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Deborah A. Rutter, Associate Broker | REALTOR™ ABR, AHWD, CNS, CNHS, e-PRO, SFR, SRES Nest Realty Group 126 Garrett St #E | Charlottesville VA 22902 Phone | Text | SMS: (434) 996-2142 Email: Deborah@DeborahRutter.com www.DeborahRutter.com Licensed in Virginia and Maine
Things to Consider when Evaluating Properties in Rural Area
Publish Date: 12/04/2009
If you're like many families, you may be considering a move toward a more rural lifestyle. The interest in living closer to nature, better access to local foods and shopping with independent merchants, more attentive school systems and a slower paced area drawing many families to more rural and sometimes agricultural homesteads.
But it all starts with finding the right place. If you've lived in urban and suburban environments, what do you look for, and where do you start? How do you evaluate properties? Begin with finding a local real estate agent who concentrates on rural properties in the areas you're interested in searching. They can give you overviews of the area and help guide you in your decisions to be sure your vision matches what's available. For example: if you want to raise livestock, you'll need to be sure that areas you're considering are appropriately zoned for that activity. Next, comes searching for property. This article will focus on property with existing homes. (If you're interested in purchasing undeveloped land, some of these tips will still apply). When looking for appropriate homes, consider these insights. 1) Your Driveway: Often overlooked, but depending on how it will be used, it's critical. If you don't have a four-wheel drive car, and are considering a long, steep driveway in a place that snows early and often throughout the winter, will you be able to get home? If you're working away from home, you'll need regular plowing. If you do it yourself, you'll need extra time and equipment. If you have someone else do the work, they may not always be able to reach you in a timely manner. If the driveway is not paved, you'll need to likely have it maintained (depending on the length and how it is used) with mechanized grading and extra gravel brought in regularly, which adds to your annual expenses. If you're going to be employing heavy machinery for work around your home, you need to be sure that you have good access street, aren't on a blind corner off a busy road where fast traffic can be dangerous, etc. 2) Your Neighbors: Many rural properties have at least some neighbors. Consider them as part of your landscape. Talk to your potential neighbors before purchasing. Many rural places are like in-town neighborhoods and loud machines, barking dogs and other nuisances are not appreciated. Unless you're buying hundreds of acres on a mountain top with no one in sight, consider your planned activities and chat with neighbors to get a feel for the area and what may bring concern. 3) Your Kids: If you have kids (or are planning to) and believe that kids should have access to unstructured activity outdoors, rural living may be ideal. If your kids are involved in loads of evening and weekend activities, sports team or have an active and busy social life, carefully consider the impact that will have on driving times for play dates (you may not have kids of similar ages within walking/bike riding distance) and other activities.
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4) Your Pets: If you have domestic animals, moving to a rural location may be ideal. Cats who are indoor/outdoor may love the additional places to roam, and dogs who are off-leash trained will appreciate running free. But keep in mind that fast-moving traffic, new, larger predators and local hunting seasons can all have a dramatic impact on longevity when compared to a more protected urban environment. Also remember that things like fleas and ticks differ in type, activity and lifecycle in various locations, so if you are moving, ask your new, local vet what they recommend for protection. 5) Your Bugs: If you've lived in cities most of your life with pest control and closed windows, moving to the country can be quite a wake up for some. Insects and spiders are everywhere and can be more difficult to control, depending on your vigilance, the age and style of your home, etc. Some people welcome the connectedness with nature, others not so much. If you're allergic to bees, find out about the local activity (and if your neighbor is a beekeeper). In many places, termites and other wood destroying insects are problems that can be more prevalent and more noticeable. Ask your real estate agent what kinds of local pests are problematic. And contact the local extension office to help you figure out which are harmful and which are beneficial. 6) Your Water: Chances are, you won't be getting water from the local municipality. About 25% of U.S. homes get their water from local and/or on-site sources. These could be a cistern for catching rainwater, a dug or drilled well, a natural spring, etc. Regardless of the source, always have the water tested before purchase. Any good real estate agent will recommend this and have suggestions for who performs these services locally. In many states, test providers must be registered, so be sure they are by checking online. After moving in, check with the state for local upkeep and testing suggestions: timing, which tests, how to collect and prepare for testing are usually covered. If you buy a property without testing the water and discover problems later that can only be fixed by bringing in water from the outside, resale is next to impossible, not to mention a monumental inconvenience. 