While we are happy with our current little homestead, our ultimate goal is to purchase an old farmhouse on several acres of land. Or build our own farmhouse on vacant land. There are lots of things to consider in our search, though. While things may look good on paper, picking homestead land requires a bit of forethought.
The thing is, not every piece of property can fulfill your needs and wants. Having the ability to take your time and look at several properties to help you really figure out what you want and don’t want is helpful, but not always practical. It’s important to have a little bit of an idea of what you need out of a property, though.
These tips should help you on your way to purchasing the land of your dreams and making sure the land can fulfill those dreams! While I believe that you can homestead and be self-sufficient regardless of your locale and land situation, if you’re looking for land, this will help you ensure that you purchase the perfect property for you and your goals.
14 Things to Look For When Buying Homestead Land
1. Does it have insurable access?
I rarely see this mentioned on lists like this, but it is absolutely, positively the most important thing to look for! Don’t ever assume that just because there is a road to the property means you have the right to access it. This is especially important in areas where land surrounding your property is public land (forestry service, bureau of land management, etc), or the land has not been properly subdivided and platted (large farm/ranch sub divides…).
Make sure that you will have the right to access your property, regardless and be certain that that right is not a revocable right under any circumstance! It would be an absolute shame to have to completely abandon your dreams because a neighbor got mad and decided you couldn’t use their access road anymore or the forest service decided it was going to take away your right to access via one of their roads.
2. Are there any covenants, HOA’s or other restrictions?
This is important to us. We want to live in a remote, off-grid area, so it isn’t a huge deal. However, there are still areas in the area we are looking at that have covenants. This is an absolute deal-breaker. I don’t need someone telling me what size house I can have or what it has to be made out of. I don’t need someone telling me I can’t have animals or a laundry line. It may not be as big of a deal to you, but these things can be an absolute headache. If you choose a property with covenants or other issues that may become problematic… make sure they aren’t so restrictive that they will keep you from reaching your goals… even goals that might be far into the future.
3. Can I get water? Do I have water rights?
Buying a property with a natural water source is great. First, make sure that it isn’t seasonal if you plan to use it as your main source of water. Second, make sure you have the rights to it. Make sure there aren’t any laws that would prevent you from allowing your livestock near the water source as well. If your property doesn’t have a natural water source, that’s fine! Look into the well depth of neighboring properties and how many gallons per minute the produce. If there aren’t any wells, a cistern is another possibility. However, you need to factor in that you will have to pay to have water hauled in, which leads me to….
4. Is it accessible?
I don’t mean like I said up there in the first thing to look for. I mean, can you get to it? Can you drive a normal vehicle? Do you need a 4×4? Do you need a quad? Do you have to walk to get to it? How far from the closest public, maintained road is it? Will you be able to access it year-round, or will it be a problem in the winter? If the access is only seasonal, is that a problem for you? How comfortable will you be if you can only get out part of the year? For some this will never be an issue, for others it may very well be problematic.
5. How will I get rid of waste?
Let’s face it, we all poop. Does the property have a septic or the ability to have one? Is that what you want? Are you comfortable with an outhouse? Be aware that some areas outhouses are illegal dictating that you will probably need a septic unless you’re comfortable with a composting toilet!
6. Do I have mineral and timber rights?
People never consider this stuff an issue, but it really is! Don’t ever let someone tell you that not having the mineral and timber rights to your property isn’t important. If you don’t have mineral rights and someone finds something on your land… say goodbye to your property! They have the right to take it over and mine whatever valuable materials they found. Even if the property has never shown anything of any value, you never know!
Timber rights are typically given to you. Just make sure there are no timber contracts on your land. If there are… buyer beware. You could still buy it, but you never know what the land will look like once the logging company removes everything and moves on to their next job site.
7. How close is it to town?
This may or may not be important to you. Depending on the accessibility I mentioned earlier, you may not even be able to get to town ;)! However, if you or your spouse are going to have to work off the homestead, this is incredibly important. Make sure you don’t live so far out that getting to town will be impossible or so time consuming and expensive that you spend all your time driving back and forth.
