By Jeff Stern

Are you a country bumpkin at heart? Maybe you only think you are. In almost 30 years of helping people find homes, I’ve seen the eyes of the citified go positively dreamy with thoughts of living in the country. I think a lot of us have this romantic, picturesque view of what rural living is like.

Most of us are clueless about what it’s really like. We have no idea. As I’ve helped people move from the city to the country or vice versa, I’ve discovered six myths about country living that are commonly believed.



Myth #1. Living in the country is romantic.

Their eyes get that dreamy look when they talk about living in the country. They talk about how healthy the fresh air will be and revel in the lack of traffic their country road will have compared to the teeming rivers of traffic outside their apartment.

And the view – oh, they let a sigh escape when they talk about their own private view of nature from the patio. Imagine… we’ll watch the sunset together. See the stars! And it’s true. All of it. But it’s not the whole truth. Funny, we only imagine the picturesque countryside as a static summer photo.

Besides enjoying the lessened traffic on that quiet gravel road, one also must travel that same gravel road come icy rain or snowstorm. Bosses don’t necessarily sympathize with staff who cannot make it in because of weather in the country. After all, you did choose to move there.

Then, as each season settles, reality settles in with it. Autumn requires seasonal septic field maintenance. Let’s not even talk about the septic tank or well water. The driveway needs to be clear and it feels three miles long when you’re clearing snow in the early darkness of a January evening while the open area winds blow it back again.

In spring, the fresh country air turns sour, wafting its putrid manure smell into the kitchen window. Then summer gravel blankets the car with dust every day, and stone chips start appearing in the paint. Dust even floats in the window, coating the windowsills in a fresh layer each week. Living in the country, it turns out, is a lot more work and mess than originally thought.

Myth #2: Living in the country is cheaper.

One client of mine, finding the rural lifestyle appealing, moved to the country. When I followed up with them about it afterward, they said it was good, they liked country life, but they couldn’t believe the cost of utilities. And, since their careers and social lives remained rooted in Winnipeg, they discovered the fuel cost and wear on their vehicle from the commute to be substantial. So much so, they decided to move right back to the city.

Myth #3: Following the heart is a good idea.

Sometimes people move to be near a loved one. This one is not exclusively about country living, but I feel the need to include it.

My client wanted to move to the country for no other reason than to live near a family member. He sold his home in the city and bought in the country, within comfortable driving distance. Now they could see each other more conveniently. Within a year, the family member moved away and my client was stuck. His only reason for living there had left.

Moving anywhere based on someone else’s life is a bad idea, because you never know what can happen. Even if it’s planned together, things can change. And afterward, you’re stuck with a rural property, which tends to sell more slowly than city properties.

Myth #4: Living in the country is quiet.

With all the sirens, night-hours and traffic of a bustling city, it’s easy to imagine the country to be a quieter place. And it’s true. Ambulances don’t scream through the streets every day and night. Bar brawls and gun fights rarely break out at the corner of two dirt roads. But people are often surprised when they lay their heads on the pillow in their new country home and cannot sleep for the sound of frogs and crickets croaking and screeching or the sometimes haunting sounds of wildlife.

It’s alarming how noisy all those critters can be, and unsettling to think of the millions of creatures it takes to permeate the night sky they way they do. It can get a person to thinking of Stephen King movies.

Then there are the neighbour’s cattle bawling at feeding time, the roosters crowing before dawn, and the neighbour’s kids screaming because they’ve got pent-up energy and it’s the country and they can. Oh! And let’s not forget the dogs! Oh, the dogs. The barking all night long in every surrounding acreage and farmyard kind of dogs. No, my friend, the country is not quiet. It’s just a different kind of noisy.

Myth #5: Living in the country is like living in the city but with trees and privacy.

Well, sort of. But no. There is more space and privacy and nature than the city, which sounds lovely – and is lovely! But the country often lacks a few essential conveniences of city life. Depending on where you buy, a rural property may have little access to high speed internet. Don’t worry. It gets worse. Cell service is also dicey in the country. (Still thinking of living in the country? You’re tough as steel! Read on.)

Myth #6: Living in the country is safer.

We tend to believe there is less crime in the country (which is kind of true), and so that makes it safer. Crime still happens in the country. Break ins. Murders. Thefts. No one is immune, whether in the country or city. One disadvantage of living in the country though, when it comes to safety, is that it takes emergency responders more time to arrive at the scene. That’s a deal breaker for some homeowners when they find that out.

In the end, the grass is not greener. Well, maybe if the property has a sewage ejector system. What you think you’ll save in taxes; you’ll spend in vehicle and property maintenance and on commuting fuel. If after looking over all these myths, you’re still set on going country, good for you. I have one final suggestion to help you confirm your country-readiness.

