Young Couple Buys Ranch with Government Money

Kirk and Tina Sczepanik had a dream. They wanted a ranch of their own. But with the rising cost of land and the demands of raising three young children, the possibility of realizing their dream often seemed remote.

Kirk, 29, grew up on a ranch. He earned a degree in Agriculture, and now works for a construction company. Tina teaches Spanish at their local high school in South Texas. From the time they got married, they had their eye out for available ranchland. They investigated financing, and they learned they would need a down payment of at least ten percent.

Most area banks required twenty percent. On top of the purchase price, they would need to finance any improvements, equipment, and livestock. If the property they selected didn't have a home already built on it, they would need to finance construction of a house. Despite the apparent obstacles, they never gave up hope.

Tina spent months researching on the Internet. She followed up on every lead for ranches and financing. Finally, she came across a reference to a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the Farm Service Agency. The program, called the Direct Farm Ownership Program, is designed to support and encourage people just like the Sczepaniks to settle in rural areas and either farm or ranch, or both.

Immediately, Tina contacted FSA and they completed an application. In order to qualify for the funding, they first had to be rejected by conventional funders.That part was easy. Tina simply explained her need to local banks, and they wrote her a letter verifying she would not qualify under their guidelines.

Although the program is available to all Americans, there is a set-aside of funds earmarked especially for minority applicants. Because Tina is Hispanic, they qualified under the set-aside, and were approved in the summer of 2003. With a guarantee of funding, they began looking in earnest for the ranch of their dreams. Through one of those strokes of perfect timing, they learned from friends of a ranch that was soon going to be put up for sale, but had not yet been listed.

The ranch was 140 acres, and included a frame house. The house had been built in the 1930's, then added onto twice. It had fallen into some disrepair, but it was in good enough condition to merit renovation. Three middle-aged siblings had inherited the property upon the deaths of their parents. None of them lived close enough to the ranch to want to keep it, but they had grown up there, and they wanted it to go into the hands of a family. They quickly accepted Kirk and Tina's offer.

Working closely with helpful staff officers at the Farm Service Agency, Tina and Kirk structured their financing into two loans. They used the acquisition loan to buy the property and finance a portion of the repairs on the house. That loan had a term of forty years, at an interest rate of 3.75%. They also took out an operational loan for seven years at 5.25%. The second loan financed the remainder of the renovation of the house, as well as fence repair and the purchase of cattle and equipment. No down payment was required for either loan, although the couple did put down some earnest money and paid a portion of the cost of the survey.

When they closed on the property, the real work began. They made the money stretch by doing a substantial portion of the repairs on the house themselves. Kirk's construction skills, and his relationship with vendors, were a definite benefit. Everyone in the family, including the children, helped with the renovations. Tina sums it up, "Essentially, we just gutted the house and rebuilt it from the studs out."

That work took several months, but finally, in September 2004, the family moved into their new home. For all three children, life on a ranch is a wonderful adventure. They have room to roam, and opportunities to make a real contribution to the family as they help their parents put things in order.

Joseph, now 12, is working on business ideas of his own. He plans to participate in a youth business opportunity program of FSA, which allows young people from ages 10 to 20 to borrow up to $5,000 to start a business. And Tina's father has taken responsibility for one field, where he has already planted a large garden to keep the family in vegetables. Tina laughs, "He's out there all the time on the old tractor that came with the house. He's having so much fun."

Meanwhile, Kirk has rebuilt some of the fences on the property, and has moved his three horses into their new home. His pride in their ranch, and in his wife, is evident as he talks about their new life. "You know, I'm the one who knows about ranching, and cattle and horses. We can make this a wonderful place. But it never would have happened if Tina hadn't been so determined, and gone out and found this program."

2004 (c) Jillian Coleman Wheeler

This article is condensed from New American Land Rush: How to Buy Real Estate with Government Money, by Jillian Coleman Wheeler (c) 2004. For more information, to go: For more about grants, visit: You may reprint this article, if you credit the author and include this resource box. Please notify the author of publication information: [email protected]

In The News:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at


15 Things To Consider Before Closing A Real Estate Transaction
Low inventory and an abundance of buyers looking to secure the home of their dreams are creating a real estate market buzz that hasn't been seen in a while, with homes selling for well over asking price. But, what does this mean for real estate ...

and more »

Mansion Global

Malibu Real Estate Market is Surging
Mansion Global
A wave of frenzied home buying has washed over Malibu, where sales on the beach quadrupled in the first three months of the year, according to a report from Douglas Elliman on Thursday. The ultra exclusive Malibu Beach neighborhood, lined with the ...
Hot real estate market: Long Islanders are rushing to close dealsNewsday

all 9 news articles »

3 benefits to running a virtual real estate team
Running a virtual real estate team is easier and much more profitable than most people think. Arnold Elite broker Chris Arnold earns hundreds of thousands annually with his virtual team, and he still has the time and the freedom to do the things he's ...


