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A Guide to Living in the Rural Southwest


Living in the rural southwest is "different'" from life in the city.   County governments cannot provide the same level of service to which you're likely accustomed (Yavapai County alone, is roughly the size of Massachusetts, with over 1500 miles of county maintained roads), and, more services would mean more taxes ( No, thank you).   Please read the following and carefully consider these items when looking at Sedona and Verde Valley land for sale.

THE PROPERTY:

  • Some lots cannot be built on as a single unit and some will require a significant amount of cost in engineering. Check with the YAVAPAI or COCONINO COUNTY PLANNING AND BUILDING DEPARTMENT.
  •  Easements may require you to allow travel through your parcel and the construction of roads, power lines, water lines, sewer lines, etc. across your land.
  • Unless the land has been surveyed and pins placed by a licensed surveyor, you cannot assume that a plat or existing fences are accurate. Fences are often erected in the wrong location.  The older the neighborhood, the greater the chance of discrepancies. Huge survey gaps exist in some areas ( Many years ago, the local surveyor was also renowned as the town drunk! )
  • Many Sedona and Verde Valley subdivisions have covenants that limit the use of the property. Obtain a copy of the covenants and make sure that you can live with the rules.  Yavapai County has no legal authority to enforce deed restrictions or CC&R's.  Enforcement of deed restirctions is by the HOA governing the property, or an individual civil suit.
  • Homeowners associations (HOA's) are required to take care of commonly owned elements. A dysfunctional homeowners association or poor covenants can cause problems.  Even with well written by-laws, an HOA can be problematic.  It is another form of government, and govenments are some times run by dictators.
  • Dues are common in areas with a HOA. The by-laws of the HOA will tell you how it operates and how dues are set.  Be sure you read them when you recieve your title report!
  • The surrounding properties will probably not remain as they are indefinitely. See what future developments may be in the planning stages. Be aware that state land can be sold and subsequently developed.  There is a possibility that US forest lands may one day be traded.
  • If you live in one of the greenbelts of Sedona and the Verde Valley, you may have an irrigation ditch running across your property.  There is an excellent possibility that the owners of the ditch have the right to come onto your property with heavy equipment to maintain the ditch.
  • You may not have the right to use the water from any ditches crossing your land, or you may need to coordinate with a neighbor who also uses the water. Other users may have senior rights to the water and can limit your use or require you to pay for improvements of the ditch. You cannot assume that because the water flows across your property, you can use it.
  • It is important to make sure that any water rights you purchase with the land will provide enough water to maintain fruit trees, pastures, gardens or livestock.
  • If you purchase land adjacent to National forest, State or BLM land (Bureau of Land Management), it does NOT give you an automatic right to access that land. Contact the agency that owns the land and get "Access Permits."
 
MOTHER NATURE:
 
  • A forested parcel has many benefits, but building amidst a forest is as dangerous as building in a flash flood area. "Defensible perimeters" are very helpful in protecting buildings from fire. If you start a forest fire, you are responsible for paying for the cost of extinguishing the fire.
  • Steep slopes can slide in unusually wet weather. Large rocks roll down steep slopes...and you don't want to be in their path!
  • Expansive soils, such as Bentonite Clay (which is common in the foothills of the Verde Valley) can crack and distort concrete foundations and twist steel beams. Know the soil conditions on your property by having a soil test performed.
  • North facing slopes and canyons in Sedona and the Verde Valley rarely see direct sunlight in the winter. Snow and ice can accumulate and not melt throughout the winter.  Take care driving through canyons and along rock ledges.
  • The topography of the land may tell where water will go in heavy precipitation. When property owners fill in ravines or washes, they have found that water that drained through the wash, now drains through their home.  Ensure water does not pond next to your home's foundation, as it can eventually cause damage.
  • Flash floods occur, especially during the spring and summer, and quickly turn a dry gully into a raging river. Take this into consideration when building.
  • Run-off can turn a small creek into a major river. Neither the county or local fire departments provide sand bags, equipment or people to protect private property from flooding. If you live in a flood prone area you are encouraged to contact the Emergency Management Department for information, as well as your neighbors.  Expect to help your neighbors in times of flooding-  likely, they will be helping you, too!
  • Nature can be a rude neighbor. Rural development encroaches on the habitat of coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, javalinas, deer, elk, raccoons, rattlesnakes, rabbits, prairie dogs, bears, skunks, gophers, mosquitoes, scorpions, black widow spiders, and other animals that can be dangerous, and you need to know how to deal with them. If you leave a family pet out in the evening twilight hours, it may become a meal. Coyotes have been known to snatch dogs off of front porches and javalinas’s have been reported to gang up on dogs traveling through rural areas. Mountain lions occasionally rob dog food stores, or nap under someone's shady porch. Javalina will wreak havoc on your prized tulips, and deer might mow EVERYTHING to the ground.  Keep in mind,  you moved into their neighborhood!
 
AGRICULTURE:
 
  • Agriculture is vital to the economy of Yavapai County and the Verde Valley. If you choose to live among the farms and ranches of our rural countryside, do not expect county government to intervene in the normal day-to-day operations of your neighbors agricultural business.
  • Land preparation causes dust, especially during windy, dry weather.
  • Fertilizers and herbicides are used in growing crops. You may be sensitive to these substances or have severe allergic reactions.
  • Even with proper sanitation and care, animals cause odors and attract flies.  
  • Arizona has an open range law. This means if you do not want cattle, sheep or other live­stock on your property, it is your responsibility to fence them out. It is not the responsibility of the rancher to keep livestock off your property.
  • Even though the county has a leash law, many rural property owners disregard it. The county has a limited amount of resources to enforce and cover the 1600 miles of roads and the thousands of dogs that live along them. Expect presents left on your property from time to time.
  • Expect an occasional "traffic jam"  when local ranchers move livestock from one pasture to another.  Be aware that fencing occassionally breaks....local police and cowboys have had to round up rogue cattle who broke through the fence, and began wandering down the 4 lanes of Hwy 260... Always fun to watch!
 
