The coronavirus pandemic has forced many people to re-evaluate the importance of a larger home, green space, and being close to family. Attitudes have shifted and the demand for superfast broadband has overtaken the need for rail links and connectivity. Recent research reveals that the population of the UK’s capital city could fall for the first time in more than 30 years, as city dwellers look to swap the Big Smoke for more affordable and spacious country living. So, what are the key points to bear in mind when buying a rural property?
Rural v urban
The more remote the location, the more pertinent the question about whether the property is connected to mains water and drainage, as well as the supply of electricity, telephone and mobile signal, and high-speed internet services. For anyone looking to buy a rural property, especially if you intend to work from home, it’s worth checking the status of these services and whether they can be connected. We have all learnt just how significant ‘good’ Wi-Fi connection is in the last twelve months.
Most roads in the UK are adopted, meaning that they are maintained by the Local Authority, but remote rural properties are often served by unadopted roads or private tracks. These will either be maintained by the homeowners served by the road – this includes you if you decide to buy there- or by the person that owns the track. Shared access drives can be one of the most common areas for dispute for homeowners, especially when problems arise over who is responsible for repair or even gritting and salt spreading in the winter. Before you commit to purchasing a rural property, considerations should therefore be made around the cost and responsibility of maintenance for any private access drives. Conveyancers specialising in this field will be able to assist you in determining whether this has been properly dealt with and documented.
Mortgage lenders are keen on making sure that all systems and services are compliant when they are considering loans; for example, ensuring the property’s sewage systems are compliant with current regulations, and that any private water systems are properly licensed and safe. If you’re looking to purchase a rural property, it is therefore essential to seek the support of an expert in this specific type of conveyancing, or risk having your mortgage application denied.
Is the property in a conservation area or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? If so, this may restrict any extensions or alterations you have in mind for the future. Checking for any restrictions on the property may save disappointment and delay in the long run.
Another key consideration when buying a property in a rural area, should be whether any open land in the area has development potential; if so, this could affect the use and enjoyment of the potential property. Equally, to avoid any nasty surprises further down the line, those keen to develop or extend property should look into whether there are any restrictions on the land, as this could limit options and affect resale value.
Location, location, location
Where prices are rising, sellers can tend to overprice their property, hoping to catch the upward trend. Increased competition can also spark tender or bidding wars. It’s important to remember that the listing prices are just prices and don’t always reflect what properties are selling for. By building relationships with local selling agents, you can receive alerts on properties before they come to market.
While many people dream of a forever home in the country, getting to know the area before signing on the dotted line is certainly recommended; renting first can be a simple solution. If the area is a popular holiday destination, it may bring to light increased footfall and traffic in peak seasons, which could have an impact on your enjoyment of the local schools, shops, and amenities. It could also give you an opportunity to test out the route to your local hospital and emergency services, which, depending on age and family circumstance, could be significant consideration for homeowners.
The motivators for buying in a rural area are worlds apart from purchasing urban property, however, the process can also be more complicated. Seeking the support of experts can help to inform decisions, improve transparency, and unearth any possible issues with a property at the earliest opportunity. No matter whether it’s a farm, country cottage, or plot of land, confidence is key when taking steps to securing a dream rural property and ensuring that dream doesn’t become a nightmare.
By Jennie Wheildon, agriculture and real estate specialist at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau