Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Dreaming of Life on Minnesota Acreage? What You NEED to Know!



While many millennial embrace the convenience of urban life, I am seeing a number of move up GenX'ers choosing to escape to the extreme Twin Cities suburbs. This summer I have been contacted by a number of home buyers wanted to sell their city starter homes and move to small acreage properties and lakeshore. This is a great time to make this move. Many homes on acreage in the north metro are priced well, even in this "hot" market. Combined with the current extremely low inventory of starter homes in the city, there is a good chance to make a transition this summer without breaking the proverbial bank.

Making a move from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro to a more rural area is a dream of many city home owners. But the logistics of this type of move can seem overwhelming. It doesn't have to be! As a REALTOR® in the north and east metro, I know this. But because I have made the move myself, I can help you through the process. Sure, there are a few less amenities and public utilities in more rural communities but the trade off of extra space can be well worth it. 

When my family made our move out to Anoka County acreage, we learned these differences first hand and quickly. Of course that was nearly 20 years ago so many amenities have been added since then. But over the years, I have guided many home buyers through the urban to rural transition. There are a few common questions that homebuyers should ask about each home and community.

Here are 14 important considerations homebuyers should consider prior to moving to acreage in Anoka, Chisago and Washington County.

What is a Septic or Private Sewer system?
Most rural homes have a private septic system. Not all systems are created equal. They are designed for the specific property and size of the home. Even a new septic system can fail if not properly maintained. How do you know if the septic system is working? Since not all communities require point-of-sale inspection, as your REALTOR®, I write into the offer that the seller must have the septic system checked for compliance by a licensed septic inspector in the purchase agreement. If it was completed prior to the sale, the certification should be no more than three years old. Also, homebuyers that have never lived on a property with a private sewage system, need to educate themselves on how to maintain and protect this essential and expensive part of your new home.

Is there a city water utility or a private well?  Will I need a water softener or other water treatment system?
Families new to the concept of well water have many questions regarding its safety. Most buyers will request the water be tested for bacteria and nitrates in the purchase agreement. This is usually paid for by the seller. If you want the well test for your property to include tests for other contaminants, like lead, it must be specified in the purchase agreement. Annual water testing is recommended for all home owners with wells. Locate your MN Unique Well Number.

One question often asked by home buyers considering a property with a private well is about water treatment options available. Many homes with private wells have water softeners to treat the water in the home. Some will go one step further and have a reverse osmosis water treatment system in the kitchens as a drinking water supply. Personally, we have both in our home. Additional information on Water Softeners and Reverse Osmosis Drinking Systems.

Is there a natural gas supply to the home or will a propane tank be located on the property?    
Often people looking at acreage will have questions about the huge propane fuel tank located near the home. The larger the acreage and further from the city, the better chance propane is the fuel source for the home. People from the city usually only see these tanks outside of the gas stations where they pick up the small refills for their gas grills. Almost all homes in urban areas are fueled by natural gas or electricity. In the country, the large propane tanks are in many backyards as the source of fuel to heat the home and run appliances. As a fuel source the differences are not noticeable. Propane is the least expensive cleanest fuel if a home does not have access to natural gas. Additional information on the differences between natural gas and propane.

Does the home have access to cable or high speed internet or will a satellite connection be required?  Which cable services are available to the home? What are the alternatives if DSL is not available through the phone or cable lines? Do I have to have cable or a dish to get television reception? Will I have cell phone reception?
A decade ago, these were not questions that people worried about in the rural communities. Today our interconnected world brings these questions to the forefront but no worries; there are tons of alternatives today to keep you connected. From hot spots to internet cards there are options to keep your family connected even out in the woods. Even today there are  homes in Lino Lakes, Ham Lake, Forest Lake and East Bethel that have limited cable lines and restricted options for high speed internet available. There are many homes in the Columbus area in particular that must use a hot spot for high speed internet. And there are cell phone dead zones no matter how numerous or close those towers seem to be. We have a tower less than a mile from our house and still have to have a Sprint Airave to get continuous cell phone reception. This system runs our cell phone service through our cable when we are in the house. So if your family is very dependent on their screens and cannot survive without a high-speed connection, it is essential ask questions to figure out how to get the best access and reception.

If the road is gravel or unpaved, how often is it maintained by the city/county?
Our road was not paved when we first moved to Ham Lake. We were nearly a mile down a soft, gravel/sand road. When we moved it was late fall and were very surprised when the spring rains and snow melt left the road extremely poor condition. It was down right treacherous at times. The re-grading was done by the city on a periodic schedule so often we had to negotiate the pot-holed road for days. Our road is now paved but the memories still remain.


