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How To Live on a Rural Property Even if You Can’t Afford It

by Victoria Gazeley

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I’m a lucky duck.  When I decided it was time to pack up city life and settle onto a rural property, I had land to come to – a homestead site purchased by my family probably 15 years prior.

But what if you don’t have that plot to escape to and the economy has taken the wind out of your property purchasing sails?  Here are a few ideas to ponder that just might get you from city lot to rural acreage faster than you think:

Group Purchase

I considered this for years before we actually moved, as the property we’re currently on isn’t exactly my ‘dream’ land (though it’s getting closer as time passes).  Do you have friends with a similar dream of rural bliss?  Maybe relatives looking to invest in rural real estate?  Or maybe look into the rural land co-ops that are forming all over (though co-ops are not for everyone).  Start by making a list of everyone you know who might be interested in such an arrangement, then figure out what you would want out of the deal and what you could offer your ‘investors’, and go for it!

For us, group purchase wasn’t the right solution, but for you it just might be ideal.

Renting

I would recommend this for anyone – rent a home in the town you’ve chosen to settle into before you actually buy.  And not just for a couple of months, but for six months to a year.  There’s nothing like having your romantic visions of rural life shattered by neighbours engaging in illegal activity or finding out your well water is contaminated with arsenic.  Bottom line?  There are things about a community you simply can’t learn by visiting on weekends or even talking to the locals.  When we arrived in the town we currently live in, I’d been gone for 22 years and really hadn’t a clue how things ‘worked’.  And honestly, I couldn’t imagine what we’d do with ourselves to keep busy.

Now, two and a half years later, I can’t imagine living anywhere else, but I’m still discovering the depths and breadth of the community.  I haven’t even begun to tap into it, really.  But I’ve heard of many others who bought homes here, then discovered after a year or two that rural living just wasn’t for them.  Unfortunately, at that point they were stuck with houses they couldn’t sell and had to stay in a town they weren’t happy with until the real estate market turned around.  In other words, lots of stress that could have been avoided by taking time to figure out if it really was the ‘right place’ for them before making the financial investment.  If they’d rented, they could have just packed up and left.

Property Caretaking

This is a world I knew absolutely nothing about until I ran into a gentleman in a coffee shop one morning and started chatting.  Turns out there’s a whole group of men and women (often couples) who live in amazing locales, looking after the stunning vacation homes of the very wealthy.  Apparently many of these folks only visit their properties a couple of times per year, so the caretakers are essentially left with an amazing property all to themselves much of the year.  Of course, there are certain skills required, from carpentry and landscaping to business management and security, but for the right people, it’s an ideal way to have both your expenses covered AND learn about your potential new community.  You can find out more about caretaking here:  Top 10 Websites to Find a Property Caretaking Job

Settling Recreational Property

Maybe you have friends or family with recreational property sitting unused?  Ponder coming up with some sort of agreement with them for you to put up a temporary structure (yurt, kit home on a platform, etc. – something you could move to a new property later, or sell them when you leave in exchange for rent) for a specific period of time, with options to extend your stay if everything works out.  There’s countless acres of land and untold numbers of buildings sitting unused most of the year throughout North America, I can’t believe more people don’t do this.  Of course you need to find owners open enough for such an arrangement, but it could easily work out well for everyone – you get to live in the country, and they have someone keeping an eye on things.

The Wrap-up

Of course, there are tax and legal implications for all of the above scenarios, but none of them are insurmountable.  The idea is to get creative with your thinking – there’s always, always a way to live the life you want!  Maybe not as easy as purchasing your own property, but in some cases, you may be better off ‘testing the waters’ first.  Then you’ll know you made the right decision and can settle into your new life with the knowledge that you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Then again, no matter how much preparation you do, it’s always an adventure.  But your dream life is within grasp – you just need to get out there and grab it.

Do you have any other ideas for getting onto a rural property without a big investment?  If so, please share them in the comments below!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Olga Hermans March 30, 2011 at 3:51 am

wow Victoria! I am amazed about what you did and what you’re doing. Living out in the woods…..I wouldn’t mind living on the prairie….. I also live in Vancouver BC; Surrey that is. We might even meet each other somewhere!! Be blessed!

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Victoria Gazeley March 31, 2011 at 11:22 am

Thanks so much for stopping by, Olga. It’s definitely an adventure around here, and I love it. We were in Vancouver last weekend for a fun weekend out, and I have to say I do love visiting, but coming home to the birds and deer is a real joy. All the best to you!

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Anonymous March 30, 2011 at 4:37 am

Can I say that I am officially jealous? That is so awesome, Victoria! I am a backpacker who is stuck behind a desk 9-5. I am grateful for this ‘push’ to get me to re-evaluate what I want to do. Step 1 – get OUTSIDE!

Thanks for sharing!
Be Well.
Paul.
http://AllAboutGratitude.com

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Victoria Gazeley March 31, 2011 at 11:20 am

Get outside, indeed! I have that problem too, though when it’s 5 feet away, it’s much easier than when we lived in a townhouse. It is a great life – I have absolutely no complaints (except maybe closet space!)…

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Susan McKenzie March 30, 2011 at 4:32 pm

This article is jam-packed with excellent ideas! My husband and I have been caretakers…. on a ranch in Wyoming, and you’re exactly right – it’s a great way to really learn about a community before deciding to live there! I’m also in the process of renting a place in a different rural to get a real feel for the community. Water quality, weather, neighbors… all of these things are best to experience before moving! You’re right on, Victoria… the tips you give in your articles are very practical and wise – thanks!

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Victoria Gazeley March 31, 2011 at 11:19 am

Thanks so much, Susan. You have so much wisdom to share on this topic – hoping we can chat in person one day!!

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Elvie Look March 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm

You have so many good ideas. We don’t move much and it might take dynamite to get Ken to head more south, but I consider it often, especially in the winter. The care taking idea is such a good one. Thanks, you never know, maybe one day we will be neighbours! :D

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Victoria Gazeley March 31, 2011 at 11:18 am

I’m not big on moving, either, so I think we’re here for awhile! Thanks so much for stopping by… ;o)

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Carol Rosenberg Giambri April 2, 2011 at 6:44 am

Victoria, Wow 15 years back the land was purchased and today you are up there. Never would have thought of group ownership. It sounds like fund to live with like minds and share expenses too. Looks like you are living in heaven!

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