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Tips for Looking at Homesteads

Are you searching for your first homestead property? Here are my best tips for looking at homesteads and small farms for sale.

Our Homestead

We purchased our homestead in 2018. We spent over a year looking at various small farm properties before we found this one.

I’m sure many of you can relate in your farm search. Most of the time the farm land was great but the house was barely liveable. Or the house was great, but the property wasn’t well situated to be a farm.

The properties that we did like were way out of our budget at that time.

The homestead we settled on is five acres and has a chicken coop, large pole shed with half outfitted as a barn, a storage shed, a garden shed, about an acre and a half of grazeable pasture, and a 1970s rambler farmhouse that still needs a lot of TLC.

Tips for Looking at Homesteads

If you are seriously poised to buy a homestead, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting the one you want. Here are my best tips for looking at homesteads.

Be a Millionaire/Billionaire

Okay so I’m just kidding on that one. Mostly. What you can do, is make sure you have a nice little nest egg saved up for earnest money, home inspections, a down payment, etc.

Get Pre-Approved for a Loan

Homestead properties tend to get swallowed up quick, especially in the current 2021 market. If you have already talked with a lender and gotten pre-approved for a loan, that lets the sellers know you are serious and will cut out some of the wait time once you’ve made an offer.

Check Real Estate Listings Daily

You are not your realtor’s only client. I checked the local real estate listings first thign in the morning, then again in the early afternoon.

Our current homestead had been toured three times and had eleven other bookings after us. We put an offer in on it while we stood in the driveway. It had been on the market three days.

Create a Must Have’s and Nice to Have’s List

Unless you are especially blessed, there will be some compromises you make on your property.

For example, my husband wanted our homestead to be on a body of water. A farm property on a lake or a river is harder to come by and is going to cost you a heck of a lot more. So natural water might become a “nice to have” rather than a “must have”.

Use the questions below under considerations to help create your list.

grazing cattle rough and tumble farmhouse

Ask Around

Sometimes word of mouth is a great way to learn about properties for sale or properties that will soon be for sale. Let friends know in the area that you are looking or reach out to others that might be in the know. Other farmers/homesteaders, veterinarians, the feed mill, etc.

What to Consider Before Buying a Homestead

Now that we’ve covered the preparation part of tips for looking at homesteads, let’s get into the nitty gritty.

Land

Depending on the type of farm you want to have, land is probably the most important part. Sure, it has a nice house, but if you are buying 15 acres of woods and swamp, that’s not ideal for grazing a milk cow.

Even if there is all sorts of acreage around the property, don’t make any assumptions that you will be able to buy it within your lifetime. Farmers can have hundreds of acres but will be hard-pressed to sell you forty of them if they don’t want to.

Not to mention, we learned that, unlike a home loan where you can get a mortgage with not much down, loans for farm land must be financed with 50% cash. I don’t know bout you but I don’t have an extra $10-20,000 just sitting bored in my bank account.

Nearby Towns

Perhaps you are content to live as far away from people as possible and live that off-grid type life.

If you’re like me, you might prefer being somewhat close to a town for things like groceries, baby gear, or maybe the occasional cultural experience. Our nearest town with a gas station is about a ten-minute drive. We are twenty minutes from a town that has a large department store and things like a YMCA where my kids can take swimming lessons or check out a library book.

What is the house like?

Neither or nor my husband have much carpentry experience. We also knew that we needed a home that was move-in ready as we didn’t have a lot of extra cash to spend renovating an entire kitchen.

Maybe you or your spouse is a carpenter and that isn’t an issue for you, but keep things like that in mind.

What kind of animals do you want to have?

This is a question I would address after you have already spent some time at other people’s homesteads or farms so you have a serious understanding of what you want to raise on your homestead.

If all you want is chickens and a goat or two, you could easily get by on a few acres. If you know you want to raise beef cattle, unless you want a feed lot you’ll need plenty of pasture for them to graze.

What is the existing infrastructure?

We had a minimum requirement for our homestead to have one usable farm structure on it. We came into our homestead life with a cow and two sheep already in tow, so I needed some kind of shelter right away.

Personally, if we found a four-acre farm with great infrastructure but just those few acres, vs a farm with twenty acres of pasture and no infrastructure, I’d pick the extra acreage.

Fencing is not cheap to put up, neither are outbuildings. But still, those things CAN be built. You can’t magic land out of thin air.

Know what you need right away, and what you can slowly build over time.

How much will it cost to install infrastructure?

If you do purchase a farm with no fencing or outbuildings, the benefit is you can make it exactly how you want it. The downside is you have to pay for it.

This might mean you just start year one with a small chicken coop. The next year you put in fencing. The next a shelter and finally the livestock.

Nearby Schools

If you have a family or plan to start one and you don’t intend to homeschool, how close is the nearest school? Is it a school you are comfortable sending your kids to?

Is there bus service out to your farm, or do you need to bring the kids to and from each day?

Potential Markets

This may or may not apply t you, depending on what your goals are for your homestead.

If you intend to make some money off your homestead, are there viable markets nearby for your product? Restaurants, co-ops, farmers markets, etc?

What is the neighborhood like?

No homesteader is an island, or shouldn’t be. Are you setting up in an area with good neighbors? Hard to know before you buy.

It is helpful to live close by someone you know that can do farm chores for you, or look in on the homestead so you can take a weekend away every now and again.

Is there water?

Our barn does not have water, which means we run hoses about seven months out of the year and haul buckets the other five. It is a total pain in the ass and possibly not even do-able for folks that might have some physical limitations.

Want to learn more about our homestead?

In the video below you’ll see…

Watch and Learn

As I wrote out tips for looking at homesteads, I thought it would be fun this week to share a homestead tour. Most beginning homesteaders have an idealized view of what their little ranchero will look like. For those of us knee-deep in it we know the reality can be much more Rough and Tumble. Hope you enjoy!

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