check out my articles on building barns and arenas) By all means, keep your standards high. This is a big investment. My point is that the perfect horse property doesn’t exist and you want to be sure you are not getting in your own way. 

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