8. Is the property big enough for all of our goals, current and in the future?
I know, you’re saying “finally she’s telling me to make sure the property will fit my needs”! Will the property fit your needs? How about 5 years from now? 10? Will there be room for a house? Outbuildings? Pasture? Orchard? Garden? Whatever is important to you that you want to accomplish be it now or 10 years from now, make sure that the property will suit your needs. This is a one time deal, while you could technically move later on… if you’re looking for a place to securely plant your roots, make sure this is the place to do it.
9. Is the property developed? If it isn’t, can it be developed for the uses I need?
Is the property overgrown with trees and brush? Is it full of completely uneven terrain? Is it on the side of a mountain with huge rock outcroppings? Is it very steep terrain that a mountain goat would have trouble navigating? Is there a place for a homesite? Is there room for outbuildings? If it is wooded, can part of it be cleared and is that going to be cost effective? Is this a place you can comfortable live, have a garden, and raise livestock? Does it already have a driveway? Has anything been cleared or done yet? All of these things are important and should be considered in the actual cost of the property and what it will cost you in the long run.
10. Are there any improvements on the land? What shape are they in?
We’ve looked at a handful of properties that already have small cabins and/or barns on them. They aren’t the fanciest buildings on the planet, but they serve their purpose and we don’t want fancy. If there are improvements on the land, see if they are useable. Keep in mind that you can “fix-up” just about anything and even build on to existing structures if needed. You could also use existing improvements that are a little less than stellar as temporary housing until you build what you want.
11. Are there utilities nearby? Is there appropriate resources for solar, wind, or other alternative energies?
We plan to be off grid on our homestead property, so i’m not really concerned on the closest electrical line. Most of the properties we have looked at the power is at least 2 miles away. We do want to be sure that there is adequate space and resources for alternative energies so we can live off-grid with a few modern amenities (at least at some point, though probably not right away).
12. What’s the community like?
Check out the neighbors! Check out the closest community! Even if you are looking at a property with one neighbor 3 miles away, go chat them up! Make sure that they aren’t going to cause any issues, see how receptive they are to you and the idea of someone purchasing a neighboring parcel. If you’re looking at really remote land, go to the community! Make sure people are receptive of newcomers, what their lifestyles are like, just get an overall feel for the area. You can make invaluable connections for later on regardless of which property you end up purchasing! Community is important in any situation, but especially homesteading!
13. Can I procure wild game and fish on my property or nearby?
This is a big deal for us, personally. We want land that will provide us with the opportunity to hunt and fish either directly on it, or very close by. Some people this isn’t a big deal, it just is for us. We enjoy wild game and fishing as a means to be more self-sufficient. While we plan to raise some livestock, we also will depend heavily on wild game and fish to feed our family.
14. Is it affordable?
We are big on becoming debt free. I sincerely hope you are too! If we choose a property that we can’t obtain by cash alone, it needs to be affordable. Something that we can afford to pay monthly payments on until the debt it paid in full. Don’t buy something at the top of your price range, go somewhere in the middle. If you have cash, fantastic, if you don’t, put as much down as possible and be sure to run through different scenarios to be sure you can truly afford the debt.
Also, consider the cost of any improvements you need to make. How much will it cost to put a house there? A barn? Does it have a driveway? Will it need a septic? How much can you do yourself? All of these things are a factor.
Don’t forget to consider the cost of property taxes as well!!!
There you have it. These are 14 of the things to ask when buying homesteading land. I want to add one more thing that is of importance, but not really a question to ask. Be sure you aren’t being scammed. Something that looks too good to be true, probably is. There are people out there who will list properties for sale that they don’t even have the right to sell. Be sure to do your homework on any potential property, get the coordinates, look it up on a plat map, talk to a local real estate agent or even the county assessor to be sure it’s a real deal, especially if that property is listed by a private owner and not a licensed real estate agent.
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