Rural Weekender

We plan to buy a rural property in the country and someti... Your personal approach to life and the daily routines you like to follow will determine whether a mix between city an...
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Rural Weekender

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.

We plan to buy a rural property in the country and sometimes use it for long weekends with the kids. We’ll live in the city the rest of the time. Will it work?

Your personal approach to life and the daily routines you like to follow will determine whether a mix between city and rural lifestyle living will work for you. 
  • The lifestyle block you buy should ideally be under two hours travelling time from your home. Longer travelling times between locations can become a trial for children, and thus diminish everyone’s enjoyment.
     
  • If you can’t make it to your rural property every weekend, due to sporting or other commitments, you’re unlikely to achieve the full enjoyment of the rural property that you envisaged.  Visiting your property only occasionally may also lead to more maintenance and gardening required when you do visit.
     
  • Make sure the rural property has the capacity to be rented out short-term, without expensive renovations.  If there are periods when it's not convenient for you to use it, you can immediately generate some rental income.
 
  • If the property isn’t connected to the main council water supply, make sure it has reasonable water storage capacity so that you don’t arrive to an empty tank on weekends. Have the tank cleaned regularly to ensure water safety.
 
  • Consider security carefully. Farm houses and rural properties that are not regularly occupied can be the target of thieves. A well secured rural property with basic furniture and appliances is the safest way to go.

How do I choose the most appropriate lifestyle block location?

  • Climate – How much sunshine do you want each year? Do you want to be able to curl up in front of the fire when it’s snowing, or do you need to be close to the beach?  Choose a property with the best climatic conditions for you.
     
  • Privacy – Do you want your lifestyle block to be out in the wilderness and away from others, or do you want some neighbours nearby to interact with?
     
  • Sport & Recreation – What local sports and recreational facilities would add appeal to your choice?  Do you need gyms or swimming pools nearby?
     
  • Shops – What shops and supermarkets are nearby, and are their prices competitive? How will you restock other supplies, and how often? 
     
  • Price – Is the price of the property affordable for you? Be realistic about what type of property you can afford, to avoid financial stress later on.
With your wish list in hand, look for properties that meet most of your requirements. Talk to your local First National rural real estate agent to save time and hassle.  Our rural real estate agents are specifically trained to help you find the very best lifestyle block or rural property at a price that meets your budget.

. Do lifestyle blocks make good investment properties?

Lifestyle blocks usually return a lower investment yield than city properties.  Rents are cheaper because of their locations on city outskirts, and capital gains are generally slower to appreciate on the properties.  Some owners make higher yields by renting their properties out as peak-period holiday rentals, but the New Zealand holiday season is typically only 6-8 weeks.  Most buyers buy their rural property just to enjoy, knowing that they can accrue capital gains over time, and sell if needed.

We plan to buy a rural property in the country and sometimes use it for long weekends with the kids. We’ll live in the city the rest of the time. Will it work?

  • The lifestyle block you buy should ideally be under two hours travelling time from your home. Longer travelling times between locations can become a trial for children, and thus diminish everyone’s enjoyment.
     
  • If you can’t make it to your rural property every weekend, due to sporting or other commitments, you’re unlikely to achieve the full enjoyment of the rural property that you envisaged.  Visiting your property only occasionally may also lead to more maintenance and gardening required when you do visit.
     
  • Make sure the rural property has the capacity to be rented out short-term, without expensive renovations.  If there are periods when it's not convenient for you to use it, you can immediately generate some rental income.
 
  • If the property isn’t connected to the main council water supply, make sure it has reasonable water storage capacity so that you don’t arrive to an empty tank on weekends. Have the tank cleaned regularly to ensure water safety.
 
  • Consider security carefully. Farm houses and rural properties that are not regularly occupied can be the target of thieves. A well secured rural property with basic furniture and appliances is the safest way to go.

Are there any other guidelines for choosing a lifestyle property?

There are many different types of lifestyle properties, and many people looking for them.  The following guidelines may help you choose the best possible property:
  • Property Size – Choose your property size carefully.  Compact properties can be easy to maintain.  Larger lifestyle blocks will have more space for animals and outdoor pursuits, but more maintenance time will be required.
 
  • Neighbours – What do your neighbour use their land for? Do they keep animals or participate in noisy recreational pursuits that could impact on your enjoyment of your lifestyle block? 
     
  • Type and size of house – Do you want a classic Victorian homestead, a modern home, or something more unique?  Some people are happy living in basic homes, whilst others require more contemporary designs.
     
  • Water availability and quality – Do you need mains water supply or will a rain collection tank be sufficient?  If a rain collection tank is used, can you be certain that the water is of sufficient quality to drink and shower in?
  • Fences – Do you want to keep livestock or pets? Fencing can be costly. Even simple vegetable plots will need protection from pests. Lifestyle blocks that are close to roads should have fencing to stop animals from straying.

What makes for a truly successful lifestyle block?

To really enjoy your rural lifestyle property, it needs to be within a convenient distance of your main home.  You should aim for a travel time that is no more than 2 hours between the properties.
Make sure your chosen rural property destination also has a well-stocked dairy or mini-supermarket nearby, as there will likely be times when you want to arrive at the property without having to stop first for supplies. A lack of shops, restaurants or other conveniences nearby can really impact your enjoyment of the property.
It's best that the rural property you choose is low maintenance, otherwise you’ll spend your weekends doing nothing other than the normal maintenance work you’d be doing at home – just somewhere else.
You should also consider ongoing property security. An isolated lifestyle block that is not visited regularly is a target for thieves.  A home that is next door to permanent residents is far less likely to be broken into than a home frequently left alone.

I’ve found the perfect lifestyle block but there’s no broadband Internet. Help!

Some New Zealand lifestyle blocks can’t be connected up to the telephone network, due to their physical distance from the nearest telephone exchange.  Other Internet connection possibilities do exist, including satellite connections. A number of specialist rural Internet providers can get you connected to the Internet for a low cost. Google ‘satellite broadband’ and shop around for local providers.

I’m interested in running my home on sustainable, environmentally friendly, power. What do I need to know?

New Zealand’s national electricity grid is actually very ‘green’ by international standards, with more than 75% of our power coming from renewable sources. This means that connecting to the national grid is often the most environmentally friendly way to power a rural home.
In very remote areas, however, the costs of connecting to the national grid can be as much as $25,000 per km. This can make generating your own renewable energy
on-site particularly appealing. The main options for on-site power systems in New Zealand are solar panels, small wind turbines and micro-hydro systems (for rural land with streams or running water).
If no connection to the national grid is available, these systems will need to be accompanied with a battery for energy storage. They will also need a back-up power generator (typically diesel), for cloudy periods, drought days with low wind etc. 

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.

I’m concerned about fire risk. Should I remove all fallen timber from my farm?

Due to high rainfall, New Zealand is not generally at risk from wildfires, except in the drier summer months (November to February), or during drought periods.
 
To reduce fire risks generally on your lifestyle block, keep your property grasses cut regularly, and ensure that there is plenty of clear space (without dry grass or wood items) around your lifestyle block houses, sheds and buildings.
 
Fallen timber occurs naturally on farms and lifestyle blocks. It can form the basis of native habitats, and it contributes to a healthy eco-system by helping native fauna to flourish. Fungi growing on rotting timber will also help to recycle nutrients back into your soil and nourish the next generation of plants. If fallen timber does pose a fire threat, simply relocate it to a safer place on your property.
 
For information on New Zealand fire risks, visit the National Rural Fire Authority.
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