So many times I come across buyers who initially describe their home search criteria as acreage in the mountainous areas of the county ( Scotts Valley, Happy Valley, Bonny Doon, the San Lorenzo Valley, etc). I believe there are a couple reasons for this, one being many people just want an opportunity to have a slice of the pie here in Santa Cruz County, it’s one of a kind. The other, is the idea of lustrous acreage to call your own is in itself romantic, almost a “calling”, however there are things to consider when thinking of moving to the glorious mountain side.
1) Commute Time
Typically when I am showing new acreage seeking clients this is the first thing that will come up. With acreage comes s-p-a-c-e and -d-i-s-t-a-n-c-e. If you are not comfortable being 10 to 20 ( to 30-40) minutes away from the nearest store, perhaps a mountain property isn’t right for you right now. Consider the drive that would be made every day ( sometimes multiple times.) When I first moved to the mountains I realized very quickly that if you forgot something at the store by the time you got home, it usually isn’t worth the drive back.
Guess what!? Things are done differently out here in the land! Septic tanks, wells, and propane are all common place. These utilities are incredibly important and even more vital to investigate up front. These are fundamentally important to the property, and therefore must be functioning properly, and in addition you should have a some-what clear understanding of the length of life left in these systems.
For example: How about maintenance? Is your propane tank leased or owned? Does it have an auto-fill service set up? What is running on propane in the home? How many GPM does the well produce? Is the well shared, and is there a written agreement regarding maintenance and usage? Has there been a recent bacteria test? Is there a well pump, is it functioning? Is there a water softener or filter set up? Who services that? Has the septic been serviced recently, and has it been regularly serviced in the past? Has there been issues in the past? How old is the system? Is there any grey water system set up to limit the pressure on the tank? In the future if it fails, what are the options? Would it require an engineered system which is a much greater cost?
That being said, wells and septics don’t need to be intimidating, they are actually pretty self sufficient. However, it is incredibly important to make sure that they are functioning and you know how to property diagnose if something is going wrong in order to fix it.
How many exits are there? Seriously. A lot of these properties have long, windy, and narrow roads that lead to them. You should be comfortable driving them in all weather conditions, and know your options should there be a fire or an emergency.
With acreage, again, comes space and privacy. You are going to want to investigate what services are available in the location you would like to move to. Is there cell service, or effective boosters available? Is there an internet service that supplies the area? If you work from home, or stream videos over the internet as your source of entertainment these things will be very important to you.
So, you have found this beautiful piece of land that connects you to your roots, now how to take care of it? Besides the mandatory utility maintenance, how about the overall upkeep of this much land?
Is the property completely level or does it vary? You are going to want to make sure you have the drainage figured out before a big storm comes. Unregulated water drainage and runoff can undermine structures, damage the landscaping, create mudslides, etc; the water can flow like you have never seen. Test the drains to make sure they work, it’s a surprise you don’t want to find in the middle of a storm. Trust me, get this looked at.
When it rains, it pours, and power outages happen. When you are home from work in a storm, haven’t made dinner yet and the power goes out, you are not going to be a happy camper. Setting up a generator can be a huge lifesaver in these situations. When looking to by a mountain property find out if they already have a set up.
If you are planning to grow vegetables – is it fenced or protected from predators? Trust me, deer can jump HIGH and will find food wherever it is. You can invest a lot of money into the diets of deer ( I am an excellent real life example of this)
How about that roof? In the mountains, there are trees – those trees tend to drop things. Make sure your roof has life in it and is functioning. If you let a roof deteriorate it is going to be a big cost down the line. Not only in the fixing of the actual roof, but also the potential damage to the property and items below. Simply cleaning out your gutters as well as cleaning off fallen leaves can greatly help the length of life.
Mountain life is really something else. You get freedom, peace and adventure. Just know that requires responsibility and respect, being close with nature also requires your attention to it. Take time to consider if these responsibilities are things you want in the long run. If you have that locked in, you are good to go.