Big market niche, Fla. money maker

“Outdoor recreation” means boating to many coastal residents, but the horse industry “reigns” in many inland communities, especially around Wellington in Southwest Florida, areas of the Panhandle and Ocala, which calls itself the “Horse Capital of the World.”

However, there’s a niche market for horse enthusiasts throughout the state, from Kissimmee’s Silver Spur Rodeo in June – “the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi” – to Palm Beach County’s Winter Equestrian Festival that wrapped up Sunday.

“The horse industry is big in Florida,” says Realtor Sherri Meadows, 2014 Florida Realtors president and the National Association of Realtors® current 2017 regional vice president for Region 5. “It adds billions to the economy. In Ocala, we have the HITS show, and that adds millions of dollars to our local economy.”

In the Tallahassee area, “We work with people who are living the lifestyle and are seasoned equestrians, and we work with those who want to live the horseman’s dream – and a few occasional cowboys as well!” says Debbie Kirkland, broker/owner at Century 21 First Story Real Estate in Tallahassee.

Ocala and Marion County in Central Florida have more than 1,200 horse farms, 900 of which are thoroughbred farms. The industry covers more than 77,000 acres. A 2015 study found that the Marion County horse industry had a $2.62 billion economic impact, and direct industry output (revenue) was $94 million.

Meadows, chief executive officer of Keller Williams Cornerstone RE in Ocala, owns show horses on her Ocala-area ranch. However, Florida’s horse industry has many subsets, including “race horses, rodeos and equestrian competitions,” she adds. And the equestrian division even has subsets, such as dressage, fox hunting, jumping and Western riding.

Many horse sales involve international customers. In the 2015 Marion County study, for example, Japanese buyers paid over $4 million for 20 horses; Korean buyers paid over $4.4 million for 147 horses; and Qatar buyers paid over $2.3 million for eight horses – one of which sold for $1.6 million, a North American tie for the highest price ever paid for a two-year old in training.

The race horse segment also represents big money. In testimony before a Florida Senate Gaming Committee hearing in Tallahassee last week, the Florida horse industry released data compiled by Cummings Associates from a coalition of Florida horse racing and breeding organizations. According to the study, Florida’s horse racing industry:

  • Supports more than 12,000 jobs statewide
  • Pays workers more than $400 million in wages and benefits yearly
  • Generates an annual economic impact of more than $900 million each year

“The thoroughbred horse industry is a major agri-business for Florida and has a historic and enormous positive economic impact that the state must continue to embrace,” says Lonny Powell, CEO of Florida Thoroughbred Breeders & Owners Association (FTBOA).

Florida also grants horse owners some tax benefits, such as sales tax breaks if purchasing from the original breeder; some feed and health items are also sales tax exempt.

Buyers interested in horse property ownership should “find a Realtor who is knowledgeable about local farm and ranch properties, because the type of soil and the construction of the barn is going to be important,” Meadows says.

“Know who the buyer is for a particular property,” adds Kirkland. “What would be involved in renovating, restoring or expanding a property or facility? That’s important when targeting buyers and weeding through those who are ready, willing and able to purchase?Know locations of service providers, veterinarians, feed stores and equestrian clubs. Those will be important to showcase in marketing.”

Kirkland offers one more tip for serving horse owner buyers: “Photos and video are critical. For savvy buyers, drone photography of properties, pastures and property lines is crucial. If you’re going to work with these buyers, you need materials that reflect the important elements of the property.”

© 2017 Florida Realtors

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