Can You Build a House on Agricultural Land?

Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to build a house on agricultural land? Well, the answer might surprise you. Agricultural land, which is primarily used for raising livestock and cultivating crops, can sometimes accommodate residential construction. However, there are several important factors to consider before embarking on such a venture. In this article, we will explore the possibilities of building a house on agricultural land and the critical aspects you need to understand.

Understanding Agricultural Land

Agricultural land encompasses a wide range of properties, including farms, ranches, homesteads, and hobby farms. Farms are dedicated to rearing animals and growing crops for profit, while ranches focus on livestock production. Homesteads combine elements of both ranches and farms, with an emphasis on self-sustainability. Hobby farms, on the other hand, are used for recreational purposes rather than generating income.

What to Know About Agricultural Land

Before purchasing agriculturally zoned land to build a house on, it’s crucial to grasp certain vital considerations. Let’s take a closer look at some key factors:

Zoning, Tax Laws, Water Rights, and Covenants

When acquiring agricultural land for residential purposes, you need to be aware of zoning regulations, tax laws, water rights, and covenants. Agricultural zoning aims to protect farming activities and farmland from non-farm uses and foster development in rural areas. However, this doesn’t mean that all agricultural land is limited to farm use. Certain non-farm entities, such as churches, utilities, schools, hospitals, and offices, can also exist on agricultural land. Keep in mind that choosing to build a house on agriculturally zoned land means accepting the possibility of living in close proximity to livestock.

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Understanding the tax status of the land is also crucial. Exclusive farm use can result in a lower tax bracket, provided the previous owner maintained the farm tax status. Additionally, familiarize yourself with water access and rights, as they can significantly impact your plans if you intend to engage in farming activities.

Flood Zones

Being in a flood zone isn’t necessarily a disadvantage for agricultural land. In fact, the rich deposits left behind by flooded rivers can contribute to fertile soil. However, if there are existing structures on the land, such as buildings, special considerations come into play. Purchasing agricultural land in a flood zone may require you to obtain expensive flood insurance to secure a loan.

The Dynamism of Zoning

Zoning regulations are subject to change, making it essential to stay informed about any updates. If you plan to engage in specific farming activities, ensure that the land you purchase is zoned accordingly. Otherwise, you may encounter unexpected zoning restrictions that could hinder your operations.

Building a House on Agricultural Land

Constructing a house on agricultural land comes with its own set of considerations. Different rules apply to building structures intended for farm use versus those intended for residential purposes. To ensure a successful construction process, follow these five steps:

  1. Contact your local planning department to determine if a zoning change is required for residential construction on your land. Keep in mind that rezoning may involve substantial fees.
  2. Assess your water supply options. Agricultural land is often located far from rural or city water supplies. In such cases, drilling a well might be the most viable solution. However, if groundwater is scarce or unreliable, you may have to explore alternative options.
  3. Consider the distance between the nearest road and your desired building site. This information is vital for estimating costs related to power lines, phone lines, driveways, and other infrastructure.
  4. Initiate the building permit process by contacting your building inspector or planning department. Building a house on agricultural land often entails additional requirements, such as runoff and erosion control measures and soil tests for a septic system.
  5. Finally, install utilities, driveways, and other necessary elements to facilitate construction and access to the building site.
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Building a house on agricultural land may present some unique challenges, but with careful planning and adherence to local regulations, it can be a rewarding endeavor.

a field of grass bushes and houses


While it is possible to build a house on agricultural land, it requires a comprehensive understanding of the zoning regulations, water rights, flood zones, and other crucial factors. By following the proper steps and working within the local guidelines, you can create a harmonious living space on agriculturally zoned land. Remember, finding the right balance between residential and farming activities is key. So, if you’re ready to embark on this exciting journey, start exploring the possibilities that agricultural land holds.

houses on grass with cars

*How is your land zoned? Get a detailed zoning report from Ames Farm Center today!