If you are considering acreage, remember many rural roads are not paved. If the acreage property you are considering is on a gravel or dirt road, try to visit the property on several occasions and under differing conditions. It might be a good idea to talk to the city and county to understand how the road is maintained. Also be sure to ask if there are any plans to pave the road in the future and what would be assessed per property owner for the project.

Is there wildlife?
Well maybe not lions and tigers, but we have had bears and cougars seen near our home in Anoka County. Recently we had a mama bear and her cubs visit our bird feeders and garbage cans. We also have pheasant, hawks, bald eagles, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, several varieties of squirrels and deer. A flock of wild turkeys have made their home in our neighborhood and continue to nest year after year. And an owl and a hawk have nested in trees in on our property. I rarely saw blue jays, cardinals or hummingbirds in the city, but in our Anoka County acreage home, we see them on a daily basis. While exciting, the downside is sometimes the wildlife comes in. I don't know anyone on Ham Lake acreage that hasn’t had an occasional field mouse enter their home.

Can we have a horse? (Or cow, chickens, goats etc.)
If your move to acreage is for having horses or other farm animals in your backyard, keep in mind that most communities have restrictions on how many, if any, animals are allowed. Whether you can have horses, pigs, cows, chickens, ducks, sheep or goats will be determined by the local city regulations. Even the amount of domesticated dogs and cats can be restricted on acreage property, just as it was in most urban communities. So if you plan to run a dog kennel, breed cats or train horses, for business or pleasure, do your due diligence and make sure it is allowed in your new rural community prior to writing an offer.

Is hunting allowed?
In some rural areas hunting is still allowed depending on the amount of acreage, the development restrictions and city and county rules. It was a rude awakening for us to discover our neighbors were allowed to hunt….and it seemed right outside our door too! Imagine our shock that first deer opener when the hunters came out in blaze orange to hunt in the woods next to our home. The property owner, at our request, posted the land and the hunters left. The land has since been developed but it is something everyone moving should understand before buying any acreage home. Check with the city and county for all ordinances regarding firearms.

Can I ride ATV’s, Snowmobiles and Dirt Bikes?
In many cases, this is allowed on acreage but even rural communities can have noise ordinances. Much will depend on the size of the property, proximity to neighbors and how often the riding takes place. Take time to learn what the rules are before starting up the engines and racing around the yard. On the plus side, there are several snowmobile trails throughout Anoka, Chisago and Washington Counties which can be just down the road from many homes.

Can we have a bonfire and burn all this debris?
There are strict states and local restrictions regarding burning of construction debris and yard waste. There are restrictions on the size of the fire and what can be burned. Many construction materials cannot be burned because they release chemicals into the air that pose an environmental hazard. There are times of the year where burning is only allowed by permit and sometimes not at all. Before burning it is best to check the local restrictions as well as the DNR. More information on MN Fire Restrictions.

Where do we shop? How far to the nearest corner store, gas station, shopping center and mall?
Depending on how often you like to shop, this may or may not be a big concern. Coburns does deliver but other food delivery services are much more limited. But it is always nice to know how far you will have to go for a gallon of milk for breakfast, a propane refill for the BBQ or gas for the lawn tractor.

How long does it take to cut the grass?
If your yard is over an acre with few trees, you might consider a lawn tractor. Many people on acreage only cut certain areas leaving the rest to grow to a natural prairie. Another consideration would be whether or not to install an irrigation system for the sod near the home.

Wow! There are a lot of trees! Do I have to worry about oak wilt and emerald Ash Borers?
Oak wilt is a big concern in throughout Minnesota. Many of the communities have information and programs to help protect and save the oak trees from this disease. Additional information regarding oak wilt. Recently people have been extremely concerned with the emerald ash borer that has been found in Ramsey County and now Anoka County too. These insects bored into ash trees and tunnel under the bark eventually killing the tree. There are programs to control the spread of the insects. Additional information on the Emerald Ash Borer

What about emergencies? How far to the nearest hospital? Where is the nearest fire station? Who provides police protection?
No one wants to think about these things when moving but accidents and illnesses do happen. It was a long hour drive to Children's Hospital in St. Paul when my young son fell and needed stitches. If the nearest fire station is staffed with volunteers and over five miles away, it will seem like a lifetime during those 5-10 minutes while you wait for the fire truck to show up to YOUR home. And big fires in dry areas will need the water trucked in due to limited water hydrants, if any.. Many rural communities do not have police officers but are patrolled by the county sheriff's department. Understand your options before an emergency occurs because it will likely take a bit longer if you are in a rural area.

With a little planning, and a good REALTOR®, your move to Minnesota acreage can be a great one!

Have more questions about buying an Acreage Home? Ask Me! I Can Help!

READY to Make YOUR Move? If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me, Teri Eckholm of BOARDMAN Realty, a call or visit my website for a FREE Home Buyer Success Guide or FREE Home Value Report. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.
 
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