If you want to build a house on farmland, you need to be aware of the zoning restrictions before you commit to the development project.
Yes, you can build a house on farmland so long as you can prove that the building is for agricultural purposes. If the development does not violate zoning laws, farmers are generally permitted to build a home on their property for personal use so they can stay on site.
After extensively researching agricultural zoning laws, I have gathered enough information to determine if you can build a house on farmland. My research has indicated that you need to confirm the zoning laws of your local area before you begin building, as they can vary from state to state.
- You can build a house on farmland so long as you can prove that the building is for agricultural purposes.
- If the development does not violate zoning laws, farmers are generally permitted to build a home on their property for personal use so they can stay on site.
- The limitations of building a house on farmland include restricted land use, poor location, and easements.
Table of Contents
What is Farmland?
Farmland is any parcel that has been zoned for agricultural use. A property that has been designated for farming can only be used to grow food and rear livestock, which can make pursuing other developments challenging.
Real estate with this classification is often referred to as ‘agricultural land,’ but the same principles apply regarding land use and development restrictions. Depending on the farming operation, it may be called one of the following:
Farmland is zoned for agriculture practices to preserve soil, resources, and space for food growing. This encourages development projects to congregate near cities and towns so that urban planning is structured and organized and that farmland is secured for the future.
Can You Build a House on Farmland?
Yes, you can build a house on farmland, but there are some guidelines you must adhere to. Most importantly, the house must be beneficial or necessary for farming operations.
States designate specific areas for agriculture, and developing anything on farmland that is not directly correlated with growing food or raising livestock will most likely not be permitted without re-zoning.
You need to prove that the house you are building is for personal use so that you can stay on-site and look after your farm. This is not as straightforward as developing on residential land because the parcel is not zoned for building a house.
That is why you need to either re-zone the land for residential use or get permission from your local building authority to make an exception to pursue your development on farmland. If the building authority grants you permission, you will be given the green light to build a house on your farmland.
How to Build a House on Farmland
Farmland is generally reserved for farmers. This implies that if you are an outside investor attempting to re-zone agricultural land for residential, commercial, or industrial use, chances are the local building authority will hit you with plenty of red tape.
With that said, farmers who want to pursue developments that are directly beneficial to their work are given more leeway, which often includes authorization to build a house on their property. That does not imply that you can begin building a house without obtaining the proper permits first.
In addition, you need to carefully assess the property to confirm that it is suitable for building a home before making any commitments to a development project. These are the steps you need to take to build a house on farmland.
1. Zoning Office
Your farmland has been zoned for agricultural use, and you need to confirm that building a house on the property is even realistic before you can obtain any permits. Your local zoning office is the best place to get accurate and official information.
The zoning office, or local building authority, is responsible for enforcing regulations regarding development projects in your area. You need to schedule an appointment to discuss the logistics and planning of building a home on your specific farmland.
More often than not, if you are developing a house on farmland for personal use to stay on-site, the zoning office will grant you permission to build. If the zoning regulations attached to your farmland are complex, an alternative option is to request that part of the land be re-zoned for residential use.
2. Road Access
I suggest you carefully evaluate the specs of your parcel to ensure that it is accessible by road. One of the biggest problems that I have encountered with developing farmland is that it is often desolate and hard to reach.
Farmland located in the middle of nowhere can make pursuing a development project such as building a home next to impossible. With that said, confirming that the parcel has road access is an essential step to building a house on agricultural land.
3. Utility Access
Anywhere that you decide to live should have all the comforts of home that you need. This includes having access to standard utilities, such as:
Depending on the location of the farmland, connecting utilities to the property can be challenging. Utilities are generally near urban areas, which implies that if you are far away from a town or city, you may have a hard time getting access to the hookups and services that you need to make your farmland livable.
There are often workarounds for plumbing and gas, but water and electricity can make or break a residential development on agricultural land. If you want to build a house on farmland, confirm that you have access to essential utilities before you begin developing.
Formulating a well-structured budget is another important step in building a house on farmland. You need to consider your personal finances for developing the home itself, but you also need to assess the costs of building a driveway, establishing road access, paying for permits, and connecting utilities to the property.
It’s easy to underestimate how much it costs to build a house on farmland, so I recommend that you be thorough when creating a budget and leave no stone unturned.
5. Zoning Permits
If you’ve already visited your local building authority with your plans, they should have confirmed that your development is legal and in line with zoning regulations.
Before you can start building a house on farmland, you need to get the final go-ahead from the zoning office. To do this, you must obtain zoning permits by having a representative assess your plans and inspect your property. If everything is in order, you will be permitted to start building a house on your farmland.
Limitations of Building a Home on Farmland
Farmers are given a lot of perks for owning agricultural land, such as tax-sheltered investments and access to affordable real estate. With that said, it’s also important to understand that there are limitations to owning farmland - especially when it comes to developing your property.
Although farmers are the official owners of their land, they are not allowed to use it however they want. Most agricultural land is zoned specifically for farming, which implies that anything that deviates from that will require permission or be prohibited entirely.
Building a house on farmland is possible, but you should understand the potential limitations of doing so before you commit to any development plans.
Restricted Land Use
The price tag associated with agricultural real estate is often a calling for a lot of real estate investors. However, the amount of red tape blocking development projects tends to stop builds dead in their tracks.
Farmland is heavily restricted, and you can expect to be limited in what you can and can’t build. This will affect the pursuit of commercial and industrial developments, as well as building a house. Most farmers are granted permission to build a private residence, but even this comes with its fair share of limitations.
The vast majority of farmland is located in the middle of nowhere. Desolate and rural areas are often unpopular amongst aspiring homeowners for a reason; there is not a whole lot to do or see.
This implies that the surrounding environment may not be very attractive, but it also means that having access to utilities and amenities can be problematic. Building a home that is far away from cities and towns will limit your access to grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and other amenities.
In addition, if the property is missing utility hookups and services, getting power, water, gas, and plumbing can also become an issue.
If your farmland is connected to an easement, you may be limited in how you can use the land, which includes re-zoning it in the future. An easement is an agreement a property owner makes with an individual or organization to give up certain development rights to their land.
Agricultural land with an easement attached to it can block development projects, regulate how your farm, and potentially prohibit building a home. If you are considering pursuing any kind of development on farmland, including building a home, make sure to confirm if there is an easement in place before you do so.
About THE AUTHOR
Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.Read More About Brittany Melling