Buying a Home on Rural Property: 5 Things to Consider

Rural Home Property

Buying a home is always intimidating — even to the most experienced of homebuyers. But buying a home in a rural area includes a set of circumstances unlike anything you will find in a suburban location. So if you are thinking of leaving the pavement behind and investing in that dream home in the country, here are some things you may want to consider before signing on the dotted line.

1. Convenience

One of the hardest adjustments for the city mouse turned country mouse is isolation. You may think you’re ready to trade the sound of traffic for that of crickets, but what about that commute time? My husband drives one hour to his job — and we are five minutes off the Interstate.

Maybe you’re retired and the daily commute is behind you; but if you have health issues that require frequent trips to the doctor, you will want to be close to medical care. Although the public school system will pick your child up, driving 20 miles to every sporting or music event could wear down even the most countrified of individuals. You might consider renting for a year to see what type of inconveniences your dream life might entail.

2. The Homeowners Association

Just because you are looking at three to five acres, doesn’t mean you can keep chickens in your back yard. Ask if the home you are considering is part of a homeowners association. Not only do these associations include yearly fees for road maintenance or other amenities, they frequently slap rules onto the homeowner that you may find onerous.

So if you intend to keep anything besides a dog or cat, love hanging your laundry out in the sun to dry, or even want to paint your house a vibrant color, the homeowners association may have something to say about that. Discuss your dreams with your realtor so that she shows you appropriate pieces of property. And if you do look at something in an association, ask for a copy of the ordinances.

3. Water

It’s a given that if you live in a metropolitan area water will be as close as a turn of the spigot. That’s not necessarily so in a rural area. If you are looking at property outside of the town limits, ask if the water is from a natural source or a cistern. A cistern is an underground tank that is filled either by a water delivery service (for which you have to pay) or collected from off the roof of the home. Some mortgage companies will not loan money for a home with a cistern. If they do, you will want to have it inspected prior to purchasing to make sure it does not leak and is free of contaminants.

A natural water source would include a well or a spring. Again, you will want to check with your mortgage company before purchasing a home with only spring water. And whichever you find will need to be inspected for impurities before the sale. Once you move to the country you will want to have your water tested on a regular basis to make sure it is free of bacteria or chemicals from industrial or farm run-off.

4. Neighbors

When living in the city, our undesirable neighbors included gangs and drug dealers. In the country, you may want to find a home away from places where they spray chemicals, make a lot of noise, or smell. Of course, this is a purely subjective decision, but most folks moving from the sterility of pavement find the smell of dairy farms and poultry houses offensive. You may also want to avoid the chemical exposure of living across from an orchard or vineyard, and the noise of a lumber mill. Make sure that you drive by the place that interests you several times at different times of day to get a feel for the area. It’s not a bad idea to speak with a neighbor or two, as well.

5. Sewage

The rural home does not have sewer lines carrying away unwanted waste. In the country, each home has its own septic system to deal with that. You will want to ask your realtor what type of system the property includes and how much maintenance is involved. You will also want to have it inspected before the sale.

I grew up in the country and wouldn’t trade living here for anything. I also lived many years in a metropolitan area, so I understand both sides. If leaving the pavement behind you has always been a dream, go for it. Just keep these few things in mind.

Do you live on rural property? What are some other considerations homebuyers should consider? Leave a comment!

  1. Carol J. Alexander

    You have me smiling, G. I guess I’m more of a hermit. I have trouble going out for my once-a-month shopping trip. 🙂 But you are right. Our gas budget is more than our grocery.

  2. Mike

    There is nn such thing as private property any more, hasn’t been for years. No you say? Just stop paying your state or local govt rent ( prperty tax ) and see what happens. Yep they take it. Then sell it to a new renter for just the back rent. A 200,000 dollar proerty goes easily for a couple thousand and NOPE you don’t get the difference. Ya go ahead think you own it. Did you not here? YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT. LOL, how do you like him now?

    • Mike

      No private ownership means no freedom, its pretty simple a?

  3. haygirl2

    Very good points made. I live in the middle of nowhere on 40 acres. Love to garden and raise chickens and pigs. Best pork chops I ever ate. But you can’t order take out or go to the mall on a whim. The nearest Walmart is over an hour away (which is kind of good too).
    Water rights are especially important to look into. If you have less than 35 acres in Colorado, you can’t even wash your car with your well water. You must have a domestic well to have a garden as well, or to water livestock. Best case scenario is to have adjudicated water rights to a spring along with your water well! And check the well for the property that you are considering to be sure that it has sufficient flow and is free of contaminants including radioactive ones that are natural to some areas. That test costs hundreds of dollars and is not usually required but it is essential to know what is in your well water. The arid western states have a different water rights system than does the east and you need to know the difference! I know quite a few people whose well does not put out enough water to run their household. Beautiful homes but showers, washing machines, gardens? You need water! A cistern becomes necessary and you have to pay to have water delivered. People tend to take water availability for granted! In some areas, you can drill 800 feet deep and still come up dry!

