18 Essential Factors To Consider When Choosing A Homestead
Everyone has different needs and wants when it comes to starting a homestead, but if you want the best place for you and your family you need to consider these big items before you buy your land.
Note: This article was formerly 3 factors to consider — it has been revised and updated to include 18! Enjoy!
If you want to start a homestead from scratch, choosing a homestead property that fits your needs is absolutely essential.
You also want to make sure to have your financial “ducks in a row” before you set your heart on a property you simply can’t afford. Read this post for our SIX biggest tips for buying homestead land to make sure you’re prepared.
Once you’ve been through this post and you’ve found your dream property, head to this article to find out the five things you MUST do before you buy it.
18 Essential Factors to Consider When Choosing A Homestead
Different homesteading ventures require different amounts and types of land. For example, if you simply want to grow more of your own food but don’t want to raise livestock, you can include smaller parcels in your land search, perhaps even an acre or less. Other ventures like grass-fed pastured beef require much more. Here are some homesteading activities to consider:
1. Building Resources
If you want to build a house using materials from your land, you may need to look for access to sturdy hardwoods, stone, clay soils, and more depending on the type of construction you choose. Figure out what building materials you will most likely need, find properties that provide as many of them as you can, and devise ways to acquire the rest in your area. Followers of the blog know that we’re building a cordwood house, so our property search included the need for lots of softwood trees. Luckily for us, eastern red cedar is a good wood for cordwood masonry and it’s practically a weed around here so we found a property with an abundance.
2. Passive and Active Solar
If you are building a house from scratch, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND orienting your house using passive solar principles. This includes having the long face of your house facing south (for my friends in the northern hemisphere) with more windows on the front, fewer on the east/west walls, and few to none on the north side. Passive solar orientation will save you a lot of energy in heating and cooling whether you build off grid or not. You may also choose to have active solar via solar panels, hot water heating, etc. In either situation, look for properties with good southern exposure and a buffer to the north if at all possible.
If you are reading this from the southern hemisphere, simply reverse these directions to face north instead of south.
3. Gardening and Foraging
While most people think you need tons of land to grow all of the food you need, it is entirely possible to grow the majority of the food you eat on parcels under an acre. Sounds crazy right? I used to think that when I lived on our little .2 acre postage stamp in the suburbs that I could only have a small garden, and I’d constantly wished for more time and space to grow the abundance of food I desired for my family. Since then, I have learned about permaculture gardening and have seen how Amy Stross turned her .10 acre into an productive and flourishing permaculture garden.
She has an excellent book out called The Suburban Micro Farm, which provides LOADS of great detail and in-depth guides. While we have 16 acres on our homestead, only about 1-2 acres of it is cleared, and I found her book to be a really great resource for us even though we don’t live in the suburbs anymore. Permaculture best practices can help no matter where you are, so I highly recommend picking this up (get it here from Amazon):
This is one of those points people will argue about as to whether a piece of land is too big or too small to hunt on safely. All I’ll say is that you need to carefully consider the types of wildlife you will hunt and what kinds of tools you will use (bow, firearm, etc.). With rifles especially, evaluate the lay of the land and if you can take safe shots without endangering others near your home, roads, and nearby properties. Our land is 16 acres and Mark has been able to take a deer here no problem, though he did have to really consider his location for taking safe shots. You can read much more in-depth about choosing land for hunting here.
If your property doesn’t have an existing body of water available for your use, take a look at how you may be able to safely and legally construct a pond or similar on your property. Our property’s topography makes it a bit tricky to have a pond. While we hope to be able to develop one eventually, we recognize that it may never happen. It’s a trade-off we made to get the property we really wanted.
Make a list of the animals you may want to include in your homestead eventually, even if you don’t think you’ll have animals for several years to come. This can be anything from bees to goats to cows. Research the needs of your desired livestock and see if you can find land in your desired location at a price point you can afford. You may need to adjust your animal expectations to meet your goals.
You, your garden, and potential livestock will need water. How will you harness it? Does the property have a spring, pond, creek, or other water source? Can you use rainwater catchment with a cistern? Dig a well or use an existing one? Create water forms such as ponds or swales? Does the location of your property have enough yearly rainfall?
Many modern homesteaders seek to live off their land by producing their own food and their own income right on the property. Others simply want to grow and preserve food while maintaining a profession they love outside of the homestead. No matter where you fall on the self-sufficiency spectrum, ask yourself if the land you’re looking at will:
- Provide enough of the right kinds of space for your income producing activities
- Provide the resources you need to accomplish these tasks
- Have access to resources you can’t produce but need to earn an income (i.e. internet, phone, mail delivery, etc.)
- Allow you to continue a career away from the homestead if you so choose
9. Emotional Needs
When you visit a property, acknowledge your gut feeling and try to imagine yourself living there.
- Can you picture yourself living and working there?
- Do you feel at home there?
- Is there anything about the property that would hinder you from doing something you love?
As an introvert and all around private person, I LOVE the fact that you cannot see our property from the road. I also love that it is still close enough to basic needs I may not always be able to get from my homestead. When we visited different properties there were some that felt like home and others that felt like we didn’t belong. Listen to your gut feelings! The first time we drove up our driveway when we went for a look, I knew we were home. We still approached the financial dealings to get it with cold objectivity, but in our hearts we knew it was where we needed to be.
10. Special Needs
This may not be for every family, but is certainly something for all to consider. After all, none of us is guaranteed good health no matter how many good choices we make. Many homesteaders desire to be prepared, so I would encourage all to consider current and future special needs as an act of preparedness.
Some special needs may require a constant and reliable source of energy that may or may not be hindered by an off-grid power system. This can include anything from C-Pap machines to special monitors or assistive devices. If this sounds like your family, make sure you look for properties with accessible utilities. You can always add a grid-tied energy system later if it is important to you.
You should to consider accessibility to your land and your mobility needs. For example, certain terrains may be easier to navigate than others either on foot or in a vehicle. With conditions that are worsened by different types of environments, look for any triggers on and around any property you consider. We saw properties down wind from landfills, coal-fired power plants, and covered in common allergenic plants. If you or a family member has severe or life-threatening reactions to anything near or on a property, steer clear of it.
Location Location Location!
Consider the things that make a property’s location practical for you to live on, including:
11. Proximity to a town with stores, banks, places of worship, etc.
12. Distance to a hospital, doctors, dentists, etc.
13. Family and friends within a certain drive-time
14. Access for emergency vehicles
15. Adequate driveway access for your vehicles (important if you have heavy machinery, long trailers, RV’s, etc.)
16. Distance to work and schools, should you choose to use them (many homesteaders opt out of one or both)
17. Availability and cost of utilities vs. off-grid systems
18. Ability to get building materials to your home site
These points are highly dependent on the needs and goals of each homesteader. Some of you may insist on being as far away from any town at all. Others may still want access to a mid-sized city. Some may be wholly committed to being completely off-grid and self-sustaining. Or you may want to opt-out gradually. Whatever you desire, look at how your property will help you to achieve your goals.
If you want to know more about our off-grid cordwood homestead project, click here. Like this content? Be sure to share it! Join us on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram for more building and homesteading goodies that don’t necessarily make it to the blog. Thanks!