So, you’re tired of the hustle and bustle and high prices of city living, and considering a move to the country. Maybe you plan on planting a large garden, buying some livestock, and raising your own food. And those Mother Earth News articles about off-the-grid living have piqued your interest, too. Good for you!
Moving to the country can be an amazing experience, and it will almost certainly be life-changing. However, before you take the plunge, there are many things you should consider first. Living in a rural area can provide your family and you some amazing opportunities. However, there are many challenges to living in the country as well. Let’s take a close look at what rural living is really like.
More Home for Your Money
Your money in the country can go much further than it does in the city, especially when it comes to a home. Rural real estate and rental properties tend to be much more affordable than in the city. Urban areas are where the preponderance of high-paying businesses are located, along with their more affluent employees. As a result, there is a much higher demand for housing in urban areas, which subsequently drives prices up. Since rural counties typically provide less services than suburban areas and cities, your property taxes should be much lower as well.
While your mortgage and taxes may be lower, be prepared for some unexpected expenses when you choose the rural lifestyle. Unlike the city, cash-conscious rural areas often don’t have trash collection; you’ll have to pay for a service, or cart your own to the local dump. You’ll likely have some sort of septic system as well, and will have to several hundred dollars to have it serviced each year.
Finally, with a larger home comes larger utility bills. That dream farmhouse of yours is likely going to cost you more to keep cool during the hot summer, and more to heat each winter. Especially if it is old.
Less Housing Choices
While housing less expensive, you may have considerably less housing options in the country than your urban counterparts do. In the city, you can usually choose to buy a homes, a condominium, or an apartment of various sizes and shapes; you can even opt to share an apartment with one or more roommates to counter the high cost of urban living. There are normally significant amounts of housing options available at any given time, too.
In the country, there is considerably less housing diversity; there are fewer apartments, and generally less housing inventory open for sale. If you decide to move to a rural area, you may have to take whatever you can get when it comes to housing. Renting a home may be extremely difficult to do in many areas, so if you’re not prepared to buy, you may be out of luck.
If you live in a major metropolitan area, getting anything anywhere, anytime is easy. There are endless arrays of choices for whatever product or service you are looking for, whether it’s shopping, stores, or entertainment. If you have health or other medical issues, there are usually a wide choice of medical facilities where you can be treated close by, too. You don’t even need to own a car in most cities; just use public transportation, get a Lyft or Uber driver, or walk wherever you need to go.
When you move to a rural area, your tradeoff for peace and quiet is a long drive to the hardware store to find a replacement showerhead you need . There are less restaurants, fewer stores, and typically longer commutes required for anything you want or need when you live a rural lifestyle. If you or a family member have enduring medical issues, you may also have to travel long distances to be treated. Your vehicle really is a lifeline, you can’t live in the country without it.
There are some exceptions to this, and even some workarounds. Rural homeowners will likely have access to excellent farmers markets, or be able to take advantage of community supported agriculture (CSA) programs that aren’t available to people living in the cities. And with online shopping programs like Amazon Prime, you really can get just about anything you need regardless of where you live. However, if you live in the country, be prepared to drive a bit more to get what you want.
Quiet and Calm
Living on a rural property is almost always going to be more peaceful than a home in the city. It’s hard to have any standoff in the city; wherever you live, you’re going to be in close proximity to neighbors, streets, and sirens. Life is almost never quiet in a major metropolitan area. Conversely, if you relocate to an rural property, you can experience an almost unimaginable level of peace and quiet.
Maybe peace and quiet is what you’re looking for; if so, country life can be terrific. But peace and quiet can be a bit daunting as well. Are you really ready to live in an isolated area where you can hear yourself think? Will you find it unnerving to hear nothing at all when you go to sleep at night? Some people enjoy the noise and activity of a city, and miss it when they move to the quiet country.
Along with all that peace and quiet comes lower stress! A recent study indicated that people living in the country have less stress-related illnesses than their urban counterparts. The combination of open spaces, fresh air, and lower noise and light pollution does wonders for your peace of mind. If you do suffer from stress-related illness, that relocation to the country may be just what the doctor ordered.
While the stress level is lower, that doesn’t mean all is great health-wise in rural areas. In fact, people who live in rural areas tend to be less healthy than their peers who live in cities and suburbs. This may be because rural Americans tend to be older, and at an age where people exercise less and have more health problems. However, as noted earlier, people in cities tend to have better access to healthcare services and specialized treatment centers; those options don’t exist at the same level of convenience in rural America.
