So you want to live in “the country” and claim that land that was meant to be yours…
Honestly, it is the most requested type of property inquiry we get from buyers. Especially from folks that are retiring or relocating from big metropolitan areas. But don’t let that dream become your nightmare.
There are many things to consider in moving to a “rural” piece of property. Especially if you have always lived in the city. The idea of being able to own a piece of land, build your own “dream home” and being far away (or seemingly far away) form the hustle and bustle of urban or suburban life may seem like a dream come true.
Part of the reason of course is that buying rural property offers more land for the buck, especially if you are trading up from a property in California to a property in Idaho. And as for the quality of life factor, there is typically less crime, less traffic, cleaner air, fresh water. Beauty. Trees. The list goes on…but isn’t that why you want to live in the country in the first place? There are as many reasons to buy land and build or buy an existing “rural” acreage homestead. #1-you simply want to leave city life. Some people also buy in advance of retirement as an investment, paying it off over time while they are still working in the city, so they can own their rural land by retirement. Others buy rural and use for a vacation or “get away” home. Whatever your reason…there are elements of the search that need to be considered for any type of rural property.
There are issues to consider before buying that even an experienced “city” real estate agent may not be aware of. Avoid unpleasant surprises by doing a little extra leg work before buying, or choose a realtor who specializes in “country” properties.
Consider the WATER
Rural properties typically rely on wells and not city/municipal water. Water treatment, if there is too much sulfur or iron in the water can prove to be a cost you are not willing to pay for. Invest in making sure the water is tested, literally tested. Both a draw down test which will test for the amount of water you have on a daily basis to a contaminant test to be sure that contaminants, sediments, and dangerous chemicals are not present. You may also want to consider how far the well is from the house, or home to be built or how close it is to the barns and livestock (for run off and contaminants). Do you have enough water from the well? Or will you need a “holding tank” to supplement your usage.
Consider the POWER
Is power close by? Or will you have to run it hundreds, even thousands of feet from where it is available to where you will be building. Getting a true ESTIMATE OF COST from the power company is sometimes free, or is provided for a nominal fee. Or are you willing to “live off the grid” with solar, wind, or generator fueled power. If power lines fail, such as during a winter storm or severe winds, rural customers may be among the last to have electrical power restored. During the storm of 1986 we lost power for 28 days!!! Backups like a power generator and wood for a fireplace become our lifelines. A well may have an electric pump, so without it you don’t even have water!
Consider the SEPTIC
Most homes in rural areas rely on septic systems. There are several types of septic systems. Be sure you have the appropriate one for the type of soil and the size of home. Many times, the septic system that was originally installed on a property was installed based on a “one size fits all” that no longer applies if the home was remodeled and made larger, or if you plan on remodeling and adding size and number of bathrooms. A septic tank collects both sewage and wastewater. Make sure the septic system can handle the number of occupants The septic system’s capacities and proper installation can typically be found out from the local health districts in the area you are considering.
Consider the MAIL
Does the Postman and UPS driver even deliver to your backwoods country home or dream property? And if not, where is the local post office that you would need to pick up your mail from? How far is it from the property you are considering?
Consider those back country ROADS
That beautiful, winding, filled with colorful trees road to your property…who is maintaining it? That road that leads to your property that you own…likely it’s you that will be maintaining it…is it paved? Is it gravel? Gravel needs upkeep and restoration or it erodes. Dirt roads become mud in spring after the snow you have to plow all winter starts to melt. You may need to invest in a tractor with backhoe and blade (another cost to consider)
Snowfall or heavy rains can wreak havoc on country roads, especially when very sparsely populated areas have no or little equipment or personnel to maintain them for you. So plan to budget for snow tires, plowing equipment, and four-wheel-drive vehicles that can handle both the roads and the weather.
Now consider the TRASH, that’s right-the TRASH
Trash removal is typically a city luxury. Most rural areas don’t have waste or trash pick up. Instead there are dump sites and refuse areas where the “rural neighborhood” brings their trash. You have to deliver your trash to a dump site. Some areas do allow the careful burning of leaves and paper, but trash and other waste still has to be brought (by you) to the refuse/dump sites. These dump sites are strategically mapped out and maintained by the counties and usually paid for as part of your property tax.
And last~what about those neighbors?
Because of the “space” between neighbors in a rural setting, you probably won’t have to hear the neighbor’s music blasting or kids screaming but that does not mean some of the “country” behavior won’t be a problem or nuisance. So be aware what is typical and the “norm” for the area you are considering. In the country, land may be used for hunting. It may be used for livestock, and free grazing may be allowed. There may be agricultural nuances (check RIGHT TO FARM ACTS) that are part of the fabric of living in an agriculturally zoned area such as tractor noise, livestock smells, huge carbines and swathers that take up the whole road when they are moving, and the cars of migrant workers parked alongside the road way when they are picking the harvests during certain seasons. Your dream of an idyllic setting might be affected by the rifle shot, or the loose livestock, or the machinery used to harvest fruits and vegetable. And then there is that pungent perfume of a freshly fertilized field. Know what is planted or farmed around you before you buy.
Knowing before you buy will insure that your dream becomes a wonderful reality.
There are considerations, certainly. However, don’t let that stop you from fulfilling your dream of owning your own piece of heaven on earth. I would never convince anyone from buying rural property. You just need to know before you go, so that you can pick that perfect piece of property you have always dreamed of. A little homework will go a long way. Just like in the city, there are special inspectors and services that are available to help you make an informed decision. Ask the current owners about the roads, the property owner’s responsibilities, and what it’s really like to drive in the area during a harsh season. Stop by the local post office and the local restaurants and ask questions from the old timers who have live there forever. Check with county about trash requirements and the land-use rights of the area. Visit your local USDA or County Extension Agent to find out details about the ground you are purchasing.
And if all else fails, you can always knock on the doors of your potential neighbors. After all you are considering becoming theirs. Even if they are somewhat further away than the lot next door—they can fill you in on weather, water, and what kind of critters to expect coming through your dream property each day.
“This land is your land and this land is my land
From California to the New York island
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me
As I went walking that ribbon of highway
And I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me
I roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
All around me a voice was a-sounding
This land was made for you and me”
Good luck and Enjoy,