Building in the country

Building in the Countryside

Building in the Countryside

Foreword by Ian Thompson, Editor

Building in the country has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. The advantages often include ample space and less disturbance to neighbours. There’s typically no need to close roads, and parking is generally more convenient.

However, it can also come with additional costs. For instance, you will most probably need to invest in a decent rainwater collection system, often comprised of large concrete underground tanks. In my house, I have a 75,000-litre rainwater collection system with a three-stage filtering process and water pumps to transport the water back into the house.

You’ll likely need a septic system, which requires space and annual maintenance. These systems can be costly, an expense not typically encountered in city living. In my experience, my last build in New Zealand cost me nearly NZD40k for a top-grade water and septic system, a cost not considered by the local council when calculating council rates, which I’m keen for the council to address.

Country builds may also necessitate extra budget for earthworks and a decent access road to the house platform. I’ve seen many projects underestimate the need for year-round, weather-proof access, leading to delays and unexpected costs when large vehicles can’t reach the building site. My advice is never to underestimate the importance of site access!

One thing I strongly recommend is to plant as many trees as you can as soon as you take ownership of the site. This was a lesson I learned from my early building projects, and now it’s the first step I take.

Despite the challenges, I prefer building in the country. I cherish the space, privacy, and birdlife. Plan your tree placement carefully to allow for easy ride-on mowing, keeping garden maintenance to a minimum. There’s an old saying in New Zealand: “Buy a lifestyle section and lose your lifestyle.” It might be an exaggeration, but proper garden planning can indeed yield great rewards.

For more tips and advice see Matt and Will’s video.

Video Transcript

I’m Matt Risinger and I’m with Will King. Today on the build show, we’re talking about rural building. We are way out in the country today and Will, when you have a piece of property like this and you’re thinking about building a new custom home, what are the things that we need to think about?

Well, there’s several things that go through your head when you’re picking out a site like this. I mean, you got to think about where the house is going to be, so siting the house is important. Drainage is always big, no matter if it’s on the water or even in just a remote area like this. Having good drainage is always a good thing to be considering as you’re clearing a lot.

And then you know, the clearing of itself is a factor. We have a lot of trees here that we’re taking down. You always have to think about septic because obviously there’s no sewer systems in an area like this, so making sure you have a good field that’s undisturbed for your sewage system is crucial.

This is not Will’s first rodeo. He’s done a bunch of these and we’re going to pick his brain and get all the knowledge that he has built up. Let’s get going.

All right, well, what’s the first thing we need to think about when we’re thinking about building out in the country like this?

I think the first thing that I always consider is really just where’s the house going to go. Most of the time, clients like the one that we’re working on today have bought this piece of property for their dream retirement home. He’s obviously studied it and he knows where he really wants his house to be.

Sometimes we have to help with that and when we do, we always consider things like utilities. How far are we from Power? People don’t realize how expensive running underground utilities to their house can be. Overhead is less expensive, but when you think about Power and Water, and driveway, the further you are from the road, your cost goes up exponentially.

Now based on this pile of wood behind me though, you had to move some stuff to get this house where it is. We had about a week worth of clearing here, pulling down all these trees. There’s a mix of pine trees and Hardwoods. That’s not bad, a week is all it took.

Let’s talk permitting for a minute. I build a lot in the city. I’ve got a lot of regulations and rules, I’ve got neighbors close by. You don’t have a lot of that here. My guess is you only have a permit to get a septic.

That’s right. Typically there’s no permitting out in the county here. The health department always regulates our septic tanks so that’s really the only permit.

Let’s talk cost a little bit. There’s a lot of upfront cost that people don’t think about and you mentioned that the further you’re away from electrical, the further your way to need to build roads. Is there any budgetary advice when you’re buying a 500, a 1000, a 2000 acre property?

There’s really no inspections out here either. It’s interesting. Let’s talk cost a little bit because I think there’s a lot of upfront cost that people don’t think about. The further you’re away from electrical, the further your way to need to build roads. Is there any budgetary advice when you’re buying a 500, a 1000, a 2000 acre property?

Well, the easiest way is to identify where the house might be or you’re considering putting utilities to before you purchase the property. It’s a simple phone call. Most of these power authorities here have very good engineers and you can just call and on the phone, they’ll give you the numbers for overhead power versus underground power.

So that’s going to be the most expensive one for sure. Your driveway is not going to be that big of a deal, it’s just gravel. Now I always ask the question though, if it’s 1000 feet off the road, are you going to do a concrete driveway or do you want gravel? Because if you want concrete, it’s a whole another animal.

Let me ask you about water. When I’m in the city, I never have to worry about that. I’ve got a street that has a water main in it, but out here in the country, you don’t know what’s going to happen. What advice are you giving to people and what do you tell them about finding water?

There are options for being off the grid at that point, but again I think to drive it home though on utilities and power consumption, just build it efficiently. That’s where it all starts because if you’re going to spend your money, do that first and then feed it with solar.