More Due Diligence Required: Buying a home on country property outside of legal city boundaries presents different considerations than buying a home within city limits. The standard utilities that you take for granted in the city are not ones you can take for granted with country properties. The property owner—not the city or county—must provide water, waste disposal, road maintenance, gas and internet and television connections.
Water Supply – Separate or Shared? Some properties have their own separate well; others share wells with neighboring properties under the auspices of a formal mutual water company or an informal neighborhood alliance.
It’s important to know who has the responsibility for maintaining the water source and testing the water quality. A mutual water company performs these functions and bills its customers based upon their consumption. Neighbors sharing a well should have a formal, binding agreement that clearly outlines responsibilities for repair, testing and cost sharing, but in my experience, this usually is not the case.
Check out the water supply situation and ask to see recent well reports on the water quality and the gallons-per-minute output. If there is no current information, request a professional inspection far in advance of the closing date as laboratory results can take several days.
Septic System: In the countryside where houses are too far apart to be connected to a common sewage system, each home has its own private septic system—basically a large tank that collects and drains human waste to a leach field. Sometimes a pump is necessary to move the waste along, depending upon the location of the leach field.
Although a septic tank inspection is not required by the county, you should find out if it is working properly.
If you are thinking of buying acreage and building a custom home on the property, the number of bedrooms permitted by Sonoma County depends upon the size and absorption rate of the soil of the potential leach field, determined by a percolation test.
Road Maintenance—County or Private? Of course, you are responsible for your own driveway, but who maintains the roads leading up to your house? The county, the homeowners’ association, or neighbors who share the common egress? How are the costs determined and shared? These are questions your real estate agent should be able to find out for you.
Internet/Television/Cell Phone: Sorry, no cable availability in the country, but satellite dishes facing the southern sky work well. Internet DSL connections utilize telephone landlines and speed varies depending upon distance from the digital substation. Cell phone reception can be spotty, but there are devices that can help boost the signal.
Propane Gas: The utility company does not provide gas to country properties so if you prefer cooking or heating your home with gas, it’ll be propane. The price per gallon varies widely and some homeowner associations have agreements with a selected propane provider to get the best price possible for their residents.
Deer & Other Wildlife: Deer are adorable…until they begin eating your roses. A property with enclosed deer fencing protects landscaping and gardening, and is often a feature that is overlooked.