Evaluating The Texas Land Market

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Evaluating The Texas Land Market
By

Bart Waldon

From the rugged mountains of Big Bend to the sprawling pine forests of East Texas, the Lone Star State offers wide open spaces that have long attracted those seeking their own slice of independence and freedom. For many Texans, living on a ranch or owning even just a few acres represents the ultimate dream. Of course, achieving that dream requires navigating the notorious Texas land market, which has grown more challenging than a ride on a rough-stock bronc. Skyrocketing demand has kicked the state's land values into overdrive, making affordable properties harder to lasso. And for sellers, wrangling top dollar requires skill and strategy these days. 

This article will explore the factors spurring the Texas land rush and offer some down-home advice for making smart moves whether you're looking to buy or sell a piece of the Texas landscape.

The Lay of the Texas Land

Texas stretches across over 268,000 square miles, a massive expanse that contains every type of landscape imaginable. From the piney woods and rolling hills of East Texas to the rugged mountains and high deserts out west, the diversity of Texas terrain is as big as the state itself. Much of the rural land remains just as it has for generations - wide open ranch country perfect for raising cattle, horses, and other livestock. But the landscape mosaic also includes smaller family farms and forests in the eastern half of the state, while the west holds sprawling high-dollar ranch properties plus a good deal of public land managed by the state and federal government.

With so much wide open space and that famous Texas spirit of independence, it's no wonder the Lone Star State has long attracted folks seeking their own little piece of freedom. The legendary Texas ranch still holds deep roots here as a symbol of self-sufficiency and rugged individualism. But land use has diversified over the years. Nowadays you'll find timberland, recreational properties, rural residential acreage, and even land devoted to commercial development like oil and gas or renewable energy scattered across the Texas land matrix. Taking stock of these different land types and current uses provides important context when looking to analyze today's market.

Red Hot Demand Drives Prices Up

The Texas land market is red-hot right now. Demand for pretty much every type of dirt has shot through the roof while available properties to buy have shrunk like a drop of water in West Texas summer heat. It's created a textbook seller's market the likes of which we haven't seen since the first tech boom back in the early 2000s.

What's fueling this new Lone Star land rush? A few key factors:

  • Texas has boomed over the past decade, with nearly 4 million new residents stampeding into the state. Naturally, all these new Texans need places to live, work, and play, driving demand for residential and recreational land.
  • Historically low interest rates have freed up buying power, allowing folks to purchase more expensive land. Rates are ticking up now which may cool demand a bit, but it'll remain stronger than a Longhorn fullback.
  • High net worth individuals and big investment firms are flush with cash and they've stampeded into Texas, able to pay top dollar for premium properties.
  • Rapid growth in the cities along with energy development hotspots like the Permian Basin increases competition for land, pushing prices ever higher.

Bottom line, average land values statewide have skyrocketed over 25-35% across the board in just the last 2 years alone. It's one of the hottest land markets most Texans have ever witnessed in their lifetime.

Navigating the High-Priced Land Market

For both buyers and sellers, today’s Texas land market presents challenges along with opportunities. Here are some tips for successfully navigating high property values:

Buying Land

  • Cast a wide geographic net beyond areas with white-hot demand to find more affordably priced properties. Look for value opportunities in lesser-known rural counties.
  • Consider different land types like ranchland and timberland which may have lower per-acre values than small residential lots.
  • Partner with a land specialist who constantly scours the market to find deals and knows how to negotiate well on your behalf.
  • Explore seller financing which spreads payments over time. This can make higher-priced land more affordable.
  • If possible, pay cash. Cash offers are extremely attractive to sellers in this competitive environment.

Selling Land

  • Don’t underprice your property based on old comps. Appreciation has been rapid so the market value is likely much higher than even a year ago.
  • Consult a certified appraiser to establish an accurate opinion of value before listing.
  • Market strategically online and offline to generate excitement and multiple bids. Be flexible working with brokers to get maximum exposure.
  • Consider auctioning through a professional land auction company. This creates urgency and competition between buyers.
  • Weigh tax implications of selling now versus holding long-term. Consult a tax advisor to run the numbers.
  • Negotiate any offers strategically. Don’t take the first decent bid but create competition to drive the price up.

Getting Help

With so much at stake, having expert guidance can make or break your Texas land deal. Companies like Land Boss specialize in buying and selling rural land across the state. Working with an experienced land professional provides insider access to inventory plus the ability to accurately price and market your property. Leverage their expertise to make a smart move whether buying or selling.

Regional Variations Across Texas

While demand is hot statewide, distinct regional markets have emerged. Here is an overview of market conditions in some of Texas’ major geographic areas:

Hill Country

Covering the Edwards Plateau west of Austin and San Antonio, Hill Country combines scenic beauty with proximity to urban centers. Its rolling hills dotted with oak and cedar draw retirees, vacation-home buyers, and recreational land investors. High-end estates and ranch properties abound. Per-acre values can easily top $10,000.