7) Your Waste: Flushing the toilet takes on new meaning! For most properties in rural areas, homeowners take care of their own wastewater. Whether by cesspool, septic system or tank, waste disposal is serious. Most states require that new or updated systems be registered and inspected. Be sure your potential property has been by getting the registration documents. Next, hire a septic inspector. In many states, even states that don't require general home inspectors to be licensed, inspectors must have a separate septic certification. It should include a physical digging of the system to inspect underground and hidden components, not simply a, 'stomp-and-sniff,' test. Underground systems with leach fields have a limited lifespan and are expensive to replace, so be sure you understand how old the current system is, and the requirements both in terms of space and proper soil makeup for a replacement set-up. Septic systems are usually carefully balanced eco-systems so understand how they work and what things you might be used to doing can make them not work, is crucial. In most states, land-owner wastewater treatment is carefully regulated since it can affect the water quality for many and the health of the local environment. 8) Your Land: How the land is situated has a tremendous impact on use, challenges, problems and enjoyment. Consider: a) The topography: Hilly? Are you planning on growing things that need a certainly type of soil or that are difficult to grow on a slope? Do you plan on other activities that require flat, open spaces? How does the land border other roads or properties? Are the adjacent areas going to interfere with your activities? If you look at property in the summer when the trees are leafed out, keep in mind that your privacy can be compromised in the fall and winter when the leaves have fallen. Is your home at the top of the hill, surrounded by old, weak trees where a windstorm could wreak havoc? In a valley where a barely-noticeable stream becomes a threatening river in heavy rains and causes local flooding? Do you have a meadow that needs to be mowed regularly (and have the equipment required), or are you comfortable with letting it go unmaintained? b) Sun: If you plan on a big garden or just enjoy a plenty of sunshine, is there enough sun? Or are you looking at heavily wooded property that needs to be cleared? If you live in the far north where sun is limited in the winter months, consider how a heavily wooded site that will have an effect on your activities and mood. If you're planning a passive solar installation, be sure to check with an installer about challenges your site may pose. c) Trees: Some land will be stripped on trees, others forested, some a combination. Whatever you prefer, keep in mind that trees need to be maintained for disease resistance, optimal growth and safety to minimize damage if they fall. Some trees like beech can indicate a strong water table, while others are known as 'standing firewood,' and can have a limited lifespan. If your chosen property has a lot of trees, hire a local arborist or have a tree steward from the local extension office come out to give you an overview of identification and care and maintenance.
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d) Your soil: If you're planning on growing a specific item, want to become an avid flower-grower or have other agricultural ambitions, be sure that the soil you inherit is either suited to your needs or can be amended. A soil test is easy to perform and can go a long way to helping you avoid surprises later. This is also crucial for determining if you have a suitable back-up location for an on-site waste-water system. 9) Your Access: If you plan on working from home on enjoy being connected electronically to the world, consider that many rural locations still use dial-up internet services, don't have DSL access, or the internet can only be accessed via a satellite. Outages of service and speed issues should be carefully explored. The same with cell phone service. Many location in the U.S. are still in 'dead zones,' so a land-line is a must for most, especially for emergency calls. If you're used to getting a national paper delivered every Sunday, there aren't delivery services everywhere for all papers. Enjoy delivery pizza? Running out to the store for the perfect missing ingredient for dinner? If you live far from an urban center, last-minute errands can be quite time-consuming. 10) Your Mettle: In many rural locations, power outages are frequent and can be long-lasting. Will you live with it, purchase a generator, or use solar power as a back up? If a tree blows down and blocks your driveway, do you own a chainsaw? Will you rely on neighbors? In some locations, the fire and emergency rescue squads are beyond the range that is acceptable by many insurance companies, and you may have to pay a premium for insurance coverage. Are you a social butterfly with unique interests? You may struggle finding other like-minded souls nearby. Gun shots heard in communities where there is hunting can be unsettling to many. Likewise, garbage pickup often does not exist, nor does curbside recycling, so garbage management for the home takes on a different meaning when it doesn't go to the curb in a plastic bag regularly. Rural living is fascinating, challenging and can provide tremendous satisfaction for a more sustainable, community-centered life. It teaches children about care for the land and animals, and how the eco-system can be protected. It is also full of unexpected and unforeseen inconveniences for the uninitiated and long-time city dweller. Think carefully about your move; hire professionals to help you make smart, lasting choices. Think about how you live now, and what you're willing to change, and what you can't give up and search accordingly. There is a slice of property heaven for everyone who wants to make the leap!
Originally published: http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/457431/deborah_a_rutteryour_real_estate_insider.html
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