Buying a homestead in Australia for many people is the ultimate dream. If you’ve decided that moving onto a rural property is the next phase in your life, then chances are you are already looking at buying raw land and/or a farmstead that already exists with some current working capacity.
When it comes to moving out of the suburbs in Australia and moving into a rural property, there’s many different options available and what you ultimately decide to do with your next life phase and where you live depends on what your goals are.
There are many factors that go into the decision to buy rurally, and some of them might not even be something you think of first hand. The intent of this post is to outline some of the primary considerations you should give as an astute purchaser when going through this process.
How much land?
How much land you purchase is all dependent on what you want to do and what you can afford. One of the first things to think about when planning on moving rurally is to think about what it is you actually want to do there.
Shooting & Hunting
For example, in Australia (Queensland specifically) on 40 acres and over, you can have a category H firearm (handgun; concealed) registered for vermin control at the property instead of through a club or for a sport.
But you can only shoot certain calibres on 40 acres due to projectile distance. This also applies with category A and B firearms (longarms, rifles and shotguns). So, if you were an avid hunter, or wanted to have a shooting range on your property, 40 acres wouldn’t cut it.
More information can be found on the Queensland Weapons Act 1990. Additional information on membership for sport shooting can be found at the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia.
Raising meat & dairy farming
Say you wanted to start dairy farming, beef farming, pasture raised pork or lamb, etc, then you may need more land.
If you were considering something like 100-150 acres, then that would be a viable size acreage for running a small farmstead for commercial purposes.
Again though, depending on if you were going to be grass fed and raised, or if you were wanting to be organic, you would need different certifications and approvals to certify your finished meat a certain way which may require specific work to your property.
You need to make sure that the size of the herd is suitable for the size of the land parcel to support those animals.
If you were looking at property with greater wooded holdings so you can be more self sufficient, or you just want the privacy, then a property previously used for cattle or growing lucerne would not be suitable.
Make sure the property type you want matches with what your future aspirations are and what you can afford.
Properties greater than a certain number of acres may only be purchased in actual cash due to zoning, size, and the bank unwilling to lend in risky circumstances or in remote areas.
How close do you want to be to the nearest town? Are you planning on stockpiling or have facilities where you can store non perishable items long term depending on how far you go out?
There is a lot more option now then there was even 20 years ago when looking at the remoteness of properties. You might be in a position where you are working for yourself + homesteading, or moving to a fully WFH arrangement permitting you to move further out than you are now.
These days, and because of certain world events, you can now even have telehealth appointments with your Dr for minor ailments.
The increasing interconnectedness of the IoT (Internet of Things) and the web in general means things like home schooling are also becoming a lot more popular and more available.
These days, kids can get into local home schooling community hubs and still get the social engagement from school based play and activities, but learn from home and learn things better suited for their style of learning.
Let’s face it, despite our increased knowledge of people needing different ways to learn, learning still has a long way to go to be more accessible.
Living remotely may – if you are so inclined – present with some negatives. If you’re more social, or prefer a community feel, then living closer to a town may suit you better than being remote.
Personally for me, I am currently in an area which has a great community, but its too busy for me. And remote living really is a much preferred option going forward.
Make sure when looking at the areas and types of properties you are buying, that they suit your needs.
If you need a school Doctor, pharmacy, supermarket, hardware store etc, relatively nearby, then consider areas where driving 10-20 minutes to get to those places is feasible.
If you still work off your property when you move, or have a shift work job, then make sure things like lighting, road maintenance, proximity to emergency services, hospital etc are in your radar.
The last thing you need is to be driving home at an ungodly hour and hitting a roo and then not being able to recover from it.
Once you’ve determine what you want to do on the land, you then need to consider what characteristics that land has.
If eventually you’d like to have rotating pastures, a market garden, grazing land for livestock etc, then you will need certain infrastructure.
Properties with water licenses, lots of dams, irrigation bores or lots of tank storage will end up costing more than properties without.
But don’t let that put you off.
If you think it’s a bit pricey, then go and individually price what adding that infrastructure to a naked/raw piece of land would cost. If it costs you more to add it after the fact, then you may need to look at your budget and factor in water needs additionally.
When it comes to using the land in different ways, south-facing cleared land that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight every day is needed for growing vegetables for food.
You will want level or gently sloping land unless you want to put in terraced gardens.
You’ll want more acreage than you think for growing all your own food as a homesteader, as you may need to rotate in cover crops to build soil fertility.
If you’re a small farmer who will grow vegetables for money, your land needs can vary widely depending on the type and quantity of plants you plan to grow.
An orchard, if you want to start one, requires some acreage, but can start as small as a one-half acre. For a family, a dozen or more fruit trees seems to be a rough guideline for homesteading, but this varies depending on your climate and your fruit consumption.
