Many home buyers in Kalispell and the rest of Flathead Valley choose to live in cities or towns. Those that select this type of living can easily walk or drive to nearby stores, medical facilities, movie theaters and restaurants. They have access to utilities, Internet, garbage pickup and more. On the other hand, there are some buyers who decide to purchase rural property. This should not be done without knowing what your life might look like after you own your new home.
Accordingly, Flathead County Planning and Zoning prepared a very good document for both natives and newcomers to the area. It defines many different aspects of rural living, from making the decision to purchase land, to potential issues with property access, service delivery, agriculture and farming, mother nature and wildlife. The Planning and Zoning team has given me permission to share their words here, so I am going to do so in several different posts. This first post focuses on purchasing the property.
And I quote:
Your Piece of Paradise
It’s said good fences make good neighbors. Good manners make friends of those neighbors. Friends come in awful handy in rural areas.
- If you take one piece of information from this document, remember this: ALWAYS verify information you are given by a real estate agent, surveyor, government representative, or other professional. You will be glad you did.
- Stewardship of rural land requires dedication and commitment. Many factors can impact use of your property. Research potential issues carefully.
- Not all lots are buildable. Steep slopes, flood-plain, or other environmental constraints can limit your use of the site.
- You may be provided with a plat of your property, but unless the land has been surveyed by a licensed surveyor, you cannot assume the plat is accurate.
- Fences that separate properties do not always follow the actual property lines. See above.
- Many subdivision and planned unit developments have covenants that limit use of the property. Obtain a copy of any covenants, conditions, and restrictions if you are purchasing subdivided land. Be sure you can live with them!
- Unzoned areas are not governed by County zoning regulations. If you have unzoned property and are pleased to know you are not restricted by zoning, remember your neighbor likely isn’t either.
- The surrounding open land may not remain as it is indefinitely. Contact the Planning and Zoning office to determine if the area is zoned or if any development may be proposed for the area.
- Recent arrivals often build their homes on the highest ridge or hilltop. Remember, the farther you can see, the farther you can be seen by others. You probably didn’t move to a rural area to gaze upon a bunch of houses; neither did your neighbors.
- If you have an irrigation ditch running across your property, there is a good chance the owners of the ditch have the right to come on your property to maintain the ditch.
- Water rights that are sold with the property may not give you the right to use the water from any ditches crossing your land without coordinating with a neighbor who also uses the water. Other users may have senior rights to the water that can limit your use.
- It is important to ensure that any water rights you purchase with the land will provide enough water to suit your needs. This may include maintaining pastures, livestock, landscaping or gardens.
- Flowing water can be hazardous, particularly to children and pets. Before you decide to locate your home near an active ditch or natural water source, consider the possible risk to your family.
- Many creeks, streams, rivers, and wetlands are regulated by the Flathead County Conservation District. Regulations establish setbacks and buffer zones adjacent to these various bodies of water. Natural vegetation must remain undisturbed in these areas. If you are thinking of developing near water or wetlands, contact the Conservation District and the Planning and Zoning Office prior to beginning any work.
- Understand your soil and its limitations. Sites suitable for buildings, roads, septic systems, landscaping, and crop production can be determined from soil characteristics. The Flathead County Extension Agent or Natural Resources Conservation Service can provide valuable information.
- Noxious weeds destroy healthy vegetation, valuable agricultural land, and wildlife habitat. Early detection and treatment are essential to controlling the proliferation of these pesky nuisances, which can completely eradicate grasslands and other vegetation if left unchecked. Montana State Law requires property owners to control the noxious weeds on their property. The Flathead County Weed Department can assist you in identification and management. Your neighbors will thank you, particularly the farmer with the beautiful field of alfalfa you love to look at out your kitchen window.
The above are important factors to take into consideration if you are thinking of moving to any area outside of a town or city. And you don’t have to move far outside of town in order to be in a rural area! For example, my personal home is only a 15 minute drive from the center of the city of Kalispell. Many of the homes on my street have no cable TV or Internet. There is no garbage pickup and the local newspaper will not deliver. Also, properties in my area are unboned. On some land, amazing homes have been built, and on others, the same is not true.
If you are interested in purchasing land or an existing home in rural areas of the Flathead Valley, I’d be happy to make sure you have the information you need to select the property or home that works for you. Many of the items listed above are documents an excellent real estate professional can help you obtain. The same is true if you want to move into a city or town. I’m happy to assist with those properties as well. Just call me at 406-270-3667 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part two of this series will address access issues associated with rural property. Until then, enjoy!