Shopping for Horse Farm Property

By Alayne Blickle

Consider these pointers for selecting horse-friendly land, facilities, and communities.

My husband and I recently completed a several-year property search that led us to the perfect plot of land for our planned horse operation. I’ve always been fascinated with other horse-keeping operations, so I found it exhilarating to “reinvent” my horsey life, thinking and rethinking about how I’d like to set up my new place–all, of course, based on what my husband and I could afford and what we could compromise on.

As soon as we pulled up at a potential site, I would jump out to check the horse facilities; if they weren’t up to par, there was no sense in going further. I wasn’t just looking at the amenities; realistically, having a nice barn or big arena is actually secondary to many other basics that can either make or break your horse property.

Let’s review some of the points I pondered, as well as others to consider when shopping for horse property.

The List

Begin your search with a list of every feature you’d like your dream horse property to possess. Horse owner Pam Anderson and her husband moved to southwestern Idaho recently and created such a 22-point wish list before starting their farm hunt. This included everything from the view out their windows to the types of horsey services they hoped to have available locally. “That gives you some parameters to start with,” says Anderson. “When we found this place we knew it was right because it had just about everything on my list!”


As a horse farm owner, you might not be growing crops per se, but if you want quality pasture, existing soil type greatly impacts the types and quality of grasses that will grow and how you’ll manage your horses.


Remember the old adage about how “location, location, location” sells real estate? As a buyer, keep that saying in mind because property location affects almost everything. Coldwell Banker realtor Herb Callaham, in Nampa, Idaho, has been in the real estate business for 13 years. “One of the things I like to do (with a prospective client) is to tour the valley first to get the big picture.” This gives a person a chance to get a feel for the entire area, see the types of rural activities going on, and get a taste of life there.

“Location is the most important point, be it for schools, access to land for trail riding, or close proximity to town,”says Callaham. “It’s critical to learn what the area offers and what you want to get from it.”

Property Size

Property size is another thought, and bigger is not necessarily better. Horses can be kept on pieces of land as small as one or two acres. However, the smaller the acreage the more intensively you’d need to manage it to avoid a mud and manure mess. If you want enough land to provide adequate pasture time for your horses, you’ll probably want at least an acre per horse. Smaller pastures of one acre or less can be managed successfully if you follow good management techniques: Don’t allow your horses on pasture during the winter when grasses are dormant and soils are soggy, and never graze grasses below three inches.


When considering a potential horse property’s natural features, start from the ground up. Soil type is one of the most important, but often overlooked, considerations. As a horse farm owner, you might not be growing crops per se, but if you want quality pasture, existing soil type greatly impacts the types and quality of grasses that will grow and how you’ll manage your horses.

Loamy, organic soils are best for pasture growth, but just a little precipitation can turn paddocks into a mucky mess. Well-drained soils containing gravel are excellent for buildings and confinement areas because they create the least amount of mud problems, but they aren’t nutrient-rich enough for optimal pasture growth.

Check with your USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), your local conservation district, or extension office for soil type advice. If you will be building, use this information to help determine where to build barns, paddocks, pastures, your home, or other structures. If there are existing buildings and enclosures on the property, assess whether the current locations are suitable by looking at the state of the soil. For example, you might learn that the paddock areas will always present a mud problem because the soil there is wet and mucky, or you might discover that pastures will never be very productive because their soil is too rocky. Having the right soil in the right places makes horse management easier down the road.


Vegetation can also provide important clues about a prospective property. Certain plants tend to grow in specific areas. For example, sedges, rushes, and hardhack growing in pastures indicate these areas are wet–maybe even too wet for horses. Skunk cabbage and cattails definitively indicate a wetland area, which is no place for a pasture or livestock. See if your local library, extension office, or conservation district offers a listing of plants, trees, and shrubs native to your area and the types of soils and conditions these plants prefer. Using this as a guideline, assess the existing vegetation to determine whether the property can become a useful, manageable horse farm.

Water and Terrain

Topography and drainage are two additional natural features to consider, as water running off hillsides can collect in horse paddocks below. “We were looking specifically for something flat,” reflects Anderson. “Where we (lived formerly) there were hills and a lot of trees. I wanted the topography in our next place to be flat so it’d be easier to manage.”

