Want to Buy Rural Property?

Learning before Leaping

Unlike when you buy rural, buying a city or suburban home is usually straight forward.

There are common things to consider, like rights-of-way, easements, mutual driveways, parking pads, street parking permits, common lanes, surveys, proximity to public transit, trains and subways, land leases, air traffic flight paths, distance to schools, recreation facilities, places of worship, employment and shopping, as well as local development plans. Did I say there were just a few considerations?

Also, due to close proximity, one should take note of the physical condition of adjacent properties. Does the neighbour's yard look like a garbage dump, or a pad for party animals? Any derelict cars or cube vans in the driveway?

I know - just a few things to think about before plunking down your hard-earned cash on a city or suburban home. On the other hand, if you long for a country home, since there are significant differences between town and country realty, you'll need to think about the ...

Unique Considerations When You Buy Rural

You've found your dream country real estate and have researched and learned everything you need to know when you buy rural - it's nowhere near a gravel quarry, pig farm or other unpleasant country life use. And there's no freeway planned for the back yard.

If you're a serious buyer, it would be prudent to personally visit the local municipal office to ensure there are no plans that would cause you to regret buying rural property in general, or one property in particular. You may also consider approaching a neighbour or two in the immediate neighbourhood to get their thoughts and feelings about the area. They may have some interesting tidbit specifically about the country home in your sights, maybe even an undisclosed latent defect.

When you buy rural, in many cases, there will not be a survey. If your city agent is unfamiliar with buying country property, you might ask the seller to walk the property boundaries with you so you know what you're buying. They might be willing to share interesting anecdotes that might help you develop a good feel for the place. Regardless, your offer should have a clear description of the land dimensions, and acreage if applicable.

Now you're ready to buy rural and submit an offer through your rural real estate agent, one who's familiar with the area. Or if you're buying privately, your own self-prepared offer. In your offer will be ...

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Several Conditions

... not normally seen in a real estate offer for a city or suburban property. Besides the more common conditions of arranging financing, sale of your present home, home inspection, and home insurance if there's some concern about the building, there are a few more to consider when you want to buy rural property. Is the water potable and will the well provide sufficient volume for your family's needs?

A Qualified Well Driller

... can check the well and equipment.

If it's a dug or bored well, he'll inspect the cap to ensure a proper seal. If not, the water may be subject to contamination from insects or worms that find their way into the well, where they die and decompose. Also, the location of the well relative to potential contamination from the septic system or adjacent outbuildings or paddocks (on site or on the abutting property) where manure is handled is important. And what's the grading like around the well cap? Can surface water drain into the well? The inspector will also inspect the pump motor and pressure tank for physical condition and proper operation.

Water Potability Test

Otherwise known as a bacteriological analysis, this test can be arranged by your country agent with the local Public Health Laboratory. Using a special sterilized bottle, your agent will take a sample of the water after letting it run for a few minutes, and after removing the small screen from the faucet. The well driller will obviously charge a fee for service, but the potability test is sometimes free of charge.

If the house is newer, chances are the ...

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Septic System

... will be fine. But if you're concerned, especially if it's an old house, consider having the septic system inspected by a qualified septic inspector. A visit to the local municipal office may provide you with the original application, plan and use permit.

At a minimum, ask the homeowner to agree to a warranty clause in the agreement that it has been in good operating condition and will be on closing. Make sure this warranty 'survives' closing. It'll refer to the condition at the time of closing, so it's not a typical warranty that guarantees good operation over a period of time. But if after a reasonable time after closing, you discover it's defective, you may have legal recourse against the previous homeowner under the warranty clause.

Both the well equipment and septic system can be very expensive to repair or replace. Thus, when you buy rural, be sure before you remove your conditions.

Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT)

If there's a wood stove or wood-burning fireplace, make the offer conditional on receiving a satisfactory WETT inspection report. Also common for city and suburban real estate, it will confirm the safeness and correct installation of the wood-burning unit. 

Your insurance company may insist on a copy before they agree to issue a policy. And if you can't get insurance, your mortgage company may not advance the closing funds. Serious problem.

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Environmental Problems

When you buy rural, it's important to know that there are no hazardous conditions or substances existing on the land. In most cases, there's little cause for concern. A careful visual property inspection, along with a seller warrant clause, can allay any fears.

But if you suspect a buried oil tank, for example, or a garbage dump or there was an auto repair shop out back, or the abutting property has a junkyard full of old rusting cars, you may want to include a condition to protect yourself. Or better yet, investigate prior to even submitting an offer. Buried oil tanks, for example, have been known to contaminate the surrounding land and ground water and should be removed by a qualified licensed technician.

Assorted Issues

Here's something else to consider when contemplating rural living. Obviously, when buying rural, there are special requirements when it comes to maintaining animals. Limits on numbers related to acreage, manure storage requirements and minimum setback distances for outbuildings from your and the neighbouring homes must all be considered.

Is property access via public or private road or across an adjacent property by right-of-way? Are there wetlands on or near the property? Think mosquitoes. Is there flood potential? Does the zoning suit your needs? What's the potential for future development on abutting properties? Your peaceful country living retreat may be surrounded by cookie-cutter homes in a few years. Yuck!

Will the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) be payable on the purchase price? When buying Canadian rural property, a ruling from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may be needed. Normally, when buying large acreage, the house and small plot of land immediately surrounding the house will be free of this unpopular tax, but the larger acreage may not be. Thus, your purchase could be subject to much higher closing costs than anticipated.

If you have any concerns about buying rural property, I recommend having a candid discussion with your lawyer before submitting the offer.

You can clearly see there's much to consider when buying rural property.

In my experience, most agents specialize in one of city/suburban, rural or recreational real estate. It would be ideal to have ...

One Move - One Agent

... to coordinate and facilitate your entire relocation. However, this may not be possible. Feel free to contact me for an agent recommendation who can assist you to buy rural. And for more information on country living and how to buy rural, visit my page on rural living. If you're thinking about building a custom home and want to learn about buying land or buying a lot in the city, visit my page on buying land.

For active listings of Ontario real estate or Canadian real estate in general, visit REALTOR.ca. And for active listings of American real estate, visit REALTOR.com.  And if you're interested in a definitive guide to buying or selling real estate (or changing your life), check out my book The Happy Agent. It's chock full of knowledge and experience accumulated during my four decade realty career. Learn what to be careful about when seeking country property. A small proactive investment of your time and a pittance of your money could save you thousands of dollars and a ton of heart-ache.

Available virtually everywhere print and e-books are sold.

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