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Buying rural land 

Rural land means land that is used or apparently intended to be used for gain or profit from grazing of livestock, dairying, poultry farming, viticulture, orcharding, beekeeping, horticulture, the growing of crops of any kind, and vegetable growing.

Although your country ‘weekender’ may not have stock on it, the fact that it is apparently intended for such use would make it rural property under the law.

Under the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002, Real Estate Agents can act in the purchase or sale of rural properties up to 20 hectares in size. However, a licensed Stock and Station Agent must handle properties over that size, and any livestock transactions. Before dealing with an agent, ask to see their licence and then call Fair Trading on 13 32 20 to check that it is current.

Important issues to consider when buying rural land are:

  • The economic climate of the area. Is the land to be used for agriculture, commercial purposes or private use?
  • Check that the property has appropriate council approvals and council zoning for any external buildings, and any future development.
  • How close by are health and other services that you need?
  • What are the property taxes?
  • Does the contract include any licences such as water usage?
  • What about accessibility of service utilities such as power and telecommunication?
  • Check for flood plains, areas with access problems, water problems.
  • Particularly check for any easements or rights of way that may be through the property. Even though they may have not been used for some time, their use by others can affect your rights as well.
  • Check that effective controls are in place and work has been maintained to control noxious pests on the land, such as rabbits and noxious weeds. Eradicating these can be costly.

If looking for undeveloped land, check the following:

  • Water tables, depth, quality and reliability.
  • Proximity of utilities and costs to bring them to the land / property and for installation and maintenance.
  • Country road maintenance and accessibility in adverse climate conditions.

Clearing sales

If buying a property, ensure exactly what is being sold to you along with the property. Many owners of rural land, when selling, conduct a ‘clearing sale’, during which farm and household implements are auctioned. While these auctions are commonly conducted by the agent selling the property, the conduct of clearing sales is not a standard activity of agents, and any funds paid to the agent in trust for the owner of the goods are not protected by the Property Services Compensation Fund. Many sales are conducted on a cash only basis.


During the conveyancing process of purchasing rural land, any unpaid or outstanding expenses relating to the property, such as rates and utility fees, are identified. These amounts become part of the calculation of the final figure which the purchaser is required to pay at the time of settlement. These are pro-rated so the vendor pays any amount owing for the period up until the date of settlement, and the purchaser pays any amount owing for the period after settlement.