Take a daily drive to the area you’re planning on living in. Every day, drive out there and have a coffee or piece of pie at the local shop. Just hang out there for a bit. Then drive back. If at the end of a week you’re not roiling with frustration about the drive, your future as a country bumpkin looks mighty fine.

Jeff Stern, a 27-year real estate veteran with Re/Max Performance Realty in Winnipeg, received the 2017 CMHC/MREA Distinguished Realtor Award. He is an instructor for the Provincial Real Estate Licensing program, a member of the Education Committee and sits on the Professional Standards Investigation and Hearing Committee at MREA. He gives back to the community as chair of the MREA Shelter Foundation and writes stimulating and enlightening articles on his blog. The opinions expressed are those of Jeff Stern and not the Manitoba Real Estate Association.

27 COMMENTS

  1. Jeff,

    I live in the city but acknowledge that those who live in the country, way outside city limits, get to actually look up at the night sky and are able to see real stars.

    Knowing that most country property has a septic tank, some might find this information useful.

    Even living in the city, I never peel carrots. I rinse off any soil bits or discolouration, and using a sharp firm blade small knife, I “scrape” (push the blade away from you and hold the carrot firmly) the carrots until they are skin-free. Using a vegetable peeler takes off too much skin where much of the vitamins live. I don’t peel them. Why?

    And what do I do with all the fine skins scapings? Why I wash them down the drain of course. They help keep “the pipes” clean and functioning.

    For potato skins if not roasting or deep-frying them, whiz them in your kitchen machine to pulverize a little so they are flushable down the kitchen sink. Guess why?

    These skins allegedly break down the contents of your country house septic tank, often eliminating the need to pay a septic service company to clean out the septic tank and hopefully avoid ever having a septic tank back-up.

    I’m thinking REM columnist Dan St.Yves might have something to say about the topic. But according to people who live in the country, this actually works. The concept was told to me by a septic tank cleaner fellow.

    So I figure it might help keep city sludge moving along also.

    Your thoughts…

    Carolyne Lederer-Ralston

    Compliments of REM’s “Recipes for Realtors” column and noted in my Amazon Kindle ebook “Gourmet Cooking – at Home with Carolyne”

    © “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks”
    Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

  2. “In spring, the fresh country air turns sour, wafting its putrid manure smell into the kitchen window.” Are you serious? Idiot. Stay in the city, “Slick”. REM must be starving for content.

  3. All five myths are true in one form or another, speaking as a city Realtor gone country – 20 years ago. There are pros and cons about living anywhere but the pros outweigh the cons when living rural. My clients are educated about rural living but I let them decide for themselves if it’s romantic or not.

    • A mark of a Professional. Educate and Inform, guiding clients into making their informed decision. Thanks for your input.

  4. Winnipeg area…maybe. But I live on an acreage along the eastern slopes of the Rockies, overlooking a creek and the mountains, hand feed sliced apples to the deer and can put up with the odd noisy coyote. Wouldn’t trade it for anything :)

    • Sounds like a stunningly beautiful way of life Darrell. The idea of hand feeding deer makes me want to move there! Thank you.

  5. Jeff: your article must be shown to city dwellers planning that dreamy transformation (not a transition!). An objective Agent has nothing to lose, but lots to gain. Aside from my 32 years as a city Agent, I have also noticed, many friends and relatives who showed a lot of interest of visiting dust evaporated. In Canada heavy rainfall, snowfall, icing rain, etc., do cause havoc in any topography, but in the end, cities cooperatively do come together fast. Washed out bridges, ponding on roads, are also a reality. In short, city-life is not for everybody, nor is country-life. Thanks, Jeff

    • Cummer, thank you for your additional considerations relating to our Canadian weather that can quickly diminish the romantic side of country living. Your closing statement is 100% the intended message of the article: “city-life is not for everybody, nor is country-life”. These few words sum it up perfectly.

      • Lead in some Canadian water worse than Flint
        Martha Mendoza , The Associated Press
        Published Monday, November 4, 2019 6:28AM EST

        Can’t copy the link: Check out the article appearing today at Toronto local news URL: CP24.com

        Remember Ontario’s “Walkerton” situation a few short years ago. Country or city living requires clean water.

        Carolyne L 🍁

  6. Your city slicker roots are showing through, you penned are very negative article about country living and made statements there were simply wrong. In my 40 plus years as a realtor, I have sold tons of rural properties. I educate my clients on wells and septics and wood burning appliances, there are tests for each one these items. I suggest you stick to selling in town and leave the rural market to the pros that understand it.
    PS I can pretty much guarantee that Winnipeg has coyotes most large centers have them, you just see them.

