Lifestyle / Hobby Farms

I want to buy a ‘Lifestyle’ or ‘Hobby Farm’. What are the... It’s vital that you develop a clear idea of how you want your lifestyle farm to enhance your life.
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Lifestyle / Hobby Farms

The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions. Click here for full Terms of Use.

I want to buy a ‘Lifestyle’ or ‘Hobby Farm’. What are the things I need to think about from the outset?

It’s vital that you develop a clear idea of how you want your lifestyle farm to enhance your life.
  • Make sure you have realistic expectations when considering the move to a rural area. Consider the surrounding rural infrastructure like communications, roads, agricultural supplies, and general support services and how these available services will support your day-to-day living
  • Be realistic about your own abilities. Will you be able to manage the land you’re purchasing or will you require help?
  • Maintain good lines of communication with your real estate agent. You might be searching for your lifestyle block in an unfamiliar area. First National real estate agents have good knowledge of local rural areas and will help you to find the right lifestyle property match for your needs.
  • There are legal obligations and Council by-laws for you to consider when running a small food growing or farm business.  These obligations cover animal care (identification, tracking / tagging systems), weed and pest controls, and effluent disposal methods.  There are also Council planning restrictions and building codes to consider.  Ensure that you seek legal advice if you are unsure of any of your obligations.

What sorts of questions should I ask myself when buying a Lifestyle Farm?

Before you buy a rural Lifestyle Block, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Is your property within reasonable travelling distance from a town and services?
     
  • How much time and effort can you devote to learning about your chosen farming or food growing activity?
     
  • Do you have sufficient disposable income to adequately support the wellbeing of livestock - including any feeding and medical treatment?
 
  • Are there any other successful lifestyle blocks or hobby farmers nearby who you could learn from and share ideas with?
     
  • Are your family willing to support your lifestyle block farming activities?  Even a small hobby farm can be hard work and time consuming.
     
  • What level of income, if any, do you expect from your property?
     
  • Weather is a factor to consider when farming.  Good farmers prepare for bad weather by storing foodstuffs in summer to use in winter, storing water in winter to be used in summer, and so on.  Are you prepared for a crisis?
  • Do you have the right training and skills in mechanics and farm safety to operate and maintain small farm equipment, or will you need to upskill yourself?  Contact your local farmers co-operative for advice.
     
  • Is your chosen farm activity well suited to the landscape and capability of the land you’re looking at?
     
  • Is there enough water available at your prospective lifestyle block to carry out the farm activity you have in mind?  Is the water supply of suitable quality?
     
  • Are all the public services (electricity, gas, water, sewage, phone, and Internet) you require already provided to the lifestyle block property? If not, how much will it cost you to connect the property up? Or is it an area that will always have limited services?
     
  • Are there any soil erosion issues on the property?  Can they be fixed?  Soil problems can be expensive to rectify. To protect yourself from this risk, you could ask a soil engineer to carry out soil testing, prior to your purchase.

What are some of the specifics to consider with Lifestyle Farms?

You must understand local planning guidelines concerning zoning, permitted uses, animals, land care (controlling noxious weeds & pests).

The local council will be able to answer your questions but also…
  • Make sure fences, sheds, water pumps, dams, drains, bores, irrigation, water supply, tanks, house and general infrastructure meets your needs and ascertain whether they have council approval
  • Soil and water – do they meet your required standard or need further tests?
  • Markets – will you need to transport livestock or produce to markets? Consider the distance and costs involved.
  • Weeds and pest infestations can be expensive to eradicate. Check neighbouring properties, access roads, adjoining state forests and water sources. Ask an agronomist if you have concerns.

How can I generate income from livestock on a Lifestyle or Hobby Farm?

There are a large number of ways that your lifestyle block can generate income.  You should select an opportunity that is suitable for your property type, that fits in with your lifestyle and work ethic, and that you'll enjoy being a part of.  Some of the ways that lifestyle block owners produce income are:
  • Farming free-range chickens for eggs
  • Free range livestock 
  • Keeping bees for honey-making
  • Using cow or goat milk for making cheese
  • Growing niche fruits or vegetables such as heirloom tomatoes
  • Making organic wine or cider
The Lifestyle Block website contains a wide range of information that is useful for New Zealand lifestyle block owners.

What do I need to think about if I decide to keep some livestock?

Smaller livestock breeds are popular with first time rural block farmers, because they’re easier to handle and can be less costly and more manageable to farm.

