I recently moved from a rural suburban centre of 10,000 people, out into the country near a town of 1,000. We’ve had this dream of having our own little piece of property for awhile. (Maybe all outdoor people have it?). We wanted a few acres that we could call our own, grow & raise our own food, and let our outdoor kids run wild. Pretty reasonable right?
Comparing the Wishlist to Reality
The dream of the property and the reality of the property need to match. You don’t want to purchase a property that has aspects that are going to turn your dream into a nightmare after you finally have achieved it. I’ve discovered more about land titles, zoning, by-laws and potential problems in the past few months than I care to think about. If you’re a urban city gal like me moving out to the country, here’s 6 things you DO NOT want on the new homestead you buy.
Caveats That Restrict You
Any piece of land that has been established for some time likely has Caveats on the title. Your lawyer will do a Land Title search previous to you signing the Real Estate Purchase Contract. You can ask your lawyer or real estate agent to check into the Caveats on the title before signing occurs. Many lands will have minerals rights that were sold many moons ago to oil & gas companies. You can research them on the Internet to see if they are still active, and what their name might be today. Check through the Caveats carefully, if you don’t understand, ask the laywer to help.
The Wrong Zoning
All land within municipalities and counties have zoning. You can find out what the zoning is of any property by going to your local government office. The Planning & Development Officer can give you basic information about the property you wish to purchase prior to your sale. The zoning of your property affects any development permits (aka you want to build or renovate the buildings), or what you can do with it. Check in and make sure your zoning fits with what you’re trying to accomplish.
The old “Timmy’s down the well?” Yeah, let’s no go there. Many pieces of properties have abandoned wells and oil & gas plants within them. As a parent of two young kids, I don’t even want to put this worry on my radar. There are online tools that you can input the land coordinates of the property that you are considering and it will tell you if there are any nearby abandoned wellsites. The Planning & Development Officer at your local municipality also can tell you that (ask nicely now).
Being Too Far From Fire Station
This one threw me for a bit of a loop. The farther you are from town/water/fire hydrant access, the higher your property insurance rate is going to be. Although it’s not a deciding factor per say, it’s a good thing to keep in mind. Other weird and wonderful questions – is there a fuel tank on site? Outbuildings? Silos? Ponds? Is your house super ancient? All of these will affect your property insurance rate and your budget.
No Access to Cell Phone & Internet
One of the houses we looked at literally there was no cell service. The satellite Internet provider also couldn’t get service to that property because there was too thick of woods in the way the receiver would have to point. Do your research if any of theses services are key to your business or personal life, and make sure you can get a provider in the area that you need.
Weird & Wonderful Quirks….
Country housing is different than urban. The building quality is a little like “fix with with what you’ve got”. Specific titles and lands will have quirks, here’s a few we ran up against:
-Your property doesn’t access to a road. It is through a railroad right of way that CN controls. Oh, and there’s a trestle bridge.
-The house doesn’t actually have a foundation, it’s built around a old trailer.
-30m of the front of the property is owned by the Government. In case they widen the road (someday).
-There is no well on the property, it’s a cistern tank and we haul our water in.
-Within the flight path of the airport.
A Huge Amount of Clean Up
We discovered this one through a huge amount of elbow grease. Our current property had not been lived in in some time. On the first day, we evicted birds from the house and have been cleaning up every since. Check out the conditions around the property – has the grass been cut? do trees need to be fell? Is your fence intact or will you have to fix it? Is your garden overgrown with 3′ of weeds? Although these are small things in consideration to a property inspection (highly recommend!), these tasks add up too.
Bottom line, Decide what you can live with and without. Walk if the property doesn’t fit. There’s always more properties. We searched over a period of about three months to find what we were looking for, and would have gone longer if the price & conditions didn’t match up