Running out of space

What do I need to do to look after my animals during part... While New Zealand may not have the weather extremes that farmers in Australia and other countries have to contend wit...
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Running out of space?

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 a Rural Lifestyle - without too much work or commitment!

If you want more than a holiday home or weekend getaway in the countryside, then a lifestyle block may be an option for you.  You can live on the lifestyle block all year round, or take leave when it suits you, without worrying about major property maintenance. Lifestyle block maintenance can be hard work, but the effort required is much less than that required to run a large-scale farm.

Lifestyle blocks are perfect choices when you want to be close to New Zealand's major cities, but live out of the main city centres.  You can get a lot of land for your money compared to inner city living, giving you great options. For example, you can keep a few farm animals on your lifestyle block, grow some vegetables, undertake crafts like woodturning, and perhaps secure a part time income. 

First National New Zealand agents are lifestyle property specialists, and we'd love to help you find the perfect property. Contact us now, and we’ll talk you through it.

I want to buy a Lifestyle Block or rural property. What are the things I need to start thinking about?

  • Make sure you have realistic expectations when considering the move to a rural area. Consider the surrounding rural infrastructure like communications, roads, agricultural supplies, and general support services and how these available services will support your day-to-day living
  • Be realistic about your own abilities. Will you be able to manage the land you’re purchasing or will you require help?
  • Maintain good lines of communication with your real estate agent. You might be searching for your lifestyle block in an unfamiliar area. First National real estate agents have good knowledge of local rural areas and will help you to find the right lifestyle property match for your needs.
  • There are legal obligations and Council by-laws for you to consider when running a small food growing or farm business.  These obligations cover animal care (identification, tracking / tagging systems), weed and pest controls, and effluent disposal methods.  There are also Council planning restrictions and building codes to consider.  Ensure that you seek legal advice if you are unsure of any of your obligations.

What should I be asking myself when buying a Lifestyle Block?

Before you buy a rural Lifestyle Block, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Is your property within reasonable travelling distance from a town and services?
     
  • How much time and effort can you devote to learning about your chosen farming or food growing activity?
     
  • Do you have sufficient disposable income to adequately support the wellbeing of livestock - including any feeding and medical treatment?
 
  • Are there any other successful lifestyle blocks or hobby farmers nearby who you could learn from and share ideas with?
     
  • Are your family willing to support your lifestyle block farming activities?  Even a small hobby farm can be hard work and time consuming.
     
  • What level of income, if any, do you expect from your property?
     
  • Weather is a factor to consider when farming.  Good farmers prepare for bad weather by storing foodstuffs in summer to use in winter, storing water in winter to be used in summer, and so on.  Are you prepared for a crisis?
  • Do you have the right training and skills in mechanics and farm safety to operate and maintain small farm equipment, or will you need to upskill yourself?  Contact your local farmers co-operative for advice.
     
  • Is your chosen farm activity well suited to the landscape and capability of the land you’re looking at?
     
  • Is there enough water available at your prospective lifestyle block to carry out the farm activity you have in mind?  Is the water supply of suitable quality?
     
  • Are all the public services (electricity, gas, water, sewage, phone, and Internet) you require already provided to the lifestyle block property? If not, how much will it cost you to connect the property up? Or is it an area that will always have limited services?
     
  • Are there any soil erosion issues on the property?  Can they be fixed?  Soil problems can be expensive to rectify. To protect yourself from this risk, you could ask a soil engineer to carry out soil testing, prior to your purchase.

What else do I need to consider about Lifestyle Block farming?

When considering lifestyle block farming, make sure you understand all Council and local planning guidelines around zoning, permitted land uses, animal welfare and land care (including the control of noxious weeds & pests). Your local Council should be able to answer any specific questions.
You’ll also need to think about:
  • Lifestyle Block Infrastructure – Does the property have the fences, sheds, water pumps, dams, drains, bores, irrigation, water supply, tanks, house and general infrastructure that you’ll need? If not, how expensive will it be to add these, ensuring that each item is Council approval?
  • Soil and Water – Are recent soil and water quality test results available? If not, request these to ensure they meet your required standard - or hire a soil Engineer to undertake independent tests for you. If soil or water quality does not meet Council standards, you'll need to factor in the costs to rectify
  • Markets – Are you planning on transporting livestock or produce to local markets? Consider the distance and costs involved
  • Land Care – Weeds and pest infestations can be expensive to eradicate. Check neighbouring properties, access roads, adjoining state forests and water sources to assess conditions. Hire a land care or farming specialist to give you advice if you are in any doubt.  A little money spent up front can save a whole lot of money later on

How can I generate income from livestock on a Lifestyle Block?

