Finding and Buying a Homestead: How We Did It and Tips For Those Looking for Their Own Homestead

by Merissa on June 25, 2014

in Homestead Living

Finding and Buying a Homestead - Little House Living

Finding and Buying a Homestead

If you've been following our rocky story over the last year, you know that our most recent home purchase was.....unexpected? Or at least didn't happen on our timing! But nevertheless we ended up with a great homestead, a little farm, and plenty of space to raise our family and everything we need to be mostly self sufficient.

Our current home is actually our second homestead (but our first farmstead), our previous home was also an acreage that we were able to be somewhat self sufficient on. I will say that with our second home purchase we definitely have learned a lot more and finally know what to look for in a homestead purchase!

One question that I get quite often is how we found our most recent homestead and what where some of the things we looked for in the place in order to make our purchase. Today I'm hoping to answer those questions for you! If you are currently looking for a homestead I hope these answers will give you something to consider before you make your purchase.

Looking for a Location

Even though we were planing on traveling for a while before we planned to settle down, we still looked into many many different areas for our future homestead. We'd planned on moving for quite some time so we had been looking at any home magazine we could get our hands on! Our favorite online resource was Homes and Land but we also liked being able to call individual realtors when we were looking in an area and asking them what was available in our price range. Throughout the process of looking we stayed very open to a location, although we hoped for it to be within 4 - 5 hours of family.

Being Open But Within Budget

We were open to both vacant land and a home, although leaning towards vacant land. Now I'm actually glad we ended up getting a home because even though we've done a ton of work to it, we've been able to move in sooner than it would have taken to built from scratch. No matter what we found though our budget was around $100,000 or less. I did not think we would be able to find a home and land for that price but you will be surprised if you stay open to location!

Considering the Land and Area

Once we went to look at a place we took in everything considering our ultimate goals (which were to be as self sufficient as possible). Would the land support animals and livestock? What was the soil like for gardening? Was there a well or how much would it cost to dig one? How long would the driveway need to be? (Driveways are a HUGE but understated expense!) At one point we looked at a large area of cheap land but it had no well and there was cactus EVERYWHERE. It would have been a major expense to get those things going and then we would still have to build a house. Ultimately we went with less acreage but an opportunity to grow/support more because the land is so fertile.

So make sure you ask about these things when looking at a place:

  • Does it have a well? If not, how deep are nearby wells? (Then call and get a quote from a local driller, one piece of land we were seriously considering cost $100k for the well. That one got crossed off our list in a hurry...)
  • Does it have a driveway? If not, make sure to budget that into your amount you are willing to spend.
  • What is the soil/ground like? How many cattle/goats/sheep can you support per acreage? Will you need to bring in extra support for a garden area?
  • What is the weather like? Will you need to make special provisions to deal with the weather in that area? (ie: build a basement or a tree shelter belt)
  • How close is the homeplace to town? Do you need to be closer or further away? Are jobs available?
  • What perks does this land/house offer? Β (ie: fruit trees, barns, sheds, ect)

Finding and Buying a Homestead

Condition of the Property/Land

Of course you know that we decided to go with a major fixer upper when we purchased our homestead. The biggest reason why? A very attractive price. Most of the fixes were from cosmetic damage that was reparable. It was pretty nor sanitary but we did not have big big expenses like new floors or a new roof (and only needed 4 more new windows). Previously I did not want another fixer upper since our first house was one as well but I've since changed my mind πŸ™‚ But if this is something you want to consider, make sure you are up for the task before you take it on! Without my husband's experience we would be pretty stuck up a creek without a paddle. MAKE SURE you get a home inspection!

We didn't have must have's for a house (other than it having at least 2 bedrooms and a bathroom indoors!) only because any property we would be looking at would be cheap enough that we would be able to add on in the future if needed. My only item on my wish list was that there were already some established trees on the property.

Specific Details About Our Property

(for ideas and so you can see that all these things are possible within budget!)