If possible, visit your prospective place in the region’s rainy season or when there’s inclement weather. See how and where surface water runs. Does it all roll off a hill behind the barn into the confinement areas, or does it drain gently into the pastures and paddocks away from buildings? Is there a muddy depression in a low-lying paddock, or have paddocks been located in high, well-drained areas? How water flows across a property can tell you a lot about how to set up and manage it year-round.

Inventory all water features, such as creeks, wetlands, and ponds, as well as irrigation ditches. “Knowing water and irrigation is a key thing,” says Callaham. “The various types of irrigation processes are completely different with distinct operating procedures. Being on a river is a wonderful aesthetic but you get the bugs and mosquitoes that come with wet ground. With West Nile virus I always try to point that out to horse owners to be sure that being by water is what they want.”

Laws also protect natural bodies of water. In some parts of the country you might be required to fence off creeks, wetlands, and ponds/lakes creating a buffer as wide as 150 feet. Check with the county’s building and development departments, as well as code enforcement, before you buy.

Existing Structures

After you’ve gotten a feel for the land comes the fun part: It’s time to look at buildings, arenas, fences, and any other existing structures on the property.

“When Roger and I saw the house our jaws dropped,” Anderson recounts, describing its picture perfection. “However, when we saw the barn it was a bit trashed. But we could see beyond that. I think it’s important to have a vision of what you want. Then if you have to compromise some, you’ll know what it’ll take to make that up.”

When considering what modifications will be necessary to make a property suitable for you and your horses, ask these questions:

Are existing shelters adequate and in good shape?
Are barns free of rough edges or metal corners that could seriously injure a horse?
Are buildings large enough with high ceilings?
Is there appropriate flooring and footing?
Is there horse-safe fencing that is in good shape?

If you also plan to log and clear for pastures or building structures, estimate how much time and money this will take.

Finally, think about chore efficiency in terms of how existing structures are sited. As Anderson states, “We wanted the barn close to the house so that we didn’t have to hike to get to it.”

Will it be easy for you to clean stalls, get the stall waste to the compost, and haul the finished compost to the fields? It helps when all the horse chores fit together in a workable order.


Horse properties should allow for large vehicle access. Are gates and corners wide enough for delivery trucks or, more importantly, emergency vehicles? Would these vehicles be able to access the farm in the first place? How close is the nearest fire department, and what’s their water supply? Sometimes rural properties must supply their own water in case of a fire. This requires access to a farm pond or another backup emergency water supply. Investigating these points now rather than later will make life easier and operations safer.

Wells and Septic

In a rural setting chances are you’ll have your own well and septic system. Look at where these features have been placed in relationship to other structures. Wellheads should have a vegetated 100-foot-diameter buffer around them to protect the water from potential sources of contamination (e.g., manure piles, confinement areas, chemical or fuel storage areas, and garages should be situated away from wells).

Determine the location of the septic and drain field (which is typically made of perforated pipes buried in gravel-filled trenches) as well as the reserve drain field (the area to be used as a backup in case of drain field failure). Septic drain fields should not be located in high-traffic areas such as roads, driveways, arenas, confinement areas, and even pastures and gardens. Such locations put them at high risk for failure, and no one wants to purchase a new property only to install a new drain field to the tune of $10,000 or more. Contact your county’s health department for more information on locating and protecting your wellhead and septic system.


Take a good look around your potential new neighborhood. As Anderson explains, “we had looked at other places but they just weren’t equestrian communities. Here everyone has horses and they understand your needs. It’s nice to have common interests with neighbors, horsey events available, and services and products locally.”

To investigate a community, talk with a knowledgeable realtor or other professional. “Knowing the future plans of a community is important,” Callaham adds. A well-researched realtor can tell you about growth and development plans that might be important to you. If the community isn’t an equestrian one, as Anderson describes, is it horse-friendly? In other words, is it accepting of new horse neighbors or are the condo owners next door going to worry about the placement of your manure pile? Non-horse-owning neighbors might not be as tolerant of things such as odors and flies as we think they should be. Consider what the neighbors would think before you buy (and they have a chance to complain).

Riding Opportunities

How easy will it be to ride at the prospective location? Does it offer an arena or a round pen? If you plan to build an arena, have you researched costs? Building a suitable outdoor arena with good footing and drainage can be costly and requires space and building permits. Accessibility to nearby indoor arenas (for winter riding) or public land for trail riding might be key.

“Every horse person here wants Bureau of Land Management land out the back door,” says Callaham. “If that’s your priority figure it into your plans.” Are suitable equestrian trails nearby? Be sure they are public trails that allow horse use–don’t just take a well-meaning neighbor’s word for it. Often so-called “community trails” are on private property that will eventually be developed. Other trails might be limited to certain recreational uses, such as hiking and biking.

