How to Buy a Homestead – What To Know Before You Buy

by | May 24, 2020 | Farm, Thrive

So you want to buy a homestead. There are many factors that must be considered before buying any property, whether developed or not. Here are our best tips for knowing what to look for when looking for homesteading property.

Picture of a large garden all in rows.

It’s common for people to watch homesteaders on a TV show or a YouTube channel and get a dream of owning a homesteading property of their own.

Homesteading is much more than just knowing how to raise meat chickens, knowing the top gardening mistakes to avoid, or knowing whether the no-till gardening method is right for your situation. It’s even more than knowing basic emergency preparedness skills or how to build up a well-stocked pantry.

These are all great skills to have, and we think they’re essential in running a homestead. But the tips we’re sharing below are essential pieces of knowledge to have about your homestead property BEFORE you sign the dotted line to buy.

These tips will help you save money on your piece of land, maybe even help lower the purchase of the land.

It’s easy to sink a lot of money into a homestead dream. But you must be aware of the natural resources, the dirt roads, the septic systems or wells, the solar panels, and any other financial obligation that comes with that piece of property when the day is done.

These are the top 12 things to know before buying a homestead property.

Over the years, we have lived in nearly every climate available in the continental United States, and have experienced knowing (and not knowing) many of the items on this list.

It’s through our own experiences, and learning from others, that we’re able to put this list together for you. We hope you find it helpful.

If you have any questions or comments about this video/post, you can head on over to the video on YouTube and leave your comment there.

12 Things to Consider When Choosing a Homestead Property

  1. Have an anchor
  2. Who are the neighbors
  3. Is there access
  4. What is the water source
  5. Is there power
  6. Where is the house site
  7. Build or buy established
  8. How much land do you need
  9. What is the climate
  10. What Kind of Landscape
  11. Orientation of the Home
  12. What is the Soil Composition
Man and woman walking arm in arm by a river.

Have an Anchor

One of the most important things to have when moving to a new area, whether you’re buying homesteading property or not, is an anchor.

An anchor could be friends, family members, or a church family that you already know and have a relationship with. It’s these people who will be there for support, friendship, and advice when needed.

Moving to a new place is hard enough, but completely starting over with building relationships, finding a church home, and maybe even a new job can sink your new adventure in a heartbeat.

Know The Neighbors

Get to know your potential neighbors. You’re going to live next to them so they’re pretty important!

This is especially important if you have an easement or you need to pass through their property to get to your own.

Picture of a homestead with welcome signs in the driveway.

What is the Access Like

Having easy access to your property is great, but it’s not a deal breaker if you need to obtain access. There are some things to consider before buying a property that “just needs a road put in”.

First, you have to know and understand legal access, do you need to get an easement from the neighbors.

If you’re sharing access, who will be maintaining and taking care of the access (both for repairs, and if there is snow in the winter).

What does the access go through?

  • Does it go over a creek?
  • Is it prone to flooding?
  • Is it shady and will it get icy in the winter?
  • Is it steep and a danger to drive in snow or icy conditions?
  • Is it gravel or paved?
  • How long is the access road?

Knowing all these things should help you figure out the financial costs of maintaining the access road. But do know the exact dollar amount BEFORE buying the property.

A pond with green all around it.

What is the Water Source

Know how you will source your water before you buy. Do you need to drill a well? Is there a natural spring? Do you have rights to the spring? Will you be on municipal water? Is the water line right up to your property or a half mile down the road?

All these things need to be answered before buying property.

Something else that’s important to know when drilling a well is the depth of the water BEFORE buying land. Now it’s impossible to know the depth unless you actually drill.

But one thing we’ve seen time and time again is people relying on the depth of the neighboring properties to determine a budget for their well. Sometimes you’ll need to dig over 500-800 feet before hitting the water and a setback like this can quickly sink your budget.

Even if you can dig a well, you need to know the mineral content and know whether you’re going to need to put in a whole house water conditioner (another large cost).

If you can work getting a well dug BEFORE you move in, maybe bargain that into the escrow, or make the sale of the property contingent on getting the well dug, that would be a smart route to take.

