Is an Acreage/Farm in Your Future?
If you have been dreaming of that picture perfect acreage or farm here are some things to know before you strike out in search of your ideal rural home.
1. The source of water is the #1 concern when living on an acreage. Canada Mortgage and Housing has established a guideline for the minimum gpm (gallons per minute) at 4 for an average family of 4 - without a holding tank or cistern. If there is a cistern and a slower rate then you may have sufficient storage for instant demands. This is something your Realtor will ascertain for you by either making your Offer to Purchase conditional to a flow test or by reviewing a recent flow test currently registered with the Department of the Environment. Finding a new source of well water can be a hit and miss affair and can become very costly. It is better to know you have a reliable source of water before you purchase the property.
2. The 2nd thing you should pay attention to is whether the zoning and/or restrictive covenants on the Government of Alberta Land Title will allow your intended use. On many smaller parcels, generally those in sub-division developments, there are restrictive covenants that prohibit parking any commercial vehicles, campers, trailers or the prohibit small 'home based occupations'. Still others, due to the County Regulations, may have animal density regulations like 4 acres per large animal. These vary by the County the property is within. If you are planning to have horses, cows or other livestock, or if you wish to operate a landscaping company or just park your semi-trailer you may want to focus your property search on acreages that are larger and not part of a subdivision development often called a 'first parcel out or fragmentation. These are not impossible to find - it just takes a little longer. Working with a Realtor who is trained in Farm, Ranch & Acreage properties is essential to a successful purchase.
3. The 3rd thing to keep in mind is that you are not on town/city services and this includes sewer or waste water. Most likely the acreage/farm will be serviced by a septic tank. This can be made of fiberglass, cement or in one case I know of an old car buried in the ground. Yuck! The point is make sure the septic tank's composition and size are acceptable and up to current standards. Your Realtor can make it a Condition of your Offer to Purchase that the septic tank is emptied and inspected, and that a letter supplied by the service company detailing the condition of the tank noting its' expected remaining life span. A poor septic tank should not make you shy away from the purchase, it can be remedied and there is some cost but it is better to know ahead of time so you can plan for (or negotiate) its' repair.
4. Finally, as you likely know, other 'services' like Public Transit, High-Speed Internet, Road ploughing may or may not be available to the property you select. Public Transit is only available within towns and cities - not to acreages. School buses do service acreages on school days only and are only for children registered in school. High-Speed internet has vastly improved over the years, the best service right now is provided via a 3G, 3g+ or 4G modum or satellite. Cable TV is not availble in rural areas as TV cable lines have not been installed. The same programing can be obtained via a satellite dish and the service is reliable. Country gravel roads are ploughed after all paved highways have been cleared. You will need to plough your own driveway or lane - so if it is your land it is your reponsibility. There is no garbage pick-up if you live in a rural area. You will need to transport trash to the local land-fill and there is a cost which is dependent on weight. In towns and cities your heating fuel is supplied by underground gas lines. On an acreage it may be by underground lines or you may have a propane tank sitting in the yard. It is a good idea to also have an alternate form of heat and a lot of properties have either a wood fired or gas fired fireplace.
In summary, unless you are familiar with acreage or farm living already, it is wise for you to try your new life in Alberta first in a town. Give yourself a year or two to adapt to this culture and climate before striking out for life on an acreage. Winter driving conditions here can be daunting and with everything else in your life turned upside down - this is one area that is easy to control until after your family has adjusted to their new life here. It is possible to enroll your children in school and keep them in the same school after your acreage move. All it takes is planning ahead. If this is your plan it is important to let your Realtor know ahead of time.
Also read the Blogs titled:
- Enrolling your children in School
- Rules on Foreign Ownership