Choosing a Homestead
There are innumerable factors to cinder in choosing a homestead property, but a few are critical. It starts with location, climate, water, acreage, and soil. There’s insight to be gained from statistical data, but it’s also important to get local expert insight. So, let’s start with location:
Location and Access
Climate underlies any homestead choice. Start by choosing an area with a favorable growing season, with managable winter and summer conditions. Dig through the local sunny days, precipitation, and plant hardiness maps to find a good area for consideration. Even in states with more severe climates, local microclimates may be more favorable. For example, despite Montana’s harsh winters, the Flathead valley produces abundant cherries and even peaches due to it’s sheltered location and large bodies of water.
Location is always a central issue in real estate. For the homestead proeprty, it can be helpful to look at land prices, and distinguigh between areas that are expensive because of proximity to towns, tourism or vacation desitnations, and near recreational bodies of water. On the other hand, areas with the lowest land prices frequently are so because the land is so arid, rugged, or inhospitable as to be nearly unusuable. Utilize local experts and your own reseach to find an area with good value for productive land.
Take a look at a few of our featured listings as examples of what may be available:
Homestead Property Listings
Vermont Gentlemen’s Farm on 197 acres of pristine beauty. 2 1/2 hrs to Boston, 3 1/2 to New York, minutes from Mount Snow and...
- 4800 Sq Ft
- 197 Acres
Rare property directly adjoins the Hazen Bay Recreational Area on Lake Sakakawea. This fresh water lake is fed from mountain snowpack. Limited access points,...
- 3300 Sq Ft
- 60 Acres
We sell our unique remote wilderness ranch with a big log home. 640 acres (259 ha) of open fields and forest, with a strong...
The perfect “bug out” place . . . A great opportunity to own a beautiful 29+ acre farm in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania — just 20...
- 4800 Sq Ft
- 29.3 Acres
Live close to nature with nearly 48 acres of lush meadow & woods. A pristine and private countryside setting with two uniquely designed homes....
- 2162 Sq Ft
- 47.95 Acres
This for sale by owner property is a stunning lot of about 10.9 acres near National Park & BLM land and the great Southwest...
A reliable water source may be the single largest factor in the success of a homestead. Soil can be amended, but there’s little to do about a lack of water. First, use annual rainfall as criteria in selecting your desired relocation area. A region with long hot and dry summers will have much greater demand for irrigation than an area with cool wet summers. Ideally, find an area with a long growing season and summers that carry an even distribution of rain. There is good historical reason that coastal valleys are so abundant. Utilize historical rainfall data, and pay close attention to the use of irrigation techniques on the ground.
Rain is irregular, so a reliable source of ground water is critical. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with water rights in your destination. Some properties are blessed with a natural source of water–a spring on the property. This will require careful investigation, to determine how much water is available and if it continues through a dry summer. A natural spring also requires diligent attention to developing it and protecting it from contamination. Most frequently, water is obtained from the local aquifer, with a drilled well. In areas with small acerage parcels, it is common for a well to be a shared commoditity, with a local water board with regular dues for water service. In more rural locations, each property will have an individual well. Here you need to insight of local experts–pick a real estate agent with experience in this area, and get in touch with a well driller as you begin your property search.
Acreage and Soil
While the desire for elbow room and huge tracts of land is common, it’s also one of the main factors in proprty acquisition cost. The intended uses make all the difference, and can help make an economical decision. As well as simple quantity, the quality of the acrege can be vastly different.
If the primary objective is raising livestock, it is critical to find a sufficiently large acreage to provide both grazing and haying. Sufficient space is needed to rotate between pastures, as well as to produce an adequate supply of feed for the winter. If only considering summer pasturing, check data on regional carrying capacity. For hay crops, consult a local ag extension office to determine typical yields. Here the quality of land is important. Look for well-drained pasture with established grasses. Swampy and brushy areas have dramatically lower prodictivity as pasture, as well as being harder to manage.
If extensive gardening is your chosen direction, soil quality is the important factor. Start with the USDA’s Web Soil Survey to get basic data, and then familiarize yourself with soil types, and gain familairity with soil in the local area. Utilize a soil testing laboratory–often offered by ag university’s cooperative extension program to determine what amwndments may have to be made.
Much of the selection of a property comes down to local experts and their insights. Spend as much time as possible in oyur chosen area before buying. Connect with locals as much as possible, and seek to gain understnading from them. Church, farmers markets, farm supply stores, and similar venues are excellent meeting places. “Old timers” have more insight than any average climate data can provide. Good insight from locals can make all the difference in the success of a homesteading venture. It can mean the difference between choosing a proprty with dry rocky soil and innumerable problems, and finding a property with fertile soil and abundant water. The people are the foundation of a rural community, so start investing and contributing as soon as possible.