Consider these following tips when thinking about livestock:
  • How far is the prospective lifestyle block property from veterinary facilities?  If animals get sick, you may need to get a vet to them quickly. Animals tend to get sick at the most inconvenient moments. Will you be able to drop everything to attend to your animals’ welfare if needed?
  • If you want to keep cattle, does the farm have appropriate fencing and loading ramps?  Does it also have cattle traps in roads and sufficient space for the cattle to roam?  Cattle generally require a large amount of grazing space
  • If you have horses, will you be available when horses are foaling?  Horses often need help to deliver their foals
  • If you have lambs, will you be available for lambing season?  New-born lambs sometimes need to be bottle fed for extended periods
  • Can you attend immediately to escaped cattle?  Are you able to quickly repair damaged fences yourself? Check that there are local fencing and farming contractors available and close to your lifestyle block if required
New hobby farmers will benefit from visiting one of the many A&P Field Days or lifestyle farming expos held each year in New Zealand, to get an understanding of what's truly required to look after farm animals.  At these shows you'll meet other lifestyle farmers, Council staff, and experts from various farming supply companies.  Local vets can also help you to understand the common issues they encounter.

I want to generate an income from crops. What are the fundamentals?

If you wish to grow crops on your lifestyle block, you'll need at least a basic knowledge of soil composition, pest control, and water irrigation.  Water supply and quality is particularly important if you'll be away from your property regularly.

Some relatively profitable crops you can grow include berries, asparagus, leafy greens, garlic and onions. These are quick to grow and produce plentiful outputs.

Talk to your local garden centre for crop growing advice, or visit the A&P Field Days to talk with experts who have first-hand experience of lifestyle farming.

What other ways do people generate an income from on Lifestyle and Hobby Farms?

There are a large number of ways that your lifestyle block can generate income.  You should select an opportunity that is suitable for your property type, that fits in with your lifestyle and work ethic, and that you'll enjoy being a part of.  Some of the ways that lifestyle block owners produce income are:
  • Farming free-range chickens for eggs
  • Free range livestock 
  • Keeping bees for honey-making
  • Using cow or goat milk for making cheese
  • Growing niche fruits or vegetables such as heirloom tomatoes
  • Making organic wine or cider
The Lifestyle Block website contains a wide range of information that is useful for New Zealand lifestyle block owners.

Are there any tips for getting a mortgage with Lifestyle and Hobby Farms?

Many New Zealand banks and lending institutions offer mortgages to purchase lifestyle blocks. There are many influencing factors when a bank decides whether or not to advance funds to you, but your ability to keep up payments on the mortgage is probably one of the biggest considerations.  Specialist mortgage brokers operating in rural areas will be able to advise you on how best to negotiate with lenders.

What else do I need to know when buying rural land?

The definition of rural land includes any land that is used or intended to be used for the grazing of livestock, dairy farming, poultry farming, grape growing, orchards, beekeeping, horticulture, the growing of crops of any kind, and vegetable growing.

This intended usage makes the soil quality and land slope more important than the land you buy for a family home.  Some important issues to keep in mind are:
  • Is the land surrounding the lifestyle block you want to purchase used mainly for agriculture, commercial purposes or private use?
  • Does the property already have appropriate Council approvals and the correct zoning for any external buildings or other developments you have planned?
  • Consider your own health and age. Will you have regular need for medical facilities and services that are only found in cities and regional centres?  Does your new rural location have a doctor or medical centre nearby?
  • Does the Sale and Purchase Agreement for your lifestyle block include any required licenses such as water usage rights etc?  It's very important to make sure that you know what is, and what is not, included in your purchase.  Get legal advice if you are a first time lifestyle block buyer, to minimise risks.
  • How easy will it be for you to have utilities such as power, gas, sewage and phone connected to your lifestyle block?  What costs are involved?
  • Check for flood plains, areas with access problems or limited water supply.
  • Check for any easements or rights of way that may be through the property. Even though they may have not been used for some time, their use by others can affect your own usage rights.
  • Check that effective noxious pest controls are in place on your land. Pest eradication can be expensive, so prevention is usually the best approach.

What should I check for when buying undeveloped rural land?

If you are considering buying undeveloped rural land, check the following:
  • Water tables, depth, quality and reliability
  • Closeness of utilities like water, gas, electricity, telephone and any costs to bring them to the land / property for installation and maintenance
  • Local road maintenance and accessibility, and any potential costs to connect these up to the property
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