Expert Advice for Rural Real Estate Buyers
Collectively, our panel of experts (Roger Chambers, Cathy Cole, Grover Hillbolt, Pam Langord and Sandy Reed) has 125 years of experience connecting buyers to their dream properties in the Round Top area.
We asked them: What do buyers need to consider as they prepare to purchase country property?
Here’s a compilation of their best advice for rural real estate buyers.
Understand your needs….
There is a not a one-size-fits-all country lifestyle. To help you find the best fit, it’s important to ask yourself some questions:
- What level of investment can you make that will allow you to enjoy the property without creating financial distress?
- How often will you use the property? Every weekend? Once a month? Or are you going to live there and commute?
- Do you have children? How will their ages and activities affect how often you use the property?
- How far are you willing to drive to reach your country property?
- Do you have a specific community in mind, or are you open to properties within your driving range?
- Do you want the creative control of improving the land and building your own retreat? Or do you want the ease of buying an existing country estate?
- How do you relax? Do you enjoy upkeep and maintenance work? Or do you the experience of being in the country without any responsibilities?
- Do you want farm animals? If so, what’s your plan for taking care of them when you’re away from the property?
Finding the perfect country property takes time. Sometimes it can take a year or two because purchasing a recreational retreat doesn’t carry the same sense of urgency as buying a home. (See also rural lending information.)
Realize size matters….
For most people, an acre is an abstract concept until they see one. Sometimes people start out wanting 200 acres and discover that 10 acres is much more what they had in mind. The opposite holds true as well. It takes looking at several properties to get a feel for the size you want. Then it may take looking at many more to find the combination of attributes you want.
The Internet is a great resource, but it has strengths and weaknesses. For instance, it provides a lot of information on a property, but some of that information may be based on tax data, which may or may not paint an accurate picture of value. If you’re looking at photographs of property on-line, take it a step further and look at aerial photos to get a birds-eye view of the entire area.
Then work with your broker to “ground truth” it. Go to the property and walk it. Have your agent pull comparables of similar properties in the area. This is where their experience comes into play because it’s much more difficult to find an “apple to apple” comparison in the country than it is in a residential neighborhood.
Consider the “neighborhood”….
As you consider purchasing a piece of property, look around. If you’re purchasing a parcel in a subdivision, even if it’s a rural sub-division with 10-acre tracts, you have a pretty good idea of what the landscape will look like in the future. If you’re purchasing a piece of property surrounded by raw land, be aware that the landscape is subject to change if the neighboring acreage sells.
Establish your priorities….
There is often a difference between what’s on a wish list and what’s on the market. In reality, there aren’t very many five-acre farms with rolling hills, oaks trees, live water and privacy with easy access to a community. No property is absolutely perfect, so determine what features are most important to you so you can realistically weigh your options as they become available.
In urban areas, utilities are a given. On undeveloped rural property, they aren’t. Generally, landowners must cover the cost for installing utilities.
Be sure to determine whether or not electricity is readily available. Having power may require obtaining an easement from other landowners so a line connecting your property to the existing line can be constructed. The landowner covers the construction cost.
To obtain water, be prepared to connect to a rural water system where they’re available, or be prepared to drill a water well.
Sewage treatment requires a septic system. Installing a septic system generally is not a problem because of the local soil profile.
For people who are planning to telecommute, it’s important to determine the availability of Internet and cell phone service. Many options have become available in recent years, but the reliability and speed may be different than what you’re accustomed to.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]As you shop for rural property, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with several concepts: mineral rights, surface rights and easements. Your real estate professional can help you with the technical details and nuances.[/pullquote]
Protect your ag/wildlife valuation….
Ag and wildlife tax valuations allow rural property to be taxed on its production value not its market value. It’s an important distinction that can make a significant difference on your tax bill.
Determine whether or not the property you are purchasing has an ag or wildlife property tax valuation. If it does, learn what you need to do to maintain that special valuation and then do it.
It is also possible to convert an agricultural valuation to a wildlife valuation removing the need to maintain a livestock operation.