Stocks Still Trail Real Estate as Preferred Investment
One reason real estate may rank first is that more Americans own their own home than own stocks -- 63% and 54%, respectively. Regardless, given the importance of 401(k) accounts to Americans' retirement security, the reality is the stock market serves ...

and more »

Mansion Global

Malibu Real Estate Market Spikes
Mansion Global
A wave of frenzied home buying has washed over Malibu, where sales on the beach quadrupled in the first three months of the year, according to a report from Douglas Elliman on Thursday. The ultra exclusive Malibu Beach neighborhood, lined with the ...

and more »

National Real Estate Investor

How the Experience Economy is Affecting Commercial Real Estate
National Real Estate Investor
The commercial real estate market is extremely competitive and enticing major brands to select one development over another requires more than just “location, location, location.” With everything getting “smarter,” from devices to cities, the ...

Baltimore Business Journal

Future of Residential Real Estate: Boomers, millennials drive market changes
Baltimore Business Journal
Local real estate experts met at the Assembly room on April 24 to discuss the current state of the region's residential market and its effects on the economy, what kind of a role commercial and retail play, the future of homebuying for both the baby ...

Real estate daily market update: April 26, 2018
We'll add more market news briefs throughout the day. Check back to read the latest. Most recent market news. Thursday, April 26. Zillow Rate Mortgage Ticker. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate on Zillow Mortgages is currently 4.43 percent, up 18 basis ...

Houston Chronicle

Real estate briefs: Two companies take downtown office space
Houston Chronicle
Simmons & Co. International | Energy Specialists of Piper Jaffray signed a long-term lease for 31,000 square feet at 609 Main. The investment banking firm, a tenant at downtown's Bank of America Center since 1984, will relocate this fall. Lou Cushman ...


Real estate startup leaseABLE raises $1.5M to simplify 'archaic' commercial leasing process
“You've got to go through a broker,” Steele said. “There's no easy way to get data, like you can today with residential real estate through services like Zillow. The process takes forever, and it is very expensive.” Steele noted that his company is not ...

Google News

Selling Houses: Flooring & Feelings

Buyers think they love Italian tile and other hard floor... Read More

Should You Accept A Full Purchase Offer For Your Note or Not?

You could be facing a dilemma when considering payout options... Read More

Use Targeted Decorating To Get A Higher Price For Your House

This article will show you how to sell your home... Read More

How To Increase Your Homes Selling Price by $3,306.75 In The Next 33 Days

According to the Federal Housing Finance Board:... "As of October... Read More

Boston Real Estate ? Choosing the Right Boston Real Estate Agent

As a successful Boston real estate agent, it always puzzled... Read More

Buying and Selling Distressed Houses for Maximum Profit (Update)

If you want to become a real estate investor, find... Read More

How Do You Profit From O.P.P.?

In a previous article we introduced you to the concept... Read More

Want A $10,000 House?

How do you find a house for ten or twenty... Read More

Refinance Rental Property - Dont Sell It

You own a rental property for years, and never see... Read More

The Secret to Maximum Real Estate Profits: Lighting

Lighting is the most important detail of interior Design Psychology... Read More

Selling Houses: Design Psychology and Interior Colors

Interior colors are vitally important to selling your home quickly,... Read More

Home Equity Loans ? Beware of Appraisal Fraud

A new report by the independent Demos group has revealed... Read More

The Nose Knows

If you plan on getting the most from the sale... Read More

Home Owner Association Restrictions ? Read Before Buying

Many communities have associations for homeowners, property owners, condo owners,... Read More

A Simple Step by Step Aproach to Fail Your Way to a Million Dollars

If You want to be Financially Successful you need to... Read More

Real Estate Investing ? FSBOs vs. Agent Listings?

Many would-be real estate investing professionals face discouragement because of... Read More

Selling by Owner = Saving by Owner?

According to the National Association of Realtors, For Sale By... Read More

Secrets of Making Money from Real Estate - Part 3

Great, now how do I actually INVEST in real estate?Investing... Read More

NAHB?s Voluntary Model Green Home Building Guidelines

The voluntary Model Green Home Building Guidelines are designed to... Read More

Internet Battleground for Future of Residential Real Estate

Real estate agents are gearing up to face the biggest... Read More

Commercial Income Property Financing: Part 1 of 3

Welcome to this first portion of a three-part series about... Read More

Buying Property In Spain

It's high time someone advocated the use of common sense... Read More

Buying Houses: Types of Bargains to Find

To make a good profit in real estate, you must... Read More

Home Warranties: Are They Too Good To Be True?

What is a 'Home Warranty?'A home warranty is like an... Read More

Dont Get Stuck Having To Deal With The Sellers Household Hazardous Wastes - After You Move In!

I have a confession to make!I was just outside with... Read More