  • Our home and land cost less than $90,000, after the renovation costs figured in.
  • Our homestead consists of the house (900 sq feet) and 11 outbuildings (including a large barn).
  • We have a private well (although it is shallow and OLD).
  • We have 5 acres that we own currently with our home, 2 of those acres are treed. (although no neighbors for miles around).
  • The soil in our area is extremely fertile so you can do much more on less acreage.
  • Our house runs mostly off gas, although we are currently connected to the grid and have electric lights and fridge.

We were open and willing to go where we felt led to go as long as the property had what we needed to be able to work towards being self sufficient and was a smart financial decision. I will also add that I think it's key to be very open. If homesteading is what you are looking to do and feel called to do, there may be other sacrifices that have to be made to achieve that goal. For us it was living a bit further than we hoped from people we knew and moving to a place we weren't that familiar with and my hubby taking a new job. All barriers we could get across if we put our mind to it but sometimes it's hard to get over the initial change. (But after 7 months we still see family at least once a month, we really love our new little town, and a job is a job!) If you have goals and dreams for your life it's not always the easiest paths to achieve them but in the end you know it's worth taking the harder road!

There are so many facets to buying a homestead and I know I didn't include them all here so please shout out your questions in the comments section or you can always email me at [email protected] of course!

More Q&A to come in Part 2!

Are you looking to buy a homestead for your family in the future? What are your must haves?

merissabio

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6:00 am

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kim June 25, 2014 at 8:06 am

I really like your concept that a job is a job. As my husband and I get older, our objectives and expectations have changed dramatically. Once a career was THE most important thing, now we just want to pay our bills and have more time together.

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2 Julie June 28, 2014 at 12:55 am

Yes I would agree with that, my husband and I have come to that conclusion now, time, so precious and seems to just go faster and faster. So glad for you Merissa though, it all has worked out fine, it’s been a hard but good year well done! You have definitely got your priorities right, not sure I was so level headed at your age and looking forward to part 2

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3 liz June 25, 2014 at 9:09 am

Im a looking for a home stead. I have to stay in the county i am in. I am also wanting to be self sufficiant. Im looking for the wells or water supply,ground for gardening,and animals,also basement. My wish list is a pretty big kitchen,3-4bedrooms,and hopefully at least 1 1/2 -2bathroom and a garage (2-3 car). Im open to any ideas tho. Thank you for the ideas and addvice.

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4 Life Breath Present June 25, 2014 at 9:45 am

This sentence, “If you have goals and dreams for your life it’s not always the easiest paths to achieve them but in the end you know it’s worth taking the harder road!” is exactly what I needed to read/hear when it comes to my future goals of homesteading and becoming more self-sustainable, while also living by traveling and doing what feels right for us. πŸ™‚

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5 Jamie June 25, 2014 at 10:40 am

Did you make sure your hubby had a job in the area before you purchased the homestead? My fiance and I have been looking at land about 9 hours from our current home and are facing major financing hurdles due to our not living/working in the area already. One loan company said our loan would be a high risk loan (we have good credit) simply due to the fact that we currently reside out of state and do not currently have jobs in the area. I so appreciate your advice!

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6 Merissa June 25, 2014 at 1:59 pm

We purchased the home before my hubby had a job but I have a consulting business that can go anywhere and he got a job the week after we picked the house.

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7 Anna June 27, 2014 at 3:43 pm

What area of expertise do you consult in? My husband gets calls (at work mind you) from others higher up asking for help and advice on all sorts of jobs. I told him he should not be so “free” with his knowledge, but neither one of us knows how to get such a “consulting” business started. I have a degree in business and often walk into other business and all I can think of is what I would do different. My partial disabilities keep me from actually opening a business… any advice on this? We are looking to homestead about three hours from where we currently live and employment opportunities are few and far between.

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8 Merissa June 27, 2014 at 5:01 pm

In website building at the moment. It’s great that he is getting those calls, that’s exactly how I started! I don’t actually advertise, it’s simply word of mouth between bloggers. You are exactly right, his knowledge and time don’t need to be free. I would start with a few clients and offer them a discount or a free consultation in exchange for some testimonials to help build up the business.

