Texas Hill Country is at the crossroads where West, Central, and South Texas converge. More specifically, it is located in Southwestern Central Texas, west of Austin and north of San Antonio. The region is cut across the southwest by The Colorado River and features many bodies of water, such as the Guadalupe, San Antonio, Frio, and Medina Rivers. Right at the heart of Texas Hill is Canyon Lake, also called “The Jewel” of Texas Hill Country.
True to its name, Texas Hill Country features acres and acres of rolling hills, farms, and ranches. The region is rich in grasslands, oak woodlands, and limestone and granite hills. Home to some of the most popular ranching counties: Bandera, Blanco, Frio, Gillespie, Kendall, and Medina, the region’s beautiful hills and lands are influenced by its Karst Topography, making the land rich in soft, soluble rocks.
A realtor would be able to recommend the best listings of farms and ranches available throughout the region, where commercial ranch properties are in high demand.
Ready to make your next investment? Here is a guide to help you in the process of buying real estate in Texas Hill Country.
What to Consider When Buying Land
Prime lots for sale in Texas Hill Country abound in the region. There are several agricultural and recreational ranch properties to choose from, depending on the kind of property you want to own or invest in. Consider these tips when reviewing listings and buying land:
Decide the type of property you want to build
The first step is identifying what type of property you want to build. You could simply want a home on a small ranch, or a huge acreage to plant crops and raise farm animals. Do note that there are different rules on the size of the property that can be built, types of structures, and even construction time frames.
In this regard, you want to be working with a realtor who knows the ins and outs of realty in Texas Hill Country, and that means knowing all the legalities involved. Professional contractors would also know this and would handle local government permits first-hand.
Evaluate the topography
Texas Hill Country’s topography is quite diverse, with several bodies of land and water throughout the region. The land is rich with plains and valleys and is blessed with many rivers, lakes, and creeks. Depending on the property you’re building, you have to consider the type of land, soil, wildlife, and surrounding trees and bodies of water. If you’re building a retirement home on a highland, surely you’d have different requirements from someone building a farm for pasture or raising livestock.
Some acreages already have existing wildlife, but if you’re planning to support more, you can find out more from the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Some ranchers might overestimate the capacity of the land and must first find out existing regulations when it comes to supporting wildlife in their property.
Some counties are home to aquifers, dams, and lakes such as the Edwards Aquifer in Gillespie, the Medina Dam, and the Medina Lake, making them ideal for farming and irrigation. While there are groundwater sources, there are also secondary sources of water, called Water Catchments. These Water Catchments are likewise sources of clean drinking water for livestock and irrigation and support sustainable agriculture.
Owning land in Texas Hill Country also means being environmentally responsible. For environmentally-conscious property owners, the Hill Country Alliance (HCA) is a valuable resource to educate yourself on what the Texas Hill Country community is doing to protect the state’s natural resources.
Choose the perfect location
Selecting a town to live in Texas Hill Country is one of the important steps in buying realty. You must put your lifestyle into consideration, for example, needing to be near school districts if you have young children, shopping centers for agricultural supplies, and the like. Here are key features of the counties in the region to help you decide:
- Bandera County – Also called the “Cowboy Capital”, Bandera looks exactly like what you see in Western movies. The most in-demand area here is nestled near Medina Lake and Pipe Creek, while most of the western part of the region is for sale. You might want to build a ranch in this location, where over 100 acres are available for investments. Real estate prices here have been rising yearly, with many out-of-state investors buying properties. Bandera is just 45-minutes away from San Antonio.
- Blanco County – Also known as the “Lavender Capital” and named after the Blanco River, this riverside town is the perfect place to live for professionals and families. They have highly-rated public schools, lots of parks, and cool and clear waters that are perfect to swim in. Located on the Edwards Plateau, Blanco is home to one of the biggest craft breweries in Texas and the first commercial lavender farm in the state.
- Frio County – Named after Frio River (frio means cold in Spanish), this dominantly Hispanic county is known for hunting and rodeos. Many are surprised by the affordability of realty in this area, with plenty of acreage tracts readily available for sale. The town is abundant with acres of fields, creeks, and hardwood, hickory, and oak trees. Apart from the Frio River, the county is also known for the Leona River and the San Miguel Creek. Frio is popular as well for their delicious barbeque and community festivals.
- Gillespie County – This vibrant city features smaller acreage properties where real estate prices are one of the highest in the region. The county is most known for its capital, Fredericksburg, the second-largest producer of wine in the United States, next to the Napa Valley. Gillespie has a great art community and has quite a number of museums. There are a few heritage ranches in the area as well, with lot areas of over 1,000 acres. Gillespie is also home to the Edwards Aquifer which is a great water source if you’re farming or ranching.
- Kendall County – This cosmopolitan city is another family-friendly community with its excellent schools and shopping and dining centers, thereby making it a favorable location for business and entertainment industries. Homes and acreages here are in the higher price range, with acreages ranging from three to twenty acres. While the acreages here are smaller than the rest of the region, the properties prove to be competitive real estate investments and are rarely in the market for long.
- Medina County – Also named after a river that flows south of the county, Medina is abundant in trees such as cedar break and bald cypress that line its riverbanks. Apart from the Medina River, the county also has the Medina Lake which helps keep the soil rich and fertile, making it ideal for farming and ranching. Fishing is also a popular recreational activity in the county, with species such as yellow catfish, black bass, and bluegills.
Select your property builder
There are several trusted property builders around Texas Hill Country, and it is a must to work with them as they know the lay of the land as well as all local requirements and rules you would need to follow for the construction of your dream home. Different considerations must be made, for example, if you’re building property on a highland which means the terrain is several hundred meters higher than the usual landscape. In the same way, various preparations must also be made for construction if you’re building a home on a ranch that would require structures built for agricultural or industrial purposes.
