6 simple steps for researching and buying a rural property

Looking at buying a farm, cabin, or other rural property? Here's a great guide to help you get started. Have your real estate agent and notary check these matters when negotiating and finalizing the purchase.

6 simple steps for researching and buying a rural property

1. Contract of sale

The contract describes the terms under which the property is being sold.

  • It should include a description of all encumbrances on the property
  • It should also be made contingent upon the ability of the buyer to secure adequate financing (perhaps by way of mortgage).
  • Check whether the insurable risk in relation to the property passes to the purchaser when the contract is signed or whether it passes after settlement.

2. Easements and access

Many properties have easements, or legal restrictions on the title of the property, that may allow rights-of-way to neighbours, or permit electricity and other authorities to build or maintain services. There may even be obligations contained in the title deed or imposed by government regulations concerning property clearing or the maintenance or construction of a road or fence.

  • If there is no public road providing access to the property, ensure that there is a right-of-way across intervening land.
  • Many public and semi-public authorities have the right to appropriate land (with compensation to owners) for roads, drainage canals, dams, power lines, airports, school construction, rights-of-way into bordering government-owned property and the like.
  • Try to find out if any such proceedings are contemplated.
  • Also ask owners of nearby properties about the existence and nature of any ongoing disputes (regarding fencing, access, water rights and so on).

3. Rates and services

Check with local authorities to find out what rates are payable (property, water and the like).

  • Find out if there are arrears, and also whether the rates are likely to change.
  • If an adjustment is anticipated, ask why.
  • If the electricity or water needs to be connected, obtain a written quote for the cost of those connections.
  • Enquire also about costs associated with other services, such as sewage lines and telephone.

4. Survey

Arrange for appropriate tradespeople to report on the state of repair of the buildings on the property, and have a pest exterminator check for infestations.

  • Before committing to the contract, negotiate appropriate pre-sale improvements to the land and buildings.
  • Neighbours may be able to provide information about the history of the property. Ask about local flooding, land sinking, land slips or landslides, chemical contamination in the soil, or fires.
  • In addition, insist on seeing a professional survey that shows property boundaries and identifies the likely effect of easements on the location of proposed buildings.

5. Water rights

The contract of sale should include a clause in which the seller guarantees a minimum water supply.

  • Check whether the site is subject to flood restrictions, or if there are places that cannot be built upon.
  • Normally there will be few restrictions for properties outside town limits.

6. Zoning

Check with the local municipality about zoning and building rights.

  • Restrictions often apply to small farms close to built-up areas, and fees are often payable in relation to the erection of a dwelling.
  • Investigate what controls there may be over the use of the land (especially if it is envisaged that a business will be run from the property), and confirm that you can construct the building you want, particularly if you employ non-standard materials and methods.
  • Above all, be certain that you can use the land in the manner you intend.

That's it -- now you're well on your way to finding that perfect property away from the hustle-and-bustle of city life.

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