What to Look for When Buying a Homestead

Most people who want to buy a homestead look for the cheapest land they can find. This is a good idea, but several factors will make a living off the grid cheaper, and cheap land is just one piece of the larger puzzle. In short, the cheapest land is not always the best when it comes to homesteading. Many people are also looking for free off grid land and states and counties that will pay you to live there if you build a house.

A decent parcel of land must have fertile soil and, most significantly, be close to a freshwater source or have lots of yearly rainfall to harvest rainwater. No state is ideal for buying a homestead; we must all do what we have. However, certain locations are unquestionably superior to others when you buy a homestead.

As you can see, you already have a few things to consider. The first is creating a budget; your costs will spiral out of control without a rigorous budget. Many people make the costly error of purchasing land solely for beauty; the problem with these types of lands is that they are prohibitively expensive for homesteading or off grid life. I always advise folks who wish to relocate to another state to first visit for a couple of weeks to get a sense of what life might be like in that area, and while you’re there, you might also look at a few properties.

If you are looking for the perfect place to buy a homestead, you will never find it. All states have advantages and disadvantages; what makes a suitable place for off grid life is your ability to minimize the disadvantages as much as possible.

buy a homestead
A fellow homesteader feeing their chickens

What to Look for to Buy a Homestead? 

The Ideal Climate

The local climate is the first and most essential consideration when determining where to buy land. The climate will decide how easy or difficult your homesteading experience will be; moreover, the local climate will determine what crops you can plant. So, if you wish to live a self-sufficient lifestyle, it is a good idea to buy land in an area where crops may be grown. The country offers a wide range of climates, ideal for growing crops and others for raising cattle.

If you have allergies, you will find living in some states incredibly tough, so spend a week or two in that state to discover if your allergies make your life a living hell or if you can tolerate them. It is a good idea to choose a state with hot summers and cold winters. I understand that you may believe it would be much better to move to a warmer location where you would not have to worry about heating your house during the winter and where you could grow crops all year.

Freshwater Availability

The truth is that states with a pretty hot climate all year round are not the greatest places to buy a homestead; most of them have a severe water deficit, and you may even find that you cannot legally catch rainwater for personal use.

Here are a few different types of freshwater to think about:

Harvesting rainwater: Harvesting rainwater is rather simple, but it is not permitted in some jurisdictions, and in others, you may need permission depending on the size of the water tank you are utilizing. When you think about rainwater harvesting, you generally think of a water bucket. However, if you have a family and want to water your crops with this water, you will need a larger container or a cistern.

Groundwater: The country has many aquifers, most of which are not polluted and safe to drink. Rainwater replaces groundwater over time, so rainwater harvesting is forbidden in some areas. Always verify the water supply on the lad before acquiring it; simply go to the nearest well and ask the owner to fill a bottle with water and test it. Groundwater is likely to be contaminated in places with a high pig and cow farms concentration.

Fossil water: The fundamental difference between groundwater and fossil water is that it takes a long time to refill fossil water with rainwater, and by a long time, I mean thousands of years.

Best Types of Crops

Not everyone who homesteads grows crops, and if you can live happily without growing crops, that’s great. Most people who are new buying a homestead will begin with something as simple as a vegetable garden and gradually progress to growing crops that will feed their families. The crops grown in a given area will differ from state to state.

My advice is to simply look at the state’s agricultural business to see what the state produces the most of, and in most situations, the land will be suitable for a few crops. Numerous states cultivate corn; however, keep in mind that most of this maize is farmed for animal feed rather than human use.

Local Wildlife

You should always diversify your feeding alternatives for yourself and your family. Fishing and hunting should always be options, particularly if you wish to live as cheaply. The hunting and fishing permits and licenses vary from state to state, but they are generally reasonably priced as long as you live in that state. Just keep in mind that hunting and fishing have separate seasons (and permits)!

Off Grid Energy 

Some people who homestead do not use any power at all, which I do not advocate for folks who are just starting their off grid adventure because it may be extremely challenging and isolated. I see many people purchasing high-powered generators; while these are useful in certain situations, such as an emergency, intending to power your entire farm with a diesel or gas generator all year round will be exceedingly tough.

Here are three types of off grid energy to think about:

Solar power: Solar power is one of the greatest ways to create electricity; solar panels can generate electricity all year in most places. On the other hand, keep in mind that this may be difficult in the northern states during the winter because the days might be quite short. Here’s some info on the tax credits you could get from going solar.

Wind power: In many states, wind power can generate more power. Even if solar panels are your primary energy source, having wind power as a backup option is a good idea.

Hydroelectric power: generating electricity using water from streams and rivers. To build up a hydroelectric system, you will usually require specialist equipment and special licenses, which are highly expensive.

Tax Incentives for Homesteading

Currently, solar and wind power generators qualify for a 30% federal tax credit. The federal tax credit is as low as 26 percent in other states. In addition, some jurisdictions offer municipal incentives and refunds in addition to the federal tax credit, which, when combined, can save you up to 60% of the overall cost. These federal and municipal tax benefits and incentives apply to wind and solar power generators and only in limited instances to hydroelectric power generators.

Simply put, there are three levels of tax credits and incentives. The federal tax credit applies to the entire country, statewide incentives apply to the entire state, and local incentives apply to the county. The good news is that you can combine all three. The bad news is that applying to all three levels will take a long time because bureaucracy moves at a snail’s pace, and acquiring information is difficult because most municipal and state websites are either obsolete or just do not work.

My best advice is to pay someone to do the paperwork for you; these people frequently already know the protocol and have connections, so they can expedite the process.

Common Off Grid Laws 

If you desire to buy a homestead, you need to be aware of the local rules that may affect your capacity. Although no state has legislation making off grid life illegal, certain rules may make it impossible or extremely difficult to live off grid.

Rainwater harvesting is permitted in most states, but even if it is legal, you may be limited in the amount of rainwater you can capture and how you may utilize it.

Building codes: This is perhaps one of the largest issues for off grid living in some states; some of the criteria to create an off grid homestead will make it incredibly expensive and, in some cases, impossible to build.

Utilities: In some areas, it may be difficult to buy a homestead if you already own a property connected to utilities.

Homeschooling: If you have children and want to homeschool them, you should know that homeschooling rules vary from state to state and even county to county.

Property Tax

Property tax is something to keep in mind. However, it is not as crucial as you may believe. You should bear in mind that even though a state has a fixed property tax, the amount might vary greatly from county to county. I believe that the property tax isn’t as relevant. The land for off-grid living will be very cheap because people don’t usually buy a property that doesn’t have all of its amenities.

Cost of Homesteading

Your financial situation will determine the cost of living, but it is a good idea to relocate to a state with a relatively cheap cost of living. You should consider seasonality. If you have to commute to work and buy groceries in the winter, the fuel will be much more expensive than in the summer, especially if your access to highways is limited.

Cost of Land

Once you’ve decided which state you want to buy a homestead, it’s time to start looking for properties. Most people will go online and look for some local property listings; the prices will be much higher than reality. My advice is to purchase some good old-fashioned local newspapers; you will see that the listings are far cheaper than online and that the price varies by county.

Common Road Access

Many people do not consider road access when purchasing an off grid property; nevertheless, if you want to buy a homestead, you must consider how all construction supplies will be brought to the place; the more inaccessible and remote the location, the higher the prices. In addition, consider how long you will have to travel to and from work every day and make some calculations. You may save a few dollars on the property, but if your monthly gasoline bills are sky-high, you raise your own cost of living.

The Job Market

The first thing to check for is the local unemployment rate; the US average is roughly 4%, so anything beyond that suggests you’ll have more difficulty finding work. Most skilled occupations will be in cities, whereas unskilled jobs will be in more rural locations. Simply searching for the top industries in the county can indicate where you might be able to find work more easily.

Crime Rate

Many people are concerned about the crime rate in several states; the problem is that most of the crime rate is caused by local cities; the larger the cities, the higher the crime rate. In this scenario, my personal opinion is to look at the crime rates for particular counties rather than the statewide crime rate. Even if the state average crime rate is high, you can discover counties with lower crime rates.

Health-Related Problems

Many people fail to consider their health-related difficulties when considering moving to a homestead. The older you get, the more health-related concerns you may have; while many seniors own homesteads, they will eventually have a medical emergency. If you live in a distant place and are at the pinnacle of your male evolution, but you break your leg and have to contact 911, they will most likely send a helicopter owing to the challenging terrain.

Because most hospitals do not have helicopters, the helicopter ride will be outsourced to another company, and you can estimate how much the third-party company will charge you; the sky is the limit.

Lack of Natural Disasters

Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and blizzards are the most prevalent natural disasters. Use common sense and avoid moving to a flood-prone area; if you must, build your homestead on top of a hill. If you live in a location prone to hurricanes and tornadoes, be sure your new home has a basement. If you live in a location with fairly cold winters, have a backup plan on top of a backup plan for heating your home, and if all fails, have a plan for how you will get to safety.

Where to Build Your Dream Homestead?

So… we’ve gotten to the end of the article, but you may be wondering where should I look? If this information isn’t enough, I have a Complete Guide to Homesteading in each of the 50 states. Here are a couple of my favorites: Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

a family working on a homestead

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