The Little House Living Show – Episode 016 – The Keys for Finding Land
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Hello and welcome to the little house living show. This channel is for those trying to live a simpler, slower and more cost-effective life. My name is Merissa, and I will be your host and your friend as we journey along together to find new tips and advice, as well as lots of encouragement.
Welcome back to another episode of the little house living show today. I kind of wanted to do something a little bit different or talk about something a little bit different than what I’ve previously talked about on this show. And that’s just because I’ve gotten so many questions on it. I felt like it would be easiest for me to just address it by talking to you guys. So I thought this was the easiest way. So today on the podcast, we are going to talk about how we found our land to home set on. This is a question that I’ve gotten throughout the years because we’ve had several homes that we’ve owned. And especially in the last year with us buying a new place and starting completely from scratch. And it seems like there’s such a demand right now for people wanting to move out of the city and move into the country.
And so I kind of have some things I wanted to share with you and maybe some things that you might want to consider if this is something that you’re thinking about, if you’re considering just moving out to the country from where you’re at, or if you’re considering moving to a different state. Yeah. There’s a lot of things to keep in mind as you’re planning your homestead, and that’s not just what you want to have on your homestead, but what you can physically and literally do on the piece of land that you buy. We started looking for land really early this spring, kind of right before COVID hit and right before we moved. So or not this Frank last Frank, cause it’s a new year now, keep forgetting that. So we started looking for some land and initially we were looking for land with a house on it because that is always what we’ve purchased in the past.
Let’s see we’ve had several different houses and they’ve all had between five and 10 acres. So we were kind of looking for something in that sphere, but keeping an open mind with where we might want to be or what we might want to do on the land. I did not want to have something that was super complicated because we really love to travel. And so I wanted to make sure that we weren’t going in over our head with how much land we want are going to buy. And so that was kind of a big thing for me right in the beginning. So we just started by looking online. We never did hire a realtor throughout the entire process. We sold our previous house without a realtor. We sold the house before that, without a realtor. We kind of, we know what we like and we know a lot about homes and kind of what we were looking for.
So we just, at the time it didn’t feel like it was necessary again, this time to hire a realtor. But if you’re looking in a area that’s maybe in a different state or an area that you’re not familiar with, it may make sense to hire a realtor because as the buyer, there’s not really much for fees or anything on your end anyway. So yeah, it may make sense that way. And of course, we ended up working with a realtor that had the property that we purchased listed and that just kind of worked out great for us. So we just went with that. So yeah, we just started by looking online and kind of getting an idea, thinking about what we wanted. We had a couple criteria in mind, maybe not right away when we first started looking for. Cause when we first started looking, we were just kind of trying to gather ideas.
But when we started to get serious about it, we filtered everything by the price that we could afford. And my big thing was that it had to have trees on it. And maybe I’ll think that funny thing that’s funny, but here in South Dakota trees are quite the commodity. So I wanted to make sure that we had trees and not just little trees. I really wanted big trees. That was kind of my, really, my only criteria for land was that it had trees on it. So yeah, we started looking through things. We searched every website that we could find. There really wasn’t one that I used in particular. I would just start searching and basically click on anything that Google would bring up as far as land for sale or homes for sale. And we’re finding that we were not able to find a home that either was an decent condition for a fair price or in fixer upper condition for a really good price with the land that we wanted, nothing was in our price range with a home on it.
So we pretty quickly decided that that was probably not the way that we were going to be able to go after owning several homes. We knew what we wanted in our home. We didn’t want something overly large. Yet we didn’t want to live in a tiny house either. So we had a pretty good picture of what our home look like. And since we have done quite extensive remodel construction renovation type of work in the past, we thought that it might be in our best interest just to go ahead and build our own home at the time after we moved back from our internships. So we were in an internship in Ohio and then we moved back to South Dakota when we moved back for living in a camper and we’ve done it before. So we knew we could do it again. And for kind of any amount of time needed, hopefully we could get out of it before it got cold, but we knew we at least a place to stay.