Is There Power

Just like with water, you need to know how you’ll get power run to your property. Will you be on municipal power? Is there already power run up to the property line or is it half a mile down the road? How far back will your house sit?

Know the cost of all these things AHEAD of time so you’re not caught off guard when the large price tag comes your way.

Picture of a fruit tree orchard with baby trees.

Know Your House Site

This tip is for those building a house on the homestead property. Know where your house will be before buying.

Most of us want to take advantage of the best view on the property, but this usually means your house will be exposed, usually up higher on the property which means it’s also harder to run water and power to the site.

It’s not a deal breaker, but just one more thing to consider beforehand.

Other times, people will want to build down low, especially if there’s a pond or a river. But this can also tend to be the colder, wetter areas of properties, too.

It doesn’t always seem ideal, but it may actually be better to build mid-slope somewhere.

Are You Building a Home or Buying a House

There are advantages and disadvantages to building a home or buying a homestead with an existing home.

Building means you get to start from scratch and do it exactly how you want. But this comes at a cost and you only have so much money to invest in each project at a time

Buying an existing home means you might be coming into existing problems that need tending to. It also might not be ideal for your situation.

As we say so often with our advice on which option is best… “it depends”

How Much Land Should You Buy?

Bigger isn’t always better. If you can buy ahead of time and develop it slowly while you live elsewhere, that’s great.

But ultimately, you can build a home and develop quite a lot (and be self-sustainable) on a fairly small lot.

Where we grow most of our food on our property it’s less than an acre. If you include our infrastructures we’re under two acres. Then if you move out and include the pastures, etc. and we’re at about 5 acres. But we own over 40 acres that we’re slowly utilizing.

It’s our suggestion to grow slowly. It’s our opinion that it’s better to have a small property that’s manageable and producing a lot of food, than a large property that’s draining your resources and too much to maintain and keep up with.

A river between mountains of trees.

Know the Climate

We get asked a lot about climates and where the best climate is to homestead. But you know the saying “the grass is always greener”. We’ve lived in nearly every climate in the continental United States and there are definitely positives and hardships that come with every climate.

If you’re looking to move to an area where the climate will be different than you’re used to, it’s important to know ahead of time what that climate will look like and how it will affect your property YEAR ROUND.

Moving from a warm southern, mostly sunny climate, to a cool northern cloudier climate can really affect more than just your growing season. We’ve seen happen where we live and many people end up having real trouble adjusting.

Cut down timber with logging tools.

What Kind of Landscape is Best

Another common question is what kind of land is best to buy? Should you buy timber land, flat land, etc.?

Ultimately, the answer is IT DEPENDS! It depends on what your goals are. Know what your goal is before you buy. Are you wanting to raise animals, garden or timber? That will determine your landscape.

To us, a mix of landscapes is what’s ideal. A little woodland, some pasture, natural water, pond/water storage.

If you’re working with raw land, don’t expect that you’ll go in and change the land around really quickly. Be realistic that changing the land takes time and resources and be sure to plan for it.

Whatever the landscape, we do caution against a rocky soil. Clay definitely has its challenges, as does sandy soil, but there is a lot you can do to amend a “not so perfect” soil.

It may be many years until you can successfully grow a garden or produce much, but you will get there. On the other hand, if you have giant boulders in the ground or really rocky soil, it will always be difficult.

Orientation of the Home

The orientation of your land can play a huge factor in how well your property will be set up for your needs.

In the northern climates (northern US – cooler climates) you will generally want to have southern exposure. If you’re in a desert climate, you may want northern exposure and some trees to shade you from the hot mid-day sun.

Most areas in the US get cold at night and having some southern exposure is best. You can then grow up trees and do other things to help protect from the summer sun.

A tractor tilling a field.

What is the Soil Composition

We touched on it a bit above, but you don’t need to consider the quality of the soil too much when buying land. It does matter just a bit, which is why it’s on the list, but if you’re wanting to grow a quality garden, then you can amend the soil.

However, if you’re building a business off the land, pasturing, and developing a farm. You’ll want to consider the soil on that large scale.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful when looking for your own homestead property.

Just remember to take your time, don’t get emotional, and be wise when taking this big step.

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