Here are my twelve tips for choosing a perfect homestead site – they come from my experience in buying two places (Colorado and Maine). These are the things I would have on a checklist and the questions you may need to ask to find out the answers BEFORE making a decision.
Of course, the first decision (and maybe the hardest) is where to homestead…check out all our resources on that decision here (opens in a new page).
Everyone has a different idea on what is ‘perfect’ for them, but following these twelve tips for choosing a perfect homestead will help you to narrow down your search and avoid the property pitfalls.
Twelve tips for choosing a perfect homestead
1. Water – you will need to have a good source of water – not only for your home but for your garden and animals. For many of us, that means having a reliable well and a pump. Find out what the neighbors use and the quality of the water. Speak to the town/county building or code person – they can tell you others use in the area. Make sure you get a water test done to check for issues like heavy metals or well contamination.
2. Access – you will need to be able to access your homestead 365 days of the year. So consider what changes in the seasons will mean to access. If you are in a place that gets snow, who is responsible for clearing your access road? If YOU are, what equipment will you need to open up your access road? Who is responsible for maintenance of the road?
3. Infrastructure – Does the property come with any buildings? Cottage, barn, sheds? Are these approved structures (ie. have a permit). What effort will you need to make these structures suitable for your plans. What will the cost be to ‘just move in’? What about fences? Are fences in good repair? Are they YOUR fences or the neighbors or shared? If the place is a blank sheet, what will it cost to have something built. What are the costs for septic installations etc.
4. Power – if you want to be connected to grid power are there lines that run close to where your homestead will be? If not, what will the post you to pole the power into your place? Consider alternative power sources if you need multiple poles….as you may be responsible for the cost of the poles or may need to get permission from neighbors to place poles on their land. It may be cheaper to have a large generator or use solar/wind power. If you want to heat using wood, do you have access to a good wood supply?
5. Markets – Will you want to be selling produce or items from your homestead? How close will you be to markets willing to buy your items? How far a drive is it to your nearest population center or farmers market etc?
6. Connection to the world – having internet is becoming an almost must have for many folks. Do you have cell phone reception at your homestead site? Can you get cable? Is there “line-of-site” microwave internet? If you NEED the internet and you have none of these, then you might need to use satellite internet (which, in our experience, is expensive, slow and has too many restrictions to run a business).
7. Isolation & privacy – many people WANT to be isolated. This opens up a load more possibilities for them in getting cheaper land. Many folks WANT to have access to local town services and want to be part of a community. Knowing what YOU want and then factoring that into your decisions is important.
8. Medical facilities – this is one that becomes more important the older you get (from my perspective). How far away from good medical care are you? Being completely isolated comes with the risk of urgent medical care not making it to you in a timely fashion.
9. Land taxes – what will it cost you to just keep the property each year in taxes? This is a simple question to ask the town/county office. Don’t just go by what the seller is telling you – CHECK.
10. Boundaries – find the survey pegs at each corner and each ‘bend’ in the boundaries. Know what you are buying. Get the survey documents BEFORE you buy. If you can’t find the pegs, get a survey done.
11. Zoning – you need to know the zoning for the place you want to purchase. Can you have animals? Can you operate as ‘agricultural’ land? Where are the zone boundaries? Are you WELL inside the zoning boundary or is there some risk that if zone is changed it will affect you. Speak to the town office/county office zoning experts!
12. Neighbors – no matter where you go, you WILL have neighbors. For some people having your neighbors so far away that you can’t even tell you have them is wonderful. For others being able to see another farm light at night is reassuring. Some neighbors can be ‘corporations’ or even public land such as forests or National Parks. These can be a bonus. You can see who your neighbors us by visiting the local town office and getting the tax maps for the area. Many towns have it all online. A final check can always be a quick knock on the door of a potential neighbor and have a conversation about the place you want to buy…you might learn a whole lot more about your dream place as well as getting a feeling for what your potential neighbors will be like. Trust me – its really worth it!
I hope you can use these twelve tips for choosing a perfect homestead as you move forward with your homestead dream.