Buying a House in a Rural Area

buying a house in a rural area

Have you ever craved country living? Perhaps you’ve dreamed of relocating to a rural area with dirt roads, sprawling grounds and a slower pace of life. With the high cost of city real estate and soaring price tags in neighboring suburbs, buying a home further out may not be a bad idea. Here are a few factors to consider when house hunting for a property in a remote or rural area.

Setting

When most people think of country living, they imagine picturesque scenery and a peaceful environment. As you pull up to a home, soak in the surrounding nature. The home’s value may be in the views of rolling hills or the sounds of a babbling brook.

Privacy is important to most rural property owners. Before you sign a contract to purchase a country home, research your property lines and meet the abutting land owners. There’s an old adage that good fences make good neighbors and understanding the physical boundaries between you and your abutters is one of the ways you can respect each other’s space and privacy.

Land

A major draw of moving far outside of the city is gaining access to land at a much more reasonable price point. Whether you want two acres, 10 acres or 50-plus acres, the land is a valuable asset. Make a point to investigate all of the details and think long-term.

Living in a rural area can present a unique set of challenges when it comes to utilities. You’ll want to understand and budget for all the major utility infrastructure components that will keep your home running.

Many jurisdictions have minimum lot size requirements for increasing the overall living space or divvying up land parcels. You’ll want to know whether you have enough land to put an addition on your home or add an auxiliary building like a barn. Moreover, do you reserve the right to subdivide and build? Down the road you may want to sell some of your land.

Zoning restrictions are another area to explore. Do you want to utilize the land for farming and agriculture or running a business? Check with the local zoning ordinance for all of the approved land uses.

Mineral rights, which are ownership rights of underground resources like oil and gold, also come into play, particularly when you own a substantial amount of land in an area known for its valuable resources. In areas where mineral exploitation is common, be sure to understand your rights as the property owner.

Utilities

City dwellers rarely have to think about how to get drinking water. In densely populated areas, municipalities have a handle on all of the major utilities like water and sewer, electricity and gas. Living in a rural area can present a unique set of challenges when it comes to utilities. You’ll want to understand and budget for all the major utility infrastructure components that will keep your home running. Here are a few tips:

  • Water will likely come from a well. Since wells are privately owned, have a quality check of the water performed before you start drinking it. If you’re purchasing a significant amount of land, you’ll also want clarification on water rights. Have a plan for keeping your grounds and landscaping watered.
  • Private sewage treatment plants are the norm in rural areas where houses are spaced too far apart for town-run systems. Septic tanks and drainage are buried at the property. While these systems are typically completely passive and powered by gravity, they do need to be occasionally checked. As part of the real estate transaction, be sure the septic tank is fully up to code and passes a Title 5 inspection, which is often required by the state and Board of Health.
  • Small electric companies power many rural homesteads. Plus, it’s not uncommon for a home to be heated by electricity rather than gas. As such, dig into the specifics. What has been the longest outage? What sort of backup heat source does the home offer? Is there a generator or wood-burning stove?

Overhead Costs

By moving to a more remote location, you may be able to afford a bigger house and more land. Just remember to budget for some hidden costs. Don’t forget to account for your utilities and property maintenance. As you gain square footage and acreage, the costs can quickly add up.

Economy

When you purchase a home, you are investing in a community. Your property taxes will directly fund the town’s resources and services like schools, roads, and public servants. As such, what underpins the local economy? Is there one leading industry or manufacturer that supports the area and employs the residents? If that business were to go under, what would be the impact on the town and your property value?

Just like any other real estate market, rural areas have ups and downs, but because there tends to be less housing demands in non-metro areas it can take longer to rebound. Having a long-term mindset helps to weather the storms.

Overall Lifestyle

Some people move to the country and never look back! But, it’s not for everyone. Perhaps the biggest consideration is deciding whether rural living is right for you. Weigh out the benefits of living surrounded by nature with the challenges that come along with being more isolated and further from amenities.