5 Questions I Should Have Asked Before Buying a Country House

We were so busy daydreaming about life outside the city we forgot to inquire about the realities of living in a country house.

Couple sitting on wooden steps in front of their country house
Photo: Trinette Reed/Getty Images

My husband and I bought our first country house with blinders on. We wanted the quiet and tranquil life we imagined that came from living far from any city, and we had a clear vision of how rural living looked. We pictured lush gardens and quiet morning walks down a dirt road while our future kids blew dandelion fluff and chased grasshoppers. (See? Total blinders.) We were so caught up in our fantasy that we didn't think to ask some pretty basic questions about country life.

What Kind of Wild Animals Will We Encounter?

In our backyard, which is four acres of mostly woods, there is a fox den—with actual foxes living in it. Those foxes (while beautiful to see occasionally wandering around our yard) have killed all of our chickens, and one even stole my infant child's sun hat that fell out of a stroller. We've spotted wild rabbits, deer, skunks, porcupines, raccoons, mice, and rats, and one year—when our raspberry patch was especially robust—a black bear, which nearly gave me a heart attack.

How Will Having a Well Impact Our Lives?

Plus: What, exactly, is a septic tank and leach field? Everything revolves around water here. If we don't get enough rain, the threat of a well drying up is real—and honestly, a little scary. Having a septic tank means that whatever we flush essentially lives in our yard in an area called the leach field. (No more blue pucks of toilet cleaner or bleach or other reliable chemicals to keep our toilet clean.) Now we have to be more careful about what we flush since there is no handy metropolitan water treatment facility to handle our waste.

How Close Is the Nearest Grocery Store?

I should have also thought about what that distance meant, practically speaking. We have to drive an hour round-trip just to go to the store to buy milk and diapers. My husband and I have become BFFs with meal planning now that we fully understand that a taco craving means driving for an hour, wandering the grocery store, paying out the nose for fresh ingredients, then cooking everything at home. And, brace yourself: There is no such thing as delivery or take-out.

How Is the Internet Connection?

My husband and I were dumbfounded after we moved into our dream house to find that not only is there no high-speed cable hook up but that we have to tether our internet from our cell phones—which have spotty reception at best. Not only is the internet unreliable, but anytime there is bad weather, we lose our power. We've invested in a generator and have learned that when a snowstorm is coming, we need to get gas and water just in case.

What Are the Neighbors Like?

In my twenties, I lived in cities with a constantly revolving set of neighbors in my apartment building. So, it never really occurred to me to ask about the general vibe of the neighborhood when my husband and I went to buy a country house. After all, we can't even see our neighbors—everyone is separated by lovely woods, rock walls, dirt roads, and cow pastures. But we can certainly hear them. Like, the neighbor across the street who loves guns and shoots target practice every day, no matter the temperature outside, from sun up until sundown. The realtor failed to mention this while we were gushing over the views from the kitchen window.

Ultimately we got what we wanted when we set out to find the place where we'd lay down roots: serene vistas and quiet. But we still wish we'd been better prepared for what living our dream life in the country would really entail.

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