Finding the perfect lifestyle block to buy can be an adventure, writes Kama Burwell.
Are you hankering for a lifestyle of rural bliss? A flock of ducks, some chickens of course, maybe a milking cow? Enough space to grow all the fruit and nuts you can eat?
It is a very enticing vision… and one that doesn’t always turn out …. as suggested by the turnover of lifestyle blocks. People stay on their block for an average of 7 years, and leave just when the fruit trees are starting to produce well! However, some good planning and realistic expectations are a solid foundation for achieving the lifestyle you dream of.
Finding the right lifestyle block for you is a good start. The first step is to be brutally honest with yourself….
How much time do you really have each week to develop the property, grow veges, make sauerkraut, prune fruit trees, scythe the orchard grass, milk the cow, and find the ducks’ eggs in the hedge? Being realistic now will point you in the right direction when looking at properties to buy, and save you exhaustion and disappointment later on.
The classic 10 acre block is a huge area, requiring a lot of work. Of course if your perfect site turns out to be a large block, there are some approaches you can take to reduce the weekly work involved, such as retiring several acres into bush or high value forestry, or sharing the block with another family… (more on those in future articles).
If you are looking at bare blocks, how much money does it really cost to develop so that you have a roof over your head, water to drink, reliable winter driveway access, electricity, and a toilet that your kids and your grandmother are happy to use? You might be surprised…driveway access and connecting to the electricity are two areas that are very site dependent and can easily blow budgets. Do some research and get some advice from professionals such as GreenBridge.
You can do some of the property development yourself, and we applaud those amazing people who build their own homes, but be realistic about the lost earnings, and the extra time & expense due to “learning on the job”.
Once you’ve been honest with yourself about time and money, then it is time to sit down and write your wish list! Now this is the fun part ……. Make sure you include:
how far you are willing to walk, bike, or drive to schools, work, and to see your friends;
what you want to grow & do on your block;
whether you hate the wind;
your privacy and community requirements; and
Once you’ve written your dream wish list… refer back to your “brutal honesty phase” and prepare to edit your wish list!
Now get out there and get a feel for the property market, what is available, and what the prices are… go see lots of properties that are for sale, talk to real estate agents, read the Property Weekly religiously! Try very hard not to buy until you have a feel for the market…
Once you start being serious about buying, it is a really good idea to add an “importance rating” to each item on your wish list, ie 1=not very important, 5=absolutely essential. This will help you objectively rate properties and compare them to each other.
Despite all this sensible planning, you may fall madly in love with a property …. hopefully your wish list & ratings will temper your overwhelming feelings of longing: there is misery ahead for the keen vege gardener who buys a gorgeous south-facing bushclad site with magnificent views of the mountain…
Next month, we’ll look at how to assess whether a property is the right one for you. In the meantime, enjoy the adventure!
Kama Burwell is an ecological engineer and landscape designer, and is part of the GreenBridge team. She “lifestyled” for 9 years on a corner of the family farm near Inglewood, before moving to a suburban garden in New Plymouth.