Things to consider when buying rural property

Key information
  • Check for broadband connection and phone signal
  • Be aware of unadopted access roads
  • Planning permission in the countryside can be notoriously difficult

As urban environments get busier and busier, the appeal of relocating to a rural setting is easy to understand. The 'country life' appeals to many, whether it's the peaceful surroundings, acres of land, access to water, lower levels of pollution and crime, or access to open, green spaces, a rural life offers a lot of positives to consider.

But buying rural property isn't the same as buying a house in the town or the city, and there's a lot to weigh up beyond the benefits. In this guide we'll take you through some of the potential issues that come with rural property to help you make a more informed decision.


Local ShopThe first thing to consider is that, as with any property, location is absolutely crucial. And when it comes to rural land, the remote location that makes it so appealing can sometimes also be its biggest drawback.

If you're still working in the city, for example, then obviously your commute time is going to be a major factor in any rural move. Finding the right location is a balancing act. You'll want somewhere that doesn't leave you spending all your time commuting, but not so convenient that it commands a hefty premium.

You'll also have to think about services like schools and GP surgeries. Rural locations often fall into large catchment areas, meaning you might have to travel into a neighbouring town to access these services.

Likewise, shops and other amenities aren't going to be as close to hand in the country as they are in urban areas. They may close entirely on Sundays and certain holidays. And in some parts of the country it's not uncommon for shopkeepers to still observe half-day trading on Wednesdays.


Rural House

Local services aren't the only things you'll have to consider when choosing the right location — there's also the essential household utilities you'll rely on day to day.

Two of the most common issues to bear in mind are broadband connection and phone signal. Of course, the amount of true blindspots is getting ever smaller, and this will only improve in the coming years. But as it stands right now, rural properties just aren't going to enjoy the same high-speed connections as urban ones.

As you go further into the countryside, there will also be a higher chance that the land won't have mains connections like gas, water or sewer drainage. Don't worry, that doesn't mean you'll have to live without heating or running water — it just means that the property will have an alternative supply, such as an electric boiler or a septic tank for drainage.

Off-mains supplies can have varying running and maintenance costs and be subject to strict health or environmental regulations, so always be clear about what you're taking on. When searching for rural cottages for sale or other properties on Addland, using the start researching button below the listings takes you straight to research so you can find out as much information as there is to know about the location of the property. 

Although it is rare one way people also attempt to acquire the freehold title of a property is through exercising their squatter's rights. 10 years of living in a derelict property gives 'squatters' the chance to claim the freehold title.

Access roads

Rural road

With urban and suburban property, roads and access rarely factor into the sale beyond knowing where you can park your car. But with rural land it can be a bit more complicated than that.

To start with, in many rural locations in the UK, roads that service properties can be classed as "unadopted". Unadopted roads aren't owned by the council, meaning responsibility for maintaining them — and the cost that comes with it — falls on the property owner instead.

It's common for this to be handled by a residents' association which details everyone's obligations towards the road. But be wary — some rural communities might not have a formal list of terms. This means taking care of issues like potholes, resurfacing or insurance will be a matter of negotiating with your neighbours. If you are unsure who your neighbours are and need to find out, Addland's guide on how to find who owns land will give you the best way for your specific case. 

If you're looking at an isolated property accessed by a narrow lane or driveway, you'll want to consider how this will impact things like deliveries or recycling collections. Here's where local research really pays off — many communities will have online forum boards or social media groups, so seek these out and ask your potential neighbours about any issues they might have.

Future development

House Building

If you're planning to develop your property — either for your own use or to sell it on — be aware that getting planning permission in the countryside can be notoriously difficult.

Once again, location is key here. If your land is close to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or any protected wildlife habitats, there'll likely be restrictions on what you can and can't build. That's not to say developing will be impossible, just that environmental concerns might have the final say over the size of the project or the materials used.

If you have bought a piece of land with planning permission already granted, you will need to check when permission was granted. The date of purchase does not affect how long planning permission lasts.

If you're buying rural land without planning, but with a specific development project in mind, you should check what's likely to be possible before you purchase. Local councils will be able to provide information on past planning permission applications for the property.

You can also discuss your plans with the Local Planning Authority to get an idea of any potential concerns before you file a formal application. For more information on planning applications, read our guide to planning permission.

With all there is to consider, buying rural property can seem very complicated. But don't be put off — it might look daunting, but all it takes is careful thought and planning for your ideal rural move to become a reality. If you're looking for rural land to build your dream property, Addland can help you find it on the UK's most advanced online land marketplace. 

Buying a Property with Woodland 
Buying woodland or rural property with trees can be an appealing idea for many reasons and the buying process is the same as buying residential land. Not only is buying wooded land a perfect way to own and spend time in some of the greenest and most pleasant land in the UK, imagine plucking your breakfast from your very own fruit tree at the bottom of your garden. Perhaps you are looking for a second home as a weekend getaway or you may even wish to buy a wooded property as a new-home buyer. 

Factors worth considering when buying a wooded property can be as simple as the increased risk that comes with flammable trees causing fire damage to nearby properties. Problematic trees are not necessarily those that can cause fire damage, tree roots are one of the most common causes of subsidence (when the ground beneath a building sinks, pulling the property's foundations down with it). A particular example of a problematic tree is the Eucalyptus tree, the roots often grow into ditches, plumbing pipes and septic tanks, damaging and cracking them.

Published: 18 May 2021
Last updated: 11 September 2023

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