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Building Your Farm Team
Virginia is For Farmers
A farm in Virginia may be your lifelong dream. Whether a small gentleman’s’ farm, raising livestock in the plush pastures of the Shenandoah River basin or a vineyard in the valleys and meadows of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, the agricultural heritage of Virginia offers a smorgasbord of earthly endeavors. As a potential agricultural entrepreneur or hobbyist, the options are as vast as the vistas, and all aspects of the equation are to be factored. The how, where and whens are answered best by a team of knowledgeable professionals.
Start Assembling Your Teams
It would only be considered prudent that when purchasing a working (or suitable to be made a working) farm that one would seek the advice of a team of professionals. That team would start with a realtor immersed in the market, connected to the community and to the other professionals necessary to successfully guide you to your farm. That team would include such professionals as a whole house (property) inspector, a real estate attorney, a tax professional and for local agricultural resources and expertise, a county agricultural extension agent.
The Real Estate Agent
A knowledgeable real estate agent is indispensable. Agents that are expert in the field of farming are available and invaluable. Look for agents steeped in land values, agricultural opportunities and who work with a customer focused team of professionals.
A local agent will call Virginia home, and having spent the bulk of their life here, they will know what is on the market, or may be soon. You should be comfortable with your agent as they explain the process of purchasing your home, and provide help with your financial profile. Your realtor should be able to connect you with lenders familiar with loans relating to purchasing a farm. Your realtor should help you sell your current property at it’s best pricing.
Your realtor should obtain the smartest deal while tendering an offer with your best interests in mind. Your realtor should be there for you at the end acting as an expeditor while protecting your position at the closing table. And finally, your realtor should bring a plethora of farms matching your interests to your attention.
The Whole House Inspector
Your realtor should be able to connect you to a qualified whole house inspector. Such an inspector should be certified and as such able to inspect your prospective property for deficiencies. The home’s interior, exterior, roof, foundation and mechanical systems should all be scrutinized for impending failure or insufficiencies. Correction of found defects can be demanded in the tender offer or removed from the proposed sales price.
As you are buying a large tract of land, a thorough survey of the property should include a stringent search of the land itself. Farms are often contaminated by fertilizer or manure to a level that the EPA could possibly demand a cleanup or containment, resulting in higher costs to you. Prior knowledge can allow you to avoid paying costs for situations you have not created.
A knowledgeable attorney, versed in the minutiae of Virginia Real Estate Law is essential to insuring your investment is properly vetted, and not encumbered by liens or other liabilities from the past. A real estate attorney can guide you through the due diligence that needs to be performed, and protect your interests and your investment.
An attorney is essential when it comes to negotiating a purchase via a short sale or a repossessed property. Both types of sales are able to deliver incredible values but both are wrought with potential liabilities.
When the property is in a Trust, an attorney must be consulted to be certain all terms of the Trust have been satisfied and all members of the Trust have been attended to and that there will be no contestors.
A farm property has great potential to have legal challenges, especially in the era of the EPA and the concerns over fertilizer and organic waste runoff among other pollutants.
And of course an attorney is the best way to guarantee that any issues like property tax delinquencies and zoning conflicts have been resolved.
The Tax Man
Any sizeable enterprise carries with it a responsibility to the auditors. Many needed public services are funded through property taxes, and a farm carries with it a huge tax burden. Some may not find tax avoidance unsettling, but some will want to take advantage of every opportunity legislated to benefit and encourage the agricultural use of their properties.
Further, the ability to position your farm as a business, able to balance profits and losses, is a valuable asset instrument to positively impact the long-term economic health of your enterprises. A business plan should be developed and the tax professional’s input is essential.
The Agricultural Extension Agent
The Virginia Cooperative Extension is an adjunct of the land grant universities in Virginia. Programs are offered in Agriculture and Natural Resources. There is also support facilitation for Family and Consumer Sciences as well as 4H Youth Development.
Your extension agent is a valuable resource for all things agricultural. The close relationship with the various universities place a mountain of information at your disposal. The agent can help you find the appropriate animal or crop cooperative, where a small farm can join with other small farms to be able to achieve the efficiencies available to the large farm.
Your extension agent is knowledgeable about the soils of Virginia at their various locations. The county extension agent is a font of information concerning the nature of the soils in your fields, the nutrient needs of your crops and grasses and the testing facilities to verify and remediate any unsatisfactory conditions found.
A beautiful Virginia farm is destined to be your surroundings. Surround yourself with a team of professionals, lead by a realtor, who is Virginia.