Many wonderful horse properties exist that are surrounded by housing communities or busy highways. In these cases you’d need a truck and trailer to transport your horse to riding areas (though it’s good to have a rig, regardless, that’s handy for veterinary or evacuation emergencies). Remember, finding time to ride is most likely one of your main reasons for buying horse property, so be sure your dream place allows you to accomplish your goal.


Zoning ordinances and community covenants are a final consideration. Take responsibility for knowing the full extent of the laws affecting horses and livestock in your potential new area. Research county, city, and local regulations. Check with zoning and building codes if your plans include building structures. Lastly, check on ordinances that might limit horse-keeping in your area, such as manure storage. Doing this homework up front saves time, money, and frustration down the road.

Take-Home Message

The more thoroughly you “vet” a prospective property, the easier your transition to living and managing horses there; you will be well-prepared and aware of the land’s assets as well as its limitations. With these tips in mind you are ready to embark on your search for the perfect horse place. Good luck and happy horse-keeping!


Alayne Blicklealayne-blickle-2014

Alayne Renée Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and reining competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, nationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approaches, Alayne is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise controls and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Alayne and her husband raise and train their reining horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho. She also authors the Smart Horse Keeping blog.

5 Recession-Resistant Renovations

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Recession-Resistant Renovations

by Jon Nunan

Upgrade Siding
When your siding has seen better days, upgrading it just might be one of the best investments you can make for your home, no matter what the economic climate. Since siding functions as a shield for the materials it covers, the better siding you have, the longer those materials are likely to last. Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report revealed that installing fiber-cement siding generally recovers over 87% of construction costs in added resale value. This makes upgrading from vinyl or aluminum to fiber-cement the best investment nationwide when it comes to recouping your costs!

Bathroom Enhancements
Though often the smallest rooms in the house, your bathroom can have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day life. Bathrooms also pack quite a punch when it comes time to put your property on the market, and remodeling your bathroom can mean the difference between a home that’s sold quickly and one that stays on the market for years.

The average cost of a bathroom remodel over the last quarter was around $10,200. Out of a pool of 3,000 homeowners who found their bathroom contractors through SM, 9 out of 10 were not only pleased with their project, but would recommend it to others. When you think of the money and resources that get wasted by leaky pipes, dripping faucets, inefficient shower heads and obsolete toilets and, add the hassle of waiting for mirrors to clear up, waiting for hot water (or running out too soon) and dealing with water pressure problems it’s easy to see why so many folks are so happy with their new bathrooms!

While not technically a renovation, an inspection is a sound enough investment in shaky economic times that we had to include it in this list. The beauty of an inspection lies not in what it does for your property, but what it prevents. For instance, a chimney cleaning will often cost around $310, where a chimney fire can cost you thousands in property damage. Inspections are available for many of your home’s systems (roofing, foundation, waterproofing, etc.) and can either identify small problems before they become large or give you peace of mind that your home is in good shape!

Enhance Flooring
Few things can make a room shine like good flooring. Fortunately, flooring upgrades are also an excellent investment in just about any home. One of the nice things about replacing a floor with a more durable material is that you can really get your money’s worth. For instance, while carpet remains the least costly flooring material, the National Home Builder’s Association puts its life expectancy at 8 to 10 years “with appropriate maintenance and normal foot traffic.” Though definitely more costly, natural hardwood’s life expectancy is “100 years or more.” So, by upgrading, you might be spending a little more in the short term, but you can rest easy knowing that you (or even the next owners of your property) won’t have to bear the expense of flooring replacement!

Small Kitchen Remodels
In much the same way as bringing a bathroom up to par is almost always a good investment, minor kitchen improvements are generally a safe bet. Unfortunately, going overboard during a kitchen remodel is common, and many folks end up spending way more than they planned before the job is finished. To keep your investment budget-friendly, focus on the things that really need attention, and leave the elements of the room that are functioning just fine intact.

General Guidelines for Recession-Proof Remodeling
During uncertain economic times, the adage “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” is certainly appropriate in many cases. However, to be completely accurate, you may want to add something to the effect of “If it’s slightly broken, fix it now.” “If it’s working fine, but it’s costing you plenty to operate, get a better model” might be another good phrase to live by. Basically, any remodeling project runs the risk of being more trouble than it is worth, but, in a nutshell, hard times call for projects that will not only make your property look better, but will help it function more efficiently for years to come!

Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.

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After Throwing Us a Curveball, Where Will Mortgage Rates Go?

Jonathan Smoke


So far, 2016 has held an endless series of shockers for observers of the presidential election (Jeb out! Donald on top! Bernie whomps Hillary in Michigan! Trump Steaks are delicious even though they’ve been long discontinued by The Sharper Image!) … and mortgage rates. Most economists, myself included, had expected mortgage rates to be higher than they are today. Instead, rates are near three-year lows for a 30-year conforming fixed-rate loan.

In 2015, 86% of buyers financed their home purchase with a mortgage. So mortgage rates—where they are now and where they’re going—have a vast impact on what buyers will do and the stress they will experience throughout the buying process. The extension of low rates has been positive for most buyers, who benefit from increased buying power.

But what happens next?

Rate roller coaster

This year hasn’t just seen rates go down. Yes, in six of the first nine weeks of the year, rates declined. But the most recent two weeks have seen rates go up. The daily volatility is even more extreme: 23 down days, 17 up days, and five flat days. This is head-spinning stuff. The average daily change in the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage so far this year is 3 basis points. (Remember, one basis point is 0.01 percentage points. For example, if a rate falls from 3.5% to 3.47%, it’s declined three basis points, or 0.03 percentage points.)

As we enter the peak spring buying season, it’ll be even more critical to follow the movements of mortgage rates. Buyers who think those rates aren’t moving might have a rude awakening when they realize the recent trend upward. Since Feb. 11, the average 30-year fixed rate has increased almost 20 basis points. That translates into a reduction of buying power by over 2%.

For potential buyers, these rate movements can be nerve-wracking. A 10 basis–point difference in a rate on a mortgage, with all other factors remaining the same, will produce a 1.2% difference on the monthly payment. Of course that affects not just your monthly budget, but also your debt-to-income ratio, which is a critical factor in qualifying for a mortgage.

If you are keeping score, that means the mortgage market gave buyers about 6% more buying power as rates fell, but since then the market has taken back nearly 2% in buying power. Buyers are still up, but there is a lot of time left on the clock for this year’s buying season.

Tapping the best predictions for rates

OK, so let’s get it out of the way right now: There’s no clear consensus on where mortgage rates will go from here.

I’ve surveyed a range of recent forecasts from the Mortgage Bankers Association, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and the National Association of Realtors®, as well as from highly respected macro economists, and I found quite a bit of divergence on expectations for rates for the rest of 2016 and into 2017.

Three scenarios emerge:

The first path sees the economy as hobbled by global economic weakness and the decline in the price of oil. As oil declined in January and early February, the stock market followed, and global money sought refuge in the dollar and U.S. Treasury bonds. As demand for bonds goes up, so does their price, and mortgage rates move in the opposite direction.

This more negative view of the economy sets a low expectation for mortgage rates, especially for this year. In this scenario, the global economy doesn’t improve but also doesn’t get worse, so mortgage rates remain about where they are now (around 3.8%) for the rest of the year. However, as the first nine weeks of the year show, rates are likely to see quite a bit of daily and weekly movement based on economic data releases and Federal Reserve meetings.

According to the second scenario, rates and financial markets have overreacted to the global economic concerns, but the global weakness will limit the growth we can see in 2016. This moderate view of growth would see the average 30-year fixed rate get back above 4% by the third quarter and reach 4.2% by year-end.

The final scenario also assumes that the financial markets overreacted to negative news at the beginning of the year. But this storyline also sees inflation heating up faster than expected, causing the Fed to act more aggressively on short-term rates. This view would see rates reach at least 4.5% by the end of 2016 and potentially even 5.5% in 2017.

These aren’t the only possible scenarios, but at this point I think they represent the most probable outcomes. Economists—including myself—have been consistently wrong about mortgage rates for several years, as they are influenced by many economic forces that are hard to measure and model. But by looking across these different perspectives, you can see a logical range that very likely includes what rates will do.

Sobering implications of rate forecasts

If you want a single forecast, take the average of these scenarios. This view would see the 30-year fixed conforming rate reaching 4.22% by the end of this year. That would be almost 50 basis points above where we are today, giving credence to moving fast and exploring options like rate locks along the way.

If we do reach 4.22%, the mortgage market will have taken back all of the buying power handed out at the beginning of the year and would remove an additional 1.5% of buying power.

