Can You Make Your Dream of Owning a Farm a Reality?

Introduction Many people strive for the American dream of owning a home, but for farmers, the ultimate goal is often to become landowners. However, the decision to purchase farmland is not just a financial one;...

Aerial view of farmland with location icons indicating a specific plot of land

Introduction

Many people strive for the American dream of owning a home, but for farmers, the ultimate goal is often to become landowners. However, the decision to purchase farmland is not just a financial one; it is heavily influenced by emotions, social factors, and family considerations. So, how can farmers make an informed evaluation of their financial position when these factors come into play? The key lies in analyzing the numbers. In this article, we will explore the financial aspects of buying a farm and provide you with the insights you need to determine if you can afford to make this dream a reality.

Cash for a Land Purchase

When it comes to purchasing farmland, there are two important financial angles to consider:

  1. Cash needed immediately for a down payment (and/or land and building improvements)
  2. Recurring annual cash flow needed to make the farm loan payment.

The size and quality of the farm will determine the amount of cash needed for a down payment. In some cases, immediate cash injections may be required for land or building improvements. Having a healthy working capital and a current ratio of 1.5 or greater indicates that you have cash available for a down payment.

Farmland Image: Aerial view of farmland

Financing and Loan Payments

Most farmers seek financing to complete a farmland purchase. It is crucial to calculate the loan payment amount and understand how it will impact your cash flow before meeting with lenders. Using a "farmland" loan calculator, you can determine the most common payment structures for farmland loans, which are semi-annual or annual.

Lenders want to ensure that your farm operation can generate enough income to repay the loan. One tool they use is the Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). This ratio compares your Net Operating Income (cash available for debt payments) to your existing debt payments and the new loan payment. While there isn't a firm financial standard for DSCR, a ratio of 2.0 or more is considered very strong, and a ratio of less than 1.0 means there isn't enough income to make debt payments. Most lenders set a threshold of 1.2 or 1.25 as a minimum requirement.

Considerations and Future Planning

Aside from the immediate financial aspects, there are other factors to consider when buying a farm. For example, if you don't have enough cash available for a down payment, you may explore accessing equity in other assets. However, keep in mind that a smaller down payment will result in larger annual loan payments.

It's also important to plan for additional costs such as surveying, appraising, and bank fees. These costs can increase either your down payment or your total loan amount. Additionally, don't forget to factor in family living requirements and tax liabilities when calculating your debt capacity.

Making Informed Decisions

Understanding your financial position is crucial not only when buying a farm, but also for managing your farming operation in general. This process can be applied to other purchases, such as equipment or buildings. Being aware of your debt capacity allows you to evaluate opportunities that may arise unexpectedly, such as the chance to purchase land, equipment, or buildings. By knowing what you can afford, you can make sound decisions based on factors like quality, sentimental value, and how the purchase will benefit your farming operation.

Conclusion

Buying a farm is a significant financial decision, and it's essential to evaluate your financial position before taking the plunge. By analyzing the numbers and considering various factors, you can determine if purchasing farmland is a viable option for you. Remember to consult a trusted professional, such as a tax preparer or a specialist, to better understand your financial position and make informed decisions. With careful planning and financial foresight, you can turn your dream of owning a farm into a reality.

Recommended Citation Format:

Brashears, K. "Can I Afford to Buy a Farm." Economic and Policy Update (23):8, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky, August 29th, 2023.

Author(s) Contact Information:

Kayla Brashears | KFBM Area Extension Specialist | [email protected]

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