Living the High Life – Considerations When Renting or Buying a Home in the Mountains
Living on a mountain can seem like a dream come true, offering the potential for beautiful views, clean air, relative solitude, and peace and quiet. While mountainous terrains come in a wide variety of climates, ranging from the hot and arid Guadalupe Mountains of Texas to the damp yet fertile slopes of the Cascade mountain range in Washington State, there are some commonalities to keep in mind when considering renting or buying a home in the mountains.
Every experienced home buyer knows that location in one of the most important variables when considering a new home, and mountain retreats are no exception. The area of the country, annual rainfalls, proximity to state parks and other protected lands, and potential views can have a significant impact on how much enjoyment you might get from your new home. Also, keep in mind how far you might be from essential services like the grocery store, school or work, and the local hospital. Consider whether the house has sufficient pantry space to allow you to store more dry goods, reducing the need for frequent grocery runs.
Roads and Access
One of the positive features of rural mountain living is your relative isolation from other people, but that positive can turn into a negative depending on your situation. Do you need to or would mind making a long drive to work each day? Do you have family members that need to go into town often? What are your roads like (paved, gravel, tar, and chip) and are they maintained by the state, a neighborhood association, or just by local individual homeowners? If there is a snowstorm or other serious weather, you may be unable to leave your house for days at a time… How will that impact your ability to live and work? You can talk to other local residents to get a feel for how road access may change at different times of the year.
Reliable electricity, fast internet, good cell phone service, and fluoridated water are conveniences we take for granted when living in a big city, but these services might be quite different if living in a rural, mountainous area. Again, talk to your potential neighbors to get good information about how reliable your utilities might be, which cell phone services work best in the area, and what the water quality is like. You may have to put in or maintain a septic system for sewage and dig a well for your water if you’re too far from the city grid to connect. If you have the resources, you might also consider building or putting in renewable energy sources (e.g. solar or a windmill) to reduce your reliance on the main grid, or look into getting a generator. Water can be another unexpected variable. Some mountainous regions have truly fantastic water, crisp and clean and ready to drink. Others might experience residues or minerals in their water, problems that may be able to be solved with smart home filtration systems.
If you’ve lived in a city all your life, you will likely be amazed by the variety and quantity of wildlife that you’ll be able to see right outside your door. Even in arid zones, mountains can be home to a wide-ranging list of flora and fauna. Most families that choose the mountain life decide to do so in harmony with nature as much as possible, and that means making some concessions to minimize your impact and live alongside your natural neighbors. Research your area – different mountainous regions have different wildlife that call for different solutions. Everyone in the family should be able to recognize which snakes might be venomous and which are harmless; the non-venomous ones can be great to have around to cut down on mice and other vermin! Think about how your trash will be stored. Outside trash cans may be a dinner bell to any bears that live in the area. If you are planning a garden, consider fencing it in or taking other precautions to minimize damage from local rabbits, groundhogs, and other critters. And get in the habit of driving slowly on your back roads as deer and other creatures can dart out with little notice.
Taxes, Insurance, and Land Use Agreements
A few other variables to keep in mind involve legal and financial considerations for your new land. Property taxes are often considerably lower per acre, but homeowner’s insurance may be high due to an increased risk for wildfires and distance to the nearest fire station. Look into flood insurance as well. You may be thinking, I’m on a mountain, I can’t flood – but flood insurance may also cover mudslides which can be a real risk in certain parts of the country. Also, look into the zoning laws for the area you are considering… You and your neighbors might be able to keep chicken, cows, or horses, or run a business out of the home. These things may not matter to you, but if they do you should be aware of the potential land use agreements for your area.
Living in the mountains can be a blessing, embracing a more peaceful life surrounded by nature, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Many people would revel in the relative isolation and need to be more self-reliant, while others couldn’t survive without a good coffee shop in walking distance. But with the proper tools and good planning, living in the mountains can be a wonderful place to raise a family and to embrace your new deliberately lived life.