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Never helped a client buy a home in the country? Here’s the utility cheat sheet


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Most real estate markets harbor at least some rural clients within a 20-mile radius of large or even medium-sized urban areas and cities.

Representing a seller or buyer of rural property should not warrant handing over a referral fee to another agent who”specializes” in rural properties.

I understand the importance of not selling outside of your area of expertise (commercial vs. single-family development, for example), but single-family rural properties should be within your comfort zone.

However, there are some things about selling rural properties that are different from urban or suburban properties.

What you should know

Huge areas of “fly-over country” may not have public sewer, water, gas or readily available internet or cable service.

It is worth your while to be knowledgeable and up-to-date on rural regulations, alternative utilities and services and the market appeal of these properties.

No sewer — what’s septic?

In the last decade, many states have mandated transfer inspections on private septic systems.

Affordable technology exists that allows even small lots to have septic systems. Contact your local health department to find out who must do the inspections, and get a list of septic providers or referrals from other real estate agents.

Your health department should also be able to provide you with materials, white papers, forms and information to help bring you up-to-speed on what regulations are in place and whom to contact for advise and expertise.

Well water?

Private water wells are another concern. Some areas require a transfer inspection and some do not.

If you have on-line access to well water and septic systems in your area, review those first to ascertain any repairs that have been done, when the system was installed, how far away the two systems are from each other — and even if one or more systems have failed prior inspections.

Heat options

In cold climates, heating systems may not be as easy as turning a thermostat and knowing the natural gas will flow!

Many rural properties use alternative sources that must be trucked in and stored on the property, such as oil, propane, wood or wood pellets.

In the last decade, outside wood boiler systems have become more prevalent, as have local zoning or health regulations limiting where they can be installed. It’s to your buyer’s advantage to at least know there may be regulations barring the installation of a system before they write an offer with the idea that they could “heat for free.”

Other questions arise as to whether an oil or propane provider offers a budget or automatic fill schedule.

The alternative is the homeowner monitoring the meter and having a fund set aside to pay for (perhaps) a massive quantity of fuel. Make sure your buyers are aware of this possibility.

Getting online

Internet and cable services are greatly expanding, but still do not reach all rural areas.

If your client works at home via the internet, they need to know the possibilities, and so should you.

Satellite service and air cards or “hot spots” usually are sufficient for the casual user, but they may not suffice for the home-based business user. Television satellite systems are acceptable to most users, but may not support pay-per-view movies and programs because a direct cable link is not on the premises.

Why limit yourself to strictly urban homes when many clients could be just a pretty country car ride away? Get the knowledge you need to service a greater portion of clients in your market!

Beth Campbell is the Broker/Owner of Another Listing, LLC in Stark County, Ohio, founded in 2009, which has grown to 18 agents. Beth’s personal expertise is in rural and small acreage properties. She lives on a mini-farm with her husband, horses, cats and ducks.

Email Beth Campbell

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