Earlier, Hubby and I were looking at a piece of land to buy for the future site of our Homestead. (If you missed it, catch up on Part 1 and Part 2). For those following along, we put an offer in and then backed out when we began to learn more about the property. Namely, the expensive of the renovation on the existing farm house, concerns about protected wetlands, and the proximity of the house to the main road. We have a young son and animals, so I would have constantly worried.
It was a very hard decision to make, but our search continues! And so does this series:
11. How Much Land (and What Type) Do You Need?
This is a hotly debated subject with no right or wrong answers. The key here is to find the balance between enough land to grow and be able to achieve your homesteading dreams, but small enough to maintain with ease. Do you need large, fenced in paddocks for horses? Or will smaller goat runs do? Do you need 20 acres of forest because you’ll hunt often? Or will one acre of gardens do? Do you want to be close to your community, or so far removed you can’t see your neighbors?
For my family, we want to be far enough removed to not see our neighbors. We want forest to be able to hunt, collect firewood, and forage for wild edibles. We would like some cleared land around the house for gardens and a yard, but want that to be as small as possible so we have less to maintain. In the future, we can clear more land for goats/horses/cows/pigs, etc.
12. Who Are Your Neighbors?
While you can’t always control who your neighbors are, it’s better to go in with some knowledge. Your neighbor’s names can be looked up in the county property records. A quick google, or search for registered sex offenders or any criminal history can be done in an afternoon. If the seller of your house, or any of the properties around it is a developer, you could be looking at buying your perfect piece of paradise, only to have a sub-development go in next door.
If nothing shows up online, think about dropping by and introducing yourself. People love to chat, and mostly will gladly share any local dirt or gossip with you. Think of a list of questions to ask them before you introduce yourself. Have they lived in the area long? Have they had any issues? Do they know of any developments or roads going in nearby?
13. County Property Records
If you haven’t already, go to your county’s government website and look up the public records for the property. You should be able to find the owners, the tax assessed value, the number of acres and what type (ie 5 acres of agriculture, 10 of forest), if there are any easements, etc.
How many times has the property been sold? Many quick sales could indicate an underling issue. (Maybe it’s haunted!) Was it purchased for cheap and sold for much more a few months later? Chances are a flipper got ahold of it. Can you trust that their fixes were solid and not just cosmetic?
Pay particular attention to when the current owners purchased it and if/when they refinanced and for how much. You may get a quick glimpse into their financial situation and have an advantage. For example, the property we were looking at was owned by an estate. The gentleman passed away and his only living relatives wanted nothing to do with it. Advantage = us!
14. Homeowner’s Insurance
Before you sign anything with the bank, check with your insurance company to get an idea what it will cost you. The bank can estimate this monthly fee, but when dealing with a long-term investment, you want to be sure. The bigger the house, the more expensive to insure. The older the house, the more expensive. The more outbuildings, the more expensive.
Also be honest with your insurer regarding any future ventures. If you want to board horses, or have a pick-your-own farm, or farm stand, ask them what that involves insurance-wise.
This is a hard one to pin-down, but it’s important to think about. Is the house on a well or city water? If it’s a well, what’s the quality of the water? How deep is the well? How many gallons per minute is the pump? If it’s city-water, what is the quality like? Is the property on a watershed?
Is the surface was clean? The federal Clean Water Act requires each state to evaluate the quality of surface waters and produce a list of surface waters that do not meet the standards for designated uses. This could be the pH, e.coli, fecal matter, mercury found in fish tissue, etc. Definitely a good thing to know!
Is the house on a septic or city sewage? If it’s septic, think about asking that it be pumped and inspected as a condition of your purchase.
Does your local electric utility buy-back any surplus electricity produced by solar panels?
16. Distance From Hospital or Medical Care
This is similar to number 3 and number 6, but I separated it out because of it’s importance. Do you or a family member have a bee-allergy, or peanut-allergy? This may mean you want a closer proximity to the hospital. Do you hate doctors and refuse to go? You may not care how far away you are then.
Chances are (unfortunately) my son will need allergy shots. I want to be close enough to medical care that going to the doctor three times a week is reasonable. Again, it’s all personal preference.
17. Future Goals
I’ve alluded to this as well throughout this three-part series: what are your future goals? In your wildest imagination, what can you see yourself doing? If you plan to be on a piece of property for any length of time, you want it to fit you like a great pair of pants. Small enough to fit, big enough to be comfortable — and will grow when you do. (Gotta love maternity jeans!)
Personally, I can see myself running a boarding facility, or riding school. I can see us growing enough crops and livestock to run a CSA. I can see my husband and kids putting in miles of trails in the forest for off-roading. This things may not be realistic. They may take 20 years to happen, or never happen at all. But I’d like to be the one to decide that, not my property.
It’s impossible to cover every possible contingency, but I’ve done my best to give you a head’s start. If you take into consideration the variables above and in Part 1 and Part 2, you’ll be ahead of the game when you start your property search, or put in that offer.
Now it’s your turn! Have you bought your forever home? What were you looking for when you started your search? Learn anything along the way? I’m eager to hear!