The Pros and Cons of Rural Housing

Ah, buying a house. A time of great excitement and stress. The point in your life when you start to care if the heater is propane or fuel oil. Or if the floors are oak or cherry. Or really any of that stuff that you don’t give a hoot about when you are renting.

Carolyn and I had the privilege of taking part in this process this past month when we bought our first home here in Tyndall. And although there are many challenges with buying a home anywhere, finding the right one in a rural area adds a new layer of complexity. However, there are also a few advantages to a rural home purchase versus an urban home.

Before we get into the housing thoughts, we need to define rural. Now for some readers, Lincoln, Nebraska, with a quarter million people is considered a small town. Or even an town with only 25,000 people and one Walmart is tiny. However, for the purposes of this article, we will go with the official definition of a “rural area”. Rural areas comprise open country and settlements with fewer than 2,500 residents; areas designated as rural can have population densities as high as 999 per square mile or as low as 1 person per square mile.

Middle of Nowhere

Anything less than 1 person per square mile is officially called “The Middle of Nowhere”.

With this in mind, buying a home in a truly rural area means that there probably isn’t that many homes to choose from. So even our modest list of conditions for a house (smaller, not totally trashed, within five miles of the clinic) limited our choices to two houses. Since we don’t do the day-to-day activities with our livestock, we don’t have the other conditions necessary for a rural home. This includes a porch or utility room to warm up calves, a second washing machine for really dirty clothes, and corrals/barn just outside the house for livestock that need to be watched closely. We felt fortunate that we had at least two places to choose from. When I first started in Tyndall, there was just one place available to rent. Deciding South Dakota was not ideal for year-round camping, I took it.

This availability issue creates other challenges. When looking at a starter home, to find one that has good resale becomes more difficult. If you take what is out there without regard to what it will be worth in a few years you will find yourself hard pressed to make your money back.

On the other hand, rural homes are often less expensive than similar homes in the city. This is a great advantage for a pair of first-time home buyers with student debt payments the size of a typical mortgage. Also, homes in the country are typically built with a large, functional kitchen to feed a farm family. This meant Carolyn didn’t have to sacrifice for cooking space to make her gourmet meals.

In the end, we purchased a perfect starter house. We are thrilled with it. It has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a nice kitchen and family room, and an unfinished basement that we can do what we want with it. There is quite a bit of work we will have to do to it, but overall it is pretty solid. Plus, it’s less than a mile from the clinic and only two blocks from the city park! And the best part is there is a good-sized back yard for Gus to run around in. So in all, as long as you are patient in selecting the right rural home, there’s no better place to buy a house!

Our House in Town

The Geis Castle. Complete with narrow board oak floors. Not pictured: the dog run for the Gus puppy.

-Jake

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