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Insider’s Guide: So, You Want to Buy a Texas Ranch?

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Buying a Texas ranch for sale can be one of the most rewarding experiences. The result could be one of the most dramatic life decisions you make. It could lead to realizing a lifelong dream now. If you already own a ranch, it could lead to adding to your portfolio more land; more land that could create your family legacy.

The ownership process for any of these choices for a property with substantial acreage means that due diligence is essential. I am Mark Harman, and I am dedicated to helping my clients accomplish their personal goals for ranch ownership by providing them and you with information that many don’t know or even know that they need.

Constantly, I interview people who feel ill-equipped and misinformed to decide independently. Directly because of these frequent conversations and occurrences, I have assembled the key elements in this insider’s guide: So, You Want to Buy a Texas Ranch? It is your guide to learning how to buy a ranch. Texas is a passion of mine; it’s wildlife and natural resources are worth sharing with as many people as possible.

I hope you find this information informative and educational in your Texas ranch ownership journey.


It’s a known fact that asking the right questions typically leads to the right answers. This also saves time in the process. The list below is not intended to be complete however serves as a navigation system for accomplishing your goals.

Mineral Rights

Mineral rights can be daunting to understand. This is especially true in areas with oil and gas exploration. Mineral rights’ owners have certain rights, which are sometimes difficult for surface-only owners to accept. The Mineral Estate is the Dominant Estate. If you don’t live in an area with mining or oil and gas exploration, you may not have a problem and, in fact, may own both rights together. Mineral rights are legal rights that entitle the owner to explore for hydrocarbons below the surface of a property. In most countries, all mineral rights belong to the government. In the United States, all mineral rights originally belonged to the owner of the surface of a parcel of land. As mineral production became economically advantageous, ownership of mineral rights often began to be separated from surface ownership. Mineral rights can include all minerals known and unknown but may also be for one specified mineral, such as coal. Mineral rights can be sold or leased to a third party. They may also be gifted or passed down as an inheritance to family members. A good mineral rights consultant or attorney is worth their weight in gold should you proceed with your acquisition.

Key Elements to your Prospective Texas Ranch Purchase Should Be:

  • Low Fence or High Fence: A few miles of wire and a few hundred fence posts can rapidly become expensive. Know your facts and understand the costs and differences between low and high fencing.
  • Deed Restrictions: You never know what rules the former generations set to govern the posterity of their most critical investments. Know what restrictions exist.
  • Improvements: If the land has been cleared, a creek has been dredged, or a dam built, you may be paying for worthwhile upgrades. Other types might include a cabin, home, workshop, barn, or fences.
  • Neighbors: Who is next to you? Your broker may have some helpful “local” insight on the people in your area. Ask questions to gain as much knowledge on the adjacent ranches and other situations as possible.
  • Easements: Easements might have been put in place by previous owners. Types of easements might be Utility Easements, Easements by Necessity, Private Easements, and Prescriptive Easements.
  • 1-D-1 Open Space Agriculture Valuation: Understand definitions and regulations.


Typically, I have five basic elements that come to mind concerning the integrity of your prospective land purchase.


This element is likely one of the most subjective ones in the bunch. This is where you need to reflect on what kind of lifestyle you want and where your vision lies with your land. Neighbors, rainfall, soil, and area topography are important and factual, but the most decisive element is whether the land meets your lifestyle needs. Do you want to be close to a town or remote? How far away from the grocery store and hospital do you want to be? Take time to reflect on these things as you walk around the land. Use Google maps to search the area from a bird’s eye view, or even hire a helicopter to give you a flyover. Watch the ranch video, if there is one. Look at the quality of the roads and how easy or hard they are to travel. This can significantly affect what kinds of ranch vehicle you can own. Make a couple of drives to the property gate to gauge any commute and see how long it takes you. This should not be complicated. If you can sit back and envision daily life on a specific piece of land, that’s an excellent sign that its location will not be a hindrance.

Utilities are important to consider as well. Homes, cabins, shops, etc., will need electricity diverted from nearby lines, unless you have a plan for creating an autonomous living platform.


