A sprawling stretch of land far removed from urban or suburban life may seem like a dream come true.
Buying rural property offers more land for the buck, less crime and traffic, better air quality, and peace and beauty among the trees and fields. Reasons to buy range from a desire to leave the city permanently to buying a weekend vacation home, or securing an investment for the retirement years.
But despite stunning vistas, buying a rural property isn’t a guaranteed idyll. There are issues to consider before buying that could throw even an experienced urban real estate hound. Avoid unpleasant surprises in a new country home by doing a little extra homework before buying.
Water and power
Rural properties may rely on wells, not municipal water. Water treatment and softening can prove costly. Invest in testing the water, literally in this case, before you buy to ensure that contaminants, sediment, and dangerous chemicals are not present.
Homes in rural areas may rely on septic systems that collect sewage and wastewater. Make sure the septic system can handle the number of occupants. If you plan to expand the property’s use or develop part of the land, keep the septic system’s capacities in mind.
If power lines fail, such as with a harsh storm, rural customers may be among the last to have electrical power restored. Backups like a power generator and wood for a fireplace become lifelines. A well may need an electric pump.
The picturesque winding road that leads to a property may belong to you—and the maintenance costs, too. Or your lot might share a road with adjacent property owners. Owners become responsible for the cost of fixing potholes or plowing snow.
Snowfall or heavy rains can wreak havoc on country roads, especially with no municipal professionals to keep up with storms. You may need to budget for snow tires, plowing equipment, or four-wheel-drive vehicles that can handle tough road conditions.
City trash removal can feel almost luxurious compared with country living. You might have to deliver your trash to a dump site or carefully burn leaves and paper trash.
You won’t have to suffer through your neighbor’s music blasting through your walls, but that doesn’t mean the neighbor’s behavior won’t trouble you. In the country, land may be used for hunting, raising livestock, grazing, and agriculture. Your dream of the quiet of a rural setting could be punctuated by rifle shot, loose livestock, or machinery used to harvest fruits and vegetables. And don’t dismiss the powerful smell of a freshly fertilized field.
These challenges shouldn’t dissuade anyone from buying rural property. It just means doing a little homework in a way that’s different when buying in a more populous area. Talk to your real estate agent or home inspector about the utilities. 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. Check with county or state officials about trash requirements and the land-use rights of the area.
And if all else fails, you can always knock on the doors of your potential neighbors. They may live far beyond shouting distance, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like company—and you might enjoy theirs.