3 Things to Know About Buying Rural Land

By Rebecca Csiszar

|11 min read

If you’ve been looking at rural real estate, you may have found it easy to get lost in the weeds (literally and figuratively). You want to be smart about the property you purchase and how you invest your money.

Avoid the mistakes that so many rural land buyers make!

First, find out what to know when buying rural land, and then start your shopping. To start, answer these three questions correctly, and you should end up happy with that piece of county heaven when you find it!

What is the area like?

The most important thing to think about is the area the property is in. This includes the land itself, what’s around it, and how far it is from amenities. 

Start by considering what you plan to own. Looking for vacant land? Recreation or weekender getaway? A self-sufficiency property? A working farm, or just a more affordable home? Before you scope out locations that suit your goal, also look at how far you will need to travel to this property and how often. 

Locations with a long drive to amenities you need every day will market for a lower price. But your daily commute will eat up some of the savings. An ideal choice will have reasonable accessibility to a grocery store, hardware, restaurants, and a doctor or hospital. 

You’ll also want to search in areas with the zoning you will need for your use. Try to stay away from areas that are close to industrial development or large-scale livestock production. Buying rural land in areas with well-managed local government, good roads, good schools, and low taxes makes for very smart money investment. 

You will not regret spending the time it takes to research the right area for what you plan to buy. 

Is there access to the property?

When you find a property that you are looking over more seriously, never overlook access. This is a critical detail! Access affects how you reach your property. You may be surprised to know that actually having a road – even a gravel or dirt one – isn’t a guarantee! Owners often sell parcels of land that do not have any direct access to a public road. 

A legal right to get into your property is something you can’t take for granted. Friendly rural locals often allow their neighbors to cross their land to get into their land on casual terms without anything in writing. Do not rely on what you see when you visit a property without doing your research. Neighbor-to-neighbor country courtesy does not guarantee any future access rights when land transfers to a new and different neighbor.  

What should you look for? Public paved road access is the very best type of rural access but may be hard to get. Public roads that are not paved may also be OK. Road access on a paved private road maintained by an HOA or on an easement dedicated to your parcel is a very good second choice. 

Other, less perfect access does exist, but use caution and get legal advice before jumping in on these. For more information about these other types of access or easements, read this article about easement solutions.   

How important is acreage?

Most people believe that the amount of acreage is the most important thing to know in judging the value of rural property. The acreage defines how large, in acres, the property is. The way property is usually advertised for sale would give anyone that size is critical. Don’t you believe it!  

Of course, the value of the whole tract or parcel is related to the number of acres it has. But the price or market value per acre is determined by what the parcel is and what the land has on it.  

What factors make acreage land worth more and bring more dollars in a sale? 

Utilities like electricity or public water at the property or easily brought into the property really add value. A dependable well with good quality water will make a parcel more valuable too. 

Acreage with good soils, good drainage, and a flat home site will always be sought after by people buying rural land. Quality fencing, high-quality tillable farmland, mature stands of timber, or pasture with established perennial grass add tremendous value to any tract of land. These could add future income from the tract. 

An acreage parcel that contains 100% usable land is worth more than another property that has lots of awkward areas that can never be easily utilized, such as steep slopes, or regulated wetlands.

What can make an acreage parcel worth less? 

A location that is very undeveloped will sell for much less than average.  The cost of bringing in a driveway or road is something you will need to know before you commit. 

Value is also reduced when the parcel of land has a very irregular shape that creates parts of the tract that are tough to access or not easy to use. Lots of land with large portions in regulated wetlands or the floodplain are challenging to develop, which makes them less desirable. Likewise, tracts with low annual rainfall or in locations with changing weather patterns have their value brought down due to the location. 

Of course, acreage tracts near environmental hazards like large-scale factory farms, high power transmission lines, nuclear power production, radon, former mining operations, or oil drilling, and fracking should be avoided as potential health hazards or toxic. The same is true for nearby areas affected by recent forest fires or other significant areas of deforestation. When you see land like this, it could be tempting and very low in price – but maybe not low enough. 

If you plan on making your home on one of these acreage parcels, be careful and complete your research. Homeowner insurance coverage may not provide any protection against many of these hazards. 

Other Points to Consider when Shopping for Rural Land

There sure are a lot of details you will need to consider before making your buying decision – details that urban and suburban owners often take for granted because the community deals with these necessities. Keep this in mind before joining the rural folks.

Consider why you want to buy rural property

Before buying rural land, ask yourself, why do you want to own rural property? Are you a long- or short-term investor? A savvy investor will look very hard at long-term plans and priorities. 

Do you plan to live at the rural property for some or all of the time? Being tired of traffic isn’t necessarily a good enough reason to drastically change your lifestyle.  

Be aware that options are limited

You may also discover that, unlike suburbs where buyers have their pick of floor plans from builders, people in rural communities have fewer existing options. What makes it ‘rural’ is that there are fewer houses altogether, right? Newly built homes will be limited, if not there at all. And a smaller percentage of those fewer homes will be for sale! 

Do you dream of building your house from the ground up? That’s great if you are someone with the funds you need to build your dream home. That’s fantastic! You are very fortunate indeed.  Once rural folks create their special home, they are less likely than homeowners in other areas to sell.  

Do you have a goal to go rural? Form your plan, keeping in mind the main three points: area, access, and acreage. 

Invest a little time before investing any dollars. Remember that researching rural means the internet might not help much. Just invest the time, and it helps if you have a good Realtor. Does investing in rural property seem to be a good fit for you?  You might find the real rewards are priceless. You will create an oasis that is both a good investment and has benefits tailor-made for you and your family. And you may find you do not ever want to turn loose of your property either!

First licensed in Michigan in 1978, Rebecca has enjoyed living in the Sandhills area for over twenty years. No other agent from the Moore County real estate market can serve you in a larger geographical area, as she is a member of four MultiList Real Estate Boards, the Moore county, Cumberland county(Fayetteville), Triangle, and Sanford Area Association. In addition to real estate experience, she brings to the client professional experience in diverse areas of marketing & retail visual merchandising.  Rebecca Csiszar's Website

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