Considerations for purchasing rural property

Originally published in the Kenosha News

By Agriculture Educator, Leigh Presley

I have a confession.

Though much of my work pertains to rural affairs, I’m currently a city dweller.

Life events have led me from the quiet countryside to a variety of living situations in semi-urban and urban settings. I value the experiences I’ve had living in these places — there’s always something going on and it’s quite convenient to be within a walk or short drive to dining and retail locations.

I know my future is back on the land, so in the meantime, I take advantage of the urban conveniences and get my country fix through my job and by working as much as possible in my garden.

I’m not alone in my pursuit of the rural life. Though Census data shows decreasing populations in most rural areas of Wisconsin, there are a number of people, especially in our region, seeking the benefits of a more rural lifestyle while still living in relative proximity to urban amenities.

I’ve had a lot of conversations with people in this situation — considering purchasing rural property and trying to find a place that meets their needs and goals.

It’s a big decision, but a good place to start is by taking a look at the county land use plan and any zoning ordinances in place that might affect how a piece of property can be used.

Understanding the soils and vegetation present on a piece of property is another consideration — and one that can influence future uses.

Many times these factors are afterthoughts, and new landowners might find themselves in an expensive battle against invasive species or limited by the suitability of their soils for building, growing certain crops or putting in a septic system.

Another consideration is accessibility. This is easy to evaluate if there’s an existing driveway. But if not, buyers need to consider how they’ll access a piece of property from a public road.

Driveways are a big part of country living — growing up at the end of a long, tree-lined driveway with a creek running under it taught me this. It makes for a nice entrance, but there are plenty of drawbacks: More than once the creek breached the driveway; my dad spends countless hours keeping it clear in winter; and it’s not much fun for trucks and trailers.

Has the well been tested, are there issues with the septic system, how fast is the internet? Maintaining, updating or adding any one of these elements can be a big expense in addition to the property purchase.

Finally, it’s worthwhile to determine how far the property is from services such as fire, police and ambulance services, medical and dental care, grocery stores, hardware, entertainment, etc. Many times, the distance one needs to travel for services isn’t considered until the move to the property is made.

Owning rural property often comes with unanticipated surprises (usually with a dollar amount associated), but being a more informed property buyer can ease the initial decision-making process.

If you care to learn more, download the UW-Extension publication “Country Acres: A Guide to Buying and Managing Rural Property” at