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What to Look out for When Buying Rural Property

By Bernadette Gray

As of 2016, only 10 per cent of Australians lived in rural areas, according to World Bank data. That’s understandable as employment opportunities, infrastructure and other factors generally get worse as you get farther away from the city.

However, if you’re looking for peace and quiet of a simpler lifestyle, buying a rural property in Australia could be perfect for you. If you do decide to take the plunge and go rural, there will be lifestyle changes involved – we’ve spelled some of the most common ones below to be aware of.

SEWERAGE AND WATER SUPPLY

Don’t assume any rural property will be connected to a central sewerage system or a town water supply, many rely on septic tanks or other systems. If you’re buying a block with a home already built, it’s important to fully understand the sewage system, or if one has been installed at all.

You should also check whether it has council consents, and what its maintenance entails, as well as making sure any resource consents acquired are transferred to your name when you buy. This is absolutely essential as a sewerage system, or lack thereof, can be a costly item to fix once you’ve already bought a property.

LAND COVENANTS

Rural land that’s been subdivided and developed will often be subject to a number of land covenants, which impose rules about the way they can be used. The developer or the council usually set these to either limit the development’s impacts on neighbours or keep the standards of the area high.

It’s important that you check with the vendor and always read the fine print, as covenants could affect your use of the land. They may prohibit certain types of farming or require you to develop or maintain your land in a certain way.

FARMS AS NEIGHBOURS

Country life can be brilliant, but it can also be messy and smelly, particularly if your property borders a farm. Effluent may spread across to your land, fertiliser spray could blow across to your property and you might be woken early in the morning by the various sounds that accompany a farm.

Before buying a rural property you should fully understand who your neighbours are and what goes on around the borders of your property. Think about how this could affect your enjoyment of your property, and check zoning rules with local councils to understand what kind of activities can go on next door to you.

THE AREA’S ECONOMY

It’s always best to buy property in an area with a thriving economy as it’ll be more likely to hold its value. However, you should also be wary of buying in an area supported by one industry alone, such as mining or agriculture. In such regions a decrease in mining activity, or a natural disaster could cripple the local economy causing your property value to plummet.

For example, rural areas around small cities like Toowoomba in Queensland are a great option. Here, the economy is supported by a university, a strong agricultural sector and a burgeoning financial services industry. It’s still relatively small and rural, but it’s also diverse and has solid prospects for future growth.

PESTS AND DISEASES

If you plan to grow produce or raise farm animals on your land, you should be fully aware of any pests or diseases that may be present before buying. Pesky fruit flies, or diseased grass, for example, could make farming activities challenging.

Some areas of the country are designated as disease and pest management areas, so always check with your conveyancer or local council in case the land you want to buy is. Take note of common pest concerns in the area and inspect vegetation on the property to see if its affected by them. If you’re unsure it’s worth having soil tests done, as well as pest inspections, and to have these looked at by a qualified agronomist so that you fully understand the results.

CONSIDER COMMUNITY

Rural areas are all unique – some have thriving community centres, bustling pubs and busy town centres, while others are sleepy, peaceful and isolated. Consider what you want from your rural community and spend time in the area before buying to see if it can provide the lifestyle you’re looking for.

Buying rural property can be a huge challenge, particularly if you’ve never lived outside a city. However, if you seek the help of a trusted local real estate agent, do your own research and buy with caution the rewards will be well worth the risk.

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