There is nothing quite as charming as an old farmhouse, and living in one can be quite a treat. Unfortunately, it can also be problematic if you don’t do your homework before moving in. Typically located in more rural areas, farmhouses have some quirks not typically found in city homes. Here are four questions you should ask before buying one.
Is the water safe?
You’re probably used to getting unlimited amounts of safe, clean water right from your tap. That might not happen in a farmhouse. Most rely on wells or natural springs to provide water, so you’ll need to ask where your water comes from. Verify that any wells on the property are large and reliable enough to meet your water needs. You’ll also need to test the water to make sure it’s safe to drink or find out what type of filtration system the well uses to kill harmful bacteria.
Are utilities readily available inside and out?
Depending on location, you could find that high-speed internet, cell phone service and cable television simply aren’t available to you. Even if you can get these services, the house itself might not support them. Old telephone lines, for instance, may drop DSL signals and require some upgrading. Ask about electricity too. After an outage, electricity providers typically focus on restoring power to cities and towns before rural areas. Find out how frequent and lengthy power outages in the area are and have a generator or other backup plan if necessary.
How is the area zoned?
If you’re dreaming about moving into a big farmhouse on a nice patch of land and starting a farmette, make sure it’s legal. Zoning laws change, and livestock, for example, may be illegal on your land — even if the property was once a dairy farm. You’ll also want to know if zoning allows you to erect any outbuildings or turn your large farmhouse into a bed and breakfast. The rules in more remote areas tend to be less strict than those in the city, but don’t assume you’ll have unlimited freedom.
Rural farmhouses don’t use city plumbing to bring water in or take it out. Many rely on a septic tank sewage system to process wastewater and sewage. Unfortunately, septic systems sometimes suffer a bit of neglect, often lying forgotten until there is a problem. When considering a farmhouse, it’s important to know what type of septic system it has, how old the system is and whether or not the system meets current codes or if it needs to be replaced. Make sure to ask your real estate agent what type of sewage system or combinations exist in the property. You may have a septic tank in a barn and sewage in the main house. Farmhouses make cozy homes, but their remote location can present a few challenges. Country living can provide a refreshing atmosphere, but only if you understand and prepare for the special challenges it can present. Knowing what to look for in your new farmhouse will help you pick the right one for you while avoiding potentially expensive surprises and repairs.
Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.