Getting Started

We asked people who make their living selling rural properties what buyers need to keep in mind as they set out in search of their dream property. Here’s what they told us:

Be clear about what you want. Charlie Israel, a broker with Mossy Oak Properties in Birmingham, Ala., gives his clients a questionnaire that covers likes and dislikes. He also watches their reaction to the properties he shows them. For example, what are their thoughts about timbered property versus pasture, hilly versus flat, hunting and fishing or personal retreat? It’s critical that you, as the client, communicate these thoughts clearly to the realtor or broker. “The search process is often about eliminating what someone doesn’t like, as opposed to finding what they do like,” he says.

Get acquainted with the property. Chris Martin, a realtor in Paris, Ill., has seen plenty of clients who think they know what they want. But as soon as they walk the ground, they decide differently. He says this is the best way to apply a solid dose of reality to your dreams.

Be prepared to pay. Country land isn’t as cheap as it used to be. Martin says the value of even marginal farmland is rising sharply, especially if it’s suited for development. Not many years back, less desirable farm ground, like that owned by Martin, could be purchased for less than $1,500 per acre. Now that land brings up to $3,000 an acre.

Don’t assume you can build on the property you like. If the property has been designated a wetland, for example, the actual sites available for a home on the property will be sharply limited. Here’s a good time to pay for your own survey. You’re going to need it to show county officials there is upland space on which to build a home or a barn and other outbuildings.
Here are more questions to ask as you consider properties:

• What is the drive time to work? You’ll want to look at this, plus how far the property is from town and even the nearest airport.

• How is adjoining property zoned? If the property is zoned for industry, retail or high-density tract housing, you have to ask yourself if you can live next to that kind of development.

• What’s the topography? Hills, sinkholes, rock outcroppings and other geological features channel the construction sites for all of your buildings.

• What access do you have to surface and well water?

• What improvements will you have to make on the land? Wells, septic fields, roads, fencing—they all cost money.

Used with permission, The Progressive Farmer, All Rights Reserved.

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