Hints for buying your rural dream real estate
None of the books on “Buying Your Dream Home in the Country” has a chapter about it, or even a paragraph.
The most important single piece of advice any novice ruralite will ever need is just plain missing. Simply put: things are not always as they appear. The true character of rural real estate cannot be known until a year after escrow has closed.
Take the weather. In Southern California, the seasons are little more than quaint names – up here they have consequences! The average rainfall at Clear Creek Ranch is 60 inches a year. Sixty inches sprinkled equally throughout the year translates into being ankle deep in water one day a month. I could live with that, but nature is rarely so even-handed.
There are several dry months (the fire season) when it never rains. Then there are the dryer months (as in clothes dryer) when the downpour never stops.
If only I could do with mildew what’s been done with blue- green algae, I’d be a happy (and wealthy) man. And speaking of multi-level – when our topsoil saturates, rivulets gouge out whole hillsides, which then float off down the creek on a sedimental journey, one explanation of why the bottoms and tops of my ponds keep getting closer together each year.
Deciduous. That means the trees stay put, but the leaves leave.
That densely herbaceous buffer area between you and your nearest neighbor suddenly disappears. What blight through yonder window breaks, indeed. If their (or your) drapes aren’t drawn, the result resembles a tiny TV (the soap opera channel) with no volume control. A neighborly glance their way is all you need to catch the latest squalid goings-on. Or vice versa.
Prospective buyers should visit their future dream home during the week and on weekends. Step out of the car and listen. I suspect the sound you will hear will be more than the wind in the pines.
Do freight planes from a nearby Air Force base climb past your pristine airspace each morning at dawn? Is that constant clanging sound coming from an unpermitted 24-hour foundry across the creek?
Are all those nearby-but-unseen radios blaring the same type of music? Which type of music best blends with your idyllic visions of Thoreau’s Walden Pond or Muir’s High Sierra – hip-hop or rap?
And is all that gunfire from someone who occasionally plinks a box of ammo? Or is it his full-time occupation to field test assault rifles for renegade militia groups? Is his medication up-to-date, and will he be brewing up a new batch soon? Does this mean you should wear a flak jacket when walking the dogs or weeding the garden?
Or is all that noise just hunting season – that special time of year when heavily armed, extremely drunk neighbors stumble around on other people’s property indiscriminately shooting things?
How about shooting stars? On clear nights, are any stars visible overhead, or have nearby halogen “security” lights put an end to that threat?
A wise real estate investor once said, “Don’t love anything that can’t love you back.” I’ve hugged many a tree here at the ranch and have nothing to show for it but a few slivers and the occasional appreciative bark.
To mangle a line from a very old Judy Collins song, “It’s land’s illusions I recall … I really don’t know land at all.”
As if you hadn’t already guessed.
Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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