Over the course of looking for a rural property, I have discovered that there is one person that you have to rely heavily on.
The City Planner.
City Planners are typically holed up in a basement office of city hall, tucked away with their maps, and not usually visited by the public. We find they respond very well to surprise donuts, or Tim Horton's coffee.
City Planners can tell you all sorts of marvellous things. If you befriend them, they will even tell you things that they shouldn't, because they begin to care and don't want you to purchase your hard earned money on something that will not be worth the investment.
Each time we seriously consider a property, we go through the same process.
1. The initial drive by to determine if the property looks remotely like the MLS listing.
2. Google Mapping, to determine what is around the property. This is VERY important and can save a lot of time. A large quarry behind a farm can decrease the value tremendously. So can railway lines, hydro corridors and auto wrecking yards.
3. Visit the City Planning office. They can tell you what the development plans are for that area, who owns the lots adjoining the farm. What rights of way exist, if their are floodplains, protected lands, or swamps.
Then and only then if a farm passes all of this criteria would we call our agent and ask her to show us the farm. It saves her an awful lot of wasted time.