The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Community => Coffee Lounge => Topic started by: smallholder in the city on March 15, 2011, 09:02:28 pm

Title: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: smallholder in the city on March 15, 2011, 09:02:28 pm
Having just booked our first lot of viewings for some potential smallholdings I am hopelessly overexcited and would really appreciate some tips on what to look for when we go and view the properties on 1st April as it's quite likely I'll still be completely overexcited and not particularly objective.  :D

We're looking at places with at least 5 acres, ideally with some outbuildings and although we're not bothered about the size of the house we don't want to be doing too much in the way of major works.

The plan is to keep GOS pigs, some more chickens (we've only got 2 at the moment) and if there is space some sheep, we'll also need a polytunnel eventually for my native plant nursery.

So any suggestions for what I should put on my checklist of things to look for or to avoid ?  
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: supplies for smallholders on March 15, 2011, 09:06:55 pm

Find out what the soil is like - you really dont want heavy clay!

Check if the land is fenced.

Otherwise good luck
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: katie on March 15, 2011, 09:11:55 pm
I second finding what the soil is like. You don't want heavy, boggy ground - look out for rushes and buttercups.
You don't want anything with a footpath running through it . You do want road frontage, water and electricity.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: egglady on March 15, 2011, 09:15:05 pm
and you dont want a house or cottage that's falling to pieces!  all the money you could be spending outside needs to be chanelled to the inside!!!  (guess what happened to me when we bought our place!!!) :'(
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Helencus on March 15, 2011, 09:17:10 pm
Ok from what I wish I'd thought of when we bought our place:

1, don't buy in a conservation zone
2, don't buy near an AONB (you'll never get planning)
3, don't buy near an SSSI see 2 for why
4, make sure the fields are free draining, if it's clay it's a bugger in winter
 and it'll cost you to put drainage in
5, are the fields fenced and secure.. It'll cost if not
6, is there water to your animal pens if you have them or fields? It costs to put it in
7, don't buy in a flood risk zone .. Insurance is a packet
8, do you have enough outbuildings for livestock in winter, you'll spend loads building if not.
10, is the grass ok? Is it ok for hay, if not it'll cost to get your hay fields in shape if you have grazing livestock over winter and you'll need to get it sorted for grazing generally.
Thats the main things I should have asked to save me a ton of money.. You live and you learn so good luck  ;Dand have fun :-))  ;D ;D

Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: ambriel on March 15, 2011, 09:41:54 pm

Drainage and fencing, for the reasons the others have stated. Worth having a look at the neighbours, too.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: bloomer on March 15, 2011, 09:43:34 pm
can't offer advice

would just like to say i'm SO jealous!!!
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Pel on March 15, 2011, 09:52:51 pm
Go to look at smallholdings in the winter and spring when the ground is at its wettest, this way you will know if you need to bring your livestock in, also the holding will look its worst especially if its raining compared to a sunny summer day. look for how many reeds are growing, sign of how wet it is. Nettles tend (but not always) grow on fertile ground.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Glentarki on March 15, 2011, 09:55:33 pm
You must be so excited, here is my wee input….Depending where you decide to buy i.e. the local terrain sunlight can be a issue……. As a example before moving here we lived for 20 years in the Cleish Hills {Scotland}..... Stunningly beautiful area, but once the sun went down over the hills the area was covered in shade, yet the other side was basking in sunshine…………….We moved here not far along the road from our last place in December. The house is a wreck just about habitable and a a huge building project come late spring…..However our priority was to check the amount of sunlight we had especially later in the day…….. Again we are in the hills so shade from adjoining hills was a concern…..Once we viewed this place we came back uninvited to check out the evening sun ….fortunately were now so high up its not a problem all be it we’ve had 16 trees professionally removed over the past month….We have sunlight and lets face it sunshine makes us all feel good :)

I’m sure your get loads of advice from other posters, but for us a reasonably sunny aspect especially latter in the day is very important

Best of luck with your search and keep us posted…..What areas are you looking at?

Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: robert waddell on March 15, 2011, 10:07:09 pm
all good advice but what is so significant about the 1st of April???? :wave:
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Tudful Tamworths on March 15, 2011, 10:57:21 pm
My top thngs to watch would be:

Suitability of land (similar to what others have suggested)
Definitely fencing (can be costly if you have to do it yourself)
Rights of way
Shared access arrangements with neighbours
Existing neighbour/boundary disputes
Vehicle access (think of big deliveries you may need)
Pylons and phone masts
Outbuildings and services (including sewerage systems)

Make yourself a "wish list" and take it with you. Take a notebook, and also take pictures and maybe video footage so you can reflect once back home.

