Perhaps for years you’ve dreamt of owning a place in the country ñ maybe a small ranch in Colorado, or a private lakefront lot in Minnesota, or maybe your own ski chalet in the Rocky Mountains. Today’s low real estate prices combined with great interest rates are making it possible for more people to realize this dream. Before you get out your checkbook, here are some things to consider before taking the plunge.
1. Determine what things are important to you. If you are an avid skier and find yourself spending the equivalent of a mortgage down payment in condo rentals every year, maybe purchasing a property closer to the slopes is just what you need. Keep in mind, however, you won’t have the freedom to move around, so choose a location you’ll want to return to year after year. If you’re only thinking about taking up a new sport or hobby, consider renting for a few seasons to ensure your dream still holds the same appeal once it becomes a reality.
2. What sorts of ties do you have to your current home? Do the kids come to visit on holidays? How will your having a second home affect your family routines?
3. Begin to zero in on the perfect location for your rural home by making a list of all areas that fit. List your favorite sports and past times, desirable weather, geography (do you want mountain living or beachfront), available employment opportunities, ethnic or social conditions, taxes and utilities, and price range.
Next, do some research and determine which states are most compatible with your needs. Try to get your list down to about three favorites.
4. Contact the chamber of commerce and local government agencies for as much information as they will send you and begin compiling a portfolio on each region.
5. If this is not an area you’ve previously visited, try renting a place for at least a few weeks to get a feel for the place. Another option is to visit some home sitting sites such as HouseCarers.com to check for house sitting opportunities in the area. It’s one of the best ways to immerse yourself in an area and feel like part of the community.
6. Once you’ve planned your visit, contact area realtors and make appointments to tour some houses. Send them a list of the properties you want to view as well as your list of criteria and maximum price range. The agent will undoubtedly include other houses on the tour; and you may find it helpful to take notes and pictures of your favorites as they will all start to blend together after awhile.
7. Revisit your favorite homes, inspecting inside and out, looking for obvious deficiencies such as water stains, leaks, odd smells, leaky faucets, or poor water pressure. Find out the age of the roof, furnace, well and septic (if applicable) and request maintenance records.
8. Once you’re ready to submit an offer, make it contingent on a successful home inspection by a professional. Add up any of the big ticket items you may need to repair or update and deduct the costs from the asking price. Note that the seller will be responsible for the cost of the survey, and any other pertinent inspections such as water, soil, structure, etc. You should reserve the right to cancel the deal if any of these inspections produce what you consider an unsatisfactory result.