When buying your house in the country, it is very easy to get carried away by remote farms in far flung locations but there is usually a reason they are super cheap. Basically, no-one wants to live there. Ask yourself why that might be before you get too carried away. There is a big difference between rural and remote and you need to be clear what will work for you.
If you are still not sure about buying your house in the country, check out my previous post https://greenfamilyproject.com/2019/05/17/escape-to-the-country-what-you-should-consider-before-ditching-your-city-life-for-the-rural-dream/ as it might help you decide whether to make the leap.
If you have a particular lifestyle in mind, consider whether this is the right decision for the whole family. It might be wonderful living off grid in a yurt when the sun is shining but maybe not in the depths of winter with a bored toddler or isolated teenager. If you are dreaming of a smallholding and raising animals for food, it’s best to explore this option with family first. My family loved the idea of raising pigs but when questioned how they would feel when they went off to slaughter, I was greeted by horrified faces (these are all meat eaters) so we now have two guinea pigs instead. If you have never lived in the country, running your own farm will be a very steep learning curve, moving to a cottage in a small village will be less of a problem.
We settled on Sussex as it meant my husband could keep his job in London without an insane commute, we were near family and although more expensive than some areas, we could still afford to buy something suitable. When working out your budget consider that although you may end up mortgage free, you may have expenses you don’t currently have. We have a larger property and garden which requires extra maintenance. We had to take on an extra car and my husband has train fares and station parking to pay. Although he kept the same job, I am no longer working and we had additional costs. Council tax was far higher as were heating bills.
Location – What do you need to consider?
Firstly, decide on your main considerations. This is often work and how far a commute you can manage, whether you can relocate or if you are able to work from home for part of the time. I have found that many local job opportunities are discovered word of mouth (particularly, but not exclusively for lower skilled work). This is my list of things that had to be considered when looking at location:
- Schools (primary and secondary)
- Family, particularly parents
- Cost of housing in that location
- Transport links (not just to work but also to family/friends, nearest large city/town). Some train lines are notoriously unreliable and local bus services are under threat from cuts at present.
When deciding on what type of property you want make a list of your priorities, what can be compromised on and what is impossible to change. For instance, if you don’t want to live near a busy road there’s no compromise on that really but if you want one more bedroom than your dream property has, there can be ways around that.
Initially, we wanted to move to a large village but found that most of the four bedroom houses were on or near the main road. The large tucked away houses were a huge leap in budget. We decided we didn’t want to move to the country and live on a main road (particularly as the traffic is moving faster than it ever did in London) so we moved a little further out to a much smaller village. We now realise how busy the larger village gets as the amenities serve quite a few surrounding villages and it is the main route to the nearest town. We are very glad that we decided against it.
Buying your house in the country – House Viewings
I love a good nosy around a house so quite enjoyed viewings. I am also quite optimistic so see potential in pretty much every property we see. My husband is a bit more realistic so talked me down from doing huge renovations on a large farmhouse that was already over our budget with three children in tow including a toddler. It’s easy to get carried away. I appreciate that some people would have been able to do that but I’m not sure I would have kept my sanity.
I will assume as well that you are having to make a trek out to view properties and possibly even stay overnight. Our record viewings in one day was eleven (back to back, lunch en route). It is important in these circumstances to be clear with estate agents what you do and don’t want. We ended up coming to our location about three times before making a decision and viewed about fifteen houses. Here are some of the ‘fun’ quirks estate agents failed to mention on properties we viewed:
- The beautiful cottage has a half acre garden with a stream and wooded area. However, there is a road running through the middle of the garden and live railway lines at the back.
- There is a massive lake with steep sides in the garden, half of this is owned by a neighbour.
- The nearest road sounds like the Grand Prix (several properties)
- This beautiful barn conversion has four bedrooms. However, one of them has a beam running right through the centre at waist height.
- There is absolutely no parking.
- There is a weird right of way for your neighbour so although it looks secluded, they can pass by your lounge window whenever they fancy.
- It’s a flood risk and has actually flooded before.
- The garden is a decent size but is on a 45 degree angle.
- The owners run a cattery. Everything smells of cats.
- Don’t worry the barn immediately opposite is listed so won’t be converted. That is a shame as its currently falling apart and is full of someone’s life junk.
When deciding to view a property, check how long it has been on the market. If it has been on a long time (as many of the properties above had been) there might be a major factor putting people off. Many rural places can have shared access areas, rights of ways, flying freeholds and other quirky issues. Ask the estate agent before you view. The house we eventually bought did have a flying freehold (our neighbour owns the roof above a downstairs room) which we didn’t find out about before the survey. It has not proved to be a problem and they may be things you can live with but its best to know what you are dealing with.
Helpful questions to ask estate agents before viewing:
- If a property has been on the market for a little while, ask them what the main reason is that is putting off other viewers
- Are there any rights of way over the property or shared access? This includes public footpaths. We’ve been on country walks where the footpath takes you through someone’s back garden. You might be ok with this.
- If there are any special considerations such as an agricultural tie (meaning the occupant must be employed or last employed in agriculture)
- Are there any issues with parking if not clear from the details. (You will most likely need at least two parking spaces, more if you ever want anyone to visit).
- What are the current vendors situation and is there any other interest
- Explain your situation such as if you have children or if your elderly parents will be living with you. They might flag up something that might be pertinent to your situation.
Many rural pubs have a few rooms for bed and breakfast and these are a great place to stay when you are exploring the area. We stayed in several different local pubs which were often quiet in on a weekday evening meaning we could chat to staff and get a good idea about what’s going on in the area. They often to do great food and have gardens. I remember doing a couple of house viewings and going to a local pub for lunch. The kids were playing on the climbing frame in the garden and there were three Shetland ponies tied up by the fence, their owners were taking them for a walk and had stopped off for a pint. Sometimes its these little things that make you realise it is worthwhile.
Lastly, take your time. This will hopefully be your forever home. Don’t be afraid to ask for a third viewing. If you still can’t decide after three viewings it’s probably not the one for you and you should keep looking. The right one will be out there as long as you are realistic. Happy hunting!