Author Topic: Are you a "city slicker" living in the county close to town? Your input wanted.  (Read 4948 times)

Trudie

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The dilemma:  Buying what is technically a "county" lot on a paved road close to town versus buying into a city neighborhood across the street.

I want to hear the straight-up pros and cons from people who have experienced it.


This is where I want to hear your stories about rural utilities (esp. water and sewer), and property maintenance -- good and bad.


My DH and I consider ourselves "town people."  I like living on paved roads, being on city water and sewer, being close to city amenities (parks, public transport, library).  We currently live in a developed neighborhood on about a half acre, with extensive trees/ravines on our backlot.  We've grown weary of the maintenance burden of living on a sloping lot which we must maintain to a certain standard.  Don't get me wrong -- I like things to be tidy.... but there are times I wish we felt comfortable mowing once per week instead of twice.  There are costs associated with dealing with trees on shared property lines when they are so close to homes.  I'm tired of the unexpected costs.

Recently I became aware of an acre and a half of land in the city we hope to retire to.  It is technically on county land, but literally right across the road from the city line and a development we've also considered.  The county property is on a nice paved road.  Cost of the 1 1/2 acres is $120,000.  Cost of lots in the development are around $150,000 (and progressively higher).

I'm wondering if we would be happy with county land and could get a property of that size to be manageable from a maintenance standpoint -- particularly the yard.

Here are the pros and cons of the county lot as I see them (as someone who has always lived in the city):

Pros:
- Paved road
- Access to rural water district for water (not sewer)
- Access to all other utilities
- Location -- near great parks, trails, shopping
- Freedom to build a unique house that won't look "out of place" in a sub-division, including a smaller more contemporary house
- No convenants; few restrictions on timeline to build
- Flexibility of county zoning
- Potential to convert significant areas of acreage to no-mow situation (forest, prairie) without running afoul of covenants and codes
- Can have things like:  solar panels (field), clotheslines, greenhouse, guest cottage (potential executive rental) with few/no restrictions, antennas
- Can possibly (?) convert parts of lands to forestry and wildlife habitat and get assistance from state agencies.  Tax credits?
- Privacy... not right on top of the neighbors.

Cons:
- Potential high maintenance nightmare -- mowing and snow removal -- that would just be  more cumbersome in our old age
- I really know nothing about what it's like to be on rural water and to have to deal with my own septic (although at the end of the day it seems like in the city you're on your own)
- Unexpected costs of hooking up to water and sewer
- Unexpected costs -- in general -- of needing to buy "stuff" to maintain property
-  Are there other city services I would miss?


We are just two people, no kids.

« Last Edit: April 26, 2016, 08:48:07 AM by Trudie »

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Depending on the state, you could request annexation into the city to get city services.

Fishindude

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I have lived out in the county for many years, and would not want to live in a city.  The pros far outweigh the cons, however it does cost more.

A couple notes:
a. Having rural water at the road should be nice, as you won't have to drill and maintain a well, plus water quality should be pretty good.  You will just have to pay a tap fee to hook up and a monthly bill.   Check with neighbors to make sure they don't have crazy high water charges first, some areas do.
b. I just put a septic system in for $5,000 and have seen them as high as $25,000, depends on your county health department requirements, type of soils, etc.   Ask around to get a feel for what this will cost.   With just the two of you, there shouldn't ever be any maintenance assuming it's a gravity draining system an not a pumped system.
c. Lawn / property upkeep takes time and money.  The time and effort can be mitigated by owning good equipment for mowing, snow removal, etc.  Most country folks kind of enjoy these activities.
d. Sure is nice to be able to build what you want rather than to be tied to restrictions.  Also nice to have the space to enjoy, garden, privacy, etc.  If you want a swimming pool, chickens, a new shed, items you mentioned, etc. there shouldn't be any road blocks.