Understanding water resources should be high on your priority list in considering a ranch purchase. Some counties are blessed with major aquifers (Edwards, Hensel, Ellenburger, and Hickory) and many smaller, local aquifers. Depending on your vision for your land (hunting property with a small cabin or a large estate home with a wildlife preserve), being familiar with the current water status of your prospective ranch is critical to the success of your endeavor. Inquire about well logs to gain a history of flow rates. Your water source should be sustainable; seasonal creeks and stock ponds cannot be relied upon solely. To find subsurface water, you can use a variety of county resources. If you want a simple and general idea of sub-surface water availability, visit with your local water drillers. Rain catchment systems are another excellent backup infrastructure if you are concerned that the land’s supply may not be enough for your goal.

Properties with year around live water features continue to be in the greatest demand and command the highest prices.


This element should not be intimidating, but many people often overlook soil health. If you desire to graze animals, have a garden, or create a lush lawn, it’s good to have the right starting ingredient. Look for growth. Grasses and soft tissue plants are good signals. This is opposed to very little grass, scrubs, and low-lying woody ground cover, which can survive in less fertile soils. A noticeable lack of palatable grasses is a true sign that a field has been overgrazed. Also, look for widespread areas filled with strewn rocks. This may be fine for grazing, but it is very hard for doing much else.

There are three basic soil types:

  1. Clay: This will be extra dense and deep in color. Clay holds many nutrients but is unsuitable for drainage and can lead to root rot in weaker plants. Clay can be a good foundation for native grasses and the more robust plant groups.
  2. Sand: Sand holds minimal nutrients as a result of superb drainage. Lots of water and added fertilizers can make sand a beneficial soil type for growing wide varieties of grasses and shorter plants.
  3. Loam: The blend of the two, loam is generally what we think of as dirt. It can lend itself in either direction by being more granulated like sand or easily compressed and dense as clay. True loam is the ideal blend and can be the most fertile soil for any use.

If you want to go a bit more in-depth, you can call the county’s Agricultural Extension Office and have them complete a soil test that will give you the clearest picture of what you will be able to produce on your land.


The shape of your land is fundamental to your end goal. Hilly terrain needs to be paired with enough flat space to build roads and a homesite if you desire to inhabit the ranch for any longer than a hunting trip. Hills are superb for creating privacy but must be analyzed for roads if you plan to build atop the summit. Texas has many ranches with excellent combinations of rolling topography and flatlands so that you can mix and match however you see fit. Flat areas can typically be the most flexible for various uses but may lack some drama in the quality of the view. Surprisingly, many properties in Texas have small mountainous areas with strong granite outcroppings and sharp cliffs. These can be some of the most sought-after spaces in the area.

The topography of a property should speak to you, drive around, and look from as many angles as possible at the land in question and make note of each view. You will feel a sense of comfort when it’s the right place for you.


Growth and vegetation can be indicative of the variety of wildlife that will frequent the land. Game animals like densely wooded areas will only venture into the wide-open at specific times of the day. If you want abundant wildlife, you must ensure your forested areas and grasslands are healthy.

The once substantial population of Live Oak trees has suffered in the past few years. Oak wilt has killed millions of these classic beauties and tends to be generally random and only mildly preventable. It is a good idea to examine land for oak wilt if you want to maintain your Live Oaks. These trees can take years to die, so it’s possible that you may not be able to detect it. As oak wilt typically attacks Red Oak, Pin Oak, and Live Oaks, identifying multiple types of trees on a property can be a good hedge against disease. Other oaks usually have larger toothy leaves, and your realtor may have a good idea of what families are represented in an area. Disease can attack any tree, but your chances of maintenance are much better with other varietals. Your trees should be beautiful and accentuate your feelings about a piece of land. If well maintained, they even add to the overall value of your property.


There are very few “perfect” pieces of land wherein every element is ideally balanced and working to produce the ultimate paradise on earth. But, perfection isn’t really the goal. What works for you and meets your needs is the best possible piece of land you can buy for yourself. This shouldn’t be hard at all. It should be one of the most fun investments you make, and with a bit of information and a few good questions, you can arrive at a wonderful Texas ranch in much less time. I hope this has given you some confidence as you begin searching for your ranch for sale of the greatest states in the union. Personalized service and good ole’ southern hospitality are two of my specialties, and any chance I get to share my passion for the Texas Hill Country is always welcome. I strongly value sustainability and connecting the right people to the right properties means we have a state that is well maintained for years to come.

I look forward to having you join me in one of the most wonderful towns in Texas.

In closing…

To begin your journey to buying a Texas Ranch please reach out to Mark Harman at

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