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Thanks for sharing, haygirl2. What you bring up addresses the issue of moving from one state or area of the country to another. It ain’t always done the way it is “back east.” Also, when we bought our place, we moved in with 5 kids, washing diapers, showers, etc, and the home had never housed more than 2 elderly people. We really taxed the well and had all kinds of issues the first few years.

  4. T

    You are right about the gas bugdet. When my husband read an article the the average gas budget for the year is $400 for americans. We both said that is just my budget for the month and does not include his gas. I’m like you Carol when we bought our house just a few people lived around us. Now if I could buy 100 acres and put my house in the middle that would be great.

  5. Joe

    My daughter has 2 acres. What I see as a concern are the neighbors that cut with a lawn tractor several times a week. So their is noise for several hours, several times a day on Sat. and Sun.

  6. Gail G

    Getting service people to a remote location is another challenge as well as delivery of large items. Learn to shop online a lot. There is no running to an all night convenience store for a forgotten item or OTC pain meds or bandaids. ( Surely cuts down on late night junk food snacking that TV can provoke.) You must learn to organize and be prepared. Also consider response time by emergency responders. What is your level of health and/or comfort in that respect? How far will you be from church friends, either old or new ones? Don’t forget about Internet providers that may be less than optimal or non-existent, but thanks to some wireless phone companies, this is being remedied but at a rather high price.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      You are right, Gail. Shortly after moving here our baby had a middle-of-the-night fever. I had no Tylenol. Nothing open past 11 p.m. That has changed in the last 15 years but I know there are still places still like that. Also, for Internet, we have ONE choice unless we go broadband. And broadband’s cost is prohibitive.

  7. Jose

    If your buying land that you intend to build on you want to also make sure that it “perks” If it doesn’t meet the local codes for the land to perk you would not be able to put in a septic system, making the land unsuitable to build a house on

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Absolutely, Jose. You might also want to explore the political climate of the county and how many “perk” permits they issue, or if they will require you to put in extremely expensive alternative septic systems.

  8. Andrea

    About those Homeowners Associations, if you live as we do on 2.5 acres 10 miles out of town and on a private road, with no Road Commission you will find that the road is not plowed regularly in the winter and no one is willing to pay for repairs or upgrades to the road surface. The school district may not send buses to pick up your kids for school if your road is not maintained. No Water or Sewer Commission means that you do have to have your own water tested on a regular basis to check for contaminants from neighbors’ run-off. And in response to the comments about taxes, I guess I like having fire and police protection, even out here and when I need an ambulance, it’s nice to be able to count on them as well.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      I guess I should have listed #6–make sure you are on a state maintained road. But even if you are, some like mine, are on the bottom of the snow removal list and that forces us to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle in order to get out for jobs.

  9. Jake Erickson

    I like your original list and the many items other commenters have added. My wife and I are contemplating making a move to somewhere more rural than we’re at now, so these tips are great to read right now. I think the lack of neighbors may end up being difficult when you have kids. There are less kids around to become friends with your kids and they may not be able to easily go to each other’s houses. I think the biggest fear for me are the unknowns (i.e. septic, water, internet, road quality, weird ordinances, etc.) that us “city folk” take for granted.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Jake, I promise your kids will adjust. My oldest was 9 when we moved to the country and he suffered pavement withdrawals, big time. No more skateboard, bike, or nothing with wheels. But it didn’t take long for the nearby creek to win his heart and he was a country boy faster than his daddy.

  10. Joe

    Life is a trade off. The grass always seems green on the other side of the fence. Before making a permanent move to the country or the city, rent a unit for a vacation and chat with the neighbors.

  11. Laraba

    Wow, I feel like we have the best of both worlds after reading this. We live on 5 acres and are out of the country with a pig farm down the way (enough down the way that it is rarely smelly) BUT we are only 10 minutes from the nearest grocery store, and my husband’s work drive is 15 minutes. We have chickens and hope to get a pig this spring. I love the country though was not sure I’d like the isolation compared to suburbia. I do like being home a lot, which helps. Our 8 children are blessed to have a large area for roaming about.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      That’s great, Laraba. Living on the outskirts of a small town, I think, is a great place to be.

  12. Stephen Schwambach

    This was our dream! As a young, naive couple we wanted to leave the ‘burbs and build a home on 50 wooded acres. We found just the spot – some land the coal company had never mined. We approached them and discovered they were willing to sell – at a shockingly low price per acre. The only problem was its size – 267 acres! The coal company told us it was all or nothing.

    So we prayed, hugged each other tight – and took the plunge. Our plan was to sell much of the land and keep the rest. Did I mention we were naive? 😉 We sold our home and sank every dime we had into buying, developing and marketing the property. The next few years were some of the most stressful we’ve ever lived, as we prayed in each land sale just in time to make the next payment.

    I’d upload a picture of the gorgeous home we built overlooking our 5-acre lake…but alas, the most we were ever able to do was park a mobile home on the property. After a series of incidents involving horse accidents, goats, coughing tractors, stolen trailers, dynamited mailboxes, hunters who ignored our “No Trespassing” signs, a 3/4 mile muddy road that ate gravel faster than we could truck it and finally admitting we were not quite as hardy as we thought we were, we sold it all – and moved back to town! But boy, do we have stories!