Building on an acreage is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It provides privacy, ample space, and natural beauty; all items you will not find in average city subdivisions. An acreage allows you to start that work shop, build your own private soccer field / ice arena, or start a little hobby farm with a flock of chickens, llama & donkey. Also, tons of room for the family dog to live life to the fullest.
On the flip side there are a few things about acreage living that may not be as appealing; distance to amenities, seasonal yard work, or maintenance of services. These should not be a deal breaker if you educate yourself as an acreage owner, and are planning accordingly. The possibility of endless star-filled skies, garden-to-table vegetables, and no fences makes these not so appealing items insignificant.
Let us walk you through the beginning steps of acreage ownership.
Front and center you will need to find a piece of dirt (industry slang for “building plot”). Maybe you own a piece of dirt (which is exciting) If so, you may skip to the next steps. If not, the search starts by reaching out to your local realtor and inquiring about available parcels of land through MLS. Other options include asking friends or family who own land, or knocking on doors and inquiring about a certain vacant plot you have driven by. Keep in the back of your mind, you are planning your forever home and accepting “no” may not be an option, be persistent. Always have this handy checklist close when you are shopping.
Can you build a home on this property? Is it zoned properly? Will the county permit an acreage development for a home? Often, rural properties only permit one dwelling, so if there’s an existing dwelling it needs to move. Otherwise, special permission needs approval for a second one. This is easy to clear up by contacting the local municipality and asking a few questions regarding a specific property.
Will you find any surprises below the topsoil? Is the coulee too close? How much slope is too much? Over the years we’ve run into many different situations; an old dry well going down 20’, buildings previous owners pushed into a hole and did not disclose (or didn’t know about), or a canal that had been pushed in with no record. We can avoid these scenarios by planning before building. Old pictures or aerial shots of the property with locations of old existing buildings, dugouts, or canals can be very helpful when determining if a property is suitable for a new acreage build. Often this will tell you what you’ll find when you excavate for foundation. Setbacks from coulees and other embankments can be calculated by the local municipality or by engaging an engineer to complete a slope stability test.
Does this piece of property have services? Many acreage developments have partial services or have no servicing at all. This would include the following:
Options for potable water may include the following: full pressure city water – county water drip with cistern – well water – dugout water with treatment – haul in water. Considerations for irrigation also need attention if you plan on keeping landscaping alive in our dry climate. Most options for potable water on an acreage are limited and not ideal for irrigation.
Often a “serviced acreage” will have power to the property line, however, this still requires partial service connection to the home. Un-serviced or rural locations will require a new service, typically done with an overhead powerline and transformer. Make certain you explore these options to ensure feasibility and affordability. Alternatives or additions to a power service could include solar or wind generation.
Southern Alberta is lucky to have ACTO Gas and Chief Mountain Gas as our main Natural gas distributors. They supply most of Southern Alberta with natural gas services. Typically, natural gas is going to be on the property line near a main road. The cost will be a flat service rate plus a “per meter” rate after a certain distance. This will include all trenching, install, and the gas meter. Alternatives when natural gas is not available would-be propane (costly) or a more passive approach like geothermal for heating and cooling.
d) Sanitary Waste
Crappy topic but it’s one that needs discussion, as acreage developments do not tie into the waste treatment centers like the cities and towns. Each individual acreage will have its own treatment for sanitary waste in the form of a septic system. However, determining the type and size of treatment system required, will depend on the size of home and soil composition. Most septic systems are either mound or lateral burial.
How are you going to get to this property, and what does the cost of this look like? Access to main roads may not be readily available, or building a road down the side of a coulee may be taking your budget to a different level. But this is a huge part of planning. So make sure you take the time to do it right.
Proximity to Amenities
How close do you need to be to shopping, care, or recreation? These answers will be different for everyone depending on their stage of life. However, it is important to factor this in while planning.
What is going on around this piece of land? Who is going to be building next to you? Rural areas do not have architectural controls. This is great when you are building your dream home with no limitations, but you may not like what your neighbour is up to. You need to be aware that, when the west wind blows, you may not be intrigued by the smell of a southern Alberta feedlot.
If you review these 6 points, pre-land purchase, it will save you many headaches. Not every box has to have a check right away, but, with some planning and due diligence this is the start to an exciting new chapter!
You might ask, “Do I need to have my builder involved”?
Here at Ramton Homes we add valuable knowledge and years of expertise, to your acreage build when we’re involved at concept stage.
If you’re looking for the perfect piece of land, or have already acquired it, you need to work with an expert. They can ensure all the boxes are checked and your vision will come to reality.
Example; If you would like to build a home with no stairs, you need a parcel of land with little or no slope.
Let Ramton Homes do the heavy lifting. Engage us to help you with your Acreage Development.
Don’t settle for seconds, hire an expert!