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Land grab

Rob Sabo

Land sales have been heating from Winnemucca to Lovelock, and the strength of sales has much to do with the strength of the mining industry in Humboldt and Pershing counties, says Astrid Inga Schweigert, broker/owner of Cattle County Realty in Winnemucca.

Average sales price depends greatly on location, Schweigert says. Prime view lots within city limits that have water, sewer and other infrastructure already hooked up can sell for as much as $50,000 for a half-acre. Property located in more rural areas sells for much less. Lots outside of city limits with power installed usually sell for about $1,000 an acre, while lots lacking any utilities typically sell for around $500 an acre, Schweigert says.

Land prices should hold firm for the rest of the year, she adds, and sales volume is expected to increase.

“Home prices may rise, but not land,” Schweigert says. “But we will sell quite a bit more land.”

Sales of farm and agricultural land have been minimal over the past few years, she notes. Some farmers have priced their properties out of the market, Schweigert says.

“A lot of farmers that have water rights have priced their land so high they can’t sell it, so there really haven’t been that many sales,” she says.

Pat Echevarria, salesman with Vision West Realty, says ranchland, when it does come up for sale, historically is pretty expensive. The 2013 opening of a new dry milk processing plant in Fallon, which is expected to drive large increases in the herd sizes of Fallon dairymen, could put further upward pressure on agricultural land in Humboldt County.

“A lot of these farmers are looking forward to that,” Echevarria says. “The demand will be for hay, and it will trickle out to this area. That thing is going to be so big as far as production goes, and some of these farmers think they (dairymen) will be looking out here for more hay.”

In the past few years several small farms near Orovada have sold to larger farming outfits, Echevarria says. Most of the agricultural land that changes hands in Humboldt County is from local farms and ranches expanding their operations.

“When ranches come up for sale they are usually pretty high (in price),” he says. “People who want to buy are in the business already, and they want to buy another ranch to enhance their current property. Sometimes those ranches bring a premium because the people buying them are buying to outfit their current operations.

There have not been too many sales of raw land in recent years, but the influx of people coming to Winnemucca to work in regional mines and for construction work eventually will impact land sales in Humboldt County. Developers will have to begin erecting new subdivisions as the boom continues and inventories of residential properties shrinks.

“They will have to have somewhere to live, and that will be one of their only options pretty soon,” Echevarria says.

“A few years ago, before the market took a dive, land sales north of Winnemucca were really good. But when the market died so did land sales. But homes sales are really active, and they will be moving out. However, it takes a while for the price to jump up.”

Despite the unprecedented growth of the mining industry in Elko County, which has created high demand for commercial, industrial and residential property, raw land sales outside of Elko city limits have not exploded, says Paul Bottari, owner of Bottari and Associates Realty.

Bottari has worked out of a small office in Wells for the past two decades. He’s fielding more inquiries than ever before, but sales volume and pricing have remained relatively steady for several years. Much of that can be attributed to the remote locations of the majority of parcels, he says.

Land sales and pricing in Spring Creek just outside of Elko has started to heat as residential homebuilders expand the boundaries of that community. Many of the transactions he’s brokering also are from investors from outside the area liquidating their assets to generate cash flow.

“Our prices haven’t been going up, we are just finally selling some more dirt,” Bottari says.

The majority of the sales he’s conducting are for smaller parcels. Areas surrounding greater Elko are seeing the most activity since they are closest to a large population center, Botarri notes. However, sales of dirt lots in Wells have picked up recently due to the proposed development of the Long Canyon mine 26 miles West of town.

“(Buyers) know if they don’t pick them up now the prices will go up,” Bottari says.

Elko also is poised for serious growth a fact not lost on developers who have been snapping up land within city limits in the past six months, says Greg Martin, broker with Coldwell Banker/Algerio Q-team Realty. The hottest properties are lots within city water service.

“A lot has been put under contract or have letters of intent to purchase,” Martin says. “There is so much going on.”