~ a warm welcome ~
Do you have a dream of living in the country, on a farm or homestead, living a larger life? Do you want to live in a state, commonwealth (Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Massachusetts) or territory (Puerto Rico or Northern Mariana Island with no Congressional representative nor can vote in USA presidential )? Why do you have such a dream? What fuels your dream? There are a lot of decisions to make, a lot of stuff to know and this article is a great start. Of course, it’s my perspective as a first generation urbanite who, every summer, would live with aunts and uncles on their working farms. The last quarter century has been on my own working farm where I’ve restored an1800’s home, homestead, barns, pasture and fences, raised Angora-Pygmy goats, rare breed wool sheep, rare breed Curly horses, Black Angus cattle, alpacas, hogs, dogs and cats. That 1800’s house was five years from falling down when Dave (now deceased husband) and I were married on the front lawn, moved in and began restoration. Living on site while restoring is not for the weak hearted especially when workers lived alongside! Every morning I would go through the house, pot and wooden spoon in hand, banging away, making as much noise as possible to run out the raccoons, possums, foxes and anyone else who’d sought overnight shelter. The winter of January 1995 was the coldest on record and we saw the back porch thermometer resting at 35 degrees below zero F but those years were the absolute best season of my life. I only wish I knew then what I know now. I’ve both bought and sold farms and property with and without a realtor/buyer’s agent and strongly recommend hiring a professional.
~ stellar sights ~
The most important decision isn’t house but land. A house can always be restored, updated, built, renovated or moved, but land isn’t being made and is actually decreasing daily. Like Granny told her grand-daughter, “Buy land, Mary. Buy land. They aren’t making any more of it, buy land.”
~ lovely hay to feed my animals and to sell ~
What will you do with the land? Do you want to grow crops (requires fairly flat land), raise animals (requires pasture), run a country inn (requires amenities) or sit on the porch and simply admire the view (requires a rocking chair)? Your reason is good enough but there are still a lot of answers you need in order to make an intelligent purchase. It’s possible for a woman to raise cattle but it’s easier to raise sheep or goats. I could never wrestle a steer to the ground but could hold my own against a sheep. Cattle require specialized equipment, such as head chutes specifically, in order to aid giving vaccinations, medications, etc. Sheep and goats can be handled by a lone female having no specialized equipment other than hoof trimmers. If one is raising wool sheep, a professional shearer with clippers is needed. There are eight meat breeds (raised for the table), also known as hair sheep, that don’t require shearing as they roo or shed their coats. (A separate post will speak to raising sheep.)
What’s your time frame? When do you need or want to relocate? Having a longer time frame gives you more time to research, look at properties, plan your exit, enter into a purchase agreement, pack and move.
Will you live alone or with a spouse, friend, house mate, etc.? It makes a difference if you’re solo or have a helper as to how much you’re able to handle. One person can fence but it’s easier with two. One person can doctor on a cow but it’s easier with two. One person can…well, you get the idea. Does the other person share your dream? Do they want a rural lifestyle or will it be a case of Green Acres where he wanted fresh air and she wanted Times Square. Make sure your dreams are in alignment or the friction might cause problems.
~ who will help you? ~
Do you know where you’d like to live? What state or commonwealth? Near a city, town, village or so rural you need to drive two hours to buy a bag of salt? Knowing your primary reason for purchase, gives you an edge in deciding where to look. Are there restrictions imposed by local, state or federal government? We wanted to live in the Appalachian Mountains as both our families had origins in the United Kingdom, specifically, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Living in the heartland of the Appy Mountains was a no-brainer for us although we looked at coastal properties just to make sure we weren’t “coastal people”. We wanted land and neighbors we couldn’t see and, as I told someone, “I like people in small doses and at great distances.” Living in the mountains meant we could breath deeply, our souls and physical bodies would be fed, we would love living there and, most importantly, feel at home.
Location, location, location is all important. Until it’s not. If you’re looking at a beautiful piece of property with a view, with water and affordable…but with no access…you need to step back and do a lot of research. You have to be able to access the property either with road frontage, right of way or easement. County or State maintained road frontage gives one access with the additional plus it might actually be maintained. I say “actually be maintained” because I’ve lived on a “county maintained road” that wasn’t maintained until a county judge built his house on the road. Ever after the county was there, lickity split, to push snow off the road. They even put in a much larger culvert so when the cave overflowed, folks on the other side still had access.
~ first Thistle Cove Farm homestead ~
A right of way and easement differ in that a right of way gives permission to anyone to travel across your property while easements allow use of land without ownership. There are different types of easements…overhead might give permission to hunters and their tree stands, communications towers, etc. Subsurface easement could be pipelines to transport gas or other minerals while surface easements might mean folks could drive or walk across the land or install culverts. Your realtor or buyer’s agent should be able to answer, or find the answer, to these questions as well as obtain a copy of the recorded deed. The deed should also note if the property is in a flood plain which could affect insurance. If it’s not recorded, be sure to check FEMA’s Flood Plain Website. The last farm I owned had recorded water privileges; five farms shared water lines for an underground river that fed both homes and livestock water tanks. That recorded water right went back as far as the first recorded deed, several hundred years.
It should be noted in Virginia, if one has a cemetery on their property, access to the cemetery must be given to the public with no easement or right of way in place. Be cautious when considering property with either easements or rights of way as all could negatively affect property value or where you want to place an outbuilding or fence. Easements and rights of way always have access even if not currently in use but are, generally, noted in deeds.
~ Carly Shetland, sheep are a woman’s livestock ~
Take a slow ride around the community and check out the neighbors on either side, front and back. Are their properties well maintained? Do they have vehicles on blocks in the yard or old buildings falling down? Does the paint on their house looks newish or so old it’s peeling off in sheets? It’s your money and your call where you want to live; decide wisely.
~ beauty abounds in the country ~
How will you earn a living while you’re working the land? Having a mobile phone, satellite internet or television means you need a southern exposure with clear access to towers. The last two locations I’ve lived have been sparse with mobile telephone connections and I’ve had to have both landline and mobile in order to have service. For example, one day as I was leaving the farm, I noticed the old tenant house across the road was blazing. I grabbed my mobile phone, dialed 911 and gave the dispatcher the facts. She said, “What’s the address?” I gave it to her and she asked again, “Where are you?” I gave her my county name and she replied, “Honey, you’ve reached XYZ County (across the mountain) and we’re not sending anyone. You need to call your county.” I said, “Mam, if I hang up and dial 911 again…I’ll get you again. Please, would you call my county?” Nope, she wouldn’t so I sat there and watched the old house burn to the ground. Later, I found out the farm owner set fire to the building because he no longer wanted it standing. Sheesh.
My internet is satellite, I don’t have television service (why waste time watching people living a fake life when I can live a real life?) and I live about eight miles from town. I’m still on a no line country road where neighbors wave at each other, share garden produce, get together for potlucks, impromptu ice cream socials and holding down the porch. We’re here for each other but not in each other’s pockets; country life is a great life!
Sam P. Spade, Secret Agent, says, “We’ll see you soon for Part 2 of Buying Country Property!”
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