What are the pros and cons of buying a rural property?

Who, given half a chance, wouldn’t want to move to the countryside? Whether you are hoping to live a less stressed and more connected lifestyle, you’re considering investing in a holiday home, or retiring in rural surroundings, buying a house in the country is a dream for many. But do you really know what you would be letting yourself in for? Or are you looking at plans to relocate to a remote area through rose-tinted spectacles?

Here are some of the main reasons why people choose to relocate to a rural property:

  • The house-buying budget will stretch further in a remote location, which means you can save money when you sell your current home or afford to buy a bigger property.
  • Space is plentiful in the countryside, so you could have a larger garden for you and your family to enjoy, or even have land for growing produce or keeping animals.
  • The peace and quiet of living in the countryside ideally come with scenic views, and much-reduced levels of traffic, noise, and pollution.
  • Generally, lower crime rates in villages and rural locations should provide a safer environment for your children to grow up in.
  • If you are missing being part of a close-knit local community, moving to the countryside will give you the opportunity to forge new long-term social connections.
Rural life in Dartmoor National Park.

What to think about before you buy a rural property

While the above are all perfectly valid aspirations, it’s worth bearing in mind that moving to the countryside is not a panacea for everything that you think is wrong with urban or suburban living. While it’s very easy to succumb to the indisputable charms of a home in the country, it’s essential to think with your head and consider the downsides too. Have you thought about the following potential issues?

Your rural property

Buying a house in the country is a huge financial commitment, and getting an independent pre-purchase building survey to help you understand the condition of the asset you’re buying is highly advisable. A full structural survey, or Level 3 RICS Building Survey, is “recommended for older properties, non-standard properties or those that have been significantly altered or need substantial refurbishment,” explains one Shropshire surveyor. Beware of period picture postcard cottages that could turn out to be a bit of a challenge in terms of maintenance and repair.

In terms of heating, the chances are high that the property won’t be connected to the gas network, but it may well have oil central heating. Check to see if there’s an oil tank on the property – they come in either plastic or steel – and what condition it is in. You may also want to investigate the installation of renewable technologies such as solar panels or heat pumps, to supplement traditional open fires and log burners.

Having a big garden or land may be a novelty at first, that is until you find out how much time and work is involved in keeping everything shipshape. If you are serious about your new lifestyle and are embracing gardening, farming or animal husbandry fully, you’re in the right place. If not, you may end up paying someone to maintain your grounds.

Your rural location

A rural, remote location may be what you’ve been dreaming of, but how practical is it in real life? If you’re still planning to commute to work, this may now take you longer and cost more in fuel. It also means less time spent at home with your family. On the other hand, properties in prime rural locations and within easy commuting distance will command premium prices, so your budget may in fact not stretch any further than it did before.

If commuting is not an issue and you’re able to relocate deep into rural surroundings, you may find a picturesque location but with nothing much happening in the area. In practical terms, this means less access to public transport, no shops, doctors’ surgeries or hospitals within easy reach. If you have children, you may end up ferrying them to school and back every day.

As for the local community that you’re longing to be part of, this also needs checking out carefully. Unfortunately, many desirable rural villages have turned into virtual dormitories, with second homes and short-term rentals having outpriced and displaced local residents. The local village connections you are so eager to make may, in fact, not actually exist outside of weekends and the peak holiday season. And even where there are genuine local communities, don’t be so sure of a warm welcome. Many locals may have reservations about accepting newcomers into their established rural communities, as this recent article aptly points out.

Of course, if you’re planning to use your country home as a weekend or holiday retreat, the above points may be less of a concern.

Sea views in the Scottish Highlands.

Manage your expectations

Whether you’re considering the Highlands of Scotland, a scenic Welsh village, or the rugged beauty of Cornwall, be absolutely clear about what you expect from your move to the countryside. Write it all down in a long list and refer to it often, especially when deciding on specific locations and environments.

Keep checking your assumptions with regard to property prices in your favoured areas. There’s been a lot of fluctuation in the market in the years since the pandemic. Only last year, the South West saw the biggest rise in property prices in the UK, overtaking Wales as the strongest performing region with prices up a staggering 14.7% year-on-year. There is still some volatility in the market and the old ‘best investment potential’ strategies may no longer hold true.

Make sure that your own personal objectives are fully aligned with those of your partner and children. While a paradisical rural environment may seem wonderful to you, will your children thank you when they’re old enough to crave the excitement of city life?

Moving from an urban or suburban home into the countryside may be a wonderful experience that has the potential to change your life completely. With proper planning and preparation, and healthy expectations, it could be one of the greatest decisions you’ll ever make.

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