Expanding the home search - would you prefer to build the home or the horse facilities?

I’ve been casually searching for a new home (with a realtor that was recommended to me on COTH!), but inventory is low, and I really haven’t seen much of anything that excites me.

I want 10+ acres, an updated home, and horse facilities with an indoor. I have the budget to match, but there’s not much inventory. Anything I look at that meets the bill, just isn’t quite what I want.

I’ve seen a couple homes with no horse infrastructure or barns with indoors and no homes. Also there’s a fair amount of open land for sale as well. Does anyone have experience building on a barn or a house? Should I try to start from scratch or just wait it out for something that is prebuilt to my liking? I know the cost of building materials is through the roof right now too, so that’s another factor to keep in mind. Any thoughts?

The cost of materials is a huge decision point-- you’ll pay multiple times over what it cost to build that existing barn or house that’s already there, so if this were a purely economic decision that should tilt you towards waiting for a suitable property with the facilities you need already built.

Be patient. Since your search is still in a casual phase, time is on totally on your side in this market. Prices will come down and in the meantime you can use this period to save up beyond your current budget. So when the right property comes along you can throw down an offer that will beat out competing buyers (or better yet, make an offer that convinces someone to sell before they even list their farm).

If I had to choose one or the other to build, I’d want to build the barn/arena. Compared to a house, a barn/arena involves far fewer materials and different types of trades, so your “materials cost penalty” is not as severe.


I bought a nine acre hay field with a random nice Barnmaster barn on it in 2016. Literally just the barn, sitting by itself, already completely done up with the concrete, stall mats, everything, it was plug and play with water and power… So I built a house and did all the horsey infrastructure like fencing, water lines, etc. It was ok, but I think it would have been cheaper to find a house I liked and then built the barn etc, because no way would a (regular) barn and fencing have cost what it did to build my house, plus water, power, and septic would have already been in place. However I didn’t and don’t have an “indoor arena” barn budget either, so no idea what your house budget would be. The only caveat would be financing - I bought the land with a construction loan to build the house, not sure there is a loan that would let you “overbuy” in order to get the cost of a barn+indoor+fencing wrapped into your financing. Someone else may have that answer but I don’t - I had a hard enough time finding a bank that would finance “a small house on a large plot” which I heard enough times to get sick of it.


Add to your thinking process that if you start from scratch there is also the time associated with pastures to get to the point that you can put a horse on them, and all that stuff.
If not having a pasture for a bit, or having to wait for someone to build a fence (which will cost far more than you ever imagined from my experience) is not an issue then ignore this rambling.

I could not afford the amenities you are looking for but I did want a certain style house with land for a horse and when we were shopping so many years ago, there was nothing that worked for this. So we bought raw land and built our little house and little barn.

Further to the idea of making a preemptive offer-- it’s hard to depend on a real estate agent for that kind of search, and you can’t just constantly drive around random roads trying to catch a glimpse of the property from the road. So get on Google Earth, and sign up for a parcel search subscription (I use Parlay for work, I think it’s $200 a year?). Or most county tax assessors now have decent parcel search websites with aerial imagery (But, they’re often pretty slow and clunky vs Google Earth).

You can efficiently look at huge areas for any properties that look promising, and with a service like Parlay, you can just right click and get the owner name & address:


From a friend’s recent experience, if you buy raw land or just the house, make sure you can easily get a permit to build the accessory buildings, and that the neighbors are on board with the idea of having horses and horse facilities, in particular, an indoor ring next door.

My friend bought land, in an equestrian designated subdivision, no less, and with the prior understanding from the planning department that she would legally be able to build what she was looking to build. The planning commission and neighbors have dragged the whole experience out into a long, ugly and extremely expensive fight for her.


Historically, when selling a property with Horse specific improvements the return is pennies on the dollars spent for barns, fencing and just about anything including an arena

So I would look for property that already has these (and as mentioned but worth repeating… it takes a few years to establish pastures…and fencing even before the current market always was valued at near nothing but costs ten of thousands of dollars)

A house is a house… cost usually always goes up unless something was overbuilt costing more than more than market conditions.