Even if it wasn’t the greatest place ever. Our camper is only 18 feet long. And so that’s about 150 square feet for five of us. So this summer was pretty cramped, but we ended up having a lot of space to roam around them. So it was fine. And you kind of do what you have to do when you get in that situation. So, so yeah, we kept on searching for land. So then when we got really serious and started looking at places we would just take drives and have the address of several different places and we would just kind of drive past it. And we would take a look at like the community that surrounded it, what the neighbors look by, just kind of anything we could get in our head as a picture. When we went to visit that property, we didn’t actually go on the property.
We just kind of drove by it or drove up to it and would just kind of get a feel for it. So we looked at quite a few places if you don’t already know, we live in the black Hills. And so that’s where we were looking at, but we were not narrowed down to any one specific location. So we drove all over the black Hills looking outside of various towns and just kind of getting a feel for what that might be like. And then we’d, even though we’re quite familiar with the towns in the Hills, we would go into the town. Then after we looked at the land and kind of tried to picture ourselves there, like, you know, did this town have a grocery store? Do they have a post office? Do they have a decent community? Are there homeschoolers here? We would kind of ask ourselves those questions as we pictured ourselves in that community.
And there was some communities within the black Hills that we didn’t feel were the greatest fit. And so maybe we kind of crossed those locations off a little bit, but so we actually put in an offer on, we ended up finding a house and it was on, I can’t remember, I think it was on 10 acres and it was a really beautiful location. There was no close neighbors or anything. It was a great little place we thought and seemed like a decent community. There was big trees, which was the big thing for me. It was definitely way at the top end of our budget and the house still needed some work, but you know, supply was limited of houses and land available. So we decided to put an offer on that house and ended up going back and forth with the owner for several weeks on it.
And in the end we were just really unhappy with the deal and it didn’t really seem like the seller wanted to sell it. So we ended up canceling that deal and deciding that that was not where we were supposed to be. So we were kind of disappointed because it was kind of a cool old farmhouse and like a really nice piece of property had already had fruit trees, which was a huge bonus. And so we were kind of disappointed, but on the way back from one of the times looking at the house, I had found this piece of property. I think I found it on Zillow or somewhere online that I was looking. And I started scrolling through the pictures. I clicked on it because the price was really good and it said it was 20 acres. So I was kind of excited. So I started scrolling through the pictures and I just burst out laughing in the car because here is this thing on this property. And I couldn’t even, I mean, we have pictures it’s really hard to describe. So there was a little building and it was attached to a yert. And if you don’t know what a yert is, it’s kind of like a glorified tent. And then that was attached to this really creepy haunted house, looking two story, like really tall structure. And I just could not stop laughing because it was, it was hysterical, the pictures, but the land looked really pretty.
So I showed it to my
Husband and I was like, I think we should go look at this. I was like, maybe this is what we’re supposed to buy. And so he looks at it and he’s like, I’m not living in a yert, but so we ended up calling the realtor and she was really nice. The property had been listed for almost a year and it had been vacant for at least a year. So we decided to drive down and go ahead and look at it just because of the pictures. The land were really nice. We could not picture ourselves in the structure that was on the property, but we really liked the pictures of the land and it had tons of trees. It was in the forest. We just thought it was really beautiful. So we drove down to the property and I thought I was going to fall out of the car because the road was
So bumpy. It was awful. But then we get there
Actually it’s a piece of land and it was so peaceful and it was so quiet back there. And if you didn’t look at that thing that was supposed to be the house, then you could see how beautiful this, this property really was. So once we got really serious and started asking questions about this piece of property, it didn’t just become about the location and the price because we were already really comfortable with those things and it had trees. So we were good there. The next biggest thing for us were the mineral rights. We wanted to make sure that the land had a full mineral rights because I don’t want somebody digging on my land. And then we wanted to know about the water. We wanted to know if there was any covenants attached to the land and if there was any type of zoning or something, which is a little bit different than covenants. So there was no covenants on our property, which is exactly what we wanted. If we’re going to buy a piece of land, we want to do exactly what we want with it. So that was a big thing for us that there’d be no covenants. And there wasn’t, I’m not sure if this plays into zoning or whatever, but we did call the County to find out what we would need to know for like building permits. We could
And couldn’t do
We needed to have a contractor for, and because of the County that the property is located in, basically we need nothing and can do whatever we want to the property. The only thing was, is we were supposed to have someone licensed put in the septic system, but it already had a septic system. So that was not something that we needed to do. Otherwise we could do the entire project by ourselves as long as we got the permits. And so that was perfect because if we were going to have to build we needed to be able to do it ourselves and not have to hire a contractor because on our budget, that wasn’t really possible that checked that off of our list. And then with the water. So we don’t have a well at our home, which isn’t super ideal. We have to haul in water and the house when we purchased it, or the property had a 1200 gallon cistern we’ve since then put in an additional 2,500 gallon cistern.
