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July 25, 2022

How to Buy Land for Homesteading

You probably can’t wait to start having chickens and fresh eggs. And if you’re like us, you probably found a way to do so as you begin “transitioning” into this new way of living, Homesteading. But by now you may desire to have more land and less restrictions on what to build and types of livestock. 

We were in your position. Our family had roots in the SF Bay Area. Neither Sophie nor I grew up on farms or even saw a real live chicken up close until a few years ago when we woke up and realized we needed to have a better understanding of where our food comes from and how to have better control over it. 

We went from owning a few heritage hens and three garden beds on a quarter-acre suburban lot in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area to building a 5-acre off-grid homestead in the Gold Country of Northern California and finding our tribe to homestead in the Appalachians. We made two major moves within two years because we were learning as we went and were determined to get it right. There is no such thing as a textbook move from City to Country but our micro-farm today has sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, dairy cows, and multiple garden beds. If we as “city folk” can do it, so can you. 

Where to start

Buying land to homestead is quite a different goal than purchasing a single-family home. The first question I ask my clients is what are your home-buying goals? In this case, what are your homesteading goals?

The beauty is that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Homesteading is an all-inclusive term to mean you are seeking a self-sufficient or self-sustaining way of living. 

This question is meant for you to dream and to come up with your ideal picture or definition of what homesteading looks like to you and your family.

Here are some questions to get you brainstorming. Make this an activity you do with loved ones, anyone who will be homesteading with you needs to share the same vision.

Questions to ask yourself before you start looking to buy land for homesteading:

  1. Do I want to just grow food and not animals?
  2. Do I want to follow permaculture practices and grow a food forest?
  3. Do I want to have livestock?
  4. What kind of animals do I feel comfortable raising at first but ultimately where do I see myself in 3-5 years raising?
  5. Is being off-grid a necessity?
  6. Do I want my neighbor to see my yard?
  7. What do I really need in terms of a roof over my head?
    • Do I want to build my own home? And if so, do I want to explore having a Yurt, or build with aircrete, or build an earthship, etc.?
    • Do I want to just have a place to hook up an RV or have a manufactured home put in?
    • Do I see myself living in a cabin in the woods?
    • Or maybe a farmhouse?
    • Is there such a thing as a mid-century modern home to homestead from?

First step is financing

Before you start opening up Zillow and browsing at land, you need to sit down and talk finances with anyone who is going to “go in” with you on this venture. What is your budget going to be to buy land and or to build or will you seek out a farm to buy with a home on it already? Okay, now it becomes a Choose Your Own Adventure.

If you decide to buy land only because you plan on building on it someday or want to just plop an RV on it and call it a day, a rural loan or a USDA loan may be a good fit for you unless you plan to pay with cash. 

If you know that you want to buy land and build, then explore your options and seek out a combo loan that includes land and construction. 

*The beauty is that once your credit is pulled by one financial institution, then the credit bureaus know that you are shopping for loans and you can have a few more pulls of your credit during a 3-4 week period without having a negative effect on your credit score. 

* I highly recommend shopping around and seeking out local credit unions and regional banks in the area you want to purchase your future homestead in for the best rates and terms. 

As you are shopping for a loan, make sure you interview your loan officer. This person is going to be instrumental in helping you realize your homesteading dreams. Sophie would walk her clients from beginning to end, running multiple financial scenarios and being responsive to questions all the way up until the deal is closed and keys are in hand. Many loan officers may treat you as a number, so it’s important to determine the level of care you need and what questions you have in mind. 

Due to recent economic changes, consider seeking properties that offer seller financing as an option to save on the high-interest rates. Be sure to consult with your financial counselor before making a decision.  

Not all land is alike

Your vision will determine your location and the type of land you seek. For us, laws were important. So that helped us to begin narrowing down the list of possible states to live in. In the Army, we had a saying that “it tightens the shot group.”

Now that you narrow down the state, there are important must-haves to consider finding a suitable piece of property for homesteading no matter how large or small of an operation you plan. This is similar to buying a home, don’t just think about what you want but perhaps the next buyer in case your plans change and you want to relocate.

  1. Is there access to water? This is the most important question. 
    • Is it public municipal water? If so, you may want to consider getting filters or a Berkey. This is fine to start with.
    • Is there a private well and if not, can you dig one? Meaning, is the land unrestricted and is there a well digging contractor available to dig. During these times, it’s more like how long is the wait?
  2. What is the sun exposure on the property like? This is key to growing crops, and south facing is optimal. 
  3. How much of the land is usable? 
    • Is it sloped into the side of a mountain? This may be good for goats, sheep or cattle but take into consideration any grading costs and if there is a need to create an access road.
    • Is it all wooded? If so, take into consideration clearing costs.
    • How much of the land is flat and buildable? This is great for building a home, barn, and setting up your garden bed. 
  1. How much of the property is exposed? Homestead security should always be in the back of your mind. How do I protect my stuff? Exposure means, what can people see when they drive by or what can your neighbor see from their yard? In the military we used the terms cover versus concealment. In this case, cover would be building a wall versus using hedges and trees as concealment. 
  2. Is there access to power? Many home descriptions may say “at the road” but your home will not be built at the road so take into consideration costs to run power to your future home site, etc.

Interview your realtor

Anyone can show you homes and open doors but you need a professional who understands your goals and will help you accomplish them. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Homesteading is a big decision and it’s important to have the right people on your team. Your Realtor should be helping you identify potential property that meets your needs. 

  1. Do they live in or are familiar with the area you are interested in? 
  2. Do they have experience with the type of property you are searching for?
  3. Do they also Homestead themselves and can relate to what you want?
  4. Will they find the home that is right for you or will pressure you to make a sale? 
  5. Can they introduce you to people and local businesses in the community that share similar interests with you? Homesteading is not a solo activity, it very much requires community support.

Can I buy land to homestead?

Yes, you absolutely can! If you’re committed to your goals and do your due diligence you can find that perfect property to raise your family, grow food and livestock, become more self-reliant, and live that homestead dream.

  1. Carolina says:

    Hi Sophie & Tim,
    My husband and I came across your channel on youtube. We love what you two are doing and inspire to do the same! We’ve always wanted to homestead and live a more self-sustainable, more fulfilling life. We were wondering if you have any states or counties you would recommend to live this lifestyle and gain that homestead community you recommend?
    Thank you so much,
    Carolina & Shon

    • Sophia Eng says:

      Hi, Carolina and Shon! Thanks for reaching out, and I’m thrilled to hear that you are on this journey to live a more self-sustainable lifestyle. I’ll reach out to you separately.
      – Sophie

  2. Diana says:

    Hi Sophie, I came across your story on Instagram during the Weston A. Price Conference in Kansas. I currently live in NYC and my dream is to homestead. This has been my calling for awhile and would love to some insights and how you began your journey from living in a big city to homesteading.

    • Sophia Eng says:

      Hi Diana! Thanks for reaching out. We have our Call to Farms Podcast, where we have documented our journey from big city to homesteading in the country and the mountains. 🙂 Any specific questions you might have?

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