Navigating the road to rural living
Dave Mahlow grew up on an acreage, and knew he wanted to return to the rural lifestyle, even after living in Calgary with his wife Kathy for many years. Last June, the couple made the move, purchasing a 12-acre property near Millarville.
“We wanted to get away from the city and enjoy the peace and quiet,” said Mahlow.
“We wanted to be surrounded by trees, have a mountain view, and I wanted a shop on the property.”
Alberta REALTOR® Robin Burwash, who specializes in acreage properties around Calgary, says the Mahlows are largely representative of “typical” acreage buyers: people who want space, enjoy the country lifestyle and have had previous experience with rural living.
“Some of my clients had grandparents who had acreages and they want to get back to that, where some of their fondest memories were formed,” said Burwash.
“Most of the people who buy acreages, they love working outside. They love the lifestyle of puttering around, working with animals and fixing up the place.”
Burwash says the key thing to consider when contemplating acreage ownership is lifestyle.
“What kind of lifestyle do you want? That’s the biggest thing,” he said. “Is having an acreage worth it to you if you must drive a longer distance to work?”
Mahlow and his wife both commute to Calgary, with his wife making the 50-minute drive daily. “Because it’s not a city drive with constant stop-and-go, and she’s not always fighting traffic, she’s doesn’t mind the commute,” said Mahlow.
“Most of the people who buy acreages, they love working outside. They love the lifestyle of puttering around, working with animals and fixing up the place.” – Robin Burwash, Alberta REALTOR®
When it comes to buying an acreage, Burwash says it pays to exercise due diligence.
For example, most acreages have their own wells that provide water. Burwash recommends would-be buyers perform a “flow test” to make sure there’s sufficient water supply, as well as chemical and bacterial tests to ensure the water is potable.
Most acreages have their own septic systems for sewage, and Burwash advises buyers should make sure septic-system maintenance is up to date.
If an acreage buyer wants to have animals, Burwash says they need to know a municipality’s rules and regulations when it comes to how many animals per acre is acceptable.
When it comes to technology, while Burwash says rural settings don’t experience technical shortcomings as much as in years past, he does admit the “country” tends to have many cellphone dead spots and internet services that don’t operate as fast as in the city.
“If cell service is important to you, be careful where you end up buying,” he said, adding there are usually solutions to these hiccups, including using cellular signal boosters.
Burwash reminds families that acreage living usually involves children taking the bus to an area school.
“Kids have to go straight from school to the bus. They’re not wandering around down at a corner store. It’s very regimented, and some parents like that,” he said, adding rural living, particularly if animal care is involved, tends to teach children increased responsibility.
Mahlow says one of the biggest adjustments for his wife after they moved to an acreage was the degree of darkness at night, thanks to the absence of city lights.
He also says “there’s more planning involved” when it comes to grocery shopping, for example. “If you forget the milk, you can’t just run to the store and get it,” he said.
Mahlow’s main piece of advice for would-be acreage owners is simple: “Don’t rush into it. Take your time. Look at a lot of different places to find what suits your needs and lifestyle.”
As with any home purchase, of course, Burwash says it’s important to consider resale value, adding that value comes from “site influences,” such as mountain views, proximity to an urban centre and neighbouring forests.
Mahlow adds that would-be acreage owners must be prepared to spend some extra money to acquire necessary maintenance tools, such as a small tractor.
“It’s not like you can walk outside and shovel your driveway with a regular shovel or push your push mower over the lawn. There’s equipment you will need to purchase,” said Mahlow.
“Acreage living is not for everybody, but for us, it was the way to go.”