Look for What You Can’t See
On the hunt for a piece of the country, longtime Arlington, Texas, resident Scott Richardson honed in on the Edwards Plateau area in what’s known as “The Hill Country,” not far from Austin. He and his wife, Martha, made the move in 1983. They learned some things about buying rural land along the way.
WATER—OR, LACK THEREOF. Texas water law includes a notion called the “right of capture.” This means that the water below a property is the owner’s water. That owner can pump as much of it as he or she wants, regardless of the outcome to the neighbor.
“We were told there were two wells on the property,” Scott says. “Naively, I believed this to be good news.”
But when he called a well ¬digger—after the property purchase was complete—Scott found ¬neither of the wells were high-volume ¬producers.
What’s more, the well digger had advised the previous owners that they might want to reconsider building there for that reason. ¬After ¬additional homework, the good news (two wells) turned bad (two weak wells), turned good again.
“I found out that, quite often, the weak wells are fortunately the most consistent—even through droughts,” Scott says.
ARROW—THROUGH THE GARDEN FENCE. The ¬Richardsons live in an area where the land is divided into tracts of up to 100 acres. Many were bought for hunting, which Scott has no problem with. But even 100 acres allotted for the sport is a bit tight.
That “point” was made one day during bow-¬hunting season. “We found an arrow dangling in my garden fence,” Scott says. “A buyer has to either look for developments where there are hunting restrictions or know the risk. We’ve never had another problem, but we don’t get out on the land as much during ¬hunting seasons.”
GAS—ROYALTY OR RUIN. The Richardsons’ deed gives them 1⁄4 of 1% of any royalties earned from minerals on their property. They own the land, but not the minerals underneath. That wasn’t much concern when they bought the land; the nearest natural gas well was 15 miles away.
Now, 23 years later, sky-high gas prices have spurred more ¬exploration and greater interest in tapping even weak natural gas ¬deposits. The closest wells are now 4 miles away.
Used with permission, The Progressive Farmer, All Rights Reserved.