Thinking about buying a rural site or cottage and building your own dream country cottage or home?

  • by

Many people have this ambition at various stages of their life and contact me with questions about how easy, or otherwise, it might be.

Buying a site in a rural part of Ireland is a simple exercise and will set you back anything from €15,000 to €150,000, depending on the location. Buying the site is the easy part. 

The most important thing you will need to consider about your venture is planning permission. Firstly, will you be allowed to build on that site, at all? Secondly, will you be allowed to build something that you like?

It’s all very well buying a cheap site in a beautiful, scenic part of rural Ireland. Getting planning permission to carry out any development will be a different, difficult prospect.

Some planning authorities are more restrictive than their counterparts in neighbouring counties but all planning authorities will be, or should be, operating within the planning laws and the various guidelines, directions and regulations from central government, the Department of the Environment, and related departments.

Curtailing so called ribbon development and one off houses in rural Ireland are well established policy positions of the State for many years. Let’s face it, we cannot have a ‘free for all’ with no restrictions or boundaries as to where you can build.

You will also encounter groups like Teagasc who have an interest in the environment and planning matters and keep an eye on planning applications all over the country. They may also object to your plans which will cause you more costs in time and money.

Even if you get some positive indication from a local authority as to the chances of getting permission you will then have to consider roads and services abutting and serving the property. There is almost certainly going to be no services such as water and sewerage therefore you will have to drill your own well and insert some type of system for the treatment of household waste and sewerage. 

The cost of installing these services can vary widely and the topography and physical make up of the site will be important factors in determining the final cost.

The road access to the site is of vital importance, too. The important thing in this regard is whether the local authority has taken the road abutting the property in charge. 

If they have not then is there appropriate legal access to the site, with no disputes about rights of way or maintenance or boundaries? Or is there an unregistered right of way? Is there any possibility of that ‘right of way’ disappearing once you, as a blow in, begin to use it?

You may be happy to overlook things like road access now but you may not always want to live in the same property and you can be sure that the next buyer of your property may be in a completely different situation. 

Buyers who are borrowing from the bank, for example, will not be able to overlook any problem regarding access. Those buyers, or their solicitor to be more accurate, will need to ensure the lender gets good, clean title to the property. 

If there is no legal access or any doubts about the road being in charge of the local authority the lender may not lend because moving on the lender’s security later on may be a worthless exercise if there is a dispute about access to the property.

That may not affect you now but it will affect the persons who may consider buying your property in the future. So it is not something that you can just push to one side and accept. It may come back to haunt you in the future.

Development levies

If you are successful in getting planning permission you need to take a close look at the development levies imposed by the planning authority in the permission. These sums of money must  be paid to the local authority, ostensibly for the provision of roads and service to the property, although it may be difficult to see what exactly the council does for the money.

Building contractor or self build?

You will need to decide whether your project is going to be carried out by sub contractors and labourers with you supervising and organising the work and the contractors. Or you can put the entire job out for tender and get one building contractor to do the entire job for a fixed, agreed contract price.

Unless you are skilled and experienced, the task of running the site yourself, sourcing materials, contractors, labourers, perhaps machinery is a time consuming job which requires skill and experience.

Conclusion

Having a dream of building or renovating a country property gives a warm glow and feeling of satisfaction with dreams of the future may hold in your rural property, maybe trying your hand at some degree of self sufficiency by growing your own vegetables, keeping hens, and so forth.

But take great care in taking a cold hard look at the project from the outset and don’t make the mistake of falling in love with a dream but ignoring the more practical (and costly) considerations that you need to take into account.