RiverLife Real Estate


Things to Consider When Buying an Acreage

One of the great things about Calgary real estate is that there are many beautiful properties just outside the city limits. For people looking to gain more space and get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, this is a perfect option. There are some amazing acreages that don’t break the bank and still have a reasonable commute into the city. The rural lifestyle can also come with some challenges. If you haven’t lived on an acreage or a farm before it is important to understand the difference between urban and rural real estate.

Rural real estate encompasses any land or property outside of city limits including agricultural land, ranches, hobby farms, recreational properties and acreages. Since they are not in the city, they have their own unique set of land use bylaws depending on which county or municipality it is in. There may even be architectural controls and limitations on businesses such as farming and agriculture. Yes, there are limits on how many horses you can have and whether you can run an Airbnb! This info can typically be found on that municipality’s website. The two municipalities immediately bordering Calgary are Rocky View County (west, north and east) and Foothills County (south).

If your goal is to buy raw land and build your future dream home, you will need to apply for a development permit through the municipality. As your realtor, we can help answer any questions about the buying/selling process of a rural property. If you will be developing the property, we recommend speaking to a local expert such as a rural home builder who can be your one-stop-shop for all questions regarding the development and home building process. The last thing you want to happen is building a garage or a driveway on top of a utility right of way or having the septic system too close to the house or property line.

If you are looking to buy an acreage with a house already on it, there are some considerations one might not think about when buying in the city.

You will typically have natural gas and electricity services to the house, the same as you would have in the city. But many acreages get water from their own well on the property and dispose of their wastewater through their own septic tank and field.

The well water is free but if you need to dig a new well, it will be in the tens of thousands of dollars. You may also need to add a filtration system if the water quality is poor. There are a few acreage communities that are part of a water co-op instead, so you would pay a monthly fee for water from the co-op that is already filtered and treated.

As for septic, you may need to pay to have the tank emptied every year or two, depending on use. For example, if you plan to move your family of 5 to an acreage that was recently lived in by one person, the well or septic system may not be sufficient for the size of your family. You will want to consider this and budget accordingly.

Internet access is getting better now with more satellite options available but cell coverage and internet speeds can vary. It’s important to consider, especially if you want to work from home.

Other considerations include the proximity to grocery stores, schools and emergency services. Trades and services can be tricky or more expensive to hire if they are traveling longer distances. 

And finally, getting out of the city does not mean escaping Calgary winters! The roads or highways may not get plowed as frequently as the city or main highways. Having a proper vehicle that can safely drive through snowy conditions is important. If you are commuting frequently on dirt roads your vehicle may require more maintenance.

When writing an offer on a rural property that has a well and septic tank we recommend including well and septic inspection conditions to test the condition of the septic tank, the flow rate of the well and the water quality. This would be on top of a normal property inspection for the house and garage structures. As a result, your cost to do due diligence on an acreage can be in the $2,000-$4,000 range, rather than under $1,000 like it would be for a house in the city.

Lastly, financing a rural property can have different requirements compared to obtaining a mortgage for an urban home. Each property will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis depending on the size of the lot, zoning, distance to the city, and environmental factors such as soil quality, flood zones, and nearby industrial activities. We recommend speaking to your bank or mortgage broker about the specifics of what you’re looking for. If you are looking at purchasing raw land only with plans to build in the future, there are separate guidelines.

Did you know that realtors must have a separate license to deal with rural properties and acreages? Rest assured, your RiverLife team has got you covered 😉