Barndominium with dock

A Safe Location — The Perfect Rural Retreat. Part II

The Perfect Rural Retreat

People with resources have always enjoyed the opportunity to have a place in the country where they can get away from the hustle of bustle of the places where they must live due to their careers.  These days some folks are beginning to realize the dangers and inhospitable environment inherent to living in densely populated areas.  For many,  looking at having a country place as a location to go during unsettled times is an attractive option. Work at home is also becoming mainstream and will only increase in the future.

Real estate people preach “location, location, location”. 

When it comes to your country retreat 2 hours or less drive time is the preferred location.

  I consult on a number of projects that are more than the magic “two hour drive” from the land owner’s primary home.  Typically in these cases the landowner does NOT fully enjoy their place due to the inconvenience of getting there.  Any spouses or children involved will generally be even LESS tolerant of traveling distances of more than two hours with the result being that you visit your country place all alone.  These types of country retreats can easily become more of a burden than a pleasure.

Size- “Bigger is not necessarily better”.  A saying that we all know well and it definitely applies to land purchases. 

A small land tract that lays well aesthetically is far superior to a large tract that is just “a lot of land”.

  There are a couple of reasons for this.  A lot of land is generally going to cost more than a little land AND a lot of land is going to be more work than a little land.  Since a country retreat is more about relaxing than working one must consider the size aspects.  In my travels I see a large number of well-meaning folks that have bitten off more than they can chew and their dream country retreat has simply worked them to death.


Rural Retreat Infrastructure Components

  1.      A good road, preferably most of it paved, is a bigger deal than most folks coming from the city realize.  Country roads in various stages of not being paved can make only a few miles seem like a very long way and become inaccessible during inclement weather.  Large trucks coming to your site can also be effected costing you more money in transportation.
  2.       Mature trees are one of the things in this world that cannot be duplicated.  As a kid I remember the old timers saying “It takes a lifetime to grow a tree large enough that a man can sit in one spot and stay in the shade all day”.   Over
    Smart land clearing - Save those big trees!
    Smart land clearing – Save those big trees!

    and over I consult on land projects where there are hardly any decent trees, just a barren landscape.  Since the landowner has typically already purchased the land I do not have the heart to tell them that no matter what they do they will NEVER have any large trees on their property to enjoy.  If you want mature trees on your property then you MUST buy a piece of property with the trees already on it.

  3.       A water feature is almost always the center piece of any country retreat or recreational land tract.  Buying a piece of property with an existing water feature is your best bet **IF** the water feature suits your needs AND is structurally sound.  Failed projects built by other people represent well over half of my consults.  Existing water features are almost always advertised to have always held water.  Maybe so; but quite often only during the rainy season.  Once summer comes along they become a mud hole or dry hole.  It is expensive to build a new pond or lake and typically even more expensive to repair or renovate a failed one.  It is NOT uncommon for the costs of building a new water feature or repairing an existing one to EXCEED the total land cost.  On top of that it usually takes at least 3-5 years for a lake project to mature to the point that you can really begin to enjoy it (big fish, established grasses and good water clarity).  Three to five years can be a deal breaker if you OR YOUR KIDS are past a certain age.
  4.       Accommodations.  A land tract with an existing house that is suitable enough to get your feet on the ground at your country estate is a sure fire bet.  You can always remodel or build another house once you get the lay of the land.  Building a new house while using the old house as a guest unit is a splendid way to achieve your dream landscape.  With a recreational land tract you want people to enjoy it with you and in today’s world, especially the young folks, people want space and a little privacy.  In the old days we accepted crowding in on each other when folks visited,  after a few days we also could not wait to leave or for them to leave.  Lodging, at least a few of your guests, at the guest house is a great way to keep everyone happy and enjoying themselves.  Guest houses are also exceptionally useful when the grand kids begin increasing in numbers.  These days a lot of people own RV’s and even if you do not own an RV they are easy to rent for short term visits.  An RV hookup at your property is very handy when folks come to visit as it expands your ability to have everyone spread out instead of being crowded together.

So the basic ingredients for your country estate are mentioned above.  Now what about the icing on the cake that can make “The PERFECT country retreat”?

  1.    From your country retreat you need to be less than 30 minutes away from a town large enough to have big grocery stores, drug stores,wide variety of good restaurants,movie theaters, night clubs, repair facilities, doctors and a hospital.  Through my consult adventures I have witnessed the proximity to a decent town scenario from one extreme to the other.  Once again if you have spouses, children and other friends or family that you wish to enjoy your country place with you had best locate it relatively close to a town with certain amenities.  Most people want a certain level of comfort to go along with their country experience or you, as the proud landowner, might find yourself all alone.
  2.      Recreation beyond your fence line– Your place is great, you can fish, target practice, enjoy the animals, or nap.  But what about the young folks or people that would like to enjoy a much larger body of water?  Water skiing, fishing?  There are a great many large public lakes located across the country.  Folks around the large metro areas tell me that quite often one takes their life into their own hands when venturing out onto certain public lakes during the busy season.  If you can find a country estate to your liking that is close to a large public lake that even in the busy season the lake is relatively deserted you can have the best of both water worlds; a great private personal lake that is at your door step and a wonderfully big public lake around the corner that is for the most part your own private lake as well.
  3.     Security and a good neighborhood- During the week when you are at your primary residence in the big city and dreaming about the upcoming weekend at your country estate your thoughts do not need to be shrouded by dark clouds of “What if we have been broken into?”  I do not see this a lot but I do see it and generally the looted sites are located in remote areas and/or areas where the neighborhood leaves something to be desired.  General security and knowing that your country place is intact is worth its weight in gold.  Choose a location where you feel good about the property, the neighbors and your possessions while you are absent.
  4.     Schools and education– A community with a good public school system including at least some higher learning typically means a better more congenial country lifestyle.  Towns with these assets also generally attract bigger companies with good pay scale and benefits.  Better pay and benefits means a more stable society in general. 

Finding all of the above is a rare thing and even though my recreational land tract/country estate travels are extensive I rarely see all of the stars align.  If you can find a place like this you have hit the jackpot.

Read Part I

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