In rural real estate here in Southwest Missouri, the term "hobby farm" is used frequently. Some other similar but less popular terms are: gentleman's farm, ranchette, or farmette.
Hobby farm, though, is not a definable term. It depends on what your hobby is, right?
I've seen many types of properties described as hobby farms:
- $1 million+ executive homes on acreage with facilities for horses
- 10 acre plots with a new doublewide and some pasture fencing.
- Wooded 80 acre plots with a spot that can be cleared to build a home.
- Old homesteads with a collection of outbuildings and a farmhouse in an unknown state of repair.
Each of the properties described above could be someone's dream "hobby farm".
As a buyer, it's important for you to really think about what you're looking for, and what you want to do with it. You can waste a lot of time driving hours through the country, with or without an agent, looking for the perfect rural property to buy.
So before you jump behind the wheel, and fill up the car with expensive gasoline, sit down and ask yourself a few questions.
1. Where are you going to work, and how far can you commute? Unless you have a job lined up elsewhere, you're probably looking at either Springfield or Joplin as your best bet for job prospects. Small town jobs are limited and often low-paid.
2. How far can you drive for basic services such as groceries and health care?
3. Do you have school-age children, and where will they go to school? Public, private/religious, home schooled?
4. Are you planning to have animals? How many and what kind? Many outlying subdivisions here in the Springfield/Joplin area that include enough acreage to accomodate animals have very strict rules about them. Examples of restrictions include: 1 animal per acre, horses but no poultry, etc.
5. Are you planning to garden? How much space do you need? If you're considering gardening as a moneymaker, you need to get detailed information about the soil on your land and consider proximity to farmer's markets or other customers as part of your detailed business plan.
6. How much time and money do you have to spend on home and land restoration and upkeep? A fixer- upper home home can be a wonderful project, or a money-draining nightmare. Broken-down fencing will not keep your animals at home, and must be fixed.
7. Do you want woods, or cleared land? Flat and useful, or hilly and scenic?
8. Are you planning to start a home-based business that requires visibility? Even something as basic as selling eggs from the farm requires that someone drive by and see your sign!
When you've answered all these questions, take a look at your results. Does your money match your dreams? What's most and least important on this list?
Living in rural Southwest Missouri can be a dream come true, if you do your homework up front. So when you see the "perfect hobby farm" advertised, ask the agent (and yourself!) a lot of questions. Bring your head to the discussion, not just your heart. Be patient, and you'll find YOUR perfect hobby farm.