Utilities are also an important consideration for construction, especially for remote ranch properties. If the property is too far out, you might need to have a well built. There is also such a thing as “electrical easement”, where the electrical utility installation is offered to be shouldered by the seller.
Also, do note that the HCA recommends Texans to be stewards of the environment by implementing methods to conserve water. One of these is rainwater harvesting to prevent drought and water scarcity. For ranchers and farmers, this is something worth considering when having your property built. You can opt to have a rainwater harvesting system installed to help supplement your water requirements.
Find financing for your real estate
Requesting a loan when buying land in Texas Hill Country must be done via a farm credit institution instead of a mainstream bank, which has little familiarity in this aspect. Look into reputable farm credit institutions in the state or those regulated by the Farm Credit Administration (FCA). You may also look at institutions that serve your county based on the list by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.
If you’re not paying in cash, expect to make a downpayment, which is 20% of the full property cost. There may also be closing costs from your lender, which is approximately 1.5% of your total loan. And don’t forget the cost of a title policy, which is set by the state. You can actually negotiate with the seller of the land to pay for the title policy.
Loans for lands of more than 10 acres can be arranged for 5 years up to 30 years of payments. It really comes down to your current budget and lifestyle and what’s more comfortable for you for the long-term.
Local laws do not require you to have insurance if you have just purchased raw land. If you do have a lot with a structure in it, you would need to get insurance, which is just a one-time purchase with rates set by the state. There are also other optional insurance choices you might find beneficial for your recreational ranch or rural property:
- Property Insurance – You would need this in the event of property damage like theft, fire, lightning, explosions, or any other natural disaster.
- Liability Insurance – Owning a ranch entails liabilities in the event of accidents. Animals getting loose and damaging another’s property, a tractor mishap, injuries while hunting, and other unfortunate incidents can happen, and here is where liability insurance can help.
Benefits of Buying Land in Texas Hill Country
Choosing Texas Hill Country as your next home has its perks. It’s a return on investment that you and your family will enjoy for years to come:
Property Tax Exemption
Agricultural acreages are exempt from tax, saving property owners thousands year on year. If you are buying land for farming, growing timber, beekeeping, pastures for grazing, and wildlife preservation, consider yourself free from property tax.
Reimbursement for additional expenses
As an agricultural property owner, you can write off additional expenses by filing a Schedule F in your federal income taxes. A Schedule F will help you get reimbursements for interests on loans made to purchase your property as well as interests from construction loans. Just file it and you’re good to go.
What to Do in Texas Hill Country
A travel destination, Texas Hill Country features some of the most exciting lifestyle experiences you can share with your family. At the forefront, wining and dining are some of the recreational activities you can’t miss out on. Here’s why:
One of the best wine destinations
A wine country, Texas Hill Country is home to over 100 wineries and vineyards. Fredericksburg in Gillespie County is the epicenter of the wine industry in Texas Hill, with half of the wineries located in this region. Some wineries are located outside of Fredericksburg, which are approximately 1-2 hours drive away.
Delicious cuisine and organic foods
Texas is known for its authentic cuisine, and moving to this city means being able to enjoy the finest the state has to offer. The region is known for its many organic farms and ranches, so you’ll be glad to know the food selection can also be quite healthy. Farmers grow a diverse range of organic vegetables such as cilantro, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and spring onions and sell them on farmer’s markets. Aside from organic crops, Texas Hill Country ranches are also known for their 100% grass fed beef.
Your Dream Home in Texas Hill Country
Texas Hill Country is one of the top retirement locations in the United States with its scenic landscapes and rustic lifestyle. If you are planning on building your dream home here, do take a look at listings of custom and semi-custom homes and consider open floor plans. Texas Hill Country realtors and contractors recommend these design aspects to increase the value of your dream home:
- Custom or Semi-Custom Home Design – Homeowners love personalizing their homes, but a semi-custom home design is also something worth considering. A custom home design does take longer to build as all customization ideas will come from you. On the other hand, a semi-custom home already features a pre-designed floor plan, and all you have to do is provide options for styling and other finishing touches. This is also the more affordable option and is more appealing in the event of a resale, as prospective property buyers are hesitant about buying homes that are too customized that it doesn’t really appeal to their taste.
- Open Floor Plan – An open floor plan allows you to easily design your home to adapt it to an evolving lifestyle. This is one of the more modern design trends that is helpful for property owners who want to make their homes feel more spacious. This gives you more layout flexibility in case you suddenly want to redesign, and allows you to use living spaces for different functions. With the kitchen, dining room, and living room “flowing” through one another, people in the home can move with ease. The shared natural light is also an added bonus. Take advantage of Texas Hill Country’ bright, sunny weather that just naturally makes the home feel more welcoming.
Living in Texas Hill Country
There are quite a number of requirements and things to consider, so make sure to consult with a trusted realtor with years of experience, for you to be guided throughout the whole process. Whether you’re having a home built to settle in after your retirement or planning to build an estate with a ranch as your next heritage home, you would need the kind of assistance that won’t have you looking elsewhere. Your next home is a huge investment and the many steps to take to make your dream come true are definitely worth it.
Ready to buy land in Texas Hill Country? Get in touch with Matthew W. Franek of Texas Ranch Sales. Having lived most of his life in Texas Hill Country, he makes for one of the best brokers in the region, having lived the ranch life and having love for the land itself. He makes client satisfaction his main priority. Get started by calling 512.709.3424 or emailing MFranek(at)TexasRanchSalesLLC(dotted)com.