Buying that dream home in the country can turn into a nightmare, Midlanders are being warned.
It comes in the wake of a Countryside Agency report, The State of the Countryside 2004, which revealed that 14.1 million people - 28.5 per cent of the total population - live in rural communities, up 14 per cent in the past 20 years compared to just three per cent growth in urban areas.
But people looking for their rural idyll need to be careful about checking out land ownership details, rights of access and essential services before going ahead with a house purchase.
Louisa Jakeman, associate and property specialist at Birmingham solicitors Williamson and Soden, said the more a person could find out about a property before buying it, the less likely they were to experience difficulties in the future.
"One of the biggest problems with residential properties in rural locations is that the ownership of land is unknown or land is not regis-tered," she cautioned. "If you're looking to buy a property in the countryside, it is vital that you understand who owns the land, and what rights of access and use of essential services go with it.
"Just because a driveway leads to a house, does not mean it actually belongs to that property or that there is a guaranteed right of way."
Where no such right existed the owner of the track could bar access or charge an exorbitant fee to grant permission.
Potential house purchasers needed to take a long hard look at drainage and water supply issues too - or similarly risk being held to ransom by neighbouring landowners.
Problems can arise if a house is not connected to the public drainage system and the cesspit serving it is located on someone else's land. "If you do not have the necessary use and access rights, you may have to pay a fee to the landowner to lay sewer pipes or even carry out essential maintenance works, assuming they are even prepared to negotiate with you."
It may be that the water supply to the property is from a private spring. While there is no problem with this in principle, Mrs Jakeman says buyers need be aware that they may have responsibilities to check that everything is in order and maintain the supply, especially if there are other properties using it.
Roadside verges at the front of houses can also be an issue.
"Some owners have found to their cost that these verges were not part of the public highway and have been faced with exorbitant demands of money simply for the right to walk or drive over them," said Mrs Jakeman.
She added: "My advice is don't jump straight into a purchase when you fall in love with a country residence, because it can so easily turn out to be the stuff of nightmares if you don't have all the facts.
"Of course there is a cost attached to instructing a solicitor to carry out checks on seemingly insignificant matters, but doing so can save you a great deal of money, as well as heartache, over the long term, by unearthing potential pitfalls and giving the option of finding a solution or looking elsewhere."