Good luck!
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: pikilily on March 15, 2011, 11:30:44 pm
As above, but also if you are likely to get carried away take a knowledgable friend with you who you can trust to be brutally honest, and not just oooh and aaah with you. have your camera too.
emma t
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: doganjo on March 15, 2011, 11:31:45 pm
The first viewing is done with your heart the second with your head - so say Kirsty and Phil!
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Roxy on March 16, 2011, 01:30:03 am
I would be wondering why they are selling?  Yes, Legit reason of course .....but maybe they know planning is afoot for a wind turbine behind their house, or a new housing development has been ;passed, even a new bypass or something.  Something like these things can have a serious effect on the value, and of course the pleasure of living somewhere.

Some places need a change of use - sometimes they have been passed for a particular thing, and there are exclusions about what you can and cannot do, what buildings can go up etc.  Also, there are old deeds etc allowing neighbours rights of way  through your property ......

Personally, the state of the house is not as important to me, as the outbuildings and land being suitable for my needs.  Look at the fencing etc.  Once you get your own smallholding, the costs are never ending fencing is an arm and a leg, to buy, as is drainage etc. 

Look at a few places, make comparisons, listing good and bad points.

Fingers crossed you will find a nice property.

Its best to visit, have a good look, then if its promising, go back look again, and have those questions ready.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: bazzais on March 16, 2011, 06:10:09 am
If you want a polytunnel then you will need to look at how exposed the area is - if the sheds and outbuildings have breeze blocks tied to ropes over the roofs - your never going to have a polytunnel!  ;D

Fencing will (very) roughly cost about a £1000 an acre if you want it in acre squares give or take a few hundred and if done properly (best get a pro in) will last for years. In comparison to the purchase price its not going to be much but must be taken into account.

Neighbours - although on buying a property its a legal requirement to say if you've had runins with a neighbour when selling - most people wont.  Go see the neighbour and introduce yourself, just ask them what they think of the area and other random chit chat - they will normally be dieing to spill any 'beans' if they are the complaining type.

Get full surveys and searches done even if your buying with cash, if your getting a mortgage your company will require them anyway as a matter of course.

Go see the property in the rain, at peak traffic times and outside of the appointment time - many people only book appointments when potential nuisances are at the least.

Check the local planning authority site to see if any planning applications have been refused in the past for mods that you wish to make.

Good luck :)

Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: shetlandpaul on March 16, 2011, 07:21:04 am
check the septic system is working ok. check that the house is ok. check on the google maps and switch to sat images it should give you a clue if the land floods. as others have said check the land and fences and whats been on the land. take your time and be sure the place is what you need not that its just available.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: tizaala on March 16, 2011, 08:02:27 am
Make sure there is no ''travellers'' site within 10 miles, or , helicopter training flight path, RAF low flying night training, no schools within earshot, clay pidgeon grounds, or off-road activity center , playing fields or anything that atracts people in any way shape or form.......I should have been a lighthouse keeper.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: pikilily on March 16, 2011, 08:57:49 am
LOL when you go armed with all this lot you will appear like the SAS, CIA and FBI rolled into one!!  ;D ;D ;D ;D

Taking on board all the practical advice above, your passion and heart must come into the equation at some point!  One persons hell is anothers heaven. If you can see past all the crap that may put others off, the filth, disrepair, the reorganisation and the work required, then you may well get yourself a wonderful dream property for a snip! We did...we had a bit of vision and imagination. Get a ''feel'' for the place.

Our house had been on the market for over a year, for several reasons
1. the photos of the place on the estate agents details were laughable. They couldnt have taken worse photos. we were the second lot of people to see the place in 12 months.
2. the 'stables' were knee deep in sheep s**t and were dingy and smelly
3. the inside of the house was not much better; some of the rooms were inaccessable due to piled up furniture and junk
4. the garden was waist high in grass rubbish and in a dreadful state
5. the fields were think with docks and thistles.
6. the owners had fights and dissagreements with all the neigbours

We got the place for 25% less than the asking price!!!!!!! Its my dream home - we will never leave. i wish i could show you what i mean..the difference in the place from 15 years ago. We did it up on a very tight budget too. eg the kitchen cost me £750 pounds including plumbing, and electicity.

The other piece of advice I would give is; when you find your new home live in it for a full year before making any hard and fast decisions regarding the house or the land. So a lick of paint and the bare minimum to make it home then sit back and learn what the ground and the house teach you.

HTH too!!
Emma T
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: loosey on March 16, 2011, 09:14:16 am
Definately take photo's ... I think that's the best advice yet! We viewed our place 4 times and every time were so excited we forgot the camera. Every time we turned up we noticed more work to do!

