How to Evaluate Farmland [Checklist]

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Looking at field with magnifying glass

Purchasing farmland requires careful examination of a property’s location, site history, land improvements and other important considerations. Before making an investment, do your research and fully evaluate the property to ensure it meets your needs. 

The following farmland evaluation checklist highlights some of the key factors and questions to consider when buying land. 

Identify Land Ownership Goals

The path to successful land ownership starts with identifying your short- and long-term goals for the property. Completing this step will help you determine the type of land you need and your land management options. Consider the following questions: 

  • Are you a farmer or rancher looking to expand your current operation?  
  • Are you looking for a property that can be used for recreational purposes? 
  • Are you planning to purchase the land purely as an investment?  
  • Will you be responsible for farming the land? 
  • Will the land be farmed by a tenant? 
  • Do you plan to negotiate a cash rent or crop share agreement? 
  • Will the land be custom farmed? 

Review Online Records

From property taxes to spatial and geographic data, there is a variety of information you can access through online land records. Below is a list of key resources and corresponding questions to guide you in your searches. 

Local County Assessor’s Website: 

  • What is the property’s current assessed value? 
  • How does the assessor classify the acres (crop acres, pasture acres, waste acres, etc.)?
  • What are the property’s historic real estate taxes?  

Natural Resource District Website: 

  • What is the annual rain fall in the area? 

Google Earth Aerial Images:

  • Can you see access to the property from a public road? 
  • Is there a drainage ditch that cuts through the property that you can’t see from the road? 
  • Are there any obstacles on the land that would prevent a pivot from making a full circle? 

Realtor & Auctioneer Websites: 

  • Are there any comparable properties that have sold recently? 
  • Price trends/land values?
  • Average cash rental rates?

Contact Local Experts

Local experts know the market, comparable sales and history of area properties. The seller, realtor, auctioneer or attorney representing the property being sold should be able to provide you with additional details such as: 

  • Tillable acres
  • Map of soil types and ratings 
  • Soil fertility 
  • Water and mineral rights 
  • Easements to adjoining property such as driveways, railroads or buried natural gas lines 
  • Historical yield information
  • Tile and field drainage maps  
It’s also a good idea to investigate what improvements exist on the property and what condition they are in. 

For cropland with irrigation: 

  • How old is the well? 
  • Has the pump ever been pulled? 
  • Is the pivot owned by the seller or current tenant? 
  • What is the condition of the pivot? 
  • Is the power unit diesel, natural gas, or electric? 
  • Is there canal water nearby? 
  • What is the annual fee?  

For pasture: 

  • What are the conditions of the fence? 
  • Is there any cross fencing? 
  • What is the water source (stock ponds, windmills, solar well) and what condition are they in? 
  • Are there any catch-pens or corrals on the tract? 
  • What was the stocking rate of the previous tenant?

For properties with outbuildings:

  • Are you purchasing these improvements “as-is”?  
  • Does an inspection need to be completed before moving forward? 
  • What will it cost to insure these improvements? 
  • Do these improvements allow for another source of income?  
Purchasing farmland requires a thorough assessment of the factors that give the property it’s value and determine whether the purchase is a worthy investment. No two tracts of land are alike, so do your homework ahead of time and be prepared to ask questions. Find more useful tips on how to prepare for a land auction or what to expect once you’ve found a farm to buy

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