Recently there have been a spate of bloggers moving to the country. There is usually a refrain about how they are tired of the hustle and bustle of city or suburban life. They want something quieter and calmer. They want something rural. But is living rurally a good idea?
Right off let me state that I somewhat live rurally. No, I do not live on a 65-acre homestead in Vermont like Frugal Woods. But I do live in an area most would consider Rural. I have a septic system and well water. While I do have a gas line, I am the last house in my neighborhood before the pipes stop. I have an acre of land, but that alone does not make me rural as around here the McMansions in the suburbs are on an acre. No, the biggest thing that makes my home rural is the 1000 acre plus woods next door. I affectionately call our living situation the edge of rural.
The Pros of Living Rurally
Looking out my back sun porch I see only one home in my view, I just barely see my neighbor on the sides deck. Everything else I see is zone conservation woodland. I step out my backdoor and on some days it seems like the opening scenes of Bambi. The deer are in my back yard, the family of foxes walks by, the blue bird is chirping in my bushes, and the hawk lands 15 feet from me. There is even a hiking trail across my neighbor’s conservation land they let us use. It is the picture of peace and serenity…. sometimes.
Sure, our home is at least a ¼ mile from a major road so we almost never hear cars. Standing in my back yard for an hour I hear wildlife, the occasional fire whistle or train from miles away, my neighbor’s rooster, and the wind blowing by. This is the picture people have of living rurally. Those pictures are accurate. I love sitting on my back porch after a long day, sipping a beer and watching some animal cavort across my lawn. But I also grew up in this environment. My home growing up was a very similar setup to the one I am in now (albeit somewhat smaller). Except for 5 years living in Atlanta in college and a few years of Suburbia living, this is all I know.
This means I am adapted to that quiet. I go to the city and it is too noisy and too loud all the time for me. The first thing to determine if you are considering living rurally is whether you are prepared for such a quiet environment after years of living somewhere different. I am serious here, not everyone is ready for the quiet life.
The Downside of Living Rurally
The downsides do not end with the noise. I read about bloggers giving up their cars to ride a bike or walk to work. You will not be doing that rurally. If my little piece of country is any indication that would be a good way to get run over. You see rural living brings rural roads. Barely 2 lane ones with no curb. Walking or even regularly riding a bike during rush hour is tantamount to a death wish. What good is saving 10K on a car if your squished on the pavement. We could take a bus, but to do that would turn a 15-minute car ride into a 2 hr. 10 bus affair.
Do you like going out to eat and having a beer with food? Unless you’re a townie this will be considerably more difficult. I live at the edge of the rural area, so I am close to places to eat and shop. Even that said most places are a good 15 to 20-minute drive. Great for your wallet if you want to save on eating out, but bad if you have a penchant for stopping at the grocery store for a pint of milk on the way home from work.
Driving Safety and Living Rurally
At least the traffic is usually low so you will not be sitting. Still there tends to be more yahoos that treat the roads as their personal race track. That’s before we even mention the ever-present risk of a deer becoming a hood ornament. They come out at dusk and like to play chicken with your 3000-pound hunk of steel. Add to that roads sporadically blocked by downed trees or flooded creeks, yes, we have those too. If your serious about rural living I would recommend you also be serious about giving up regular trips out to the social scene. You need to be committed that part of your entertainment is your surroundings.
Living Rurally is a lot of Work
And about those surroundings. They are a lot of work. The more common activity people think about is mowing. I spend maybe an hour every few weeks mowing my acre. I am lucky, a large portion of my land is surrounded by trees. The lack of sun light slows grass growth. I know others that do this weekly. The work does not end at mowing though. We have expenses like cleaning out our septic system every 3 years, replacing well pumps when they break, for those who are on oil heat getting oil brought in seasonally, etc. These are unique expenses and work you would never experience living in the city.
I’d also like to call out separately the work impact of those trees. We probably spent 30-40 hours a year trimming trees back, cleaning gutters multiple times a year, and pulling weeds. It takes a lot of time to both enjoy nature and keep it from encroaching on your home.
Rural Living Fears
There are also fears about those surroundings. Take the woods around my house. I do live in a wet area, but forest fires are not beyond the realm of possibility. More likely, trees can come down. There is always a fear of a tree falling on our house. They fall on power lines, knocking out power for hours or days on a semi regular basis. When I was a kid the walnut tree across the street came down in my front year. We were stuck in our house without power and electric lines across our lawn for 5 days.
You just do not experience that in the city. Even if these things did happen, because of population density the power company fixes the city first. In fact, when it snows here we only get service on our road quickly because we pay a private contractor. In a bad snow emergency, we could be waiting for hours or even days for the state. This also means that in case of medical or fire emergency you may be waiting longer for help.
Rural Means Larger Potential Emergencies
Those fears lead to a need to expend extra funds on emergency items.
- A generator, a source of heat and electricity if the power goes out, is usually a necessity.
- A Security systems can also be an added expense as the more remote you are the less likely a neighbor is to notice and call the police (note, some rural folks consider a big loud dog as a synonym for security system. YMMV).
- Animal control devices like repellent or fences to keep the animals from eating your garden/plants.
- A good supply of emergency medical equipment.
You’ll also need services like transportation as you get older in retirement and can no longer drive since you cannot walk anywhere. In fact, typically elder retirees must move to a retirement community as the upkeep and self-sufficiency of a rural homestead become too much once you turn a certain age. The 80 year old we bought our current home from sold for this reason.
Additional Positives of Living Rurally
Now I am not writing all this to scare those who consider living rurally the path to retirement. I just want to ensure the cons are readily understood. I do have a few more positives I can mention before I close out:
- Lower income taxes, typically you do not pay a municipality tax. YMMV
- Lower cost to acquire a home, there is not a lot of competition because there are usually few jobs.
- Lower Property taxes
- Can get away from society without going somewhere
- Usually No HOA so you can do what you want with your land. Conversely so can your neighbors. One of my neighbors planted 30 blueberry bushes in his front yard. He can do it, but as a neighbor I’m not sure he should have.
- And I know I said it before, but I will call it out again. The View.
Do you live rurally? Are you considering retiring to live rurally?