The process of property hunting

Over the last year or so, Johnny and I came to the realization that our lives would be easier if we lived in a place where the horses could live with us. The facility where they’re boarded is absolutely excellent, and they receive top-notch care, but it’s a 45 minute drive each way. I understand that for many of you, that’s nothing, but for me, it’s kind of a lot of driving for a hobby.

We waffled on the decision of where to live for months (and still do, some days). We looked at houses in cool neighborhoods in Tulsa and imagined what our lives would be like if we could bike along the trails bordering the Arkansas River or eat at some of our favorite downtown restaurants without a special trip. We briefly considered moving east of the Mississippi, as neither of us are particularly attached to Oklahoma. That idea fizzled and died when we thought about the logistics of finding new jobs that weren’t terrible and moving cats, dogs, and horses a thousand miles.

Hiding in the bathroom with the animals during a tornado is what I imagine moving 1000 miles with animals is like.

Once we’d settled on the idea of staying in Oklahoma and living on enough acreage to support the horses, a whole new host of questions appeared. Should we buy undeveloped land and build something? Should we look for a property with structures (house, barn, fences) already in place? What length commute were we willing to drive? How much acreage did we need?

Plus, Oklahoma is sometimes attractive.

Neither of us were willing to drive more than 45 minutes one way for work, which restricted our search area. The search area combined with our budget answered the rest of our questions.

We decided we would look for a developed property on 10-20 acres. We were somewhat flexible- for example, if a place didn’t have fencing or a barn, we could possibly make that work if the price was right. We had vastly different opinions on a house; Johnny joked that I would happily live in a tent if the land was good, while he wanted a house with a two car garage and real closets. (True.)

I began the property hunt by using Zillow extensively, and had a few saved searches set up; Zillow would email me any time there was a new property listed that met my criteria or if a saved property’s priced changed. The first property we contacted a real estate agent about was a 40-acre horse farm. That wasn’t the right property for us, but the real estate agent added us to an email list that worked similarly to Zillow’s. I spent the next several months combing through those emails every time they appeared in my inbox.

I got a feel for what a typical price per acre was for which areas and what sort of structures seemed to add value to a property and which didn’t make much difference. I read through a lot of property records via county assessors’ office websites (available for free in many places), put my degree in natural resources management to work by interpreting soil data (also available for free via the NRCS’s web soil survey), and read a lot of information from the OSU Extension Service on pasture management techniques. I priced farm equipment, fencing, steel buildings, and made adjusted budgets that included those things.

This isn't all our place, but the soil map is more accurate at a larger scale.
This isn’t all our place, but the soil map is more accurate at a larger scale.

When the barn owner mentioned she thought the neighbors would be listing a small property adjacent to the barn, I kept an eye out for the “For Sale” sign. It eventually appeared, and I browsed the listing with mixed feelings. The list of pros was long: a relatively new house with modern closets and bathrooms; a 4 stall barn with a tack room, bathroom, and wash rack; an equipment/hay storage shed; covered parking for the horse trailer; proximity to Tulsa; proximity to the barn (and its arenas). The only real cons were the acreage (only 7 acres total, and only about 4 of that pasture), and my commute would increase from 5 minutes to 45 minutes.

I talked to my manager about working from home a few days a week. I don’t actually need to be in the office to do my job, so he was amenable to this arrangement. After that problem was solved, I tackled the next one. The native grass in Oklahoma is certainly not good enough to keep 3 or 4 horses on an equal number of acres, and I didn’t want to feed full rations of hay year round. I read a lot of articles on keeping horses on small acreage and techniques to maintain and improve such pastures. What I read made it sound doable, and after that, we pulled the trigger on buying the place.

Now I get to do this!
Now I get to do this!

The process of finding a suitable place has been, at times, both tedious and exciting. We’re now in the the process of packing, moving, and preparing our old place for sale. I can’t wait until we’re totally moved in, and I can do fun stuff like shop for the barn and see my ponies every day!

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

37 thoughts on “The process of property hunting”

  1. Had my small horse farm for almost 20 years and can look out my kitchen window and see grazing horses- you’ll love it! My only advice would be to spend the money to build things correctly from the beginning even if it means waiting a bit for improvements. In the end you’ll spend the money anyway, so just do it once!

    1. I grew up with my horses at my house, so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing them outside my windows again! 🙂

      Thanks for the advice! We definitely learned this lesson in our old house- the previous owners had taken a lot of shortcuts in their remodeling projects, and we’ve spent a lot of time trying to correct them, haha!

  2. OMG, congrads! That’s so exciting!

    As someone who does 3 horses (and sometimes up to 5) on 2 acres, it’s definitely doable but we it’s pretty management-intensive and we feed hay year-round for sure. But there’s nothing quite like seeing the ponies out the kitchen window!!!

  3. You can totally manage that number of horses on that acreage. We have 7 acres. The horses are on about 5. My pasture can handle 5 horses. I’ve had up to 10 there which was ridiculous! I feed hay from October to May. I get 4 months of ‘free grass’ in the summer. I spray for weeds and this year I did fertilize. I spread the poop with a drag about once a week. It’s work but, worth it to have the little darlings in the back yard!

  4. Congrats again! I’m so excited for you. We’re planning a similar purchase in 2017 and I cannot wait. For now I shall live vicariously through you.

    1. Thank you!! I’ll be interested in hear how your process goes, as California real estate might as well be on a different planet from Oklahoma real estate!

  5. Congratulations. We’ve only been in our place for a year but while a small amount of acerage is work, it’s totally doable. We have about 4 acres that the horse can be on. And up to 4 horses. I haven’t had to feed hay since April, and probably won’t until October.

  6. How exciting for you guys! I can’t wait to read all about A BABY GINA frolicking in your backyard next year!

  7. Omg yay congratulations!!! Can’t wait to see all about the property and how you transform it into your own little equine Shangri La!!!

  8. Woohoo! I’m so excited for you to all get settled there! I have terrible turnout on my little farm, but my mostly european horses aren’t used to being out on lush grass anyway so we make do. I’m waiting anxiously for the next door neighbor to want to move away so I can buy his property, knock his house down, and build paddocks. Until then, I feed a lot of hay.

    1. HAHAHA, I am already plotting how I can get the neighbors on the other side to sell me their unused pasture, and keeping a close eye on the people behind us who have a few cows!

  9. Sounds amazing! We are in the city, 7 acres sounds huge! You are so lucky to have your horses with you, I hate leaving mine at the barn.

  10. I admire you for this. I REFUSE to ever have horses on my property again, ha. I spent more time caring for them than I actually did riding them, which sounds horrible, but iit made zero sense to me! I will gladly drive 30 min and pay someone for board in order to enjoy riding them and stress free everything else. I have such a limited amount of time without a husband or kids, that I could never foresee having my own horse property as manageable with those things in my life (eventually). Congrats though, this IS wicked cool! I do miss having them outside my doorstep, and having your own place is magical.

    1. It’s been great having them boarded at a full care facility- I previously came from a horses at home/horses at self-care background, so while I always feel a little guilty NOT to be the one cleaning their stalls, I am also glad! I admire the people who can do horses at home with children; I don’t think I could do that!

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