ACCESS:
 
  • The fact that you can drive to your land does not necessarily guarantee that you can access it at all times. 
  • Emergency response times (police, fire, ambulances, etc.) aren’t guaranteed. Under extreme conditions you may find that response is slow and expensive.
  • You may gain access across to your real estate, by crossing property belonging to others. It is wise to obtain legal advice and understand the existing easements.
  • You can experience problems with the maintenance or cost of maintenance of your road. Yavapai County maintains 1600 miles of road, which is funded by the Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF). The fund comes from a tax on gas within the County. Revenue does not come from County property tax or from State sales tax. Many rural properties are on private roads which are maintained by private associations or individuals. Some county roads are not maintained by the county and some county roads are platted, but do not physically exist.
  • Extreme weather conditions can make area roads impassable, sometimes for days in a row. Any bridges on your road should be designed to support the weight of emergency vehicles. Private road maintenance is the responsibility of the property owners.
  • Many private roads will not accommodate large construction vehicles or fire trucks. If you are building a home in Sedona or the Verde Valley, check out construction and emergency vehicle access requirements.
  • You may need to drive your children to the nearest school bus route for transportation.
  • Floods, can destroy roads. Yavapai County will repair County roads, but private roads are the responsibility of the landowners who use those roads. A dry creek bed can wash out roads, bridges, and culverts.
  • Unpaved roads generate dust and dust is a fact of life for most rural residents.
  • If your road is unpaved it is highly unlikely the county will pave it in the near future. Check with the county road department.
  • Mail delivery is not available to all areas of the county.
  • Newspaper delivery is also not available to all rural areas.
  • Many private roads do not have adequate road signs. Lack of proper identification on your residence will create problems for emergency services attempting to locate you.
 
UTILITY SERVICES:
 
  • Water, sewer, electric, and other services may be unavailable or may not operate to an urban standard. Repairs often take much longer than in towns and cities.
  • Telephone communications can be a problem, especially in the mountain areas of Yavapai County. Cell phones will not work in all areas. It is important to note here that telephone service is not available in all areas of the County.  A mere 12 years ago, I had to wait 6 weeks before a line was available to me for residential telephone service...
  • If sewer service is available to your property, charges may apply to hook into the system.  They can be quite steeo in some local municipalities.
  • If sewer service in not available, you will need a septic system or an alternate treatment system. Have a perc test done, it is important in determining the cost and function of your system.
  • If you have access to a water company, there may be tap fees.
  • If you don't have access to a water company, you will have to use a water well. Cost for drilling can be considerable. The quality and quantity of water can vary considerably depending on weather conditions, population growth and other factors beyond your control. It is strongly advised that you research this issue carefully.
  • Not all wells can be used for livestock. Permits from the Arizona Department of Water Resources may restrict water use to that which is used inside of a home. If you have other needs, make certain that you have the proper approvals before you invest.
  • Electric service is not in all areas of Yavapai County. Determine the proximity of electrical power, It can be very expensive to extend power lines.
  • It may be necessary to cross property owned by others in order to extend electric service to your property in the most cost efficient manner. It is important to make sure that the proper easements are in place to allow lines to be built to your property.
  • Electric power may not be available in two phase and three phase service configurations.
  • If you are purchasing land with the plan to build at a future date, there is a possibility that electric lines (and other utilities) may not be large enough to accommodate your needs.  Laws and ordinances may change and make it more costly to build.
  • The cost of electric service is usually divided into a fee to hook into the system and then a monthly charge for energy consumed. It is important to know both costs before making a decision to purchase a specific piece of property.
  • Power outages can occur in outlying areas frequently, and takes longer to repair. A loss of electric power will also interrupt water from a well.  No power, can mean no water for those who use a water well
  • Trash removal is more expensive. It is illegal to burn trash. The burning of shrub and tree limbs and such requires a permit. In some cases, your only option may be to haul trash to the transfer station yourself. Recycling pick-up is not available in most rural areas.
  • Fire service may or may not be available. Insurance will be more expensive or unavailable, if the land is not in a fire district. Do not expect other neighboring fire jurisdictions to respond. Additionally, the United States Forest Service will not suppress fires on private property.

 

IN CONCLUSION...
 
      The preceding text was adapted from "The Code of the West," written originally by John Clarke, former County Commissioner of Larimer County, Colorado. The information provided here is by no means exhaustive. There are multitudes of other issues that you may encounter.   Be vigilant in your duties to explore and examine those things that could potentially make your move less pleasant.
     We have offered these comments in the sincere hope that it can help you enjoy your decision to reside in Yavapai County.   It is not our intent to dissuade you from relocating to Sedona or the Verde Valley, only to inform you of items you may wish to investigate, and whether or not one or more of these issues may affect the property you are considering.
     In general, Sedona and The Verde Valley rate very low on the natural disaster scale.   We do not have hurricanes, major earthquakes, or blizzards. Tornados, and catastrophic floods are incredibly rare.   When in doubt, ask folks you run into around town.  You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who regrets leaving snow, or misses city life!