If you want your lifestyle block to generate some income while you hold on to your current job, farming may be an option.  If you're going to run a small farm or "hobby farm" as they are sometimes known, consider farming only low-maintenance animal breeds. Be realistic with your expectations. Hobby farms rarely make a significant profit, but they can produce income to help balance your daily living costs.

Low-maintenance livestock breeds recommended for lifestyle blocks include:
  • Goats
  • Sheep
  • Alpacas & Llamas
  • Cows
  • Chickens
  • Ducks
  • Pigs
  • Rabbits
As you’ll likely have only a small supply of livestock on your block, you'll want to market your animals (when it comes time for sale) using niche or value-added marketing. Raise an animal species that can be marketed to a specific demographic, or local wholesalers, or local restaurants. Free range chickens and ducks, for example, are in constant demand, and don't take a lot of space to farm.

Consult your First National Real Estate agent. We'll advise whether the property you are considering is suitable for the particular livestock choice you have in mind. 

​Where can I get help?

At First National Real Estate, we're here to help you. Contact a First National Real Estate agent prior to moving into their area, and get chatting. They are well placed to give you general information and advice about your upcoming move.   They can also add you to our database of potential property buyers or renters, and can send you updates when properties that suit your needs and preferences become available.

What do I need to know about keeping livestock?

Smaller livestock breeds are popular with first time rural block farmers, because they’re easier to handle and can be less costly and more manageable to farm.

Consider these following tips when thinking about livestock:
  • How far is the prospective lifestyle block property from veterinary facilities?  If animals get sick, you may need to get a vet to them quickly. Animals tend to get sick at the most inconvenient moments. Will you be able to drop everything to attend to your animals’ welfare if needed?
  • If you want to keep cattle, does the farm have appropriate fencing and loading ramps?  Does it also have cattle traps in roads and sufficient space for the cattle to roam?  Cattle generally require a large amount of grazing space
  • If you have horses, will you be available when horses are foaling?  Horses often need help to deliver their foals
  • If you have lambs, will you be available for lambing season?  New-born lambs sometimes need to be bottle fed for extended periods
  • Can you attend immediately to escaped cattle?  Are you able to quickly repair damaged fences yourself? Check that there are local fencing and farming contractors available and close to your lifestyle block if required
New hobby farmers will benefit from visiting one of the many A&P Field Days or lifestyle farming expos held each year in New Zealand, to get an understanding of what's truly required to look after farm animals.  At these shows you'll meet other lifestyle farmers, Council staff, and experts from various farming supply companies.  Local vets can also help you to understand the common issues they encounter.

I want to generate some income from farming crops. What are the basics I need to know?

If you wish to grow crops on your lifestyle block, you'll need at least a basic knowledge of soil composition, pest control, and water irrigation.  Water supply and quality is particularly important if you'll be away from your property regularly.

Some relatively profitable crops you can grow include berries, asparagus, leafy greens, garlic and onions. These are quick to grow and produce plentiful outputs.

Talk to your local garden centre for crop growing advice, or visit the A&P Field Days to talk with experts who have first-hand experience of lifestyle farming.

How else can I generate income from my lifestyle block?

There are a large number of ways that your lifestyle block can generate income.  You should select an opportunity that is suitable for your property type, that fits in with your lifestyle and work ethic, and that you'll enjoy being a part of.  Some of the ways that lifestyle block owners produce income are:
  • Farming free-range chickens for eggs
  • Free range livestock 
  • Keeping bees for honey-making
  • Using cow or goat milk for making cheese
  • Growing niche fruits or vegetables such as heirloom tomatoes
  • Making organic wine or cider
The Lifestyle Block website contains a wide range of information that is useful for New Zealand lifestyle block owners.

How can I get a mortgage for a Lifestyle Block?

Many New Zealand banks and lending institutions offer mortgages to purchase lifestyle blocks. There are many influencing factors when a bank decides whether or not to advance funds to you, but your ability to keep up payments on the mortgage is probably one of the biggest considerations.  Specialist mortgage brokers operating in rural areas will be able to advise you on how best to negotiate with lenders.
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