What’s different about living in a rural home?
by Real Estate Sales Representative Ally VanderHarst
It’s an appealing idea: living off the grid on a nice rural acreage, where the fresh breeze blows through your hair and the animals roam free. It’s the call of nature! Personally, I would love to have a huge property where my dog can run and I hear the crickets chirping at night. And as a Realtor®, I’ve helped plenty of people achieve this dream purchasing the rural properties of their dreams. But there are a few things you need to think about before taking the leap into Living Rural, and I’m here to help guide you through that process!
Obviously, rural properties aren’t connected to city water lines or sewer systems, so houses in the country tend to run off of wells, cisterns and septic systems. They can be very efficient and don’t usually require a whole lot of work to maintain, but when purchasing a home, you want to make sure they’re in good working order before you sign on the dotted line.
When you’re looking at rural homes, be aware that the main source of water will probably be a well somewhere on the property. There are a few different types of wells (drilled, dug, and more) and the Listing Agent should be able to inform you of what kind it is. If you are seriously considering buying this property, we can schedule an inspection of the well, where the water level will be checked to make sure it’s providing an ample supply. We will also order a water test to make sure the levels of heavy metals and coliform bacteria are safe for use at the house. Your home inspector can also have a look at the pressure pump in the home to ensure it’s getting enough pressure from the well to give you a nice strong flow. Nobody wants weak pressure in the shower when their hair is full of shampoo! Assuming all of this works out fine and the results of these tests are satisfactory, living rural means you won’t have any city water bills to pay! But be aware, you may need to be prepared to replace the well pump, the pressure tank and filters (if any) over time, as these appliances age.
Some rural homes have a back-up water supply called a cistern. These are great if the well isn’t reliable for water at all times of the year. A cistern is essentially an underground water tank that can be filled by rain water, or you can have a water-truck come and periodically fill it for you. A 2,000-gallon cistern can supply a household of four people with water for several months if they are frugal with their water usage. Traditional cisterns can still be seen in many older houses and are usually large concrete basins that are built into the basement. More modern cisterns are made of plastic and are self contained, allowing them to be placed in a basement or buried underground. If the home you’re looking at comes with a cistern, we can ask the Sellers how often they need to use the cistern water, and how they typically have the tank filled.
Rural homes typically aren’t on the municipal sewer system, so that means the house has a septic system buried in the yard somewhere. There are several different types of standard septic systems, but regardless of what type it is, its important to have this inspected before purchasing the home as well. Having the tank pumped is important as there is no way an inspector can truly inspect the tank if it’s filled with gray water and solids. Both the tank and area around the tank should be inspected to make sure it is functioning properly. When a home has a septic system there are no monthly sewer bills (YAY!), but the trade-off is that the tank will need to be pumped every few years (average cost $200- $300). Also, some septic systems have pumps that may burn out over time, so that is another potential added expense. A licensed septic inspector will verify that the system installed is the proper size for the house and usage expected.
As long as you’re aware of these differences and are willing to provide the maintenance needed by a well, cistern and septic system, then you’re ready to start living rural! So put your feet up on that porch, pour some lemonade and say hello to the critters as you enjoy that country lifestyle!