Finding the right place to settle in and homestead can be a daunting process. We have learned many lessons along our journey to find the perfect spot for us to live self-sufficiently, grow our own food, and produce our own power. The first property we purchased didn’t end up being the ideal situation for us, so we learned what we could, sold it, and moved on to find our current off-grid homestead. I’d like to share what we’ve discovered in the hopes that you can more easily find the homestead that is right for you!
Learn from Our Mistakes
The first piece of land we bought was about ten acres in SW Washington. My husband was still working in the city and we were in the process of directing our income to something more home-based. A commute was possible, but not ideal. The land had plenty of water sources – a year-round (and several seasonal) creeks, possible springs, etc. We loved all the creeks, they provided a soothing sound and peaceful atmosphere. However, we soon found out that we would not be able to use the water, due to water right issues with the county. We also discovered that all the permits and costs for building were quite high in that area. These permits determined where we could build, giving us a very narrow area to use. Our main, year-round creek had a 100-ft. setback that created a 200-ft. swath through our land that couldn’t be built on. In addition to that, we had a buffer for the other three seasonal creeks. This cut our buildable land down to about one acre. The land was sloped to the NE, which is not ideal for gardening and solar – something we knew going into the purchase, but were willing to work with because of the deal we could get versus the cost of other real estate in the area. It was one of the only properties we could afford and remain debt-free.
With the mounting issues and costs, we decided to try selling and searching in another, more affordable and less restrictive location. Thankfully, we had an offer right away and had no issues selling. In the end, because we got a great deal on the property (due to buying with cash), we made some money on the sale, which helped greatly in purchasing our current homestead. God definitely led in both our land situations. We could never have orchestrated everything to turn out the way it did.
Do Your Research
We determined to carefully examine what we wanted and needed before gearing up to look for our next land purchase. We didn’t want to have to sell again and repeat the process. Our goal was to work 100% from home, so we had to carefully budget and plan our actions. Since our income would travel with us, we could move almost anywhere. We studied state laws and climates. We did our research. In the end, we decided northern Idaho was the right place for us. We loved the mountains and were happy about the homeschool laws. The area had several micro-climates that included more rain which was a bonus to us when considering gardening and forest fires. We then narrowed it down to certain counties that had lenient building laws. We made a list of the most important factors to consider for our self-sufficient homestead.
7 Things to Consider When Looking for Your Homestead
Water Source – Water is the source of life, both for you and for your garden. It is so important to have a good, reliable water source, be it from a well, spring, creek, etc. If the property has a well, be sure it is adequate for your needs. Our place has a good 90-ft. well that we pump with a generator to a 1,000-gallon holding tank on the hill behind our house. Our water is then gravity-fed to the home. We also have a separate well for the garden that has a holding tank.
Food Potential – This includes cultivatable land and good sun exposure. Is it rocky? What is the soil like? Does the garden/orchard area have good southern sun exposure? Our homestead came with an orchard and a small, raised-bed garden area that we will expand. The soil is rocky, so that is one thing we will have to deal with as we garden.
Sun Exposure – I already mentioned this in reference to gardening, but the sun exposure is also essential if you plan to go off-grid with solar, which is what we did. Thankfully, we found a homestead that already had solar panels, and are slowly adding to them.
Timber – Having a good source of timber for off-grid heating in the winter was important to us, especially living in a northern climate. We have 13 acres, with about ten acres in timber. Our first winter, we needed to purchase wood for our stove to have enough ready by the time the weather changed. Next winter, however, we plan to harvest from our land, as well as acquire inexpensive permits from state and national forests for firewood. In our area, it is $5 a cord in national forests.
Neighborhood – One thing we discovered in the process of looking for land, was the importance of checking out the neighbors. Some areas can have pockets that might not be the best for raising young children in. Make sure you look around the “neighborhood” you are considering and talk to locals if you can. Sometimes, a few bad apples on the road can make life difficult. We can’t see any neighbors where we are, but we have some wonderful people on our road.
Roads/Access – Do you need to get in and out daily on your road? Who maintains the roads? Does it get plowed in the winter? Snow is a big thing in our area, so we were very pleased to find a remote location where the roads were maintained by some of the residents. We are happy to contribute some funds to the individuals who care for the road. During the snow season, this mutually-beneficial exchange provides an income to some and a drivable road for all.
Internet – Once we took the leap to cut the cord from the city and move, we became reliant on our home-based income. To make that income work, we must have internet. We compromised on satellite internet for our location, but we are satisfied with our connection.
There are many other factors that could be important to consider. Are there easements through the land? Are there any liens? What are the zoning and building codes? Does an existing home have a mold issue? Carefully consider all the factors that are important to you. Write them down and get answers before jumping into a purchase.