At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, city folk moved out of their flats in droves to houses with space for a home office, large gardens and peace from the city. It is a well-known phrase that "the grass is not always greener on the other side", and some families are indeed starting to regret their move out of the city, which was spurred on by the stamp duty holiday and national lockdowns. While most families who have left major cities are enjoying a new pace of life, some have started to question their sudden change of lifestyle, having not had a chance to consider all that the countryside has to offer.
Some people may enjoy the seclusion of rural life, which includes being away from amenities, but others may find it difficult to adjust. In rural locations, transport and infrastructure are much further behind cities. It is not possible to walk to the train station or to order a takeaway straight to the doorstep. As part of the home buying process, local area searches can reveal what transport links are within the area and whether additional infrastructure is in the pipeline.
As well as the physical distance from favourite pubs and restaurants, there are other services that are not necessarily available in the countryside, such as fast or fibre broadband and mobile phone signal. Many people during the pandemic learnt that reliable internet is essential to work from home productively. In rural areas, properties tend to be further away from broadband cabinets which can directly affect broadband speed.
People might imagine the countryside to be fragrant with fresh spring air all year round, but often that is not the case at all. Living in proximity to working farms means that all of the smells that one might expect on a farm carry over to the property, which can make sitting outside on a summer's evening for a meal rather unpleasant. The slurry will spread throughout the year when temperatures start to get warmer, and some countryside properties may be located close to septic tanks. This is an unavoidable part of living in a rural setting.
One of the least alluring parts of rural living can be the upkeep of a septic tank. Your property might use a septic tank rather than be connected to a public sewer. This might involve cooperation with a neighbour if their property also uses the system, and maintenance can be costly as well as unpleasant to deal with. When dealing with purchasing a property that uses a septic, your solicitor should make specific enquiries about its use and maintenance. Specific permits will be required when the sewage treatment system does not meet 'general binding rules' regarding where the sewage discharge is released. The cost of maintaining the septic tank might fall to you, and repairs can be expensive.
Although the usual city noises will fade away, farm machinery and the rumbling of tractors past your property in the early hours is another factor to consider when living in the countryside. Agricultural clearly does not fall within the traditional 9 to 5 working hours that many offices adhere to. Dairy farmers will begin work early in the morning, which can mean not only loud cows but also loud milking machinery. Like with the sounds of sirens which are more familiar in the city, these noises do not take long to get used to, but idyllic tranquillity should never be presumed, especially if it appears to be the case on the first viewing of a potential new home.
Many homebuyers move to the countryside with the prospect of waking up to a beautiful view of endless fields and greenery. However, it is rare that you will have a right to a view. Empty fields, whether in agricultural use or not, could always mean the potential for development, and it is a consideration that should be factored into buying a property. Searches of the local authority and the area will reveal any planning applications in the surrounding area. Speaking to neighbours who might have local knowledge could also provide useful insight. It should be considered that if any of the planning applications come to fruition, they will affect your enjoyment and the value of your property.
A draw to the countryside is the amount of land and potential it offers. You might end up with acres of land previously used as agricultural land with plans to develop or extend the property. This may not always be possible in the countryside as planning policies and land may be subject to a range of environmental designations or have an agricultural tie that limits who should be allowed to occupy the property, namely a person employed in agriculture or forestry. Additionally, you should consider whether your property has any listed status or is in a conservation area which may impose limitations on the way properties can be altered. Planning searches and speaking to the planning department in the local authority could give you useful insight into the property before you commit to purchasing.
Access to scenic national parks and countryside walks is another incentive for moving people to the countryside. If your home is crossed by a public footpath, by law, members of the public will have a right to pass and repass along the footpath on foot. Bear in mind that this could mean a steady flow of visitors through your garden in the peak of summer when you may wish to be sat outside in the garden privately. You will not be able to obstruct or move the footpath.
Of course, many people relocating to the countryside will be well-acquainted with all that it offers and will look forward to being in amongst the sights and sounds of rural life. Access to national parks, more space and less pollution are just some of the draws to the countryside which have encouraged those sitting on the fence to make a move. The beauty of the countryside cannot be understated and despite its initial surprises that some people may not expect, now is as great a time as ever to think about that move out of the city.
If you would like more information or have any more questions regarding buying a property in the countryside, you can contact our Residential Property Team below.