With work-from-home careers becoming more viable, country living beckons more people than ever before. Fresh air, open space, and quiet draw people to the country lifestyle, but don’t assume that this is the reality for every house out in the country. You need to move cautiously and deliberately when buying a house in the country. Performing due diligence is necessary wherever you buy property, but rural properties can have different issues than urban or suburban homes.
1. Inconsistent Internet Access
If a reliable and fast internet connection is a big priority for you, always confirm the presence of internet service at any rural property that interests you. Rural internet is quite limited. Many homes rely on satellite internet services, which are universally loathed by country dwellers for insufficient bandwidth. And quite honestly satellite internet is the only option for many country dwellers. Maybe Starlink will change the equation, but that remains an open question.
2. Few School Choices
Low population densities will only support a single public school district. You might also have a private or religious school nearby, but the situation will not be like living in a city where you have multiple school districts within a reasonable distance from your home.
Unless you home school or don’t have children to educate, investigate the status of the local school system to see if it’s tolerable.
3. Limited Health Care Options
Similar to the situation with schools, you can’t expect health care to be readily available. Rural hospitals have been closing at an alarming rate for years. Between January 2013 and February 2020, the U.S. Government Accounting Office recorded the closures of 101 rural hospitals. Experts expect this trend to continue. If you live in a rural area, you should not assume that your local small-town hospital will be available for the long term.
More and more, rural residents have to travel farther for inpatient and emergency department care. Aside from hospitals, rural residents have fewer choices for general practitioners and specialists.
4. Agricultural Pesticide Drift
Unless you’re deep in the woods or foothills, rural properties are frequently in close proximity to large agricultural fields and orchards. Applications of pesticides can and do drift onto people’s residential properties. Repeated exposure to pesticides increases the risk of cancer and other diseases.
When evaluating a rural property, consider how close it is to agricultural fields and whether it is downwind or not.
5. Nearby Land Uses May be Unpleasant
Even if a rural home does not appear close to anything except fields and woods, it still might not be far enough away from bothersome properties.
The house might be near a landfill. These are often masked by large berms and tree plantings so that they are not obvious on the landscape. However, you might be on a road heavily trafficked by garbage trucks that kick up dust. In a worst case scenario, you’ll smell the dump and it might contaminate your water supply.
Large animal farms are notorious for ruining an otherwise peaceful country setting. Hundreds or thousands of animals produce excessive manure that pollutes the air and local waters. Drive around the area to see if any animal farms are too close for comfort.
Noisy neighbors can be quite distressing in the country because there’s no ordinance to make them tone it down. People maintain recreational properties where they might do obnoxious things, like throw parties, shoot guns, and drive around on noisy dirt bikes. These nuisances can be difficult to spot. The properties do not necessarily have activity every day of the week.
Gravel mines, also known as gravel pits, dot the countryside. Like landfills, they are often masked with berms. They are not necessarily a threat to your happiness. If you’re close, dust might be an issue. The biggest problem is if you live on a road trafficked by large gravel trucks. They are noisy going up and down what would otherwise be a quiet road.
Overall, in addition to driving around the location of a country home that interests you, you should give the area a thorough examination on Google Earth. The eye in the sky reveals much that cannot be seen from the road.
6. Water and Septic
Here’s a fun fact about buying a house in the country. You are your own water and sewer department. That’s what you always wanted isn’t it?
Before you buy a country house, you need to see inspections for the well and the septic system.
You need to understand their status by having a well flow test done that measures how much water the well can deliver to a home.
You should also have a lab perform a water quality test to inform you about any contaminants that may be present.
As for the septic tank, a local septic company can inspect it and let you know if the tank or leach lines need repair or replacement any time soon.
With this information, you’ll know if:
- A new well needs to be drilled.
- If you need water filtration equipment.
- If you need to put in a new septic tank.
- If you need to have new leach lines dug.
Any of these jobs will cost thousands of dollars. Even if everything is wonderful when buying a home in the country, you can expect to pay for one or more of these water or septic issues at some point in time.
An easement is an arrangement that grants another party access to a portion of your property. It could be as simple as a gravel driveway that someone uses to access a remote hunting property or as extensive as a utility easement that allows a power company to come and go at will to take care of utility lines or other infrastructure.
Easements must be disclosed to potential buyers so that they can decide whether they are comfortable with them or not. Always ask about easements just in case someone is trying to avoid telling you about one.
8. Mineral Rights
Mineral rights are a separate form of real estate from the surface land. An owner of mineral rights can extract the resources inside the land, usually oil or gas. When buying a house in the country, especially buying a house with acreage, find out if the property includes the mineral rights or if someone else owns them.
If someone else owns the mineral rights, an oil and gas company might decide to drill wells on your property.
If the property includes the mineral rights, you have control of the situation. You can even sell or lease them for money if you want.
None of this information is meant to discourage anyone from buying a rural property. Many country homes are lovely and very much enjoyed by their owners. But you deserve to enter the situation fully informed and know what to watch out for before committing to a purchase.