A random note - run all the taps ... we ended up in a house with a bust shower and a bath that, every time run, came through the kitchen ceiling! Just bad luck but worth checking!

Good luck and have fun!!

Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: doganjo on March 16, 2011, 09:21:45 am
And flush the loos!
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: princesspiggy on March 16, 2011, 12:17:27 pm
whats its resaleability, u might out grow it and want to move. that includes what the local schools are like, even if it it doesnt affect u, it affect its resale. same for pylons.
can ur customers find u easily?
do u have markets and abbatoirs nearby if u need them?
steer clear of close neighbours, once the pigs squeal and cockerals crow, things can turn nasty quickly.
farm security, wud u feel comfortable leaving ur livestock for the day unattended?
wind direction is important when siting a polytunnel.
do u have a customer base who'l pay the prices u expect to charge? or do u have competition on your doorstep?
dont under estimate how long it takes to do things, especially irradicating weeds ie ragwort.
listen to your gut instinct! and enjoy shopping  ;D ;D
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: smallholder in the city on March 16, 2011, 12:43:29 pm
Thank you all so much for the very helpful advice, very much appreciated.
We're going to be looking in the Cambridgeshire / Norfolk area and in response to Lillian's query no particular significance to the 1st of April it's just the first day that I could get off work and yes I am counting the days, although I was slightly worried that the estate agents wouldn't take us seriously it being April fools day and all.
I'll keep you posted, we're going to have a look at everything on our short list first then go back to a select one or two (hopefully) once we've had time to reflect and digest what we've seen.   :)
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Billy Rhomboid on March 16, 2011, 01:52:32 pm
In Katie Thear's 'Smalholder's Manual' there is an excellent chapter at the beginning covering what to look for in a property and a detailed checklist whihc had several things I wouldn't have thought of.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Rosemary on March 16, 2011, 02:11:37 pm
Definately take photo's ... I think that's the best advice yet!

Good idea but do ask for permission first, otherwise it's rude and intrusive.

Remember, you'll pay for perfection. Focus on the things that you want that you can't change, such as the land, proximity to roads, services and markets (if you're planning to sell stuff direct from your plant nursery). House, buildings, fencing - yes, will cost you if they aren't there but you can change them. A perfectly fenced property in the wrong location will always be in the wrong location.

Also, don't worry about background noise - we're near a railway and an MOD firing range (light arms to mortars) and we don't notice either now.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Hilarysmum on March 16, 2011, 04:42:19 pm
- run all the taps ...

Definitely do that, we were gazumped on the perfect house.  When poor new owner moved in he turned on the tap for a cup of tea and flooded the kitchen.  All the plumbing was knackered.  Cost him £12,000 to get it all sorted.  poor man.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Anke on March 16, 2011, 08:58:09 pm
Really just look at the lay of the land and if it has existing drainage. We are on heavy clay (but raised beds are super, just means we now don't have breeding pigs, just fatten weaners), and bought a unfenced building plot plus field. If you have to do the fencing from scratch at least you know its good and won't need patching up endlessly - pay a good fencer and it should last for quite a few years.

Also state of the house is probably not a huge problem, as long as it's livable in, you can do changes/repairs over quite a few years. Avocado bathrooms may just come back in fashion in a few years from now....

We also have low flying jets on several days (and nights) of the week, and you just get used to them, as does your livestock.

However you will need to know about possibly needing PP for any agricultural buildings, p/tunnels etc, and also if the house would need any major work straight away. Sometimes houses have reached their "development limit", which means you cannot extend them anymore or even put a conservatory on. WE looked at one like that, and as it would have needed larger conservatory we did not bid on it.

If you have children - local schools (and transport to them) would be another major factor. Always phone the council education department with the address to make sure you know exactly which catchment area it is in.

Also one tip - look at rural building plots, especially if they are outside villages and are sold by a farmer - just asking if the field next to the plot maybe would be for sale... it worked for us!
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Tudful Tamworths on March 16, 2011, 09:47:40 pm
Forgot to mention in my earlier post - my first book (The Practical Guide to Buying and Running a Smallholding in Wales) has a whole section on locating the perfect smallholding. And not just in Wales (though there is additional detail on the geography/topography, culture, language, and politics of Wales).

It also looks at things like making sure smallholding is for you (and any family), finding a place that suits everyone's needs, financing the move, getting ready for your new lifestyle, legal requirements, choosing livestock (what, why, and how much), growing fodder, selling produce, and wildlife-friendly farming.

Hope you find what you're looking for.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: benkt on March 16, 2011, 11:16:14 pm
Most of what I would have said has been said already so I'll try and pull out a few extra things. As others have said, its the unchangeable and expensive to change bits you need to pay most attention to.

