With property prices remaining steep, a growing number of people are looking to buy a home with its own source of income. Often, buyers are looking for an additional stream of revenue rather than a full business, such as a livery yard or holiday accommodation.
However a couple of stables and a paddock are not sufficient to run a viable livery business. It should have suitable outbuildings for use as hay, straw and feed storage; and a tackroom with washing and drying areas.
Stables must be well ventilated, secure and close to both parking areas and paddocks. Land — at least one acre per horse — must be well fenced and have a clean water supply. A free-draining floodlit manège is also a distinct advantage.
Sherratt recommends offering some jumps, a cross-country course or an indoor school — especially in very rural areas, where livery yards need to attract customers from further afield.
Because location makes or breaks a yard’s fortunes, it must be the prerequisite in choosing the right property. The yard must be situated in an area that has a large horse population but a limited number of other livery businesses. It also should be close to good bridleways but be easily accessible from busy villages or market towns.
Location is also crucial to another popular business — equestrian holiday lettings.
“Many buyers are looking for properties that offer horse and rider bed and breakfast or self-catering accommodation,” says Karen Hall of Equus Property.
The ideal property for this type of activity is situated in a secluded rural setting with direct access to bridleways. The property will need paddocks and/or stabling for the visiting horses, plus either a number of guest bedrooms within the main property or holiday cottages to let as human accommodation.
Redundant farm buildings lend themselves well to conversion into holiday cottages, as long as the planners are amenable. If there are no buildings, the grounds should be big enough to accommodate purpose-built chalets but, again, this requires planning consent.
Providing accommodation for horses as well as riders is a bonus because there is a growing demand for equine B&B. But guest horses require their privacy.
“Guest loose boxes and stabling should be separate from your own horses to avoid contracting diseases,” says Dyke.
Buying a property with some income potential obviously requires a considerable outlay. To ensure that the investment is safe, it is worth doing some research before embarking on a purchase.
“You have to go into it with your eyes open,” says Senan White of Rural Connect, a farm diversification advisory service set up by Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture. “I would recommend that you talk to experts. It just takes a phone call.”