    • A pretty combative response to an article intended to provide the very considerations you (as I, and any true Professional) educate our clients, yet you seem to feel that putting the information in writing in this article makes it a negative? I value your constructive additional points of consideration and for that I thank you for your valuable input.

  7. Jeff, thank you for your article. Migrating City folk to the Country is my speciality also and appreciate your article and insight. I have never had a client move back once introduced to the Country. In part, because as Realtors we have to educate our City clients of the facts and realities of Country living. The biggest hurtle is understanding the limitations and benefits associated with the switch, both positive and negative.

    • It seems you and I are “cut from the same Professional cloth” Denise. It is imperative we educate our clients so they make informed decisions. We have so much experience and knowledge to offer our clients so they are deeply satisfied with their buying and selling decisions.

  8. Sounds like you’re a city slicker with no idea about acreage living & you shouldn’t be selling acreages.
    Yes, lots of those myths you talk about are what acreage living can be like but not as bad as you make it sound. There are several types of wells and septic systems that are quite easy to look after and actually lots of acreage owners I know have refused to get hooked up to public treated water lines that have been coming to acreages in our province.
    I have just retired as a realtor after 36.5 years in the industry with the Saskatoon Real Estate Board and I had sold lots of acreages over that time and most of my acreage buyers are still on their acreages and most others stayed on their acreage for quite some time before moving on. I have been living on an acreage for the last 27 years and still enjoy the beautiful sunrises, sunsets, starlit skies etc. and have no intention of moving soon.

    There are many positives with acreage living you have over looked, such as; *lots of parking space when family, friends etc come to visit, *no worries for potential basement moisture issues caused from neighbors plugged eaves & downspouts etc. and for that matter from busted city main water lines too. *lots of space for storing your big toys like boats, camping trailers, etc., I could go on & on but I think you got the drift.

    Acreage living is the life my city-raised wife loves too which.

    • No disagreement in your feelings at all Ken. For those truly ready to leave city life behind I am sure all you said is true if not even more. Thanks for your input.

  9. I quite enjoyed this humorous look at city folk trying out country living. Relax country lovers it’s all good he isn’t slagging it he is pointing out things his city clients never consider when asking him to find them country homes. Geez. You would think country folk would be a little more chill…

    • Thanks Sheila, this is exactly the intention of the article. One day my wife and I too would love to live this life with horses and other furfriends around us.

  10. I have to say that your comments where something that any one looking to move out side the city, to country living should, think about, but I have lived in the country all my life. My office is in the city. I do agree, there is a bit of a drive to work
    I use it for thinking time. I wouldn’t trade where I live for anything.

    • Barbara, that is a great point about allowing the drive time for thinking. I too enjoy when venturing out to rural appointments for time to unwind or some deep thinking.

  11. Your article was very negative, not negative enough! Don’t forget about the well going dry requiring a water truck to refill it, or the water pump acting up. Or the wolves and cyotes that roam freely to attack your kids and small animals, or farm animals that escape and trample your gardens, or when you run out of screws and your whole renovation comes to a standstill because the nearest hardware store is closed and the city one is 60 minutes away, or when you run out of a cooking ingredient and there are no stores around. Lots of little things like this need to be accommodated for versus living in the city.

  12. What a load of rubbish. I’ve lived in the country most of my life and wouldn’t trade it for the city- ever! There are far more advantages than perceived disadvantages. The author is from Winterpeg- I guess that explains a lot.

    • Agree with Corney Les, I have been selling rural ontario for over 40 years and the advantages far out way the minor issues the author exaggerated .

    • Corney, you of course are entitled to your opinions as I am. Winterpeg as you so fondly refer to my city is a wonderful city rich in culture, close to fabulous beaches and fishing not to mention a city, make that a Province that is equally rich in retained childhood friendships. Perhaps you have never visited here or have fallen for the negative press. If you have not ever visited, you do not know what you are missing out on with our world famous 50 year celebration of Folklorama or the other multi-cultural celebrations in and around our fine city. As for your comment of my article being rubbish, believe as you wish but my comments are from some past clients whom romanticized rural living not considering the tradeoff that can occur. For many it is a worderful life, for some, they are not at the stage of life yet to enjoy the benefits or are too tied to city life to benefit from it. As a REALTOR(R) Professional, I believe in constructive consultation with my clients, ensuring they are aware of all angles of a large purchase decision as real estate is. I hope you will come and see for yourself what Winnipeg has to offer, as our summers are splendid and we benefit from being able to enjoy all seasons whether it is +30 or -30. There is always something to do and our climate allows for us to layer in the cold of winter to enjoy the worlds longest skating rink and Festival Du Voyageur that closes off our winter with our beautiful spring around the corner.

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