So we haul water about once every two weeks, we had to do it a little bit more often in the summer, but we’ve got different plan for next year. And water costs us about $10 a month. It’s super cheap. It was just something that we had to commit to if we wanted to live there. We’re not a hundred percent sure that we can’t have a welder, but everyone else, all the neighbors and stuff hauling their water. I think Wells are difficult to, because of the what’s under the ground where we live, which happens to be a cave. So Wells are kind of difficult and hit and miss. We still want to have someone out to find out if we can have a well out there, but for now we haul our water. But that was one of the initial questions that we needed to find out was what was the water situation?
Like? How much was it going to cost us and kind of, what did that look like? And with our situation in the hauling water, we didn’t really know exactly what that looked like until we got into it. But now we know, you know, we use without conserving, we use about 1200 gallons every two weeks. And so we need to refill that tank. Now, next year, we are going to set up a rain catchment system, and we’re also going to recycle all of the gray water that we have. So we’ll use quite a bit less water once we’re able to get that set up. So the water thing we’re really not concerned about, but we were really glad that there was already something in place. There was a cistern, there was a pump to get the water into the structure. So that was a big plus too.
And then we looked into the other utilities. There was already electric to this spot and where the structure was. And so we just decided to go with that for now. We would like to be off grid at some point, but since there’s already electricity, it was really easy for us just to tie right into that. So that was a big expense saved as well. There was also a driveway since there was an existing structure. Driveways can be super expensive to build. So that was a big plus for us. And then there was already fiber optic internet there. We had to call and have it hooked up once we kind of did a little work on the house, but it was already there. And that was a big thing for us because of course we work online. So it checked off all of those boxes and the price was just as low as we would just pay for land only without the utilities.
One, the thing to keep in mind was that when we called, so we had money saved up to be able to build a house, but we didn’t have enough money to build a house and buy the land. So we decided that we were going to get a land loan for the land. And then, then we’d use the cash that we had to build the house. So when we called the bank about getting a land loan for this property or for any property, and it could vary from bank to bank, but they told us that if the property had no utilities on it whatsoever, you needed to pay a 50% down. If it had utilities on it, you could pay as little as 25% down. So with our budget, we really could only afford the 25% down because we needed the rest of the cash to be able to build the house.
So this property really check that off for us because it had all the utilities, we would not need to pay the 50% down. So that was a really big thing for us when, when we actually, you know, looked into the logistics of that. So that’s something to remember too. If you do have to get some kind of land loan for the property or what you’re doing now, if we’d have had to have a construction loan or something for the house, we would have had to have a licensed contractor on the house because that was what the bank required. So that was another big reason why we wanted to make sure that we paid cash for the house. Instead of having to get a construction loan. Also with a construction loan, there was more costs involved. There was more closing costs and things like that.
So we wanted to be able to save as much as we could. Now we didn’t have the money saved to be able to build the entire house, even though we had a decent amount saved. So that’s why progress has been slow the last couple of months, but it’s totally fine. We have a house that we were able to move in in September after working on it for about four months, which is kind of amazing. It was pretty much just me and my husband all summer building the house by ourselves. So, but we were able to move in and our walls are not finished, but it is insulated. It’s warm. It has running water and we are perfectly happy. And then each month as we get paid, we’ve been able to finish more parts of the house, which has been really nice. So it just really makes you appreciate what you have.
But we like that. We did it this way. We liked that we did the house with cash and I don’t know that I would change it. So, okay. So the other thing that I wanted to mention if you’re looking for land or for property, is to really think about how much land you need. So when we first started looking for land, I was not set on having a big piece of land because I knew that a big piece of land has different things that you have to manage with it, and it might be more stressful and it’s definitely more expensive to have a bigger piece of land. So we were looking for something smaller because honestly, when, even when you’re homesteading, like you don’t usually use the entire piece of land, unless you’re running cattle or, you know, have horses or something is a large animal.