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Are you passionate about and committed to the area? If so, build what you want. It can take a very long time to find something approximating your needs, never mind wants. We looked 3 years and have a good workable fit but certainly not “perfect”. Lots of threads about that even before this crazy market. If you love the area and plan to stay the sunk cost losses of building will moderate over time. But, if like my situation, selling in 3-5 years (or less) is possible, even likely, definitely buy not build understanding work/money you put in a house that needs some love are much more likely to hold some value if you sell.

I think this depends if you need to make this decision based on a completely financial basis or an emotional one.

i bought a house with land in ocala and set up the horse facilities. I’m so happy i did. my whole life i’ve been planning this barn in my mind. if i had to build a house from scratch, I have no idea what I would want. Also, i was not in Ocala for much of the build and many fewer things can go wrong with a barn than a house.

So I think the financial, logistical and emotional factors vary for either way. You need to determine what carries more weight.

I LOVE my barn and horse set up. And i spend a lot of time outside and not in the house. I love the house as it turns out, but it just had to be comfortable enough for me. And i intend to retire on this farm one day, so i hope it is my forever farm.

Some great advice here, but if I had a magic wand, I’d build the house. It would be to my specs with all the current updates like wiring, insulation, plumbing etc to run as efficiently as possible. It would be designed so that we could age in place, take advantage of views (including of my barn and paddocks) and be as disaster proof as possible (ie: not in flood plains).

Changing an existing barn to meet my specs would be far easier than retrofitting a house for peak efficiency IMHO. But yes, it might be much more expensive to build the house new. However, I’d check out modular homes too. They have really improved in quality and can be customized at a much lower cost than stick built.


This is a really good question for me. I’d love to put down roots somewhere, but I’m not sure that this next move is the final one.

It could be but I probably shouldn’t plan on it. I thought our last house would be the last one, but my DH got an opportunity too good to pass up that required relocation.

Does the new location have any dedicated equestrian communities? I live in one, and one thing I do not have to worry about is spending money on horse-related improvements. While the typical big city buyer with no equestrian background would not appreciate (or pay a premium for my GGT dressage arena, or my cross-country jump field, and barn improvements, the community is marketed to horse-people who value these things. The only real down-side is living among a couple of hundred people who all consider themselves experts on all equestrian-related subjects.

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In most of our many moves we always find a place that is livestock/ horse ready. It would be nice to buy a house that doesn’t need fixing or updating but it is always nice to just move the animals in and work on the house as we go.

If you have the money you can add an indoor but having adequate shelter and good fencing as well as established pasture from the start is priceless to me.

The horse facilities first.

We are in an over 100 year farm cottage with 2 bedrooms.

I love it, not hard to clean. It doesn’t leak when it rains. It has an indoor toilet. It has electricity, hot water and wifi, which I call absolute luxury.


You know … I bet you’re more content than someone in a newly built McMansion. Your post made me smile. Loving where you lay your head at night is all relative.


Another potential negative to buying rural property and developing it into a horse farm is that the property just might be part of what neighbor’s consider as part of their God given deer hunting land… Some hunter’s just don’t accept that “the land I hunted on with my Grandpa” now belongs to someone else who’d rather watch the deer than shoot them. My former trainer had someone shoot and kill two of his horses in their pasture soon after he tried to stop trespassers hunting on his newly acquired farm land. One horse might have been a hunting accident, but not two together in the same pasture, and at night.

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Land, land, land. Honestly if I was moving somewhere, I wouldn’t be all that interested in the barn or in the house (though, an old house on acreage usually suggests that it is a good thing because, at least in New England if you have an old house on a lot of land…it is Good land). I’d be looking at the land. Is it cleared, is it swamp, what is going on in town, what are the extant deed/easements/agreements/restrictions?

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If you’re using the realtor I recommended feel free to PM me - she’s brought clients over before to get perspective of the work/planning entailed in this area. We bought a house with a slightly smaller amount of land than we wanted and have made improvements over time (building new barn, basic outdoor ring, etc).

Horse facilities cost a ton to build from the ground up and yet do very little to increase property value. If you ever have to move, you’re probably going to take a loss on the expense of building them.

A nice house, on the other hand, will dramatically improve the value of the land.

If given the option, I’d rather find something with horse facilities and build/renovate the house.

But I feel your pain- low inventory has been killing us, too. Will it ever go back to something close to normal???


Nowadays I look at McMansions and just think. Yeah right who has to clean it?