How to select a homestead site

Homesteading is the backbone of this country’s history and, in many ways, it’s starting to evolve into a new lifestyle. It can be expensive to start a homestead from scratch, but luckily there are plenty of people out there who have made the mistakes for you and found creative solutions.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this post: where to find a site for your homestead; what you need before you plunk down money on land; how much it costs to set up an affordable homestead; how much land do I need?; what kind of animals should I consider?.

We’ll start with where you can go to find your homestead land.

  1. Find Land for Sale

Here are some sites that will help you find land for sale:

Local Landowners – Ask around and see if anyone in your community knows of any available land in their area. Sometimes people will sell their property to family or friends first, but if they don’t have anyone, they may be open to selling it to you. Once you look at the property together, have a list of questions ready so you’re prepared.

Buy Direct – Again, use the connection to your local community. Landowners love asking for second opinions when it comes to selling their land and trying to make money on it. It will take longer, but you can get a much better deal if you’re ready and willing to compromise.

  1. Research the Property

You can learn a lot about any property by contacting the county’s assessor’s office or your state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). A site like Zillow will give you insight on what the property has been worth in the past and what it could be worth now – something you’ll want to know right off the bat before making an offer.

  1. Make a Solid Plan

Once you’ve found property, take a look at your finances to see if you can swing it. Don’t forget that you’ll need money for payments on the land itself, taxes, and insurance. The more money you can bring to the table in terms of a down payment, the better deal you’ll be able to negotiate.

  1. Check Out Utilities

Can you get electricity or water services to the site? You may have to add on more money for adding in utilities – talk with an electrician or plumber before making an offer.

  1. Prepare for the Fencing

If you’ve chosen to build your own fence, then you’ll also need to buy the materials for it. You need to find a spot that is level and level enough for your fence – you don’t want your livestock and fencing to be crooked in the winter months because of a sloping surface, which could cause problems with drainage.

  1. Inspect the Property Yourself

You’ll want to make sure there are no major issues with the property before signing any agreements or taking down any trees. If the seller has a contract to sell it, then you’ll need to verify that the property is as described in the contract.

  1. Get Legal Counsel on Board Early on

Make sure you’re ready before you make any commitments. There are a lot of things that can happen in regard to contracts if you’re not careful or not prepared. Find someone who can negotiate your best deal – there’s no sense in spending money when there’s no money in it! You don’t want to start out with an incomplete home and have to spend more money replacing things like fencing, or hiring an architect.

  1. Don’t Get Trapped into the Bigger Picture Right Away

Once you’ve found your ideal homestead, be sure to take a step back and look at the big picture. You don’t want to get drawn in too quickly without seeing it all. While you’re at it, go ahead and look at your own finances to see if you really can afford it now or if you need to free up some money first.

What property features are looking for?

When going out to your chosen property, here are some qualities to look for:

  • Water
  • Topography
  • Area vegetation
  • Distance from neighbors
  • Whether the land is currently owned or vacant
  • If currently owned by a party other than yourself, whether all parties have agreed on selling and purchasing of the property.

Keep these things in mind as you start looking around. You can find homesteading land in many different ways – online listings, classified ads or even just asking around at local shops and businesses.

Hills or level ground?

Consider the topography of your future land. If there are hills, are they often in the way? Are they steep? Or can you use them to your advantage? For example, you can use the hillside as a windbreak if it is facing the direction of the prevailing winds.

You will also want to consider whether or not you are looking for a house and land package, or just land. The difference between these options varies greatly depending on what kind of property you’re looking for (and what part of the world you’re in).

Will there be access for your vehicles?

The access to the property is very important – if you’re looking for a home on the land, then obviously you’ll need to bring your own vehicle, but before that you want to make sure there is proper access.

Those who are looking at a house on the property might need access via a driveway for this purpose. Most flats and houses located on homesteading land will most likely have an access road that leads to it, however you should check with whoever owns the property before making an offer as there could be restrictions in place.

Will you need to install utilities like water and electricity?

Call the local utility companies and find out what you will need to do in order to get on their grid. They will probably have an idea of what your property will need, or if there are any obstacles that you’ll need to clear before you start the process.

