Chapter 1-6.  Actions before and After Closing

Once you have reached an agreement with the Seller and the contract has been receipted at a title company, there are several actions you need to monitor. First of all, ensure that a surveyor has been retained and has all the documentation possible to do his job. Even if the Seller is paying for the survey, your Broker should follow up on this, and may be asked to show the surveyor the ranch initially. Also, if you are borrowing the purchase money, your financial institution will require an appraisal of the property. Set up a tour of the ranch for the appraiser early on and be sure he/she is aware of any comparable sales you used in your determination of a fair market price. Bank appraisers often are not experienced in every area of the state and welcome assistance in gathering supporting data. Agricultural lenders, like Capital Farm Credit have appraisers working different areas so are usually on top of values. Point out any aspect of the property that makes it more valuable to you, the brush, the wildlife, or a big lake for instance. You want the loan to come through, and a higher appraisal makes the loan more attractive, more “do-able”.
As mentioned, go by the power company and the phone company and fill out the paperwork for a smooth transition of those accounts. Visit with your insurance provider, or seek out a rural insurance provider so you will be covered the day of closing. Make a point to visit with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and let them know you are the new owner. There may be a conservation plan in effect, one that might suit you as well with a few modifications. These are good people and they are eager to help. Always make appointments if you want their undivided attention as they may switch offices during the course of the week and are very busy. One of the valuable services they offer is an approved contractors list. This is a list of earth-moving companies, custom farmers, well drillers, etc. all the trades you might need to set up your ranch. While they do not guarantee nor endorse these contractors, just being on the list means these contractors have some validity. Visit with those you think you might need in the future to get an idea of prices and availability.
If you plan to run livestock, visit with the county agent as well as the local livestock commission company. Start accounts at the feed store, the lumber yard, the hardware store and the propane company if applicable. Some of these accounts take time to get up and running and you’ll appreciate the convenience of uninterrupted service.
In addition to the environmental inspection, make arrangements for a house inspection if the house is a significant part of the purchase or if you plan to live there more than on weekends.
While on the ranch, spend some time learning the roads and the fencing system as well as any water systems. Some people have a hard time learning a ranch if they’re used to street signs and 90 degree turns. I find that simply driving helps at first followed by walking those areas not accessible by vehicle. An ATV or horse can be very useful in this phase of the process.
Once you feel comfortable with your directions and the lay of the ranch, start a mental inventory of the flora and fauna. Divide the ranch into segments using roads or fences and spend time learning what the brush composition is, the forbs and the grasses. Learn distances from water and what the dependability of that water source may be. By this point, you should have your water samples back and can pinpoint good water and inferior water sources. In established fields, take soil samples and submit them for testing to determine fertilizer needs, if any. While on the subject of soil, this is the perfect time to compare the maps you downloaded from the Web Soil Survey with what you see on the ground.
Assuming you can do so without conflicting with hunters or the landowner, set up trail cameras and feeders of your own to start getting an idea of the deer and feral hog population if that interests you. If you’re a bird man, learn the preferred bird foods and assess their abundance or lack thereof. Listen for quail calling and seek out turkey roosts. Spend time at the ranch out on the ranch.
After a smooth closing, your first stop should be at the county tax appraisal office. Let them know you are the new owner of the such and such ranch and ask for their form to transfer the agricultural valuation for ad valorem taxes (the ag “exemption”). Their office will be notified by the county clerk when the transaction is filed for record, but just in case there is a screw-up, be proactive and get the paperwork started immediately. If the ranch you’ve just bought is valued for agricultural purposes for ad valorem taxes for wildlife management, ask for a copy of the management plan. If such a plan has been prepared, it will be a source of valuable information. By the same token, if there is an NRCS conservation plan for the ranch, even one designed for livestock, it will have some useful information. Gather all available input on this piece of ground you just bought, learn the lay of the land, and begin preparing your development plan.

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