Buying A Country Home

Maybe you too have thought of buying a country home and are looking to find more information about all the pros and cons about living in a country? There are lots of things to consider when buying a country home, for example the water supply, sewage disposal, power and telephone access, the access to the property as well as property boundaries. These things may sound intimidating especially if you’ve never lived outside of the city before. Lots of new country home owners struggle with trying to find the best information there is out there, about living in a country home. Take Sandra and Mark for example.

One Story

Most of her life Sandra lived in a city. She took the subway to get to school then she took the subway to get to work. It was on the subway – a shaky and unpredictable machinery -- that she once fell into a guy’s lap, which in turn made him fall in love with her. Mark, like Sandra, was also a city dweller. After three- hundred-and-five dinner dates and two-hundred-forty-six sleepovers Mark and Sandra decided to move in together.

They rented a very tiny apartment at the loudest intersection in the city; every morning they would get up to frantic screaming of a madman who preached the end of the world to crowds of sleepy people who were on their way to work. There were also the giant McDonald arches that would flash themselves into Mark and Sandra’s apartment, day and night, always lit, always obnoxiously yellow. The living in the city was starting to prove intolerable.

Around the same time Mark started working out of home – with the use of Internet he was able to do everything without leaving the apartment. He was subjected to the madman’s preaching and the arches as well as insistent car honking and yelling of lunch-time teenagers, all the time now. He developed constant headaches and was snappy with Sandra.

One day -- a day after another unnecessary fight -- Sandra came home with an idea: Brenda at work said that she knew of a couple that just purchased a country home! Apparently everyone was doing it now, moving out of the city, as soon as they saved up enough and were able to work out of home, didn’t Mark know? Like Sandra and Mark, the couple, that Brenda told Sandra about, had enough of concrete and steel, shaky, crowded subways and other things that were unavoidable in the city. They had enough of living their lives according to time segments and schedules. Let’s look into the country home thing, Sandra said and that evening they sat down to figure out their finances, discuss all the pros and cons.

Thinking Of The Country?

Mark started to browse through some real estate websites looking for more information (he was trying to concentrate on work but the madman outside was particularly adamant about the end of the world today). There were lots of good websites out there, but the information seemed to be all over the place – this made his efforts a little bit frustrating and put him in a foul mood; he had a really hard time trying not to snap at Sandra when she came home and started telling him about Brenda’s brand new hairdo.

When the phone rang right around the supper time Mark had a hard time trying not to snap at Sandra who instead of ignoring it ran to pick it up and proceeded to talk energetically about something. As it later turned out – after they ate and calmed him down – it was someone named Debra who called; she was the woman who just bought a country home with her husband. The first thing she said to me, Sandra exclaimed, was that she didn’t realize it was supper time when she phoned because time is just one of those things that one treats as something abstract and casual… She said -- Sandra went on -- the cliche is true! Things seem simpler in the country.

The next weekend Sandra and Mark received a first in a series of e-mails, from their new agent, Claude, who sent them link to a website with pictures of houses with all of their particulars – such as acreage, age and garage -- based on a price range that Sandra and Mark were able to commit to. It is interesting, Mark noted, that there’s this whole website out there that caters so specifically to your real estate needs.

So Sandra and Mark e-mailed then phoned Claude and told him they were wondering about four of the seven country houses he suggested. Claude sounded very pleased when he heard this, I’m glad you guys are so enthusiastic about this, he told Sandra. When Mark got on the phone he arranged a meeting – they were to meet in a small town near all the beautiful country sites where Claude had his Real Estate office.

It was about an hour and a half drive from the city which was ideal because despite the fact that Mark and Sandra pretty much gave up on living in the steel and concrete mess, they still had lots of city friends, favorite restaurants and clubs that they planned to visit once in a while. Sandra also quit her office job because she got a job offer to work as a graphic artist for a Very Important Design studio and even though she had all her equipment at home she still had to attend monthly meetings – she needed to be relatively close to the city.

Meeting The Agent

Claude was a very enthusiastic middle-aged man with a nice round belly and a jovial laugh. He showed Sandra and Mark around his Real Estate office and pointed out some of the listings that were posted on a large board in the waiting area. Most of the houses were in a really great condition, in most pictures, Sandra and Mark could see gentle slopes of lush green punctuated with dense tree areas and water dwellings.

After they were done looking at the pictures Sandra and Mark got inside Claude’s car. It will be a bit of a drive, he told them, but it’s totally worth it. As they drove on Claude told them about some of the houses they were about to see. Most of them were older houses that stood in the excellent condition, although, as Claude pointed out, the actual condition is only established after you do a house inspection.

Water, Sewage, Etc...

Mark had lots of questions. Sandra thought that she had rarely seen him that animated. He asked Claude about water supply. It occurred to Sandra that she never even thought about “water supply”, she wasn’t quite sure what that meant. Did it mean that they would have to go down to the creek in the middle of the winter and hack away large chunks of ice to melt it? She was now scared and she told Mark. Sandra, Claude responded in his gentle and calm voice, most country house properties have an adequate supply of water so don’t panic. Worst case scenario, Sandra, you’ll have to have a well dug… but to be honest most of the properties are close enough to towns and the water supply pipes can be connected to your country house. The biggest concern – if you will -- is the water quantity and quality, of course, but this is something that gets tested before you buy your property! Sandra was impressed with her agent’s knowledge and managed to relax and admire the beautiful countryside that rolled outside the window.