You might also want to contact local government and figure out what you’ll need in terms of permits and building approval for structures. They may have a report on setbacks for building, so be sure to ask them about this too – it’s important that both parties know about these different regulations.

If you’re looking at land without any buildings on it, then the utilities will most likely not be an issue, but keep them in mind because they’ll certainly be a factor soon enough.

Are the neighbors close enough to keep private property private or will they make you wish you weren’t so close?

Go to the property and figure out if it’s within close enough proximity to the other properties for you to be comfortable with the neighbors. Many people dream of having a farm or homestead on their land, but they are so nervous about what might happen if they’re too close that they find themselves with no land at all.

This is why it is important to have a survey done to exactly measure the property boundaries – you will want to know how far away you can be allowed before the neighbors infringe on your privacy.

Is it near civilization?

You can also check out online sites like community rating services, which list crime rates of certain parts of a town or city, as well as online sources such as Wikipedia or even Google Maps.

How future-proof is the land for raising animals like goats, cows, chickens or sheep?

The animals that you want to raise are the most obvious factor here, but think also about how you might need to expand in the future.

If you’re in a spot that’s already urbanized, then you should already know what the restrictions are for raising farm animals or what types of land are available. If it’s not yet urbanized, then be sure to confirm with your city planning department that this type of homesteading is okay on this type of land and also how large of an area you can have for raising animals.

What about good hunting areas, or even fishing ponds?

Consider water needs if you’re planning on fishing, or if you want to raise any types of animals that need water.

We were lucky that our family land had a creek running through it, and some high ground for growing good hay. There’s also a pond on the property where we could grow fish for food if we wanted to.

What’s the elevation and is there already good soil?

The elevation of your land can tell you how much snow will fall and how much sun will hit in different seasons. Check this when considering where to find a homestead plot because conditions vary in different areas of the country.

Are there any wild areas nearby that are filled with elk, deer, bear and other wildlife that would make a great target to hunt in season?

How much does it cost per acre to own?

Analyze the price per acre. How much area is it? The price per acre is the easiest way to compare apples to apples.

Once you have done your analysis you will begin to see some patterns in the way different property types are priced. You will see that there are some places where the price per acre is ridiculously low compared to similar lands in other parts of the country and you will begin to figure out why, usually poor soils or a far away location or both. On the flip side, you may find properties that have very high prices per acre and wonder why and then as your research delves deeper into these properties you may find that they are in a highly sought after area with lots of appeal, water rights or an irrigation ditch running through them.

What size will you need?

Depending on the type of homesteading you’re looking for, the size of your land may vary. If you’re just looking to grow a few vegetables, then your space requirements won’t be as great as those who are planning to earn a living by selling their wares.

Do you have enough room on the property for your home and also for your animals? What about growing crops?

Plant a garden and make a list of what you’d like to grow and how much space you’ll need for each one. Be realistic about how much food can be grown in your climate zone and on that amount of land. You might need to have multiple gardens if the scale is too large for one plot or maybe even a greenhouse.

Is there any possibility of flash floods or storm damage?

Think about flooding before you buy a property. If you are in an area that is prone to floods, then make sure that there are no trees or shrubs near the water source. These natural waterways could easily flood parts of your property and cause great damage to buildings and other aspects of your homesteading project. If flooding is a common problem, then be sure to verify any storm drainage system on the land before making an offer.

What is the soil quality like? Is it very rocky? Is it hard to till?

Check the quality of the soil and see what the possibilities are for growing things on it and whether or not you’ll need to till it extensively. You don’t want to bury a piece of property that isn’t able to support any type of crop, so you’ll need to be sure about this before making an agreement with the seller of your land.

You might not know much about soil types, but before you find yourself in the middle of a farm project, make sure the soil on your land is good for growing plants.

Will you need a well or septic system?

If there is enough water supply, then check with your local authorities about how much water each person will need and if you’ll have to purchase ground water or get it from city water. If there is no way for you to get water from an outside source, then you’ll have to dig a well.

Aside from your homestead, what animals or activities do you want to focus on? What kind of animals do you have experience with? How much experience do you have with caring for them and where would you like to get started if at all possible. Organize your priorities in order of importance. Think about the things that are most important to you and what are the most feasible. Also, remember that once your homestead is built, it will require upkeep.

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