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9 Marisa Slusarcyk June 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Thanks for sharing, I feel like I am on the right track. Looking at homes that are not “local” but have a better price and better amenities. While working isn’t a huge deal because I don’t have a fancy degree, meaning I can work anywhere, it is my ideal to keep my expenses, at least in the summer to below 400 a month (mortgage, utilities, taxes) and of course in winter it depends on the length of cold and HOW cold things will be so I am looking for a place that had at least 6 inch walls knowing that they are going to be better insulated (in theory). I also found that looking at homes in the winter and the spring has been better than looking in the summer. My reasons are, one I looked at a really cute and new trailer that was PERFECT and had everything I wanted, I saw it in March and it was still very cold here. The furnace, was high efficiency but it came on about 8 times while we did our walk through, the windows were also all iced up on the inside despite the curtains being open. This screamed “perfect looking, expensive to heat or needs new windows” and was checked off the list. Then in the spring while everything was melting I looked at another trailer on a decent plot of land that had a waterfall and river in the side yard, I love this place and would buy it but the price wasn’t right for a trailer. However its not off my list yet because the land is good, the taxes are good, the well and septic are new, it is completely renovated and it has plenty of room for my dogs, and even had an out building that would be PERFECT for chickens! If I could get the place at the right price to not have to worry about monthly payments I would be sold. I want to live off the land and be self sufficient as possible, so if this means I have to continue hanging out in my parents basement so I can get a place that is almost mortgage free or well within a price range then so be it. In the meantime I get to hang out on the 90 acres here! πŸ˜€ Thanks for sharing this! Location and land can’t be changed but the house and everything else can be, keeping an open mind on the living space itself is something i have definitely learned over the years and I am so excited to have the patience and knowledge to not want to be house poor. I love this blog, it feels like I am living through you, LOL!

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10 Donna June 25, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Another dream-inducing post by Merissa! LoL. I loved reading this one. It makes me day-dream about doing what you are doing. At my age (50) & with health issues & being single….I don’t see myself getting to make those kinds of changes in my life. I pretty much have to accept the fact that those are dreams that have sailed for me. So, as I’ve said before, I will live vicariously through you. πŸ™‚

I have a question: When you were considering this property, did your husband get a job first or did you make an offer on the homestead & have faith that he would get employed in town? I know you mentioned checking to see if jobs are available as a point to consider beforehand. I’m just curious as to how exactly you guys handled that issue.

I can’t wait for part 2! Thanks for all the joy you give. πŸ™‚

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11 Merissa June 25, 2014 at 4:56 pm

We made an offer first knowing that there was a job opportunity in town that he was going to apply for an had a very very good chance of getting. However, with my own consulting business and use not having many bills after we sold our previous house we knew that we could pay for the new mortgage with my salary alone. (since it was so cheap!)

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12 Deb @ Saving the Crumbs June 25, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Congratulations! Getting a new home is so exciting (esp if you feel you’ve done thorough research and gotten a great bargain). One benefit of country living we’ve learned to appreciate is fewer rules and regulations compared to subdivisions. We’ve recently invested in solar panels to hopefully save money in the long-run and are glad for the relative freedom of installing them up without jumping through so many city and neighborhood hoops!

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13 JD June 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Truly enjoyed this article. Answered a lot of questions I had and look forward to the next post. Thanks so much.

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14 Melissa French, The More With Less Mom June 26, 2014 at 11:01 pm

I am so dying for more space. I keep thinking I like small homes, and then I take a look around my current house with 4 kids. I convince myself we can fit, and I’m wrong. Thanks for sharing. Hello from Paula’s No Rules Weekend Blog Party!

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15 Gentle Joy June 30, 2014 at 2:02 pm

This is great advice – we are wanting to leave the city and get some acreage, but my husband wants to pay this house off first, so we are working away at that…. and dreaming of when…. πŸ™‚ Thank you for posting this.

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16 Jennifer Johnson July 1, 2014 at 6:39 am

I love that you found such a wonderful property. Some day I hope to find somewhere that we could turn into a winery and more.