The first country house that they visited was an old school house remodeled into a proper country home. It had a large garden; there was a lovely brick house neighboring it. Mark ran from room to room and Claude ran after him; they admired gorgeous tin ceiling as well as the beautiful wooden floors. Sandra had to use the washroom so she excused herself and went to look for the bathroom. The bathroom looks quite interesting, she thought, with the claw bathtub and all these gorgeous brass faucets… As she flushed the toilet a second panicky thought occurred to her: how do we deal with sewage disposal in a country home? This was a bit of a yucky thought but being a city person all her life she never had to worry about that sort of thing. She felt as if a door opened in her mind: it was a door to the country house but also a door to all the things that came with buying a country house, that she never considered before. It’s true, whenever Sandra thought about the “country house” she pictured something out of Bertolucci’s movie. This is not Bertolucci’s movie, Sandra said out loud, and I have to find out about the sewage disposal, no way around it.

Claude laughed when he saw Sandra’s worried face. Well, Sandra, Claude said in his usual calm manner, country properties usually dispose of… sewage with something called a septic system. Basically, it’s a rather simple – if you will – combination of perforated pipes and a holding tank. It is through those pipes that sewage is absorbed into the ground, Sandra. Right, said Sandra, but what about problems when it backs up! She blurted out. Yes, said Claude, as you rightly guess, there are some things that can go wrong, it’s true. If your pipes – if you will – become plugged it is no fun and games. But, Sandra, this is why we make sure that the septic system works properly before you buy your country home. Remember when we talked about the water supply and the testing? It’s the same story here, we will require all kinds of testing and a septic system inspection and certification before you commit to your country living dream.

As they drove to the second property – it’s natural to shop around, Claude told them, when Sandra asked him if he was pissed off they didn’t go with the remodeled school house – Mark asked the next essential question about country living. I work out of home as you know, Mark said to Claude, so I’m just wondering about power and telephone access. Sandra too, has to communicate with her Very Important Design studio so it’s important that we know what the deal is. Well, the deal is, Claude looked back quickly and winked at Sandra, the deal is that some utility companies will charge you a lot to extend their services to your country home. You may – if you will – spend some extra money to hook up your phone line if there isn’t one already installed… Though most properties have the phone lines already. But. There are few other things to consider too, for instance you may have to obtain permissions from the properties around you for installment of lines and poles if there’s no power… There almost always is, but my advice is – if you will – to simply research ahead. And. You already doing that with me anyway.

Both Mark and Sandra felt reassured. As they parked in the driveway of the second property they were about to see, Mark noted that there seemed to be no end to the area around the house. There were no other houses around which before, in the case of remodeled schoolhouse, seemed to indicate property boundaries. What’s up with that? He asked Claude. Two words, Claude said: licensed surveyor. Sandra was confused and unlike Mark who was nodding and smiling as if he spend most of his life hanging out with licensed surveyors, she wanted to know what that meant exactly. What this means exactly, Claude said, is that most properties probably have been surveyed before so the surveyor’s job is to get a copy of the recorded survey map – this is usually done at the county offices – then find all the nooks and corners and such – if you will – and mark them with flags and stakes. Worst case scenario? You’ll have to pay extra to do a complete survey from the scratch if there is no recorded survey map.

Things To Consider

After they finished looking at that house and the next two Sandra and Mark drove back to their tiny, noisy apartment in the city. Before they left his Real Estate office Claude said he will be in touch and will e-mail them as soon as possible to arrange another country house-hunt.

Sandra had a habit of getting anxious about things before she’d fall asleep. There was one prevailing question that she forgot to ask Claude. Because Mark was getting annoyed with her tossing and turning as he was trying to sleep, he decided to sit up in bed and switch the light on and get to the bottom of this worrying. Honey what is it, something about the house, isn’t it? Sandra felt bad about keeping him up but she knew that he wouldn’t lie down again until she told him what was bothering her. Property access, she whispered and Mark rolled his was eyes but inside he was really happy he had such a smart, reasonable person beside him, in bed.

He got up and fired off a quick e-mail to Claude with some questions. The next day reply read:

“Basically you’ll need to verify that your country house property has something called ‘deeded access’. This means that people who live around you have recorded and signed deeds allowing you access to your property if you need to cross theirs to get to yours. Worst case scenario? If there’s no deeded access you should still have access because whatever is consider a way to your country house, it probably has been in use for quite some time. This means that you’d have what is called ‘prescriptive access’. This is a bid unreliable and I guess if your country house is next to Madonna’s property you may find yourself in court. Anyway. Hope that explains it. It was good to meet you and Sandra and I hope all is well with you. I will forward you some more listings by the end of the week and we should meet up again on the weekend to do another country house round.

All my best.