How do I know if a rural weekender is a good investment?

Dreaming of a rural weekender and the opportunity to slow down and enjoy nature? Here’s what you need to know to make your dream a reality.

There’s nothing quite like a weekend in the country, the sweet smell of nature, and the chance to slow down, breathe deeply and watch a different world go by. It’s often not until we get out of our cities that we begin to recognise the hectic pace at which we’ve been living, and, when we get a taste of the slower country pace, it’s not hard to see why so many of us are lured into the appeal of a country weekender. So are there any guidelines for choosing a country weekender and do they make a good investment?

Weekenders as an investment
Let’s start with the hard truth. You’ll need to think about whether your weekender would be solely for your use, and that of your family, or a property that you’d use part of the year and rent out for the balance. Weekenders in the country don’t typically produce rental yields approaching those of other forms of property investment, even if you do plan to rent them short-term during peak holiday seasons. Most buyers simply hope to enjoy their get-away rural property and make a profit, through capital gain, when they sell.

If you do plan to rent a weekender property part of the time, talk to local real estate agents about holiday rentals and the levels of demand that they normally experience. You may want to engage an agent to manage your rental so quizzing them about their experiences will help you work out who’s likely to best serve your needs. Alternatively, websites like Airbnb have made it a little easier for owners to rent their holiday homes, but you’ll need to consider how weekend renters will get hold of keys and who’ll do the cleaning between rentals.

If the land value breaks the land tax threshold, costs can really add up, given that your rural property weekender won’t be your principal place of residence.

What makes for a successful weekender?
To really enjoy a rural weekender property, it needs to be within striking distance of your home base. Once a property is over one and a half hours from your permanent residence, you probably won't get as much enjoyment out of it.

Make sure your chosen rural property destination also has at least a General Store because there will be times when you arrive with little planning and if there are no shops, restaurants or other conveniences nearby, your weekender becomes much less workable over the long term.

Make sure the rural property you choose is low maintenance, otherwise you’ll spend your weekends doing nothing other than the normal maintenance work you’d be doing at home – just somewhere else!

Also consider security. An isolated weekender is a target for thieves whereas a home next door to permanent residents is far less likely to be broken into.

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Choosing a low maintenance property means you can spend more time relaxing

What sorts of factors should you consider in choosing a rural weekender?
Naturally, people can choose from a wide variety of rural weekender and lifestyle properties. Depending on your ultimate goal, consider things like:

  •  Size of acreage – farm, horses, agriculture or simple lifestyle pursuits 
  •  Taxes applicable, based on land size 
  •  Rural neighbours – their land use, animals, recreational pursuits etc. 
  •  Type and size of house – classic homestead or a modern home 
  •  Water availability and quality – bore water is often available but will it be potable? 
  •  Fences – want livestock or pets? Fencing is costly so bear that in mind. Rabbit proof fences are necessary to protect vegetable patches and young plantings

What sorts of costs should be kept in mind?
Naturally, there are plenty of costs associated with buying your dream weekender, starting with the normal conveyancing, stamp duty and general costs of property purchasing i.e. building & pest inspections. Don’t forget there’s also:

  • Council rates 
  • Water rates, if the property is connected to a town water supply 
  • Electricity 
  • Gas 
  • Garden and general maintenance 
  • Rental management fees (if you intend renting for short holiday stays) 
  • Land tax, as the property is not your principal place of residence 
  • Capital gains tax 
  • Insurance 
  • Land care 
  • Fence maintenance to keep out unwanted wildlife or neighbouring livestock 
  • Insecticides and fertilisers for your acreage

How do you choose the most appropriate weekender location?
Of course, this really is the BIG question. Make a list of what’s important to you and your family. Ask questions like:

  • What’s important? List the things that inspire, motivate and compel your thinking 
  • What do you want less of in life? i.e. crowds, heat/cold, high prices etc. 
  • What would you like to do more of, when you have more time? 
  • Where would you feel invigorated? Describe the climate 
  • What’s within your comfortable financial reach? 
  • What convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants are nearby? 
  • How far away are neighbours from your rural property?

Once you’ve written your list, research the alternatives that tick most of your boxes. Choosing a local rural real estate agent and ringing for a chat could be the most valuable time you’ll invest in research.

What about solar powered weekenders?
Solar powered homes can be just as normal as any other. Grants are available to help offset the cost of installation but batteries and inverters are where the real costs lie. Obviously, most power consumption tends to be in the evenings, when your solar system doesn’t produce power. This is why a home’s power storage capacity is so important.

Battery technology is rapidly improving but replacement tends to be necessary every 10 years or so. If you want to truly be off the grid, you’ll certainly need a back-up generator. This will support you during bad weather events or when technical issues disrupt your power supply.

Solar technicians are far from plentiful in regional areas and demand for their services is significant. You could therefore find that if your system breaks down, you may be without power for lengthy periods while you wait for parts or a technician.

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There may be a limited number of solar technicians close to country towns

Home on the range
Ultimately, rural weekenders provide a great deal of enjoyment to a large number of people. However, they’re rarely the most efficient property investment you can make and many people say they just don’t use their weekender as frequently as they thought they would.

That said, people investing in weekenders generally do so with their eyes wide open – in the full knowledge that they’re making a lifestyle choice. When carefully considered and appropriately located, they can provide many years of great satisfaction, relaxation and family enjoyment.

What kind of rural weekender is on your dream list? Comment below!