Buying a small property

Page last updated: Monday, 2 November 2020 - 8:50am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Looking to buy a small rural property? Have you thought about the time, money and effort needed to manage it?

The number of people purchasing small rural properties is increasing as people strive to leave the ‘rat-race’ for a relaxing rural lifestyle.

Buying a small rural landholding is a major investment so it is important to make sure you choose the property carefully.

Make sure to take into consideration your current and future commitments, the capability of the property, your plans for it and the restrictions placed on it by state and local authorities.

Asking a few simple questions before buying your dream rural block can help you make the right choice and save you a lot of money and heartache.

Is a small property for you?

Running a small property can be very rewarding but you need to be realistic. Many of the tasks that must be done on a large farm must also be carried out on a small property.

All these tasks will take time and money and cannot be ignored. For example, weeds and pasture must be managed to reduce fire risk and control the spread of weeds.

Depending on what activities you decide to carry out on the property, there will also be seasonal tasks that need to be done. For instance, if you plan to develop an orchard, diseases will need to be identified and controlled quickly before they potentially ruin not only your crop, but those of neighbouring properties.

It is important to be fully aware of your responsibilities and commitments as a small landholder and the ramifications if these are not met.

The state government has laws governing native vegetation, water, livestock identification and movement, health, animal welfare and planning; while local government is responsible for buildings, animal health and welfare, planning in their localities, control of pests, weeds, protection of water resources and land degradation.

It is a good idea to know what these regulations entail and how they can affect the management of your property.

It is also wise to carry out a thorough title check before buying a property.

Is there an easement agreement, giving someone the right to use the property for a specific purpose? Are all services (power, water, access, etc.) in place? Are there any heritage, carbon or conservation caveats or covenants on the property?

Knowing this information before buying a property is vital so that you are aware of what restrictions are on the property or how much work and money is required to prepare the property for business and/or lifestyle.

There are many activities that can be undertaken on a small property but before deciding on what you will do, you should consider some key questions to make sure that the property you choose will suit the needs of all involved.

What do you want from the property?

When buying a small property consider what you will be doing in 5-10 years' time.

What do you want your property to look like? Do you want a retreat, weekender, working or hobby farm, retirement destination, conservation block or self-sufficient block? What type of environment do you want — bush, pasture or crops?

If you plan to set up a vineyard or run stock, don’t buy a bush block as it may not be able to be cleared.

Do you want to get involved in some form of commercial production? If the answer is yes, then the level and type of production will depend on soil type, water and climate and how you manage each of these resources.

It is best to decide what you would like to be involved in and then search for a block that fits the requirements of the enterprise chosen.

It is also helpful to contact associations involved in your industry of choice to determine what it can cost to set up and manage such an enterprise and if there are established or potential markets for your proposed product.

Unless it is very good quality bush, doing nothing with the property is not an option. At the very least, weeds and pastures will need to be managed to prevent fire.

Do you have enough time and capital to spend on your property?

You will need to spend time carrying out essential maintenance and any tasks associated with your chosen activity. For example, if you run stock you will be responsible for their health and welfare and compliance with the legal requirements of stock identification and movement.

All of these tasks will require money to buy or hire equipment, contractors, veterinarians, etc. Some will be able to be budgeted and saved for; others will be essential and immediate.