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17 Stephanie Kay July 1, 2014 at 12:57 pm

I love the idea of owning a farm out in the country. Right now we live in the suburbs but really want to move out to the country. A couple of months ago we looked at 30 acres with a 1700s colonial house (we’re in New England). The land is gorgeous and the house has such amazing potential, but it’s priced at our max and the house really isn’t livable for a family of 7 as it is now. I keep going over in my head how we could swing it and it just can’t be done. So, we keep looking. πŸ™‚

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18 Lauryn July 4, 2014 at 9:12 pm

I love hearing the story of your home. We are just about to settle on a new home that is on 2 acres, all flat and tillable! I can’t wait to get started. This is going to be an adventure that I am so excited about going on! These are great tips that you mentioned!

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19 Sandy July 13, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Hi All, I just wanted to throw a little encouragement to the way of those looking for a homestead in the country. My husband and I lost everything in the real estate crash. He is a home appraiser. Most of our friends are in the industry too and also lot it all. But, head’s up. It’s okay. We are looking to move out of state and because of our work experience, we are able to look at a property with an approach of cost reality vs. dreamy idealism. What we have found is that the price of a homestead for sale is usually put there due to the advise of the seller’s real estate agent. Where we are looking, those prices are unrealistic due to what an appraisal of the property will come in at. So, feel confident in looking on Realtor.com and Zillow.com for SOLD homes that are similar in size and acreage to what you want. Look for properties that have sold most recently. These are the ones that appraisers tend to use most when doing residential appraisals. You might find that what you want to spend is just what others have been spending. Then, you can put in that lower offer and feel confident you made a good offer. Good luck to all of you trying to become more self-sufficient.

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20 Jenn August 8, 2014 at 10:14 pm

What a nice blog! We were totally not looking when we accidently drove past our foreclosed farm. We were lucky it was only 20 minutes from work & in my husband’s hometown he loves. Almost 2 years later my husband runs a small farm selling produce, honey & eggs. He’s disabled & it gives him something to look forward to everyday! πŸ™‚

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21 Sandy September 5, 2014 at 6:24 pm

Hi, We’ve put in several offers for houses on land over this year. God has not given us one of those houses so the wait goes on. We put in another offer recently on a Fannie Mae house that needed work and waited two weeks with no response. I want to tell any of you who are facing the same or similar issue that you can contact any government agency and request that your offer be escalated to the next level in order to expedite matters. Simply send an email or a letter and keep a copy for your records. If you are using an agent, copy one onto your agent and the listing agent. If you are purchasing a house from a private individual, you can write a letter to the seller and request that the listing agent give it to them. The listing agent must present your letter to the sellers. If you have any trouble with that route, locate the owner’s name and current address at the county assessor’s office where the home is located. The county has their current address because it’s where they send their tax bill. And, it’s public record. You can mail a letter directly to the home owner/seller. In your letter, present your case; comparable sold homes, repairs, financing, whatever you think will encourage the other end to understand your side of the offer and to speed up the process. I don’t know about you, but waiting is the hardest part for me. But, I’ve learned to be a lot more humble about this. Just because I asked for a three day response doesn’t mean I’m really going to get it that soon. But, a little initiative will go a long way when writing in and presenting your case. It actually helped us as we got a response yesterday after asking the listing agent to address this issue with level 2 at Fannie Mae. We countered. Maybe we will get a house after all…….????

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22 Merissa September 5, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Thank you for sharing these tips Sandy! Waiting is always the hardest part, I hope you get a house soon, I’m sure that it will be the perfect one for you!

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23 sarah June 24, 2015 at 4:12 pm

hey how did u find the land? my husband and I are also looking into finding land for homesteading. its proving to be harder then expected when were only just making it with financial issues. weve also looked into land sharing.

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24 Merissa July 6, 2015 at 7:59 am

We’ve always searched for our land online through sites like Farms and Land or directly on a realtor’s website. We found our latest piece of land and farmstead by searching realtor’s websites, it was not listed on the MLS.

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25 Chantal August 1, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Hi! I just have to say that I love your site. Your blog (especially this post) has been very helpful and inspirational as I work towards self-sufficiency and have started my own homesteading journey. It was one of the first I found and I look back to regularly. Thanks!

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