Has the thought of escaping city life got you dreaming of a picturesque quiet country property where the kids can explore, and the chooks and even possibly a couple of sheep are free to roam around?
If you are looking for some fresh air and open space, or even just some peace away from the city, a lifestyle block could be a great option.
While there may be a whole lot to love about living in the country, you will need to research and prepare when thinking of buying a lifestyle block that suits your needs.
First things first, what is a lifestyle block?
Well, there isn't an official parameter or land classification on what a lifestyle block is but a good rule of thumb is that the average lifestyle block is just shy of four hectares.
A great tool to use if you are unsure of whether a property is a lifestyle block or not is: QV.co.nz - enter the address, and select the ‘Building Type’. Some councils also provide this information.
Research is imperative
Research is always necessary when purchasing a property of any kind but is critical when thinking of buying rural ones as these come with a whole extra set of things to think about.
While a wishlist is a great starting point, an issues list to be aware of, is equally as important.
Issues could include:
- The condition of the existing septic and plumbing system
- Where are the local schools and will busses be available to collect them and drop them back?
- What is broadband and cellphone reception like? Be sure to get in touch with internet providers to enquire about whether a new broadband line will be able to be set up (you cannot assume that if the neighbour has the internet, that you will be able to get it too as this is not always the case).
- Be sure to check the distances from local rivers and wetlands - it's important to assess the risk of flooding.
More land = more responsibility
Having more land to maintain can prove to be difficult. Make sure that you are up for the challenge, or, that you are able to afford help with more difficult jobs.
It is also a good idea to get your lawyer on board early to check titles, consents and other information that you gather in the process.
Are you aware of the rules?
It is important to remember that rural developments can be subject to rules that restrict what you can do. When talking to your lawyer, always ask that they check if there are any covenants on the property that may have an impact on a future business that you may want to run there; or any planned building projects.
Rural properties (like all properties) can also have easements on the title which relate to access, water or power. Ask that your lawyer check the title, and check what the easements are. Also, ask that they check to see how these will have an impact on your rights and responsibilities as an owner.
Examples could be:
- If the title allows a neighbour access to a piece of their land through your property, do you have any right to limit the type and frequency of that access if you buy it?
- There may be ‘unofficial’ easements operating; where the current owners may have an informal arrangement with their neighbours, but this may not remain when the property passes into new ownership.
Are you planning to use the property as a business?
As a general rule, if the property is currently being run as a business and is tax-registered - the seller will probably add GST to the selling price, which essentially means that you will pay an extra 15 per cent unless you are also registered for GST.
Always ask that your lawyer or accountant check to see if the house or any other buildings on the property are GST-exempt. They will also be able to advise you on whether you need to be GST-registered.
The Inland Revenue’s property tax decision tree is also a good place to start when trying to figure out your tax obligations.
Water, sewage and access - these can require more involvement in rural areas
With many rural lifestyle blocks not being connected to sewage schemes, they instead rely on septic tanks or other sewage disposal systems.
It is good to check the water sources for the property – does it have its own bore, and are there limits on the amount of water you can draw from it? What process needs to happen to ensure that it is safe to drink? What happens to the wastewater and sewage? Other things to consider are whether or not you are prepared for life with a septic tank, and also whether the current owner will ensure that the tank is empty as a condition of sale?
Are you buying a block with an existing dwelling? Do you know what type of system has been installed and whether it has the appropriate permits or consents; or if there are any ongoing maintenance obligations?
Are you looking at a bare block of land? Do you know whether resource consent will be required for sewage disposal, and what the current council requirements are? It may also be necessary to ensure that any current resource consents are transferred to you on settlement.
Will you be sharing a private road or right of way with any other properties, do you know what your responsibilities and potential costs for maintaining it will be?
You may want to ask one of our rural real estate specialists these questions to help you decide if the property is right for you and your family:
- Where are the local schools, and does a school bus come near the lifestyle block?
- How far are the closest shops and amenities?
- Is there a motorway nearby and are there any NZTA plans for it?
- What is the soil type, and which crops/plants suit it best?
- Am I allowed to graze stock on the property?
- Can I subdivide the land?
It is essential to go into a lifestyle change armed with knowledge. Our rural real estate specialists are on hand to help you with all of your questions. If you see a property that sparks your interest - don't hesitate to get in touch with us so that we can help you secure your block of paradise and live the lifestyle you've been dreaming of.
Explore our latest lifestyle magazine to see if there's a property that sparks your interest!