Buying Your First Country Property

Reader Contribution by Renee-Lucie Benoit
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My friends, there is so much I want to tell you about buying your first country property I almost don’t know where to start. So many people have this dream but they absolutely don’t know what they’re getting into and then, realizing the truth of it, they pack up and leave before they ever get to the joy. There is joy in living in the country. I can tell you that for sure. If you are prepared and go in with your eyes wide open you can make the best of it and get to the joy all that much faster. Living in the country comes with its own set of challenges and I’m here to tell you what they are from my point of view.

Living on their own rural property is the dream of many people who live in an urban setting. I don’t blame them at all and I’m right there with them. I don’t feel “at-home” unless I can see the horizon and I also feel better if I can’t see my neighbors. Don’t get me wrong. I love people but I love wide open spaces even more. However, if you’ve never lived in the country – and especially remote country – I’m here to tell you that it’s a whole other kettle of fish when compared to living in the city. Let me give you a few insider tips if you’re thinking about making the jump.

What Do You Want to Do?

The first thing to do is decide what you want to do. Do you want to grow vegetables? Do you want to have livestock? Do you just want to sit on the porch and admire the view? Maybe you want all of this. Whatever you want to do informs you of what you should be looking for. Then get the map out and start taking road trips. Find an area that inspires you. Find an area that lifts up your heart and gives you peace. I really feel that it’s important to find an area or two or three that makes you feel happy first.

The Internet and Finances

While you’re driving around and you see an area that particularly appeals to you make a note of it and then go to the internet to one of the big search engines and see what’s available and what it costs. You can make adjustments to your dream then. Maybe you can afford to buy it outright with cash. Or maybe you’re most people and you can’t. You need a loan. There are programs through the United States Department of Agriculture called USDA loans for people who want to buy rural property. If you have the right income – or lack of income – you may qualify for assistance and not even have to pay a down payment. Meet with a qualified lender to find out details on what’s available to you.

Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty

Now it’s time to make your must-have list and your want-list. I’m telling you at the outset that there are almost no “perfect” properties. There’s going to be give and take. If you have these two lists you have a reference point from which to evaluate each property you look at. The first thing on your want list should be what kind of land you want.


Let’s talk about terrain. If you want to grow your own food, it’s best to have level land. If you can’t find level land within your budget then try to find rolling hills. Take a look at Switzerland. Do we find the Swiss farming? Of course, we do. What are they farming? They have livestock that doesn’t mind going uphill and down. Dairy cows and goats. The food growing is done in the valleys. You might find inexpensive land on steep hills but you’re going to get really tired really fast of schlepping everything up and down. Mechanical equipment helps but is that in the budget? Even so, if you can afford it, mechanical equipment can be challenging on hills. The Incas did not invent the wheel and for good reason. Wheels go where gravity wants them to. Did you remember to put the brake on? Is the incline too steep and then you’ll have a rollover and get squashed? If you can’t find flat land then rolling hills are next best. You can have success gardening with a little terracing on rolling hills. Still and all, flat land is best.

I’m going to end Part One here but I want you to notice that I have not talked about the house even once. This is because in the country the house is the least of it. Not unimportant. Just not the most important. Grampa always said “You can make a house but you can’t make land.”

Next up in Part Two: Soil and Water – The Foundation of a Country Property

Renee grew up in Iowa and migrated to San Francisco in 1977. She lived and worked in an urban setting for years and then abandoned it all to live and work on a 1,000 acre cattle ranch in Northern California. Now she is part owner of a small acreage in the Central Valley of California where she has chickens, horses, dogs, cats and a substantial vegetable garden. She is a full-time real estate agent which sounds improbable when you think about all the projects on her property. Kudos to her husband Marty for filling in the gaps.