Buying land is intimidating.
Prior to our move to the country, neither my husband or I had ever made that kind of purchase before. We asked all sorts of questions: How does one get water and electricity? Do we really need a fence? How do we know if the price is right?
After months of looking, and a deal falling through, we finally found our land — and learned lots along the way! So if you're interested in buying land for your homestead, too, here are 10 important things we wish we had known before we got started.
#1 — Size
Our realtor initially encouraged us to take a look at differently sized acreages — the first being 5 acres. Perhaps he thought we'd be overwhelmed by the large size, and decide to think smaller.
If that was his plan, it backfired! 😉
We were surprised at how small 5 acres actually felt to us. So, in the end, we bought 10 acres instead.
On the one hand, 10 acres is a lot of land. We've barely touched half of what we own. At times, the upkeep feels overwhelming.
On the other hand, we do have visible neighbors on either side of us. It's nothing compared to a city home with a tiny backyard, but with a flat property and no trees, we don't feel as secluded as we thought we would.
My point? If you want to feel way out in the middle of nowhere, you will need either a large acreage, or trees, or hills to create a buffer between you and your neighbors.
#2 — Distance From Amenities
Any rural area is situated at some distance from basic amenities. For most of us, that's the whole point.
However, keep convenience in mind. For our first year on our homestead, we commuted for everything. Our small town didn't even have a grocery store. And while the 13 to 40 miles between us and the 2 nearest towns didn't seem like much originally, it really was once we settled in.
That distance radically changed our lifestyle. With every trip into town, we had to figure out what we needed for the next several weeks. Gone were the days of impromptu trips to the store for forgotten ingredients. We learned to stock up — or do without.
#3 — Fencing
Fortunately, we bought our property already fenced in on 3 sides. Many properties, however, are not. And fencing — even just t-posts and barbed wire — can be expensive. You can do it yourself to cut some costs, but there is a certain amount of skill and know-how involved in stretching fencing.
If you plan on having any livestock, you will probably need some sort of fencing eventually. Consider cost, time, and materials.
#4 — Internet & Cell Phones
Admittedly, I took an internet connection for granted. We had it in the city. Why wouldn't we have it in the country?
But no, our service provider in the city doesn't have cable all the way out in the country… In fact, no one does.
So, for now, we are limited to a slow and expensive satellite connection. No more Netflix while folding laundry or listening to Pandora by the hour!
We've learned to live with these limitations, although they are a challenge. Even cloudy days, rain, or snowstorms interrupt our internet connection from time to time.
#5 — Restrictions
Are there any easements on the property you're considering? You need to find out! In fact, you need to find out all of the restrictions up front.
We almost learned this lesson the hard way. We were within days of closing on an acreage when we learned that it had so many government easements there was no space to build a home. Fortunately, we were released from our contract without penalty.
Had we closed on the deal, the land would have been useless to us.
Additionally, the seller stipulated that no mobile homes or temporary housing was allowed. Although this wasn't a problem for us, I know of many homesteaders who opt to live in stop gap housing before building a permanent home.
Better to find out any restrictions in advance!
#6 — Water & Mineral Rights
Once you sign on the dotted line, who will own the water and mineral rights to the land? You? Or someone else?
We looked at a property for sale with an oil well belonging to the government. We were told to expect regular visits from whomever came to monitor the well. The government maintained the access road, which might have been a perk to some, but for us, the lack of privacy was a deal-breaker.
#7 — Terrain
How much of the land is useable? Does it have a pond? If so, do you really want one? Consider water safety if you have small children.
If it does not have a pond, will you need one if you decide to keep livestock (like cattle)? How much will it cost to have one dug? What will you do with the dirt dug out to create the pond?
Which way does the land slope? Does it have trees? Hay? Rocky soil?
In the end, we purchased a treeless lot — and the wind surprised us! We ended up planting seedlings as a wind-breaker so we could actually garden and landscape.
Another challenge? Our heavy clay soil. We barely passed a perc test in order to have our septic installed, and even then, needed many more feet of lateral lines than we'd anticipated. This drove up the cost of labor and materials.
So, analyze your property's challenges, and figure out what is needed to overcome them. Can you afford improvements? If not, can you make do without?
#8 — Roads, Electricity, Water, Etc.
How accessible is your property? Do you have access to it by a paved road? If not, could bad weather (rain, ice, snow) prevent you from leaving?
How far back from the road will you place your home? How much will it cost to have water and electricity run to your building site? Is a water tap included in the cost of your property or will you need to install one?
Electricity was one big wrinkle in our building plans. The builder didn’t want to pour a foundation without it, and the electric company wouldn’t provide it unless we had a foundation with the plumbing stubbed out. It took a few weeks of diplomatically dancing between the 2 parties until we got it figured out!
#9 — Neighbors
Who will feed your chickens if you need to leave town for a week or two? Is there someone nearby you can count on in an emergency?
Get to know those living around you. There may be a time when you need help. We even found that our community of neighbors embraces similar desires and values to ours.
#10 — Cost & Property Taxes
Land can be expensive. Distance from amenities can drive the cost down, but you may pay more in other ways because of living so far out.
Make sure you consider property taxes, as well. Any improvements or machinery may be taken into account on an annual basis, and may drive up your taxes.
Are you interested in buying land for your homestead? Or do you already live on an acreage? What advice do you have?
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