Folks relocate from the city to the country for many reasons. Perhaps a job change has you packing your bags for the hills. Or, maybe, you’ve dreamed for years of a country acreage—you occupy your morning commute with visions of quiet nights on the porch swing watching the chickens go home to roost.
No matter what your reasons for moving to land beyond the pavement are, there are a few things to consider.
Choosing the perfect location
Property in rural areas comes in all shapes and sizes—from town lots to large farms. Knowing what you want to do with the property will help you decide where to settle.
“It’s critical,” says Will Dudley, associate broker of Bill Dudley & Associates Real Estate in Luray, Virginia, “to study what you want to do and make sure the area offers what you’re looking for.” Finding a real estate agent with history in the area, and maybe even a relocation expert, is your first step to happiness in your moving journey.
Spending time in the area is important, too, says Dudley. “Life is a little different out here,” he says. “Slower paced.” You need to decide if you’re up for that. So, before taking your journey past the sidewalks, spend a weekend or more at your chosen destination and consider some additional issues.
Well, life on the farm is kinda laid back
When John Martin Sommers wrote the opening line to his “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” (recorded by John Denver), he wasn’t kidding. In fact, the slower pace will be the first thing you notice when you cross the palpable barrier between city and country. That, and the “wave.”
Everyone waves in the country, whether they know you or not. Cashiers converse. Pedestrians nod. And neighbors are, well, neighborly. If you’re moving from a land of garage door openers and privacy fences, prepare to meet everyone within a two-mile radius. Because if you don’t knock on their doors, they will surely knock on yours.
They also talk. The adage that there’re no secrets in a small town is true. Everyone knows everyone else’s business. And everyone will ask who your daddy was. They aren’t being nosey. They just want to see how you fit into their world.
Where’s the hospital? Your life may depend on it
If you’re getting up in years, or have health needs that require frequent care, consider the distance from the closest hospital and health care facilities. Ask your primary care physician for recommendations in the places you’re considering moving. Ask if the local hospital has helicopter access for air transport services.
“For instance,” says Dudley, “we have a new hospital in our area, but what does it offer?” He says to ask what their services are. “If you need open heart surgery, will you have to go further afield?”
For anything serious, you get transported to a larger hospital. If time is a factor, that transport is a helicopter and the cost is in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Sally Olson’s family lives in the Sierra-Nevada mountains of northern California, an hour’s drive to the nearest hospital. The Olsons carry emergency medical air transport insurance.
“Our health insurance doesn’t pay for ambulance and air,” she says. “Since we live where we live and have horses we ride on mountain trails, we bought life flight coverage.”
What are the educational options?
“It’s important to learn about the school system if you have a family,” says Dudley.
If your children take elective classes like music, drama, or shop, smaller schools may not have the funding for such courses. Ask about extracurricular activities, too. Does the school have a tennis team for your tennis player? A swim team for your swimmer? And, how far will you have to drive to chauffeur the kids to their activities?
Where’s the party?
If you’re a homebody, no worries—you will embrace all the country has to offer. But if you’re one to hit the mall on the weekends, party on Friday night, or otherwise keep a full social calendar that includes more than the occasional church potluck, you’ll probably miss your city life. If your job is the reason for relocating, let your real estate agent know you want to be as close to activities as possible.
“We like it when folks come and are happy,” says Dudley. He said while showing properties, your real estate agent can show you around town and point out the best restaurants, theater, or coffee shops. And while you’re driving around, periodically check your cell phone coverage. Believe it or not, there are still areas of the country that are wireless deserts.
Don’t forget about internet access, too. Until recently, the only access many could get in our county was through the local phone company. Having no competition meant they could charge what they wanted. Satellite options now exist, too.
Getting along with the Joneses
Living in the city, neighbor issues include loud parties, people parking in your space, or the frequent borrowing of a cup of something. Some folks move to the country thinking with all that property between them and the guy next door, neighbor issues wouldn’t exist. They would be wrong.
Take the example of Terry (a pseudonym). Her problems started when someone built a house next to her property. She grew up in the country and was accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells her lifestyle included. The new neighbors, fresh from the suburbs, didn’t. And when Terry’s free-ranged chickens started scratching the neighbor’s newly landscaped yard, the squawking over the fence was louder than usual.
“If they didn’t want chickens in their yard,” Terry said, “why did they build their house next to my barn?”
Other neighbor issues you may not think of include the smells of farming, cattle in the road, and firearm practice on the weekend.
All these things aside, I wouldn’t trade living the country life for anything. The rewards of living connected to the land outweigh any inconvenience I can think of. Every single day, I thank God I’m a country girl.