It has always been a dream of mine to restore an old farmhouse and live on a couple dozen acres where I can grow my own food. Having access to fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and peaches just steps from my back porch would be divine. Alas, I have resigned myself to city life where opportunities for growing food are pretty much limited to what I can fit in a couple of small pots.
While I love the freedom of not having a huge yard or a field of crops to tend to, I know just as well as the next gal that life in the big city – and even the suburbs – can oftentimes feel claustrophobic. I swear, every traffic jam pushes me closer and closer to buying a big piece of land where I can spread my wings and fill my lungs with fresh air.
The idea of ditching the hustle and bustle of urban life in favor of a peaceful, rural escape sounds nothing short of idyllic. It turns out, however, that there are a number of things the hopeful homeowner on the hunt for a rural dwelling should consider before trading in her patent leather boots for a pair of the cowboy variety.
1) Know exactly what you’re buying. Make sure there is a current survey on file for the property, and ask the seller to walk (or drive) you around the land to show you where the corners are. A detailed list of anything you think you’re buying needs to be a part of the sales contract, including fence posts, gates, and any miscellaneous equipment.
2) Do your research. Do you want to use a portion of the property to build a greenhouse? Go to your local assessor’s office to ask about zoning, which dictates what you can and cannot do with the land. Additionally, you’ll want to makes sure that there is legal access to the property.
3) Get a feel for your surroundings and plans for the future. Even if your closest neighbor will be a mile down the road, you’ll still want to know what surrounds your property. This includes future plans for railroad tracks, wind turbines, and other developments that could impact the value of your home in the future.
4) Work with a specialized lender. Sure, your current lender may know your city or town really well, but what does he or she know about buying rural land? Working with a lender who understands the cash flows for the industry, the cycles, and current real estate values will be of great benefit to you.
5) Understand the costs of ownership. You will have to run electricity and water to your property, and crops need a lot of H2O. Not to mention, you’ll have to pay insurance and monthly utility bills in addition to all the other equipment (lawn mower, small tractor, four-wheeler, trailer, and whatever else) you may need.
The bottom line: Buying open acreage and pursuing a life in the country can be a relaxing change of pace from the buzzing vibrations of an urban environment, but you’ll wan to be prepared for the maintenance and associated costs.
Image: Pete Leonard/Corbis