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
Outstanding private location for your family compound, sportsman's retreat, or family/group farming operation! This 231 acre property abuts prolific and amazing Tunk Stream, offering...
- 2150 Sq Ft
- 231 Acres
Triple Creek Farm is the ideal homesteader or survival property: off the beaten path, yet accessible to good roads; pasture land; wood land; streams;...
- 1793 Sq Ft
- 31 Acres
Amazing 100 acre farm in rural, private setting with multiple dwellings and buildings. Located just 20 minutes from the small mountain village of Marshall,...
- 3500 Sq Ft
- 100 Acres
Unique property with massive potential. This property could be lived in just the way it is or improved for multiple uses. This property was...
- 3000 Sq Ft
- 60 Acres
San Miguel Farm is truly a one of a kind offering with 12 known springs that allow Spring Creek to flow year round. The...
- 4522 Sq Ft
- 110.35 Acres
The first three rules of real estate are location, location, location. The time to get a bolt hole outside of North America is now. ...
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.