God bless the fly over states! Rural America has never been more attractive. Family values still thrive here, and wide-open vistas and clean air are good for the soul. So round ‘em up and head West.

To help you buy rural real estate, we spoke to David Macy, 73—a Colorado-based certified farm and ranch appraiser with 28 years of experience as a real estate agent. His first piece of advice? “Locate the location first, and see if you can get the house and acreage to match it.”

Choose a state, region, and county where you’d like to be. That way, you’ll be pleased with the climate, grasses, and local environment before zeroing in on size, outbuildings, etc. “The structural integrity of the residence is important,” says Macy. “But you want to be happy where you are.”

“Its important to not buy bigger than you can handle, because reality usually sets in,” says Macy about acreage and upkeep. “Identify what you want to do then evaluate each property by those criteria.” If you plan to grow hay, for instance, then surface water rights come into play. Does the property come with sufficient corrals? Soils are classified for productivity, so contact the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the local farm service agency to evaluate the soil capacities.

Resource credible people to help you complete the due diligence. Hire a competent Realtor with experience buying and selling rural properties. “Residential brokers always want to sell ranches and farms, but they don’t know what to look for,” says Macy. “Someone with the right experience will help you ask all the right questions.” What’s the zoning? Who owns the mineral rights? Is the property encumbered by an easement? What are the local laws and tax codes? What are the area grazing rights? A good Realtor will also help you find legal counsel should complicated issues arise.

One good way to asses an area is to speak with the neighbors. Take the time, drive about, and knock on doors. “Most people in agricultural and ranching areas tend to be gracious,” says Macy. “No one likes an empty property in the neighborhood.” Perhaps you’ll be able to return the favor some day.

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