Rural Real Estate Investment «

Rural Real Estate Investment

As population shifts occur throughout the world many are finding it possible and desirable to move from urban areas to rural, mountain, and even island locales. In that fact lies a new opportunity for rural real estate investment.

Farms, horse ranches, Bed and Breakfasts, mountain and lake estates, even vineyards are increasing in value in the U.S., UK, France, Spain, Hungary and other countries. These old but new again properties represent a chance to profit from demographic changes that include an aging, but increasingly affluent, population and the worldwide political changes of the last few decades.

But before rushing off to plunk down a few thousand or a few million to cash in on the trend, consider some of the differences entailed in non-urban investments.

Rural, mountain and island areas have much more concern for and pay more attention to environmental issues. Even though in many areas or countries regulations are more relaxed, the local citizens tend to take more personal responsibility for ensuring clean water, adherence to fishing and hunting regulations, proper recreational vehicle use, etc. So, when it comes time to sell a property, potential buyers are going to be looking more closely in some cases.

In some areas population is growing due to influx of retirees, increasing use of the Internet to run home based businesses and other factors. In others, populations are declining. Research is essential to try to predict whether that great deal today will be profitable in three to five years.

Also, as non-urban demographics fluctuate it can require greater advertising over a wider area and take longer to build a pool of qualified buyers. Smaller populations means fewer buyers locally, but you can compensate by using the Internet to advertise to a larger area and attract those that are looking to relocate or purchase a second residence.

It can also take longer to find desirable properties to buy at potentially profitable prices. In areas where property values are rising rapidly, high demand snaps up good properties quickly. That leaves only those that are more difficult to evaluate as investments.

And non-urban properties are inherently more difficult to evaluate, since they’re often unique. Most tract homes and small commercial properties are very similar across the U.S. and other developed countries. Developers keep costs low by reusing the same plan and building on similar, small plots. But farms, ranches, mountain homes, lake homes, island property, etc are all different not only from one region to the next, but within the same locale. A villa in the south of France is very different from a vineyard only a few kilometers away. A large mountain cabin on a lake is very unlike a horse property a mile down the road.

Comps for such properties can only be guessed at and lenders know this, making financing more difficult. Most non-urban financiers have learned to take such factors into account, but they often require more solid credit and larger down payments as a result.

And if you plan to buy, fix-up and sell you need to take into account the potentially greater difficulty of finding qualified, reliable contractors and labor. Labor prices in such markets may surprise you — it’s not the case that lower average wages in such areas translates to cheaper help. Such specialized skills often command a greater price and involve longer time frames for getting work completed.

Just to make things more complicated, there are different regulations for rural areas, and they vary of course from country to country. Tax issues need to be factored in along with exchange rates and other Government considerations.

But despite all the potential hurdles, property values continue to rise as a consequence of urban flight — going on now for decades — along with increasing technology enabling new forms of business and employment in non-urban areas. Now’s a good time to start looking.


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