You’re not going to use that whole huge piece of land. We ended up getting what we did because it was within our price range. And we liked the extra land to kind of have that padding around us. So we don’t have any close neighbors, but as far as usability goes, you really, I mean, you could have a really nice home set on a really small piece of land, so you don’t need a huge piece of land. So if you’re looking for something and you think, Oh man, I need to have 40 acres, or I’m not going to be able to run this homestead. Definitely try to get out of that mindset because it’s totally not necessary to have a lot of land. I am not sure. I think I mentioned it earlier, but so we ended up buying 20 acres, but the front half of that is completely a pine forest.
So it’s not something that’s really usable as far as home setting goes. I mean, I suppose we could put pigs or goats or something in there if we really wanted to, but we just like it to have a beautiful forest that we have some walking paths through. And well, we actually are building a camping spot on it for people to come and stay with us. So we like that, but it’s not, it wasn’t necessary for our homesteading plan. So then the back half of our property is actually this big meadow, which could be a really useful area if we ever wanted to have some kind of grazing animal. The only thing is, is that we have a herd of elk that comes through our property and they go back to that meadow and they sleep back there. So we think it’s really beautiful. And don’t have any intentions of having grazing animals in our meadow because we love looking out the window and seeing the elk out there.
So the actual part of our property that we use is probably only about an acre as I use. And I mean that as far as like homesteading use, so like our gardens and where the seller is and where we’ve got a, a shipping container there for some storage and stuff and the chickens. So that part of our property is really only about an acre. And it’s only that big because we have a fairly decent size yard and I am expanding the garden section this year to a new area that will be an extra greenhouse. So otherwise we could have actually a really nice garden on a lot less space than that. That is just something to keep in mind. As you’re looking, don’t feel like you have to be under this big stress because you think you need a huge amount of land. And like I said, there is perks to having more land.
You have this nice buffer, you know, you’re not super close to your neighbors, or you can use it for other purposes like we do, but if you just want something that you can really use and you have a really specific budget that you need to stay in, you can definitely stick with a smaller piece of land. So I hope that maybe that gives you an idea of kind of what our mindset was as we went into buying the place that we did. And if you’re looking to buy your home set or your land out in the country or your home out in the country, I kind of hope that that gives you a little bit more of an idea of what to look for on your search. And I know that it’s really hard, especially right now to find a decent piece of property for a decent price.
I know we’ve been looking for some friends that really want to move out to the country as well. And yeah, we just kind of live in a really difficult time for that at the moment, but just keep searching and keep your mind open to what the possibilities could be. Maybe you may have to take out of your mind what this perfect ideal is of what a homestead looks like and really narrow it down to what, what you really want to do and what you can really picture yourself doing and then maybe reevaluate, but definitely keep some of these things in mind, as you’re looking at places, utilities, rights, covenants, water, start-up cross, anything like that. And, you know, try not to settle for something that isn’t, it, isn’t in the right location for you, or doesn’t have the right community feel or something, you know, it’s worth it to hold off a little while until you do find that right place.
And, and sometimes you don’t know that it’s the right place until you go there and really look at it, walk around it. We definitely didn’t know that until we went to this piece of property and really walked out into the meadow and, you know, heard the breeze through the pine trees and saw the Bluebirds and stuff. It really wasn’t until that moment that we knew that that was where we were supposed to be. And we, like I said, we looked at it online and I could not stop laughing because it was so ridiculous, but it ended up being the right place for us. So if I’d have just went off my reaction from what I first saw it, we wouldn’t be living there, but it definitely is the right place for us. Once we kind of opened our mind to what it looked like and asked all the right questions. So I hope this kind of gives you a better idea and I hope this encourages you this week. Yeah. I know that things are tough right now for everybody. And everybody’s kind of wanting to move into that simpler lifestyle or the homesteading lifestyle. So I hope that you are able to use some of these tips and find the perfect place for your family. And until next time, I hope that you keep on making the most with what you have. I’ll talk to you.