The quality of the soil you’re buying is another thing to consider. Often, farms are abandoned because the soil was of poor quality. But, quality can be improved — it just takes time. Having the soil tested is a smart idea when you have found a piece of property that meets all your other requirements.
You also need to look at things like windbreak, rain fall, drainage, fire management plans, local wildlife, flooding potential, and more.
Make sure you ask for all the council paperwork you can and even travel yourself to that area (if safe to do so!) during periods of rain or flooding to see what happens to different roads and streets and different properties in the area.
If you have specific needs for the land, or feel you want to expand on something, consider bringing on an engineer to best advise you on the changes you can make.
Consider also whether there are any land restrictions, covenants or council plans in the future such as whether or not they plan to sub divide land, make it available for future development, need to take the land to widen the road or even if they green zone your area for natural flora and fauna protection.
People often incorrectly assume that future planning will increase property value but sometimes it may actually reduce the value of your property as it now has undesirable traits or makes it difficult to sell on afterward.
Some areas in Australia are not connected to the grid. Off-grid living has been romanticized in recent years but it’s not necessarily an easy thing to do.
When it comes to going from connected to off-grid, I highly recommend doing A LOT of research to see what you need to be aware of, how your habits need to change, and how it will impact your day-to-day life.
That said, there is nothing wrong with off-grid living. We are currently about 80% off-grid, and when we first moved from connected to semi connected, we were able to adjust relatively easily. As long as you are aware of what the adjustment is and how to plan for it, off-grid living is very rewarding.
Some places are remote enough that they won’t have access to a phone line or internet. Central Australian cattle stations and remote indigenous communities are some of the really remote types of properties we have in Oz, but may not be the type of property you are looking at.
These days though, alternate energy is wide-spread and there are lots of options available. If you live in a particularly windy area, then maybe a small wind generator will be best for you.
If you’re in a very sunny area, then maybe solar panels are better for you. Now you can also store excess energy in battery packs. These are expensive now, but becoming cheaper and cheaper as technology improves and more research is done on efficacy.
Wind, water (micro-hydroelectric) and solar are all possible alternative energy systems you may want to use on your small farm or homestead.
What kind of land will support the type of alternative energy most suited to your climate? Will you be able to use any of these methods to generate energy with the land you’re considering?
Water is incredibly important for any type of rural property. If you’re looking at raw land, you need to consider water importantly.
You may not be able to drill a bore, and maybe your only collection is through water tanks off the roof.
But what if you don’t get a lot of rain or a lot of dew? Is there a local water delivery service that can truck water to you?
In Australia, if you don’t live in the CBD or a suburb, you are 99.99% going to be on tank water, potentially supplemented by bore or river water if you have a license to pull water from the local river and if it happens to cross your property!
Tank water is probably the most common and you’ll see an array of poly, concrete and steel water tanks on rural properties. Often, people have house water, shed water, animal water, etc.
Ideally, your property should have the ability to capture and store clean water, whether it is through tanks or dams. But if you cannot, you need to look at alternatives.
Most areas in Australia receive at least some rainfall (but many receive much more!) so if that is the case and you do get a bit, consider what volume you need for your day to day, and your livestock and garden needs, and how else you can supplement that water.
As mentioned earlier, properties with a few water options will be more expensive compared to naked/raw land, but consider what that infrastructure would cost if you needed to add it yourself, and what the eventual return on that investment will be.
Access, fencing and other considerations
Access to your property is not only critical for you as a new rural property owner, but also incredibly intertwined with the safety of you, your property and your livestock.
Is it on a maintained road? And even if the property is on a maintained road, how long of a driveway or road will you need to the spot where you want to or can build a house? Will trucks be able to access your driveway to your house building parcel easy? Will it be a challenge to bring building or other materials to you?
Also look at whether there is a right of way or any other access rights going through the property.
This relates to whether emergency services need access through your property to other properties, whether those properties need to get through yours to get to theirs, or whether there are specific requirements such as maintaining a fire break.
Consider also, how fenced the property is, and whether your property was previously use for hunting.
The last thing you need is for people who may have had hunting arrangements with a previous owner to inadvertently trespass on your property, cut your fence, or kill your livestock.
If that is the case, make sure you take all measures to suitably notify that outside hunting is no longer permitted, or if you do permit it, that hunters make contact with you or the local police station so that you have knowledge of others being on your land at different times.
There’s lots to think about when making the move to the country.
It’s not only a lifestyle change, it’s a lifestyle overhaul!
And if you ask me, one of the best overhauls you can have!
So make sure if you are planning on overhauling your life, you really have a good think about the above and ask lots of questions/do your research.
The worst thing that could happen is you buy a property that just isn’t suitable and that you can’t do anything with.
And then, you’re stuck with an asset that is more of a liability.
Do you have any other tips or suggestions for what to look for when buying a homestead in Australia? Leave me a comment below!