Finding the perfect lifestyle block

the perfect lifestyle farmLifestyle blocks come in all shapes and sizes and before you start looking for the perfect block you need to know what you're looking for.
The first thing you need to consider is what you want to do with your block. Do you want livestock, crops or a mixture of the two? Do you want to make hay or silage from the pasture? Do you want flat, easy to manage country or rolling hills and bush-clad gullies?
When you're looking at properties to buy, use the following checklist to help ensure you don't end up spending more than you expected.

Water

You can't farm without water so the first thing to check on any block is that it has a good water supply. Having a bore or well on the property is good, and relying on roof water is great as long as there is sufficient storage. If you have to rely on a water easement from a neighbour then ensure that agreements are in place that make it clear what is supplied and at what cost.

Fencing

Fencing is expensive so check the existing fencing carefully. Wires can be tightened and battens straightened but if strainer posts are broken then the cost of repair will start to climb. Check that gates do their job - they shouldn't have to be lifted and dragged over the ground to get them open!
If the block already has electric fencing then that is a plus - electric wires keep stock from pushing on fencing.

Soil

Soil types vary around NZ and there is a vast difference between volcanic ash, clay and sandy soils. What you can do with your block depends a great deal on the soil.
Check with the local council about past uses of the land. If there has been commercial cropping or an old sheep dipping site then there may be toxic residues in the soil.
Consider getting a soil test done before buying. You'll get an idea of any problems and an indication of how much they will take to fix.

Weeds

When looking at the block keep an eye out for weeds. It's hard to find completely weed-free pasture but an infestation of a noxious weed could cost you time and money to eradicate.

Contour

If the contour of the block is steep then consider whether it is suitable for heavy livestock. Generally, the heavier the livestock, the flatter the ground you want. That doesn't mean you can't keep heavy livestock on hills but they will damage the pasture.
Flat land is great for getting around, siting buildings, cutting hay, spreading fertilizer and often keeping an eye on livestock.
Rolling or steep country presents challenges but often offers cheaper land and amazing views.

Outbuildings

You can never have too many sheds! Building sheds and animal shelters is expensive so if you can buy a property with existing shedding do so.

Shelter

Does the block offer shelter from freezing southerlies and scorching summer sun? Both livestock and pasture benefit from some protection.

Neighbours

Neighbours can tell you all about the history of the block, the adequacy of local services and the friendliness of the local community so if you can speak to a neighbour or neighbours before buying a property then do so.
While you're talking to the neighbour find out about their interests and ask what they do on their block. You may not want to live next to a motocross enthusiast or the local heavy metal band's rehearsal studio!

Local amenities

Fuel costs are rising (always!) so distance to amenities is also important. Think not just of shops and schools but doctors, dentists, libraries and a good coffee shop.

Yards

If you are planning to have cattle then you need to have yards. Even small yards can cost thousands of dollars to build to existing yards are an asset.

Easements/covenants

Increasingly, lifestyle blocks are being sold with covenants stipulating what you can and can't do. Check these out thoroughly before buying. Also check out any easements which affect the block and find out what the legal position is.

Communications

Finally make sure that the block has broadband internet access and mobile phone coverage.

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