Fancy a tree change or sea change? You’re not alone. Both investors and home owners are looking further afield to purchase property on the suburban fringes, so I have put together my tips for buying property in rural or regional locations.
With city property prices and lifestyle costs soaring, more people are looking to country properties outside Melbourne and Sydney for more competitive price tags and more home comforts for their dollar. Especially hot targets are major towns that boast a lot of established infrastructure such as Albury/Wodonga and surrounds.
What this means is that if you are a property investor, some amazing options are opening up in regional areas right now. It’s just a matter of making smart choices and careful spending.
There are a few unique traps and hazards that you need to be aware off to be sure the property you purchase is sound. While a city property purchase needs a canny eye around council planning permissions, air traffic pollution or lack of parking, in regional areas the list of risks is very different.
From feral cats to flood water levels, bushfire to drought, let’s get familiar with what to watch for, avoid and be content with when investigating the credibility of your potential new home or investment.
The best information is local. Look through local government records and request a property flood zone map to see if there has been any damage or threat to the property or area before.
This is not only important information for a smart property purchase it is also important for insurance purposes.
When it comes to checking flood zones, a history check is good but not the be-all-and-end-all. Our climate is rapidly changing, so flood areas to are shifting and changing. This affects even city living, with parts of Sydney now identified as flood zones. There can be unforeseen catastrophic floods, like those that devastated Queensland in 2011. Insurance is a smart choice, although you will need to factor it into the cost of the property.
For a soil test to determine elements like contaminants, soil structure and erosion risk you will need to hire a professional engineer. The results of this test will give you a heads up if there will be additional costs to future earthworks and land retention.
If there is a high clay content or solid rock present it will inhibit your ability to subdivide, build, or extend existing buildings. If you are looking to purchase land alone, a soil test is essential. A failed test can mean no build permits.
No matter what rural location you choose it is always smart to have a bushfire plan in place. Bushfires are unfortunately a risk in any scrub area, even suburban. Property damage can be minimised and lives can be saved if the correct procedures are followed.
Check with the local council on the regions bushfire history and ask to view the bushfire prone map. Knowing the danger and susceptibility to fires will help you make your property choice.
Like flooding, fire insurance will increase your costs, so know what you are buying into. If you are looking at purchasing a property as an investment you will need to consider how to maintain the property during fire season such as cleaning gutters and fire breaks, and know how to effectively defend your property in the event of a fire.
If you are buying land with a plan to build, you may need to meet additional bushfire construction compliance codes which will incur additional costs and possibly restrict your building plans in terms of materials used, size and location.
Crown roads are rare but when they occur they can really cause some issues if you are caught off guard. A Crown road is a dormant road that serves as passage through a property, and they are usually just worn tracks rather than actual roads and will not show on maps other than survey maps.
Crown roads are open to the public (although users are not permitted to venture off the track) and are used to access other properties or scenic landmarks.
Issues arise if you want to develop the property, change a fence line or add buildings or paddocks. The Crown road cannot be moved so you will need to work around it. Moving or deleting a Crown road is a slow and expensive legal process that might not end in the property owner’s favour and could cause bad blood between neighbours.
Check over survey maps thoroughly before taking on a regional property as a home or investment.
This is all about connection. If your expected utilities are not available life can get very tricky, not just for home owners, but if you have paying residents they are going to expect clean running water, heating and cooking. It might seem a given to have connection or gain connection easily in greater metro areas, however you’d be surprised at what can be missing in rural areas.
How well connected is the property for water, electricity and gas? If the property has self-sufficient measures like rainwater and solar panels it is wise to commission a report to gather info on average rain fall and sunlight.
It is also a good time to check on emergency back-up facilities. Are there secondary access points if the road to town is flooded? If not, do you have enough at the house to manage for a few days? Knowing in advance what resources and local support networks are in place can really set your mind at ease when you purchase.
Who your neighbours might be is easier to pick in metro areas. It can be harder to tell at first glance what a rural neighbourhood atmosphere is like or going to be like in five years’ time.
Take a really good look at the current industry and income sources in the district to gauge potential future neighbours and industries. This could be negative disruptive operations like mining or abattoirs to positive seasonal influxes like fruit or agriculture harvest, festivals or events.
Country and regional areas are highly affected by industry changes, which might be due to climate changes, demand changes, fast moving trends or a factory shutting down. A commercial or industrial shift in a rural area will have ripple effects across the whole district, both in economy, service availability, property prices and local population.
This one might be last on the list but environmental responsibilities can catch the unsuspecting buyer out, so do investigate your land management responsibilities. This can cover a whole range of possibilities from pest and weed control to land degradation, tree removal, fence maintenance, standards for native vegetation and control around health issues.
You will need to check both state and local government requirements for landowners to fully understand any responsibilities allotted to the property and factor in any potential costs.
BUYING PROPERTY IN RURAL OR REGIONAL LOCATIONS
While buying property in rural or regional locations might seem like a cheap and easy option, it is essential that you investigate and do the required research to determine if your investment is a viable one. There are some amazing bargains out there so make your move a smart one and consider those highly variable differences.
To paraphrase the John Williamson classic; Give us a home among the gum trees and make sure the plum trees don’t fall through the roof.
For any questions about a tree change or sea change and to help take the hassle out of your next property purchase, please contact our office.