Moving To The Countryside
If you have ever dreamed of moving to your own little country paradise, here are a few things to consider when planning your escape to a life filled with peace and quiet, and perhaps even a little wildlife in your back 40.
Lifestyle and Land Use
The first thing to do is decide on the scale of your spread.
More than anything, this is likely going to be dictated by price. Once you know your budget you can start to search different areas that are of interest to you. There is quite a range here to consider, from just a small country lot to perhaps a larger property that might have some sort of income producing business attached to it. You could be looking at a livestock operation, a horse boarding facility, or perhaps a cash crop farm. Maybe it’s an apple orchard, organic vegetable farm, or it could be a piece of land to do nothing with at all except wander around in your sweat pants and rubber boots – there are so many exciting options to consider when you live in the country.
Property Restrictions – Do keep in mind to double check with the region or municipality to make sure you are allowed to do what you had in mind. For instance, there may be certain minimum land size restrictions if you are considering keeping some sort of livestock. Are there any right of ways held by gas or hydro companies? You may also have to check with the Conservation Authority, or the Ministry of Natural Resources to find out if there are any ownership rights or restrictions.
Distance to Town… Distance to Anything
Having to make a 10-minute+ drive back to town because you forgot to buy milk is something to consider. The simple conveniences of living in the suburbs or the city may not be as accessible in rural areas.
You may want to look into accessibility of the school bus route, distance to the hospital, or even the gas station before settling on a property.
Accessibility of The Roads
While we’re on the topic of driving, you’ll want to know if the roads accessible all year round. They may not be plowed in the winter by the municipality (although in the city, we’ve been told by some they’re lucky if their side roads are plowed once a year). In the country, sometimes private companies are contracted out to plow these roads for you, with the neighbors who live on the same road often sharing this cost. Sometimes the road can remain unplowed for days depending on the amount of snowfall, and getting down your road could be a real challenge. If you can’t get down your road the school bus can’t either which means kids may have more snow days in the year; I am sure they won’t mind this, but it is something you will have to plan for.
Staff, Equipment, and More
Staff – Depending on the size of your property and what you plan to do with it, think about whether you are going to run the show on your own, or will your be hiring on staff? If you are still planning to work at your job full time, this could mean extra work before you leave for the day, and extra work waiting for you when you get home. No one gets supper until their chores are done! Maybe you could rent the unused land to a tenant farmer?
Equipment – For those winter months you may need a snow blower if you’re on a big lot with a relatively normal sized driveway, but if your driveway is two hundred feet long or more, having a tractor with a plow might be an essential piece of equipment to purchase. For the spring, summer and fall months you may need a riding lawnmower, or possibly a tractor with a bush hog. Hiring someone to plow your drive or mow your lawn is also an option, but it might not be ploughed or mowed as quickly as you might like. It will be work on some days, and the reality of living it might not be as romantic as once thought. All of this said, most people considering this lifestyle are not going to mind the extra work and are likely to find it gratifying and worth it.
Life Support Systems
Living in the country will require a little getting used to when it comes to the systems of the property.
Septic Sewer – If you have ever been to a cottage or a country property and have seen a sign in the bathroom saying, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”, here is why! In the country you will no longer be connected to the city sewer system. Instead you will have what is called a septic sewer system. There are quite a few different types of septic sewer systems, but the most common in Ontario are a septic holding tanks for solids and sludge combined with some type of absorption system such as a leaching bed, where the liquids are filtered through and then absorbed back in the ground. The solids and sludge in the tank will require an outside service company to visit the property from time to time to suck out all the contents with what is basically a giant vacuum on the back of a big truck. There will be a cost for this service so it is something to budget for. As the property owner, the condition of this system will be your responsibility, so being careful with what you flush or dump down the drain will be something you will want to educate yourself on.
Water system – There are two types of water systems commonly found in Ontario for rural properties not connected to the city water line. Depending on where the property is located, if there is adequate and safe ground water somewhere below your property you will likely have a well water system. This is great because you will not have to pay for water! When doing your due diligence on a property with a well, you need to have a sample of the water taken and tested at the municipality to make sure it is safe for drinking and is not contaminated. Maintenance of the pump and filtering system will also be required.
The other common type would be a cistern or tank system if there is not sufficient ground water. This means you will have to purchase your water. If you have ever seen the trucks with tanks on the back that say something like “Ed’s Water Haulage”, “Ed” is trucking water to someone who has a cistern that needs filling.
Heat Fuel System – There are a variety of fuel types found in country properties, from old electric systems, to propane or oil systems where a fuel provider will visit the property to fill up your tank just like the way you fuel up your car. If you are not too far out of town you may even be lucky enough to be connected to a natural gas line. It all depends on where the nearest gas line is located. Some older properties may even rely on wood stoves and fireplaces for a portion of the heating.
If you are planning to build a home or make significant improvements to the home, there are quite a number of options to explore for lessening your reliance on heat fuel. For example, you could explore geo thermal heating, or even a passive solar design of the house itself if you are building from the ground up.
Electricity – This system is pretty straight forward. Unless you are building a house that you have to fly in a bush plane to get to, you will most likely be connected to the electrical grid. One potential opportunity though, would be to supplement your electricity by creating your own! This will be site and location dependent. But if your plot is right, you may want to explore, solar and wind as possible systems to create some of your own power. If your property and systems are large enough you might even be able to obtain a contract with the Ontario government to sell electricity back to the grid. This would require a real cost to benefit analysis, as large scale systems are expensive and you are required to pay for the system yourself. Speaking to an expert will give you clarification on whether this is a viable option worth entertaining.
A small but noteworthy subject to understand with rural properties are property improvements. This is important if you are planning to sell the property down the road. Depending on size and function of the property, improving things like out buildings if any; e.g. barns, sheds, etc.; or land improvements such as habitat restoration (like ponds, reforestation etc.), generally will not impact the value of the property that much. Smaller properties still see the biggest impact on value when the house itself is improved. Now, if you buy 50 acres with an old house on it, and then you build a significant amount of infrastructure for the operation of a larger scale business, such as an equestrian facility, or a dairy cattle facility that would be a different story as you have built something of value that can generate an income.
If you are planning to use your property to generate some sort of income, there are some serious tax advantages that you will want to understand. Speak to an accountant versed in farming taxation to get a full understanding of what the parameters are and how to structure your business. If you weren’t planning on generating any income with your rural property, you should take the time to educate yourself on what advantages might be available to you if you did start some sort of venture on your property. Beyond income taxes, there may also be property tax discounts as well. Under the Assessment Act regulation that came into effect in January 1998, eligible farmlands in Ontario can be classed in the Farm Property Class and taxed at 25% of the municipal residential rate. Checking with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), for specifics on a subject property are a crucial part of your due diligence when shopping for a rural property.
Living in the country is certainly a lifestyle choice, and is not for everyone. But if you have ever dreamed of giving up sirens and traffic for coyotes yipping at sundown, why not start exploring the different options out there today …..it could be the start of a real life long adventure. 🙂
For more in depth information, pricing and property properfiles check out our New! Country Home Real Estate Guide.