A new year often means that city folk dream about what life in the country might be like.  But now, more than ever, it pays to do one’s homework before heading out to stake one’s claim.  Here are some tips on buying an acreage that you could suggest to those you know who are thinking about a move this spring or wanting to start looking.  And this is a good list to take note of if you are already an acreage owner and want insight as to what a country realtor recommends to his potential buyers and issues buyers grapple with.

  • Ensure your entire family wants to move.  Teenagers often don’t like relocating to remote areas of the country as often they feel they will lose city friendships and miss out on ‘city action’.
  • Set an upper spending limit and stick to it. Get a pre approval from a mortgage broker or your bank to ensure you qualify for that upper limit you have set. Don’t reach for a house size or land size you will not utilize.
  • Begin searching in the spring or summer so you can view land properly.  When checking out a property walk around all the land to see if some areas feel soft or soggy, especially in areas where past floods are common. 
  • Get your agent to ensure where the actual boundaries are. Current fencing may not represent the proper boundary locations if there are cross fencing sections. Review an existing RPR if the seller has one to ensure actual boundaries. 
  • Write a condition in an offer that you want to review an RPR (Real Property Report) to ensure compliance.
  • Research local bylaws.  They may prevent you from parking your trailers or toys outside, particularly if restrictive covenants exist or from subdividing later for instance.
  • Determine the distance to the nearest fire department. This may affect insurance rates.
  • Talk to neighbours. Ask about driving times, high-speed internet options/capabilities, access to schools based on geographic boundaries, nearest churches, shopping etc.  
  • Find out who provides local clearing services that can help with tractor or plowing services if you get stuck in mud or snow or you don’t want to do your new long driveway yourself and want to contract out services.
  • Check with an MD planning officer to see if any future scheduled developments in the immediate area will affect the property you’re considering.
  • Get a home inspection including septic system. Ask your agent to check with the seller to see if they have had a pre listing inspection done and if any issues that surfaced are being attended to.
  • If possible use a buyers agent that knows about country properties and home construction.  S(he) should be able to spot problems during the looking stage. A home inspector will likely notice any spotted issues and uncover more issues and inform you of them as part of a condition in your offer.
  • Stop at the edge of the property and study the roofline to ensure it’s not sagging.  Check to see if the driveway is level and pothole-free and not breaking down. On approaching the house, see if the eaves troughs are clear and sound. Check drainage around the dwellings looking for low spots and drainage patterns towards the dwelling.
  • Examine the septic field if you know where it is (ask the listing agent for a drawing or sketch prepared by the seller verifying where it is).  If the area over or near the septic tank is a different colour than the surrounding area, there may be moisture problems. Dead grass in the septic field may suggest trouble and that proper percolation is possibly not happening.
  • Ask about water quality and any reports that exist.  Taste the water. Smell the water. Check the colour.  Confirm what if any water processing equipment is in the home. Get the water tested for flow rate and water chemical analysis including bacterial testing as a condition of your purchase.
  • If you can’t inspect parts of the property (septic field, driveway etc.) due to snow or mud or if major repairs are needed, consider a holdback of part of the purchase proceeds until you are satisfied all repairs are complete or you have determined that everything is as it should be. 

There are other considerations as well but this is a good check list to work from.