Lifestyle / Hobby Farms

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Lifestyle / Hobby Farms

The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions. Click here for full Terms of Use.

I want to buy a ‘Lifestyle’ or ‘Hobby Farm’. What are the things I need to think about from the outset?

It’s vital that you develop a clear idea of how you want your lifestyle farm to enhance your life.
  • Make sure you have the right expectations of a move to a rural area. Understand what it means for your lifestyle in terms of general infrastructure i.e. communications, roads, agricultural supplies, and general support services.
  • Make sure that you’re realistic about your ability to manage the land you intend to purchase
  • Good communication with your real estate agent is vital. Hobby farms can be located a long distance from where you live, so you need someone who can provide detailed information about the area as well as the type of property that will suit your needs. As ‘Lifestyle Specialists’, First National members are well placed to give you good advice.
  • Understand the legal obligations of running a small farm and elements such as caring for animals, identification, tracking / tagging systems, and local Council and State Government planning restrictions and building codes. There are also laws for things like controlling weeds and pests.

What sorts of questions should I ask myself when buying a Lifestyle Farm?

Before you buy a rural Lifestyle Retreat or Hobby Farm, ask yourself…
  • Is it located a reasonable, short distance from a town and services?
  • Are you ready to learn more about your chosen farming activity?
  • Do you have the necessary disposable income to support the wellbeing of livestock?
  • Are there successful similar small or hobby farm enterprises nearby?
  • Are you and your family fit, committed and ready to meet its demands?
  • What financial benefits do you expect, or need, to make the farm economically viable?
  • Are you able to deal with Mother Nature’s challenges?
  • Is the activity you plan suited to the landscape and capability of the land?
  • Is there enough water to carry out the activity that you have in mind and is it of suitable quality?
  • Are all required services provided to the property? If not, can they be provided economically? Or is it an area that will always have limited services? Services include phone, gas, water, sewer and electricity.
  • Is there soil erosion on the property that will be time consuming and expensive to fix?

What are some of the specifics to consider with Lifestyle Farms?

You must understand local planning guidelines concerning zoning, permitted uses, animals, land care (controlling noxious weeds & pests).

The local council will be able to answer your questions but also…
  • Make sure fences, sheds, water pumps, dams, drains, bores, irrigation, water supply, tanks, house and general infrastructure meets your needs and ascertain whether they have council approval
  • Soil and water – do they meet your required standard or need further tests?
  • Markets – will you need to transport livestock or produce to markets? Consider the distance and costs involved.
  • Weeds and pest infestations can be expensive to eradicate. Check neighbouring properties, access roads, adjoining state forests and water sources. Ask an agronomist if you have concerns.

How can I generate income from livestock on a Lifestyle or Hobby Farm?

If you want your rural lifestyle farm to generate some income but you still need to hold a job in the city, it’s sensible to look towards some of the easier breeds for first time farmers. It’s also vital that you are realistic in your expectations. Lifestyle farms rarely make a profit but costs can be mitigated.

Consider raising livestock such as:
  • Goats
  • Sheep
  • Alpacas & Llamas
  • Cows
  • Chickens
  • Pigs
  • Rabbits
‘Niche’ or ‘value added’ marketing is generally thought to be the best approach. Raise a livestock species that can be marketed to a specific demographic.

However, ask your real estate agent for advice about whether the property you desire is suitable for your particular choice of livestock. First National’s ‘Lifestyle Specialists’ will be only too happy to assist.

What do I need to think about if I decide to keep some livestock?

Smaller livestock breeds are popular with first time farmers because they’re easier to handle and the infrastructure is more manageable.

Consider these other factors as well…
  • How far is your intended Lifestyle Farm from Veterinary facilities?
  • If you want cattle, does the farm have cattle yards, appropriate fences, and loading ramps?
  • Will you be available when horses are foaling?
  • Will you be available when ‘bottle lambs’ need feeding?
  • Can you attend immediately to escaped cattle and repair flattened fences?
  • Animals rarely get sick at convenient times. Can you drop everything when an animal’s welfare requires your attention?
To better develop your ideas, and assure the welfare of animals, we suggest you attend one of the many small farm and field days expos that are held around the country each year. Also talk to local Vets about the local track record with the types of animals you are thinking of buying.

I want to generate an income from crops. What are the fundamentals?

If you plan to grow crops, you must understand soil composition and be prepared to develop your knowledge of pest control. Plus, you’ll need access to clean water supplies and have a well-developed irrigation plan, particularly if you won’t be at the property full time.

High value crops like berries, asparagus, leafy greens, garlic and onions are considered by many to be very profitable.

Once again, consider attending one of the many small farms and field days expos so you can talk to experts and gain insight into lifestyle farming and its challenges.

What other ways do people generate an income from on Lifestyle and Hobby Farms?

Some of the methods of generating income from a lifestyle farm are:
  • Farming free-range eggs
  • Making honey
  • Cheese making
  • Growing heirloom tomatoes or other vegetables
  • Making organic wine / apple cider
First National Real Estate recommends you obtain a copy of ‘The Profitable Hobby Farm’ from CSIRO publishing for comprehensive advice and suggestions.

Are there any tips for getting a mortgage with Lifestyle and Hobby Farms?

All sorts of factors influence a bank’s decision making when it comes to financing small farms. Mortgage brokers in rural areas are best placed to advise you about how to negotiate with banks and what sorts of factors they consider.

What else do I need to know when buying rural land?

Rural land means land that is used or intended to be used for grazing of livestock, dairying, poultry farming, viticulture, orchards, beekeeping, horticulture, the growing of crops of any kind, and vegetable growing.

When buying rural land, important issues are…
  • The economic climate of the area. Is the land to be used for agriculture, commercial purposes or private use?
  • Check that the property has appropriate council approvals and council zoning for any external buildings, and any future development.
  • What about your health and age? (Do you expect to have need for services that are found in cities and regional centres?)
  • What are the applicable property taxes?
  • Does the contract of sale include any licenses such as water usage etc.?
  • What about accessibility of service utilities such as power and phone?
  • Check for flood plains, areas with access problems, water problems.
  • Particularly check for any easements or rights of way that may be through the property. Even though they may have not been used for some time, their use by others can affect your rights as well.
  • Check that effective controls are in place and work has been maintained to control noxious pests on the land, such as rabbits and noxious weeds. Eradication of these can be expensive.

What should I check for when buying undeveloped rural land?

If buying undeveloped land, check the following:
  • Water tables, depth, quality and reliability
  • Proximity of utilities and costs to bring them to the land / property and for installation and maintenance
  • Country road maintenance and accessibility in adverse climate conditions
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