Top 4 Things to Know About Owning Agricultural Properties in Wyoming

Deirdre Griffith  |  March 28, 2023

Top 4 Things to Know About Owning Agricultural Properties in Wyoming

Few American regions are more beautiful and wild than Wyoming. Landowners enjoy unparalleled hunting, fishing, and agriculture. Depending on the region, newcomers face low financial outlay marked by no income tax, cheap grass, and quality schools. No wonder countless investors dream of buying agricultural property as a springboard into a different kind of life.

The value and viability of Wyoming real estate are determined by finite resources such as water and agriculture. As many factors make ranch investments valuable, just as many aspects differentiate one plot of land from the next. And because your time and money are also finite, you want to have a detailed plan before entering the nation’s most spacious niche market. 

Keep reading to acquaint yourself with the details of owning agricultural properties in Wyoming.

1. Three Ls: location, lot size, and logistics

Photo courtesy of Deirdre Griffith Real Estate

Location and lot size are logical first steps because they are fixed qualities and quantities. Over half the land in Wyoming is state-owned, yet the other 45% is not scarce. And with so many options, you may prefer land with greater or lesser logistical challenges.

In markets like Teton County real estate, which exceeds 4,000 square miles, your main task is to work with a trusted realtor to narrow your search to feasible locations. Much of this large land area is federally owned so the areas that are available are limited.

As you investigate different areas, consider how they match your priorities. If you will farm the land, are there recent soil tests you can examine, what do the wetlands look like? What about the roads you’ll use to access the property — who maintains them and how well? Where are your closest neighbors, and how do you get groceries? If at all possible, drive around and see the region for yourself. 
Lot size

The size of the property you’re getting matters. Wyoming real estate comes in various sizes, so consider what you will use the property for. Are you creating a small hobby farm with an overflow for yourself and family? In that case, a smaller property with just a few acres is more than enough. If you want to raise livestock on your agricultural property, or if you want a more elaborate and extensive farming setup, you will need more land for expansion and growth in the future.

As mentioned, your time and money are finite, so your budget will ultimately determine the size of the acreage you are equipped to look at. If you’re a cash buyer or paying primarily cash, your land purchase size will depend entirely on your budget. If you’re financing some or all of your agricultural purchase, you may have more flexibility on how much land you can buy.

Remember, the more land you purchase, the more expensive it will be to keep up with the land. A hundred acres of Wyoming real estate might be your dream, but that’s a lot of property to manage and look after!

Photo courtesy of Deirdre Griffith Real Estate

Make sure you consider utilities and water rights. Depending on the remoteness of a given tract, you may need to run electricity from the nearest road and/or set up a well. Most importantly, water is a finite resource; water rights are not a function of your property’s location and lot size but rather your rights’ appropriation date. Just because your large ranch property has water running through it doesn’t mean you have a legal right to use it for irrigation, stock, or domestic purposes.

Your ranch broker will understand these nuances and help guide you through the process. Any land report must include exact measurements. If you will access water through a well, measure the gallons per minute (GPM). On the other hand, if you will access surface water, get the cubic feet per second (CFS). These metrics are critical indicators of whether you can run a sustainable operation. The quality and makeup of the water on the property is also important. Testing to make sure it’s potable and healthy for you and your stock is key.

Crucially, surface water can dry out, and in many cases, your access to surface water will depend on your appropriation date. Landowners with the oldest water rights get first use. So if your water rights are relatively new, your access to surface water depends on that season’s supply. Contact Wyoming’s State Engineer’s office for help determining your rights to the water on the property.

Another key consideration is access. Not all properties come with direct or legal access. Understanding the easements that give you access to your property is crucial. Make sure you understand what roads are plowed in the winter, and by whom. While a handshake is still good for a lot, legal access is something you have to have recorded. 

2. Financials

Photo courtesy of Deirdre Griffith Real Estate

Wyoming real estate is attractive to investors because it has a high floor and high ceiling. The lack of a state income tax raises your financial floor. Agricultural tax exemptions also play a crucial role in the profitability and sustainability of your property. Understanding how you need to use your land in order to gain the tax exemption could save you thousands of dollars on property taxes.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all rural Wyoming ranch land is financially straightforward. The reality is different areas of Wyoming are widely different investments. Per-acre prices correlate with a range of factors. Besides size and location, your lot’s value increases with its geographical location, productivity, and recreational potential. The country’s vastness conceals its rarest and most scenic landscapes, including the Rocky Mountains; Wyoming ranchland has a high ceiling, literally and figuratively.

3. Other key considerations

Hunting Rights

Regarding rural Wyoming, big-game hunting is a major wild card. On the one hand, Wyoming has the best elk, deer, and antelope hunting in the nation (certainly, the land is beautiful, and the game is plenty). However, in some areas it can be challenging to acquire a hunting permit or “tag.” Some parcels are eligible for Landowner Tags, but the criteria have to be met. Tags are subject to laws involving land size and the land’s capacity to sustain the game. Your agent should be able to walk you through the process and explain the laws clearly.

Climates throughout Wyoming are at once predictable and mercurial. Southern Wyoming sees relatively high temperatures and includes a high-altitude region called the Red Desert that is protected by the Wyoming Nature Conservancy. With higher elevation comes shorter growing seasons and cattle operations limited by altitude. Most of Wyoming, especially land near the Rocky Mountains, is subject to harsh winters with much snowfall. 

As of 2022, Wyoming’s in-state tuition and fees were the lowest in the U.S. at $6,100. Many out-of-state students enroll at the University of Wyoming because it is a better value than certain in-state tuitions. For families, the affordability of Wyoming schools keeps the cost of living low.

4. Room for negotiations

It’s essential to scour the fine print when purchasing Wyoming land for sale to determine what comes with the property. This is a twofold issue — while a good realtor will always explain what you’re getting, you should also ask the right questions.

Like hunting legislature, the laws governing agricultural property can be complicated. The sellers of the land you buy might leave you tractors, buildings, or other equipment you need. Or they might ask you to wait months while they harvest that year’s crops, or uproot their entire operation. Always discuss what is included and what the seller is willing to negotiate. There is always a possibility they are willing to part with more for the right price. 

Ready to get started?

If you’re ready to live the life you’ve always dreamed of and start looking at Wyoming land for sale for your agricultural property, look no further than Deirdre Griffith for expert guidance. Deirdre has extensive experience working with the best ranch and agricultural areas in Wyoming real estate. She can set you up for success in all your land-seeking ventures, so don’t wait.

*Header photo courtesy of Unsplash

Deirdre Griffith

About the Author

Deirdre Griffith

Deirdre Griffith has called the Mountain West home for over 15 years and enjoys all it has to offer. As a real estate investor herself, Deirdre diligently tracks local residential markets, financial markets, as well as a broad range of ranches and outfits. 

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