Less Job Opportunities . . . And Unique Options
The sheer scale of major metropolitan areas provides opportunities that rural parts of the country simply cannot match. We’ve already discussed the shopping and entertainment gap between the city and the country; there is also a jobs gap. It is easier to find the type of work you want in a major metropolitan area of a million people or more. However, in the country, you’ll either have to take what you can get in terms of a job, or be prepared for a long commute. If you decide to start a local business in the country, you will have to take into consideration that your customer base will not be as large, or have as much disposable income, as people in the cities and suburbs do.
However, all is not bleak on the jobs front when it comes to rural living. If you have unique skills that allow you to telework – such as content writing, graphic design, or coding – you can often freelance remotely from a rural location. In fact, the lower cost of living in the country may enable you to work comfortably from home, your dream job, in a way you could never do in a costly city area. Other options, such as small scale farming, or the ability to earn income from services such as Airbnb, can provide rural denizens income opportunities that simply aren’t available in large cities.
More Work to Do
If you buy a big country property, be prepared to do a lot of maintenance. While you’re living in a cramped, noisy apartment, you may long for a farmhouse with some acreage. Maybe a few outbuildings, too, or even a barn. But peace quiet and space living in the country comes at a price. While all of these rural amenities are great, it takes a ton of work to keep a country property in shape.
Something is always going wrong on a rural homestead; be prepared to identify a problem, and make repairs. Maintaining your land is time consuming, too. You’ll either need a bunch of expensive lawn equipment, like riding mowers, weeders, and chainsaws, or you’ll have to pay out of pocket to get someone else to do the work for you. And that long driveway that connects your rural hideaway to the country road? It won’t shovel itself after each winter snowstorm, so buy some snow shovels! You’ll need to learn new skills for country living to be cost effective; you’ll also have to be willing to commit what used to be leisure time into work to keep your rural property in working condition.
More Latitude to do What You Want
If you have a rural property, especially one with acreage, you will face considerably less regulatory restraints than your counterparts in the suburbs and cities. If you feel like having some chickens and a goat, you’ll probably be able to go out and buy them on the spot. Getting permits to modify your property will likely be easier too; in some cases you probably won’t even need to get permits. It is usually easier to own, possess, and use firearms in the more rural parts of the country; it is almost always more accepted, too.
Contrast that with city life, where the smallest modification to a home or yard will often require permits, inspections, and the like. The ability to own and raise livestock will probably be out of the question, even if you have the space. Most cities have more restrictive firearms laws as well; in fact, it may be difficult to own or possess a firearm in many urban areas.
More Security and Resilience
If you are concerned about major national security threats, whether they are natural disasters or man-made calamities, there is no substitute for a rural property. If you have a home and land, you can likely raise and store enough food on your property to make it through a short term disaster without breaking a sweat; if you work at it, you can survive comfortably for some time even if there were major disruptions to the food supply and power grid as well. Since gun laws tend to be more liberal in rural areas, you can likely secure a rural property much better than you could an apartment or home in an urban area, too.
However, there are tradeoffs to country living. Your infrastructure may not be as good or as well maintained as the roads and power lines in larger cities. It may take the county longer to plow your roads after a snowstorm, or repair them after a major flood or mudslide. The electric company may take longer to restore your power after a major storm; higher priority may go to the more densely populated areas. So be prepared to be more self-reliant in the country, even during everyday bad weather events.
How many times have you heard something like “we never even bother to lock our doors out here?” Well, it is mostly true. Crime rates, especially those for violent crime, are typically lower in rural areas than they are in big cities. There is usually less property theft as well. People in the country typically have to spend less time, effort, and money worrying about security, or keeping their families and property safe.
Rural areas do tend to have unique law enforcement challenges, however. The opioid epidemic that is currently threatening communities across the country has been particularly devastating in rural America. It has also driven the crime rate up in many areas. Additionally, when crimes due occur in rural areas, like property theft, most small towns lack the law enforcement resources to respond as effectively as police forces in suburbs and cities as well.
Difficult to Get Away
The rural lifestyle requires a personal commitment that your counterparts living in an apartment in the city don’t have to deal with. If you embrace the lifestyle, you’re likely raising livestock, and have a large garden; you may be running a small farm. You cannot just take a weekend off and go on a trip when you are living like that; someone has to take care of everything! And there are certain times of the year, like when it is time to pick all of the apples, or when wheat or other crops are ready to harvest, that you’re not going to be able to leave at all.
