Rural properties – how to manage home buyer expectations

As property experts and estate agents, we are well aware of the allure the countryside holds for many property buyers. Promoting rural properties often conjures up an idyllic vision of a slower pace of life, open spaces and tight-knit communities. 

Recent research suggests that interest in country living, which saw a significant upsurge during the pandemic, remains strong. And, while demand for rural properties continues to be buoyant, it’s important that we, as professionals in the property industry, provide clients with a balanced perspective on the potential pros and cons of a country move.

What do buyers expect from a move to the countryside?

Let’s look at some of the main reasons why rural living appeals to buyers:

  • First off, there’s the desire to escape from urban stress and aim for a better quality of life. The peace and quiet, clean air and scenic surroundings of rural areas are a draw for many people who are reassessing their priorities and looking to simplify their lifestyles.
  • Space, often a compromise that has to be made in urban living environments, is a key priority, be it for gardens, small-scale agriculture or raising livestock. Rural properties typically come with significantly more garden space or land.
  • Then there’s the longing for a close-knit local community with a neighbourly support system, something that is often sorely lacking in towns and cities. Homeowners want a safe environment for their children to grow up in and everyone values an area with low crime.
  • In terms of investment potential, rural properties often hold their value well over time and provide more stable, long-term investment returns. Holiday lets and tourism also present income opportunities for some. Meanwhile, landlords seeking eco-friendlier development opportunities and projects that reap a return after renovating might consider looking at rural areas too.

Are there any potential issues with buying a rural property?

Without a doubt, all of the above are appealing qualities that buyers of rural properties may be looking for. That said, there are many other significant considerations of rural living that must be addressed.

Looking after a rural home

An older rural property comes with its own challenges. Frequently, extensive and ongoing maintenance and upkeep is required for the property to remain habitable and structurally sound. Buyers should be made aware of the importance of having a structural survey carried out. “Usually recommended for buildings over 70-80 years old, or with significant historical damage, our Building Survey (Level 3) will give you an in-depth explanation of any defects along with recommendations for remedial action,” explains a leading Chartered Surveyor.

Many country newbies don’t realise that options for utilities like heating are often limited to more expensive choices such as oil instead of gas central heating, while remote properties may not be connected to public sewers, relying on septic tanks for foul water. And acreage, while appealing in theory, demands a serious time commitment to manage properly. Make sure your property buyers understand what it means to transition to a simpler way of life.

Living in a rural community

A picturesque yet isolated location also presents challenges. Reasonable access to amenities and services must be factored in, as well as sustainable commute times for those still working. Some country villages have become more second-home or holiday communities, lacking a genuinely cohesive local population. Even where a local community remains, outsiders are not always readily welcomed or able to integrate fully. While a holiday or second home may minimise some of these concerns, for those seeking a rural primary residence it’s vital we help them understand the realities.

Weighing up the pros and cons

What is important to recognise is that the vision of an idyllic country life does not necessarily match reality. Factors like community dynamics, availability of amenities, access to services, and property condition or upkeep must be researched and weighed up.

Property clients need a clear sense of what exactly they and their families want and need from rural living before making what is typically an enormous lifestyle change and financial commitment.

By all means, sell prospective clients the rewards and benefits of a country property and location. But also address the potential challenges, and recommend they go into it with realistic expectations. Help them do thorough research, understand the responsibilities that come with their dream, and make sure all parties affected are in agreement about what country living will truly entail for them. While moving to the countryside could be rewarding, proper preparation and planning are required to ensure it’s the right fit and choice for each client’s unique situation.

How can estate agents manage client expectations?

While the countryside lifestyle continues to appeal to many property buyers, estate agents must provide comprehensive guidance to ensure their dreams don’t end in disappointment. Promote the rewards of rural living without glossing over the potential challenges, and help buyers to consider both the positives and the negatives. Here are some practical recommendations to consider:

  • Discuss motivations and priorities thoroughly. Help buyers articulate what exactly they want from rural living to determine suitable locations and properties.
  • Provide resources to research rural communities and highlight local amenities, services, commute times, social dynamics and how open the local population is to newcomers.
  • Recommend professional surveys and targeted property inspections for older, rural properties. What may look like a charming country cottage may require serious investment to turn it into the home your client is envisaging.
  • Provide expert advice by discussing the additional responsibilities and costs that go with rural living, such as maintaining larger gardens or properties, higher heating bills, or the cost of constant driving to access basic services.
  • Ensure all members of the buying party visit potential new homes together, especially at second viewings. It is crucial that expectations and priorities are aligned before such a significant purchase and lifestyle change.
  • Recommend renting in an area or village first to determine if it’s the right choice. If the location or community proves unsuitable, it’s easier to move on from renting rather than buying and selling or being tied to an unsuitable property.
  • Provide follow-up support and advice even after the sale. Help new residents integrate into the local community and deal with any unforeseen challenges. Satisfied clients will provide the best referrals and online reviews.

We as expert local estate agents have a responsibility to provide balanced and well-researched guidance to property buyers looking for a rural home. Do promote the dream, but also prepare them for the realities, and help make successful matches between your buyer’s priorities and the community fit.

Our most satisfied clients will be those who start country life with clear eyes and realistic expectations. That is the role we should aim to fill as guides through what is typically an enormous yet rewarding lifestyle change.