Whatever happens, I'm sure you'll end up having to make some compromises so its worth thinking through in advance exactly what is a deal breaker and what is just irritating. Then go through the deal breakers and see what could be done to turn them into mere irritants - Its always surprising to me just how many alternatives and ways round a given situation you can find if you just open your mind to the possibility there could be any.

Oh, and enjoy it! I love looking round property, its like going for a job interview - you get to think to yourself 'could I be the kind of person who lived here/did this job?' just like playing dressing up as a kid. The only downside of looking for a smallholding is that if you do it right its a once in a lifetime event!
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Castle Farm on March 17, 2011, 06:25:00 pm
All of the above and if your seriously interested in a place put a link into this web site and there is bound to be someone who knows the area.

The best bit of advice I will give you is. Before you buy anywhere in the country learn to reverse your car. ;D
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: Brucklay on March 18, 2011, 01:01:58 am
I'd say agree with Location, Location etc .... got the house, got the outbuildings or can you build them .... just like fencing but in the big scheme of things the property and land is going to cost hundreds of thousand and a new bath is a couple of hundred - so my advice would be like others and I've done it - the priority list - what can I not do without and what can I not do - can't wait to see your pictures and read the stories
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: smallholder in the city on March 18, 2011, 08:04:47 pm
Well one of the properties we were really interested in is apparently unmortgageable so we've had to cross that off the list and another one has just been sold.

We're left with a short list of 3: two are 5 acres one is 7 acres, all have outbuildings, one has river frontage and fishing rights and one used to be a nursery so the outbuildings are set up for that with an area for the polytunnels (handy as I'm planning on having a native plant nursery) . Two of the houses won't need anything doing to them but one I think might, there aren't any pics of the inside (always a bit of a give away)and it's only part double glazed, that is the one with 7 acres though.

I've compiled a checklist of all your tips and I'm obsessively looking at the properties on google earth. I've also got the OS map for the area to check out footpaths etc. All the properties have been on the market since June / July 2010 so there might be a bit of a deal to be done, fingers crossed.
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: katie on March 18, 2011, 08:18:14 pm
Gosh, you really are going for it! Best of luck to you!
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: plt102 on March 18, 2011, 10:30:55 pm
so so jealous!! A few years to save up yet I think :-)
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: princesspiggy on March 19, 2011, 08:07:52 pm
so exciting x  :wave:
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: bazzais on March 19, 2011, 10:02:49 pm
I remember looking for our place here and its 'oh such an exciting time'!! Roll on the 1st for you :)

Whatever you choose will normally always work if your dedicated nothing cant be overcome as long as the walls and roof is pretty sturdy - all properties will have problems one way or another but that life isnt it? Some problems you can even learn to live with after a while ;)

The best things I can suggest from experience is be as far from neighbours as possible and dont move to an SSI or national park if you want to expand easily.

I also agree with Castle Farm - def learn to reverse!!  I have some great fun watching people trying to reverse down our lanes when all they can do is reverse park or not even that on there own roads.  For some reason every novice reverser seems to think they need full lock left or right as soon as its in reverse gear! Watching them weave from hedge to hedge is alot of fun when your not in a rush.  lol

Best of luck

Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: fruitfarm on March 20, 2011, 08:15:57 am

  Try to get more land than you think you need. Horrible decor in the house can be replaced but it's expensive to buy more space when that beautiful Dexter cow and the pair of Saanen nannies turn up.

  Also, don't drink too much of their home-made wine even if you are thirsty at the end of a long, hot, house hunting day. That second bottle certainly clouds your judgement!
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: robert waddell on March 20, 2011, 10:04:14 am
the old blind farmer going to look at farms with his son
arrives at the first one and father tells son tie the horse to the nearest docken
but father there is no docks
well if it cant grow dockens
its no use to us
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: HappyHippy on March 20, 2011, 11:12:11 am
Go and see all of them ! You can't judge what they're like without actually seeing them in the flesh. To give my tuppence worth  ;) I think land is key when viewing.
Houses can be renovated, outbuildings can be built but to change the condition of the land will be almost impossible without huge amounts of time and effort. So make sure the soil type is good (no heavy, sticky clay soil) and the fencing, ditches and land drainage is in good order - everything else after that is a relatively easy fix  ;) ;D
Good luck and I'm getting excited for you too !
Karen :wave:
Title: Re: Viewing smallholdings - any tips ?
Post by: smallholder in the city on March 20, 2011, 07:29:20 pm
Yes we're going to see all of them and we're staying a B&B the night before so we can spend some time checking out the local area. We're being shown around by the owners as well so have chance for a bit of a chat and try and find out why they are moving.