In discussions around real estate, it can seem like cities are where all the action is. Areas like Toronto have no shortage of people clamouring to live in the hustle and bustle and these markets get a lot of attention as a result. However, in recent years more and more people are turning to rural properties for their lifestyle and investment opportunities. In a work-from-home era, and in a country with an abundance of open land, the decision to move rural is looking better all the time.
We spoke to Adam DeGroote, a top local realtor from the Brantford area who, among other things, specializes in rural and agricultural properties. His praise for rural Ontario isn’t from a point of salesmanship either. He grew up on a farm and still lives rural life to this day. His passion for the topic of rural real estate clearly comes from a very personal place.
More than just farms in rural areas
For anyone thinking about making the move from the city, DeGroote wants you to know that rural life is not just for farmers and it is “fundamentally not that much different than city life, except you have far less people around you and much more personal space.”
“In fact, with each passing year, there are fewer and fewer farmers as farm operations get larger and weed out the smaller guys. Most rural properties are owned by non-farmers who want to enjoy the peace and quiet, more space and less people around.”
Though, you could farm out there if you wanted to. In fact, more than anywhere else, a rural plot gives you immense options for what you can do on your property. From a simple bush lot, a home, or a hobby farm, all the way up to a fully operational farm. Many people are attracted to these areas for the freedom they provide for leisure, recreation, and hobbies.
Rural areas seeing a massive push from migrating city-dwellers
DeGroote cites recent trends in remote work and the woes of cities in lockdown as a big driver pushing people out of the cities. According to Statistics Canada, Toronto lost over 50,000 residents to other areas of the province in 2020 while rural areas saw an increase of 10,000 new residents.
“The past two years I have seen a significant increase in buyers looking to relocate to rural areas from the cities,” said DeGroote. “Buyers quickly realized that when most of their leisure activities are no longer permitted, when children are home from school, and when distancing is encouraged, there really is no better place to be than in a rural setting. “
“I feel like there are far more advantages than disadvantages, especially in today’s technologically driven society,” continues DeGroote. “As long as you have good and reliable internet service, you can literally work from anywhere. You no longer need to live in the city where you work. You can be a few minutes drive to all amenities but come home to your own peace and quiet. I do not need to visit a cottage because my home is literally my cottage and anyone I know that lives in the country says the same thing. It’s a way of life that is a little slower paced and I think COVID has opened a lot of people’s eyes to the tremendous lifestyle that can be enjoyed with rural living. And, you can sell your home in Toronto for big bucks and those dollars can go a lot further in the more rural areas.”
One thing that doesn’t change when you leave the cities is the difficult market conditions that have been seen across the country. According to DeGroote, rural properties are often subject to competition among buyers with multiple offers and sales above asking becoming “the new normal”.
Rural real estate investments
Another thing that rural property has in common with its urban counterpart is its high viability as an investment. DeGroote uses Bill Gates as an example of why the average investor should pay attention to rural real estate. The high-profile investor has bought almost 300,000 acres of farmland in the US, making him one of the country’s largest holders of farmland.
“Farmland is a commodity and not only a commodity, but it is also a commodity that is needed to feed every person on Earth. Investing in a product that will never be out of demand is never a bad idea. Yes, the cost of buying plots of farmland is higher than your average single-family detached home, and financing is not as easy, but if an investor is able to purchase farmland, you will never ever be without a tenant and there are virtually no maintenance costs involved to the owner. It is a great hedge against inflation and requires very little management.”