Six essential steps to consider before buying a farm in the country

Sarah Beeny has moved her family lock, stock, and barrel out of London onto a farm in the countryside.

She is building a new house on the 220 acres of farmland that she bought on the outskirts of the fashionable village of Bruton in Somerset.

Her journey is being shown on Channel 4’s Sarah Beeny’s New Life in the Country.

For some, it might be a pipe dream to make a similar move and gain more outdoor space – but it is likely to require a chunky budget and it’s not for the fainthearted.

Thenford Grounds Farm in Banbury, Oxfordshire, includes a five-bed house and land – and is for sale via estate agents Strutt & Parker for £1,625,000

If you have deep pockets and want to know more about buying your own farm in the country, there are some key issues that you need to consider beforehand.

We asked estate agents Savills about what buyers need to ask before they make a farmland purchase.

Alex Lawson, director of Savills farms and estates, said: ‘There are definitely two sides to purchasing a small farm or estate.

‘There is the fresh air, privacy, space for the family, home grown produce and the potential to generate income.

‘But these need to weighed up against the constantly moving parts that will be handed on from one owner to the next such as employees, farming operations, livestock welfare, rent collection and bill payments. It’s more like buying a business than a property.’ 

A small farm or estate may seem to offers a perfect escape from it all, with peace, views, history and a feeling of being part of a traditional community being perhaps the most appealing elements.

But realistically, the day-to-day complexities of buying a rural property can become rather overwhelming.

Escape to the country? Boulder House in Aberdeenshire is for sale for offers over £1.9million via estate agents Savills

Escape to the country? Boulder House in Aberdeenshire is for sale for offers over £1.9million via estate agents Savills

Six tips for buying a farm or country estate

1. Checking the name of the property for clues

Much can be gleaned from a property’s address. These include ‘watery’ connotations, which usually mean there is plenty of it about, so it’s worth checking the area’s flood records area.

By the same token, ‘hollow’ often implies a property is in a dip and may well be shrouded in darkness for much of the day.

2. How is the land currently managed?

It is worth finding out how the land is managed – for example, is it let to a neighbour who grazes livestock on it?

It is worth finding out for how long any agreement is in place – in case you would like to take back the land in the future.

Also, check whether or not any sporting rights are part of the sale as it is perfectly possible for them to be let separately or kept out of a sale.

And where the property adjoins another, what are the obligations for maintaining the boundaries, are they shared? 

It is worth taking a look at the existing fencing or hedgerows as their condition will potentially tell you a lot more about where the responsibilities lie than the neighbour.

3. What are the access rights?

Another question to clarify is whether there any paths or old access rights to retained land or buildings.

You may wake up on the first Sunday morning after moving in to find the local ramblers hiking across the meadow in front of your house. 

Is the driveway to the property shared and if so who has responsibility for its maintenance?

Skelton Farm, in Richmond, North Yorkshire, is for sale for £1,275,000 via estate agents SAvills for £1,275,000

Skelton Farm, in Richmond, North Yorkshire, is for sale for £1,275,000 via estate agents SAvills for £1,275,000

4. Vary viewing times to check the environment

The countryside is peaceful, most of the time. But if you like a property enough to view it more than once, why not time a visit to coincide with the school run to see how busy the roads are or visit at night to see whether there is any significant light pollution.

Remember to check with the local planning authority for any future developments that might affect your future enjoyment of the property as a new housing scheme or wind farm might be on the horizon.

5. How much will the upkeep and running costs be?

Historic property is often listed and can require additional planning permissions and other consents in order to undertake repairs.

Look closely too at the heating system if it is Victorian as it might be time to replace it – something that prove costly to update. And check you are not required to supply water to the whole village.

You will also need to consider how much it costs to run the farm, including any required employees, farming operations, and livestock welfare. 

6. And finally… keep score!

Score the individual elements during your viewing including the house, the land, location and price of a property on the way round.

By giving each component part a score out of 10 it will become clear which aspects are of most importance and those worthy of compromise. Any property that scores over the 35 out of 40 mark could be considered close to perfection.

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