You may be able to find a neighbor or friend who is willing to watch our animals and tend to your crops from time to time. But getting a homestead-sitter isn’t easy, and you may not enjoy leaving and worrying about all your animals even if you do find someone. So if you live in the city now, and can leave your apartment any weekend to enjoy an Airbnb somewhere, be prepared for a major life change when you own a rural property.
Depending on where you live, Internet and cellphone connectivity can be pretty spotty in rural areas, especially when compared to the city. While this isn’t a challenge in every location, some isolated spots have no connectivity at all. This may make it challenging to stay connected to the outside world, to telework, or to run some sort of online business. If you plan to relocate to a rural area and need connectivity, you should ensure that the areas you’re considering have good internet and mobile phone access.
There are some workarounds to Internet connectivity challenges. You may be able to subscribe to some sort of satellite Internet service. Most small town libraries will have good Internet access as well, so you can make a habit of going to your library to get work or research done. And you can talk to your neighbors to determine the best cellphone service providers in your area, too. But while all of these may mitigate connectivity challenges, the fact is that most people living in urban areas have much better Internet access.
More Community and More Voice
Communities in rural areas tend to be more tight knit. Since there are typically less government services available, neighbors have to rely upon one another more. Additionally, in rural communities, the town or county governments are usually small; chances is are, one of your neighbors is an alderman part time, or serves on the school board. You have more opportunities to interact with the people who run your local government, and in a town with only a few thousand people, you have a greater ability to influence it. And if you don’t like the way things are being done in your small town, it is easy to run for office and take charge yourself!
A city may have more services, but they also have more layers of bureaucracy. It may be much more difficult to enact change in your child’s school, or to discuss community policing issues with law enforcement officials; it will probably take you time to even find out who those officials are. And in a city with hundreds of thousands of people, there is a good chance that your voice on an issue won’t make much of a difference anyway.
Less Diverse and More Insular
If you live in a major metropolitan area, your neighbors, co-workers and classmates are going to be from all over the country, if not from other countries around the globe. Your spouse, children, and you are going to be exposed to exotic cultures, and different perspectives on the world and how to do different things. Most rural areas are considerably less diverse, and tend to be much more conservative. This is a major tradeoff people should consider when making the decision to move from an urban area to a rural one.
Some small rural communities can be insular too, and not immediately friendly to newcomers. Conservative communities don’t always like change, and if a new family moves there from the big city, well, that is a change. If you make one mistake in a meeting or conversation, it can take a long time to live it down; you don’t have an entirely new group of neighbors to hang out with instead, like in your old apartment complex. It may also take a little bit of legwork to be accepted as part of the community and to make lasting contacts and friends.
Living on a rural property means that you are going to come into much more contact with nature, which is a great thing – until it isn’t. If you raise animals, especially poultry, you’re going to have to contend with all sorts of predators that want to make a meal out of them daily; you’ll have to figure out how to outsmart opossums, foxes, coyotes, and hawks. You’ll also have to deal with different types of bugs than you typically see in the cities as well; cockroaches may not be an issue, but you’ll learn to hate the ticks for certain. Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are serious health threats you’ll need to think about every time you walk into your woods.
The wildlife is also a resource you can draw on more readily than your counterparts in the big cities, however. It is easier to hunt in the country than it is in the city, obviously; you may be able to do so right on your own rural property if you’re fortunate enough. It is usually easier to access pristine waters to go fishing when you live in rural areas as well (although there is good fishing to be had in many urban areas as well, to be fair). People living in the country have more opportunities to forage for edible and medicinal plants, too. So be prepared to contend and compete with wildlife, but also to take advantage of it as a resource when you live in the country.
Parting Thoughts – A Big Decision
Country living can be a terrific experience. But is it right for you? Moving to the country can provide your family and you some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. However, forsaking the city life for a rural area can mean giving up opportunities, and facing some real challenges, too. So, when pondering a move to the country, don’t act rashly. Consider the pros and cons of such a move, and make the best decision you can.
When Tom Harkins is not busy doing emergency repairs to his 200 year-old New England home, he tries to send all of his time gardening, home brewing, foraging, and taking care of his ever-growing flock of chickens, turkey and geese.