Homesteading 101 – Buying Land

© JosephHartEscaping from the big city is a dream that many of us have and one that we have been very fortunate to achieve. Buying land for your homesteading dream may be either far off, or very near. In either case, here are some helpful considerations for you based on our experience (both before and after our purchase).

The most important point that cannot be emphasized enough is that of patience! This process can be painstakingly monotonous, and sometimes downright disheartening. Throughout the course of your search, your highest priority should always be to maintain the dream. It can be all too easy to reduce such a huge decision into a dry, formless checklist that can turn the search for a homestead into a dreary, almost unending endeavor, so it is very important to keep the end goal always in sight. Keep in mind throughout the struggle that those who give up on their dream will  never be rewarded with a lifetime of rewarding experiences of living on their own homestead. With this in mind consider the following tips:

  1. Eliminate Debt: Moving to your dream while carrying excessive debt is a very sure way to diminish the joy of land ownership. Even the most thrifty and imaginative landowners will need to invest in their new property and not having the freedom develop areas can become discouraging as well as potentially dangerous for livestock if ample protection and provision cannot be completed.
  2. Location, location Location
    1. Climate: Many people decide to buy land right near where they are used to living while others look to a far away land for their new home. Understanding the climate for your new homestead plays a great deal into the decisions made concerning crops, livestock and other important factors. For instance, if you want to go completely off-grid, there are areas where solar or wind power is far more practical than in other areas.
    2. Pollution: A potential tract of land may be well priced and beautiful, but nearby mining, drilling, power plants or other pollution factors could lead to a great many disappointments. If a piece of land seems too great to be true, take some time upfront to ensure there aren’t pollution specific reasons. and other resources are available to help you determine pollution levels in a given area.
    3. Neighbors: Moving to a brand new area, you may have no idea who your neighbors will be. If you want to make sure potential neighbors are the kind of people you want to live near, consider trying to meet them before buying your land. If your attempt to do so is met with hostility or the like, you may want to reevaluate if that area is for you and your family.
    4. Solitude: Most people looking to move onto land are seeking a more peaceful life. When you find a tract of land, consider looking at a satellite view to see if there are any potential sources of noise nearby. An area may seem very serene during a weekday, but if there is a racetrack, military base, or other public venue nearby, the sounds may be very different on the weekend. Another good idea is to visit the area at different times of the week and weekends to listen for potential signs of noise.
    5. Deed Restrictions
      1. Building Restrictions: This may not be as important to some people as it is to others, but building restrictions can have an impact on future land values and visible satisfaction.
      2. Livestock: If your plan includes raising a particular type of livestock, it is imperative to make sure that such animals are allowed in that area. Beyond that, certain areas are better or less suited for particular animals. We chose to  raise sheep and goats and had no idea that the area we moved to has high levels of parasites. We have managed to overcome this challenge through a careful pasture management and de-worming schedule, but it was not something we had originally considered.
      3. Business: Many homesteaders desire to establish a home business to varying degrees. Those businesses that require a great deal of online or phone access may suffer in an area where access to these services is insufficient. Satellite options are typically available in most locations, but these services can be expensive and more restrictive than other internet and phone options.
  3. Land Management: How you plan to utilize your land is one of the greatest factors to decide before beginning any search. If your plan includes wood harvesting for heat, construction, or other purposes, it makes little sense to search an area void of timber. Similarly, if you desire to grow food crops, choosing land covered with timber could prove a timely and costly decision.
  4. Water Source: There is nothing wrong with connecting to municipal water supplies in an area that is served with clean, good quality water, but poor water quality is not something you want to have to fight against. Similarly, if you want to utilize creek, river, lake, or other surface water, understanding the quality of the source is very important. Well water is also an item to better understand. When we moved to our land, we had initially considered drilling a water well. When we had a company come out and discovered that they recommended drilling 800 feet deep at enormous cost, it made much more economical sense to connect to the local water line that ran along our property.
  5. Power Source: How you plan to power your home and activities is incredibly important. If you want to install wind generation, but your home is in a valley surrounded by trees, it is very likely you are going to have to change that plan. Connecting to grid power can also be very expensive depending upon how far away the current electric resources are located.
  6. Waste Disposal: No matter how resourceful, practical and thrifty you are, your homestead will produce waste. Understanding the rules, regulations and availability of local refuse resources is crucial to a waste management plan. Nearby pollution may not be a problem, but you certainly don’t want to create one of your own.
  7. Price
    1. Per Acre: The cost of land per acre greatly determines the amount of land you will be able to buy. If you followed the very first point on this list and eliminated all of your debt, the amount of land you can purchase will be improved. Buying too much land that overloads your budget is a very, very bad idea.
    2. Cost of Utilities: Waste removal, internet, electricity, water, and more have a direct effect on the overall monthly cost of property ownership.
    3. Fencing: An area that already has good fencing installed will save you far more time and money than you may realize. It is difficult to fully understand how much fencing an area of land costs in labor and in financial cost.
    4. Taxes: This is one of those areas that many people overlook, but plays a great deal into the annual cost of property ownership. Living in a rural community located very close to a large city may be affordable today, but that city is likely to grow and that urban sprawl can sneak into your annual tax costs. Some areas, like ours, allow you to claim homestead and agricultural exemptions which help relieve the tax burden. You may be rewarded greatly in understanding the tax implications of your dream land long before signing any contract.
    5. Closing the sale: Other hidden costs in land transactions are amounts paid to brokers and agents. If you max out your land purchase budget before understanding the fees of closing the sale, you could find yourself in a bind before ever moving to your new property.

There may be even more concerns in choosing land that I have overlooked in this article. It is my hope that although this may not be an complete and exhaustive list, these items will help you understand the complexities involved in buying land. It isn’t as simple as seeing a beautiful plot of ground and signing on the dotted line. Purchasing a future homestead should be entered into with deep consideration so that you end up with the very dream you have long anticipated.

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