Tips for purchasing small rural landholdings

Page last updated: Thursday, 17 May 2018 - 1:46pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Tips for purchasing small rural landholdings is designed to assist prospective purchasers with selecting the most suitable property to meet their needs and expectations.

A 10-point checklist takes the prospective purchaser through a series of questions to assist them in their decision making. This checklist also provides contact details of organisations where further information can be obtained.

Thinking of purchasing a rural property in regional Western Australia?

No doubt you are doing lots of research to help you make your decisions. In the excitement of checking prices, location and access to community services, there are other considerations about owning a property that can sometimes be overlooked.

Before buying any property, carry out a thorough notification on title check — is there an easement agreement, are all services (power, water, access and telephone) in place, are there any carbon, conservation, heritage or other caveats or covenants on the property?

It is important to be fully aware of the responsibilities and commitments required and the ramifications if these are not met.

The following information outlines points to consider as part of your research, before buying land in rural Western Australia.

Realistic expectations

Rural Western Australia offers a quality of life many people find hard to resist. At the same time, it is important to think about some of the realities of life in a rural area before buying and living on a rural property. Although the property you wish to buy might look peaceful, remember that farming is an industry and surrounding farmers are running a business.

If you are moving from the city or a major rural town make sure you’re prepared to be part of the rural community or consider whether you prefer solitude. Are you looking to belong to a group to share knowledge and resources?

It is important to know what you want from owning a small landholding and to clearly and honestly assess your expectations. Carry out realistic research. Perhaps engaging a consultant will assist your decision making.

It is important to recognise that isolation and stress are some of the risks of moving from an urban environment.

Responsibilities of Western Australian landholders

Landholders have many responsibilities and legal obligations to consider.

The Federal Government makes laws about taxation, trade and commerce and quarantine.

State Government laws govern native vegetation, water, health, animal welfare, livestock identification and movement, stock diseases, planning, environment protection, movement of plant materials, noxious weeds and vermin.

Local Government laws govern planning, buildings and improvements, health and neighbourhood disputes. Maintaining health and welfare of your animals, responsible chemical use and farm safety are important requirements. Land managers also need to protect water resources, control pest animals, eradicate noxious weeds, conserve soil and avoid contributing to land degradation. These laws are important to ensure long-term healthy and productive land. Abiding by them also helps build friendly communities. In addition to regulations there are industry-based codes of practice administered by local and state government staff.

Rural property types

People buy rural properties for many reasons, including those listed below. It is wise to refer to your local government to ensure zoning of any potential property is appropriate for the intended use.

Local government town planning categories include general agriculture; rural small holding, and rural residential. Note that the size of a landholding does not necessarily indicate its zoning and subsequent landuses.

Retreat is a place of relaxation, somewhere to escape city/busy life/work and may include a few livestock and/or a vegetable patch as a hobby, as visits to this type of property can be irregular at times. Potential retreat buyers should look for small blocks close to home so driving time is minimised.

Weekender suits a buyer looking for somewhere to ride a motorbike, go fishing or rest and may also include some livestock and/or a vegetable patch.

Working farm  is a dual recreational/commercial operation, so factors such as good soil fertility, water and access to markets are important, as is the reality that a paid manager or the buyer will have to live on site to oversee the operation. Working farms are usually well established or easily set-up otherwise set-up and production costs can limit cashflow for the first few years.

Hobby farm suits a small number of livestock or a small production area and as the owner is responsible for ensuring livestock are looked after there is often a requirement for someone to oversee the block in the owner’s absence. However, the return and cost risks of a hobby farm are not as great as compared with a working farm.

Conservation block is not really suitable for production or livestock as they often include blocks with natural features and often present risks and costs for owners who have responsibility for fire, erosion, weed and pest management.

Self-sufficient block is more of an appealing ideal than a reality as often only a degree of self-sufficiency is sought. To become truly self-sufficient, the land needs to have similar features to that of a working farm and in many areas the climate may limit what can be produced or grown on-site.

Investment blocks can comprise any of the types listed above and therefore has the associated returns, cost, risks and responsibilities.