Good luck !

hoping2retire35

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Sounds like a win if you can embrace cutting lots of grass and yard work. I've seen some really old men who like to get on a riding lawnmower and some grandmas in ditches with weed eaters. as long as you are healthy these should not be too difficult in old age.

my grandpa was pretty active until he died at 93.

Bracken_Joy

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Learn how to maintain a septic. My brother's gf lived with us for a while when I was in HS on our farm. It was only upon having our septic have to be pumped and good bacteria reintroduced, to the tune of enough money that my dad bitched a ton (don't know exact amount), that we found out she was dumping tons of cooking grease down, flushing condoms and tampons, that sort of thing.

This whole frugalwoods series on evaluating homesteads is pretty good (and they are city slickers evaluating rural homesteads- perfect!). Here is the septic post: http://www.frugalwoods.com/2015/04/27/frugal-homestead-series-part-6-septic-the-other-end-of-the-water-equation/

Anyway, we had an issue at one point where it turned out that the nextdoor nursery had unknowingly moved on top of part of our leach field and built a road. This is no bueno. So learn how to evaluate a septic system! If they are well maintained and you know how to take care of them, they're really no problem at all. But ignorance is not bliss, in this case.

SomedayStache

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Regarding lawn maintenance:  Sounds like you would be free to build on your 1.5 acres, but just section off a smaller portion that is your yard which you maintain to your standard while letting the remainder go wild.  This could actually decrease your weekly lawn maintenance tasks.

Bracken_Joy

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Regarding lawn maintenance:  Sounds like you would be free to build on your 1.5 acres, but just section off a smaller portion that is your yard which you maintain to your standard while letting the remainder go wild.  This could actually decrease your weekly lawn maintenance tasks.

I would so use the chance to build a local native plant habitat! Depending on where you are, re-foresting an area or making it a meadow with butterfly friendly plants would be amazingly beautiful. The key is to re-wild it intentionally, otherwise you'll end up with a ton of invasive species that don't do anything for local flora/fauna.

There are also trees that keep down plants underneath them. Like black walnut, have a halo (allelopathy) that basically poisons the soil around them to prevent competition.

Trudie

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Regarding lawn maintenance:  Sounds like you would be free to build on your 1.5 acres, but just section off a smaller portion that is your yard which you maintain to your standard while letting the remainder go wild.  This could actually decrease your weekly lawn maintenance tasks.

I would so use the chance to build a local native plant habitat! Depending on where you are, re-foresting an area or making it a meadow with butterfly friendly plants would be amazingly beautiful. The key is to re-wild it intentionally, otherwise you'll end up with a ton of invasive species that don't do anything for local flora/fauna.

There are also trees that keep down plants underneath them. Like black walnut, have a halo (allelopathy) that basically poisons the soil around them to prevent competition.

Yes -- I have seriously thought about this.  It is beautiful and I would create a building envelope and section off the natural area right away and would have it prepared properly and seeded down properly when we built our house.  There are tons of places nearby that specialize in native seed/prairie restorations.  Our city of choice is a university town with a land grant university... there are lots of agriculturalists and conservationists nearby.  The state forestry is also local, and I know they can work with you to plant shrubs and trees... usually at relatively low cost.

As someone above said, I would actually try to keep our livable area quite small to actually cut down on weekly maintenance.  I would push solar panels to the backlot, have some prairie, perhaps a greenhouse, and some raised beds (on pea gravel).  I would like a nice "outdoor room."  The common theme is that I want to eliminate turfgrass to a manageable size and keep the terrain relatively flat.  As for forest -- I adore trees but we aren't chain saw people.  So, I think I'd prefer prairie habitat -- something that could be managed 1x/year with a controlled burn.



horsepoor

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Can't tell where you are, but you might be able to find a way to landscape with natives to minimize maintenance on most of the area so you don't need to mow.  This might not work if you're in a really wet area and don't want an overgrown jungle.  If you put most of it into fenced pasture, you might be able to work out a deal with a neighbor to allow them to periodically graze animals to keep things in check and help with maintenance.  I'd never want an acre of lawn.