Dallas-Fort Worth

Booming north Texas growth spurs demand for rural land within driving distance. Exurban developments pop up on the suburban fringe with 5-10 acre ranchettes common. Rich buyers acquire ranchland for horses and recreation. Anything within an hour of the Metroplex sees intense demand with prices doubling over recent years.

Austin Area

The buzzing high-tech hub fuels appetite for Hill Country acreage within its orbit. Lake Travis waterfront commands $100k+ per acre while even 30-50 miles outside Austin land can sell for $10-25k per acre. Investor and lifestyle buyers hungry for easy access to Austin make this a hyper-competitive region.

Permian Basin

This oil-rich zone encompasses parts of West Texas and eastern New Mexico. Oil and gas leases earn large royalties, with some mineral-rich parcels topping $30,000 per acre. But even remote ranchland far from drilling sees rising values from demand by industry firms and land investors.

Rio Grande Valley

Agriculture and ecotourism shape this southern tip market. Citrus groves and farming operations dot the irrigated valley along the Rio Grande River. Resort communities and nature preserves attract snowbirds and nature lovers. Prices remain affordable for the region though heat and water access require scrutiny.

Factors Impacting Land Values

When analyzing a property, wise land buyers dig deep into the factors that create value beyond just acreage. While location drives the broad market, attributes like resources, terrain, and improvements also influence price. Sellers can maximize their return by showcasing these value drivers.

  • Water: For ranchland, farming, or residential use, abundant clean water significantly boosts value. Locations along rivers, lakes, or aquifers offer best supply.
  • Mineral Rights: Oil, gas, coal, and aggregates beneath the land can mean big royalties. Even potential reserves command premium prices.
  • Timber Resources: Mature pine, oak and other commercial timber species enhance investment potential for forestland.
  • Terrain: Scenic vistas, rolling meadows, river frontage and other natural features boost appeal for lifestyle buyers. Flood-prone areas or very rugged country will discount price.
  • Improvements: Quality barns, fencing, irrigation, and homes add functionality for farms and ranches. Newer builds in good repair garner top dollar.
  • Development Potential: Land suitable for housing, commercial uses, or solar/wind projects often draws investor interest based on future ROI potential.

Understanding these value drivers allows both buyers and sellers to make informed decisions anchored in the property's unique attributes and marketability.

Expert Perspectives on the Texas Land Market

Trends Driving Demand

A wave of wealthy buyers entering the land market is the biggest factor driving this boom. There is an unprecedented level of wealth in America right now. Those funds are flowing into land seen as a hard asset. At the same time, low interest rates coupled with high rents and home prices motivate middle-class buyers to acquire cheaper rural land.

Buyer Profile

There are two main demographics - retirees seeking peace and privacy who make up about 60% of buyers, and investors looking for future appreciation or income potential making up the other 40%. The investor activity is forcing prices up with so much competition for limited inventory.

Seller Challenges

Many sellers struggle getting their price because they owe capital gains tax and need a number that covers this big expense. They have owned the land for decades with a low tax basis. Land companies like Land Boss help by buying for cash and absorbing the tax burden. This allows sellers to exit now and capitalize on record-high market prices.

Future Outlook

The Texas land boom to continue over the next 3-5 years but gradually cool as higher interest rates price more buyers out. Long-term projections remain positive with Texas’ business-friendly environment and diverse economy attracting steady migration. Rural land will remain a coveted asset.

Final Words

The Texas land market continues to sizzle as a confluence of factors drive demand and prices skyward across the Lone Star State. Understanding the regional variations and factors impacting value provides critical insight for buyers seeking hidden gems and sellers aiming to maximize profit. With smart strategy and expert guidance, both can successfully navigate the Texas land rush. While market conditions will eventually plateau, the future remains bright for this asset class that represents the enduring allure of the wide-open Texas spirit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What regions of Texas are seeing the hottest demand for vacant land?

The Hill Country, Dallas-Fort Worth metro, Austin metro, and Permian Basin are some of the highest demand markets right now, with competitive bidding and rapidly rising prices.

Are mineral rights an important factor in Texas land values?

Yes, mineral rights can significantly increase land value in Texas, especially in oil and gas producing regions like the Permian Basin or South Texas Eagle Ford Shale. Even potential reserves can command premium prices.

What types of buyers are driving the Texas land rush?

Wealthy investors, retirees seeking rural properties, and lifestyle buyers attracted to Texas recreation and scenery are fueling this boom. Investor appetite in particular continues to heat up competition.

How difficult is it to sell land in Texas right now?

It’s an extremely seller-friendly market, making now an opportune time to sell. Inventory shortages and bidding wars mean properly priced land sells rapidly. Strategic marketing generates excitement among qualified buyers.

Will the Texas land market cool off anytime soon?

Experts expect strong demand and increasing prices to continue over the next 3-5 years before plateauing. Interest rate hikes could start pricing some buyers out, but Texas remains a high-growth destination.

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