Buying a Ranch in the Southern Midwest – Hear from One of Our Experts
Ranch land is vastly different depending on where you live in the country. For the Southern Midwest states, acreages for ranches are much smaller than what you see out west. Liz Citron, owner/broker of United Country Real Estate | Ozarks Realty and Auction Group in Mountain Grove, Mo., owns a top 10 United Country office and has been rapidly growing her business throughout Missouri. One of her specialties is selling ranch land. In this article, Citron highlights some of the important aspects of ranches in the Midwest and offers some tips for buyers and sellers.
What makes ranches different in the Southern Midwest from others across the country?
Those buying ranches, typically pay based on the livestock units (cattle/sheep/goats etc) that can be sustained on the property. In the Missouri Ozarks, we say that we sell grass, not land, when it comes to ranches. We have ample rain fall, moderate winters (we do not need calving barns here) and there is plenty of grass!
In our area, we need an average of 3-4 acres per cow/calf pair. The more intensive the rotational grazing, the acreage can be even smaller. In other states, it can be 20 acres per pair. That is a stark difference from the ranches out west. Our ranches are typically 400 to 1,000 acres, compared to ranches out west being tens of thousands. This area used to have more dairies than beef cattle, but with the decrease in the dairy industry, the smaller dairy farms have been merged together to form larger land tracts and we are now beef country (though we are also seeing an increase in sheep).
The major difference in ranching in our area is the agriculture-friendly regulations in our state of Missouri, the low taxes, moderate climate and the ample water. For instance, you can burn your fields in the spring before the grass comes on and you own the water on your property; this is a shock to many coming from other states. The down side, if there is one, is that we do not have some of the built-in infrastructure that those high taxes provide, but people here do not care. They would rather be left alone to run their ranching operations without government interference. That seems to be what ranchers are looking for when they come to the Missouri Ozarks.
What advice do you have for someone selling their ranch?
This sounds simple, but is indicative of other perceived maintenance on a property…make sure your gates operate. There is nothing worse than showing ranching land and have the buyer struggle to open gates, or have them watch me struggle. In our area, we mow/bush hog our fields in the fall, at the end of the grass growing season. It cleans things up and gets fields ready for fall/winter, then fertilizer goes on for spring growth. When it comes to homes or land, pretty sells best and typically for more than something that has deferred maintenance. Since grass is our product, mowing in the fall and fertilizing in spring will give you an edge. A well-kept property attracts more buyers because it costs less to buy turn-key land that is livestock ready than to pay less and get it ready. In today’s real estate market, Buyers come to see property based on pictures and videos. Having your property look its best will give it an edge.
What about advice for a buyer looking for ranch land?
Find an agent that listens to you and doesn’t tell you what you need. You know better than the real estate agent how you run your operation and what you are looking for in a property. An agent should be knowledgeable about the land, laws and regulations and area resources that will be helpful. Find out about government regulations and programs in that area that may help you with your long-term goals. No matter where you decide to buy, do not dis-count the way the locals do it. There is typically a good reason why they do things the way they do and it may be very different than what you are used to, but it may save you money and time. Be open-minded. Sometimes mixing some of new ways into your current management style will make you more productive.
Citron is an experienced real estate broker who has been with United Country Real Estate since 2010. She and her team currently have four franchises in Missouri and they are looking to expand. The team specializes in ranch land, country homes, farms, waterfront property and recreational property in and around the Ozarks in Missouri. To learn more about Citron and her team, as well as view their available listings, visit www.ozarkscountryliving.com.
To learn more about United Country Real Estate or find an office near you, visit www.UnitedCountry.com.