We're just outside city limits on about half an acre.  The septic has been no problem for 6 years, but we are on city water and have the option of hooking up to the city sewer as well.  There is also a county library one mile away, though it doesn't have all the amenities of the city library system.

As far as the yard at our house, we've put the front yard into xeriscape/natives for the most part.  There is a small patch of low mow grass over the septic tank, so we can get away with weekly watering and monthly mowing during the summer.  Much of the rest of the yard is in vegetable garden, which is much more enjoyable and literally fruitful to maintain than the patch of grass.  Would not want this much land if I wasn't an avid vegetable gardener.  I might get rid of the grass in the back yard completely if we didn't have dogs.  I'm in the process of getting the fence line trees changed from nasty Russian elms to nicer native trees with smaller mature size so they are more easily maintained and less of a liability for potential property damage.

My aunt has three acres outside of Tucson that is in native vegetation, so they have privacy from neighbors, but almost zero landscape maintenance.

Cadman

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We did something similar and love it, but it is a lot of work. We had the septic put in for around $5k and a well for a similar price. Never had a problem with either but then we're careful about what we put down the drain. It sure is nice not having a water bill, sewer charges, garbage collection fees, etc. No natural gas out here so we fill the propane tank once a year and pay for elec/internet on one bill (and plan to offset this with solar in the near future).

The one thing to look out for is property taxes, though you might qualify for certain ag or homestead credits to offset that. In our area, lots of folks are building their mcmansions just over the county line, still approx the same distance to town to avoid the (rather expensive) tax.

Altons Bobs

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You probably will have to pay for trash pickup, police, fire & rescue separately because you don't have city services.  And county zoning may be good or bad, they may build a horse track or an amusement park next to your property.  :-D 

No problem on septic, you can get septic chlorine tablets and drop a few in every month.  Our septic maintenance guy said if it was maintained right, we probably didn't need it to get it pumped at all forever.  We only use all natural/organic stuff, so nothing bad goes into our tanks.

Your neighboring lot may have a lot of weeds that get blown over to your yard, so sometimes it's hard to get rid of weeds.

AmandaS1989

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As someone who's lived in the county on the edge of city property for the last 25 years it is wonderful. You don't have to pay city and county taxes, you just pay county. As for trash pickup we've always taken our own trash to the dump ourselves. Why pay for someone to pick it up? We only ever see a small assessment for the local county fire station added on to our property taxes but you can ask your local tax office to get an idea of how taxes are assessed.

Septic tanks are very easy to maintain, and the good part is you don't have to worry about whether the city is keeping up the sewer lines or not since you're handling it yourself.

 

katsiki

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Lots of great feedback.  You might check into property taxes.  That should determine what type of fees for services: police, fire, etc.

We're in the country so I can relate to some of your concerns.  I wouldn't worry about the yard.  With 1.5 acres and you can lay it out how you like, you have a lot of control.  Plant trees and make part wooded, other native plants, etc.

(Get a goat!)

Trudie

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As someone who's lived in the county on the edge of city property for the last 25 years it is wonderful. You don't have to pay city and county taxes, you just pay county. As for trash pickup we've always taken our own trash to the dump ourselves. Why pay for someone to pick it up? We only ever see a small assessment for the local county fire station added on to our property taxes but you can ask your local tax office to get an idea of how taxes are assessed.

Septic tanks are very easy to maintain, and the good part is you don't have to worry about whether the city is keeping up the sewer lines or not since you're handling it yourself.

The interesting thing about our location is that everyone -- city our country -- has to arrange trash pick up on their own from a list of contractors... so we'll really notice no difference.

AmandaS1989

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Huh. Sounds like just another way to fleece people out of their money. Oh well at least you won't notice the difference then.

Highbeam

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The rules in the county regarding land use can be just as nasty or nastier than the rules in the city. Building a shed, house, etc. The rules and the regulators are easier to deal with in the city in my area.