Then taking an early look at 2017 using the average of these scenarios, the 30-year fixed conforming rate would likely reach 4.89%.

Adding the impact of home price appreciation to these expected mortgage rate increases leaves the sobering perspective that it will cost 20% more by the end of 2017 to buy a typical home in the U.S. with a mortgage, compared with the incredible bargains today.

And yes, I knew that as soon as I wrote this, it’s now bound to be wrong. But I promise to keep abreast of what actual rates are doing and what the experts predict for the road ahead, so you can plan accordingly.

2 Bedroom Columbia Village Boise Townhouse Home – 5609 S Caper

2 Bedroom Columbia Village Townhouse Home in desirable SE Boise. Kitchen features
new cabinets, granite counters, pantry. 2 beds, full bath, utility/laundry room upstairs; kitchen, dining, 1/2 ba, living room downstairs. Enclosed patio space, attached finished garage, master w/large walk-in closet. This 2 Bedroom, 1.5 Ba Columbia Village Townhouse Home is set in a quiet community in a convenient location a stone’s throw from great recreation (Lucky Peak, hiking/biking paths), while still remaining close to shopping and quick access to I84 and BSU.

Columbia Village features: Outdoor tennis court with key card access, Exercise/weight room, Indoor racquetball court, 4 swimming pools in the summer, DiscGolf Course, Rentable RV storage for residents, Rentable meeting room w/full kitchen for events, Adult and children’s library. Elementary school in community. This 2 Bedroom, 1.5 Ba Columbia Village Townhouse Home is in a GREAT location with Albertsons, several restaurants, outlet mall up the street! Straight shot to BSU and downtown. Call the Spencer Group 208.866.9727 to personally see this 2 Bedroom Columbia Village Boise Townhouse Home.

5609 S Caper Pl, Boise ID 83716

This property that is located at 5609 S Caper Pl, Boise 83716 in Ada county is currently for sale. This property is offered by Silvercreek Realty Group, agent Liam & Barbara Spencer, . The property at 5609 S Caper Pl has 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, 1,100 and was built in 1997. 5609 S Caper Pl is in the Columbia Village neighborhood in Boise in the ZIP code of 83716.

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Prices Slowly Rise Throughout 2012

Here’s a graph furnished by Hennessey Appraisal that shows a definate climb in 2010 for home prices in the Boise area. The blue line represents Ada county and the red line Canyon county.

Post panel: Former homeowners get second chance at American Dream

Homeowners forced into a short sale or foreclosure during the worst of the real estate bust are tip-toeing back into the housing market as their credit improves and lender prohibitions time out. » Read More

Capital Gains Questions When Selling Properety

We’ve encounted recently a few cases where homeowners sold their primary residence prior to hitting the twenty-four month cut off for capital gains. Here’s the rules

If you sold your main home and made a profit, you may be able to exclude that profit from your taxable income. Here’s how it works.

$250,000 Exclusion on the Sale of a Main Home
Individuals can exclude up to $250,000 in profit from the sale of a main home (or $500,000 for a married couple) as long as you have owned the home and lived in the home for a minimum of two years. Those two years do not need to be consecutive. In the 5 years prior to the sale of the house, you need to have lived in the house for at least 24 months in that 5-year period. In other words, the home must have been your principal residence.
You can use this 2-out-of-5 year rule to exclude your profits each time you sell or exchange your main home. Generally, you can claim the exclusion only once every two years. Some exceptions do apply.

Exceptions to the 2 out of 5 Year Rule
If you lived in your home less than 24 months, you may be able to exclude a portion of the gain. Exceptions are allowed if you sold your house because the location of your job changed, because of health concerns, or for some other unforeseen circumstance.

Change in the Location of Your Job
If you lived in your house for less than two years, you can exclude a part of your gain on the sale of your house if your work location has changed. This exception would apply if you started a new job, or if you are moved to a new location with your employer.

Health Concerns
If you are selling your house for medical or health reasons, be ready to document those reasons with a letter from your physician. Such a letter does not need to be filed with your tax return. Instead, keep the documentation in your personal records just in case the IRS wants further information.

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Spencer Group Paints Boise

During June Spencer Group Realty coordinated fifteen agents to paint a disabled person’s home in Eagle, Idaho. It was successful and the homeowner was very pleased and grateful.

Spencer Group Real Estate participates in Paint the Town

Finished home in Eagle Idaho

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