“Finding Your Perfect Small Ranch in Northern Nevada”

Welcome to my section on how to find your perfect equestrian, horse or small ranch property. If you read the “About Me” section, you will know that I have a special affinity for these properties, having spent a large part of my life living the lifestyle.  I have participated in both English and Western riding; having owned both types of trained horses and have done what it takes to maintain property with “ditch or surface” irrigation rights, wells, septics, horse barns, arenas and pasture. Experiencing the joy of baby horses born on the property and the trauma of the loss of a favorite roping horse due to colic in the middle of the night are some experiences that have taught me the great responsibilities that come with owning horses.   I have a son who is a cowboy, a “real one”, and a small time cattle rancher. We were involved in 4-H and have enjoyed the experience of raising cattle, horses, sheep, goats and chickens. I am a farmer at heart.

whitman door up close


Getting Started: Know What You Want and Can Afford 

    Decide if you want a working ranch/farm (all called ranches in Nevada) or a “gentlemen’s” ranch (for lack of a better term). A working ranch is run as a business and the income is essential to the property owner.  Some of the characteristics of working ranches include: large acreage, may hold BLM land leases, cattle or sheep are raised in large numbers, has a large horse breeding and training program, grows alfalfa and/or grass hay, probably has water rights. Larger “gentlemen’s” ranches can provide some income through horse training and boarding, growing grass hay and raising a small herd of cattle or sheep, but most provide the opportunity for the owners to have a ranching lifestyle without the necessity of income.  Most ranches are financed the same way as any other residential property, so be sure to check with your loan officer to determine what size loan you can qualify for.  Many rural properties qualify for special loans through USDA and if the property is a working ranch, it may qualify for grants as well.  Some ranches must remain ranch property to qualify for tax advantages.

 An explanation of what determines if a property can be considered a horse property, geographical locations, water rights and general pricing of horse and small ranch properties in Northern Nevada follow and this can be helpful if you are unfamiliar with the area. If you already know what is right for you, then you might want to start searching those areas on my MLS search tool under equestrian and ranch properties.  All of these listings are current and zoned for horses.  They include working ranches as well.  If you want more information on any of them or want to schedule an appointment to see one, please contact me.  There is never a fee for this service.


sheep ranch view

Small Ranch Geography Lesson

A small ranch or horse property can be on as little as ½ acre and more if it is zoned for horses. These properties are usually found in unincorporated areas of the City of Reno, City of Sparks or Carson City. They can be very close to or actually surrounded by these cities, but are not subject to the city rules. If they are zoned for horses, you can probably keep steers, sheep or goats for 4-H projects or pets and chickens, but the CC&Rs need to be consulted. Not everyone in these areas has horses and livestock, but they enjoy the space, lack of CC&Rs and the country feel of these properties. Check the listings under “equestrian properties” in the areas you are interested in; these are all properties zoned for horses that are currently listed for sale.  There are several valleys north of Reno that feature small ranch property of usually one acre.  They are Lemmon Valley, Golden Valley, Silver Knolls and Coldsprings- listed in my search under “Reno- North Valleys”. Further north is Red Rock and Rancho Haven. North of Sparks is Spanish Springs and Palomino Valley. East of Sparks is Fernley and Fallon.  Fallon has both large and small properties and is a traditional farming community.  Situated on the Truckee River and the gateway to and from California you will find Verdi and Belli Ranch- plenty of horse properties there- both listed under “Verdi”. The Virginia Highlands are just up the mountain toward Virginia City on the south end of Reno.  Callahan Ranch is another popular horse area, which is up Mt. Rose Hwy. toward Lake Tahoe (Incline).  Listings are under “South Reno”. Pleasant Valley and Washoe Valley are just south of Reno.  Minden, Gardnerville and Genoa make up the Carson Valley (not Carson City); they are south of Carson City.  Ranches of all different sizes can be found in these areas, both small and commercial. East of Carson City are the communities of Dayton, Silver Springs, Mark Twain, Fallon and Yerington. Generally, east of  Gardnerville is Smith Valley (many ranches large and small) and Mason Valley, where Yerington, another small agricultural city is located.  I recommend getting a paper map and spreading it out on a table to get “the big picture”.


irrigation pond


Most rural property requires a well for domestic water and a septic system. Natural gas is not often provided and propane or heating oil are usually used. A few rural homes are “off the grid”.

A domestic well cannot legally be used for large scale crop or pasture irrigation. Some properties have agricultural wells that provide abundant amounts of water for crop irrigation; particularly alfalfa production. These wells require “water rights” and one needs to be careful about the transfer of water rights and productivity of the wells. Surface irrigation from ditches is can be found on both large and small properties in Reno, West Washoe Valley, Carson Valley, Fallon, Fernley, Mason and Smith Valleys. The existence of water rights will be reflected in higher property values.




Location, home size and quality, water rights, crops and acreage will determine price. Prices begin around $150,000 for a property zoned for horses and go up from there. There are ranch properties that are also grand estates.  Prices can be from $1,000,000 to several million. Moderately priced ($350,000 and up ) horse/small ranch properties without irrigation water, next to Reno are in the Virginia Foothills, Callahan Ranch (up Mt. Rose Hwy.; look in “South Reno”) and Hidden Valley (listed in “Central Reno” in my search). In Lemmon Valley, in “Reno North Valley” search, properties can be found in the mid $200,000s. Golden Valley, in “Reno North Valley” search area has homes in the mid $300,000s and up.  East Washoe Valley has one acre properties starting in the high $200,000s, but there are many higher priced homes there as well. Spanish Springs has moderately priced, mid $300,000 properties. Palomino Valley, Red Rock, Rancho Haven and East Gardnerville are a good distance from the city and lower prices per square acre reflect this.

Carson City horse properties start at about $300,000. The further east one goes from Carson City, the lower the prices generally are. Ranches in Minden, Gardnerville and Genoa with water rights are some of the highest.  This is a very picturesque area with close proximity to Lake Tahoe. Most properties are well above $600,000.

I strongly support our ranching heritage. Whether you have a little or a lot to spend on a property, I urge you to talk to me about your particular needs. I will steer you in the right direction whether it be humble or grand. When it comes to mucking out the stalls; we are all in the same place. This is what you can expect from me as a real estate agent; down to earth, willing to get dirty and do what needs to be done.





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