Homestead Land: What to
Look for when Buying Land and Moving to the Country
Introduction to Buying Land for Farming
When we were looking for our own
homestead land we had
a list of what we wanted. The farm had to have a lovely view, a stone
farmhouse with potential, not too far from town but not where we could
still hear traffic, the elevation had to be low enough for growing
olives and the soil good enough for growing grapes. Finally, it had to
have its own water source and be big enough to make a living.
Where no place may tick all the right
boxes, and you will probably need to make some compromises, the bare
minimum of what we wanted was a good view, good soil and water. The
fact that we got all the rest was just good fortune.
BUYING HOMESTEAD LAND: Know What you Want Before your Buy!
Buying good homestead land when
today is the
most important purchase you will make and there are lots of
considerations to take into account before you make the decision to
purchase. Make sure, therefore, that you
get it right the first time and look before you leap when buying land
When buying rural land never buy land with
your heart. Look beyond the aesthetics and analyze what
investing in, because if you don't you will end up losing a lot of
money in the process.
There are many other aspects that need
to be taken into consideration when buying farm land:
- Do you want the land to be virgin land or developed land?
- Do you want to work the land full time or are you going to
supplement your homestead living with income working in town?
- Can you live in the area with the present climate and does
the climate allow you to farm what you had in mind?
- Is it close to goods and services or will you be isolated
and spending money in the transportation of your goods?
Are you going to live
off-grid or on the grid? If you are
going to live on the grid are all the services you need available or
will there be additional expenses in getting telephone lines and
electricity to your homestead?
- Is your homestead properly fenced and if not have you
factored that into the purchase price?
Therefore, knowing what you want before
you set off looking narrows down the search and makes it easier to make
HOMESTEAD LAND: Visit our Local Council Before your Buy!
I wish someone had given us this advice
before we bought. It would have saved us a lot of heartache. Councils
have different by-laws that differ from area to area. They have
different by-laws regarding the raising
chickens, pigs and other
livestock. They have different by-laws regarding swimming pools, barns,
other structures, internal renovations and some may even dictate what
color your roof should be and what color you can paint your house!
For over a year now we have been trying
to enlarge our kitchen by changing the internal wall structure so that
we can have a large farmhouse kitchen. Due to seismic codes and
regulations we have been unable to do so. We have not won the war yet!
If you are thinking of homesteading,
before buying your homestead land visit
your local council or municipality. Find
out what your land is zoned
for. Is it zoned for agricultural use and does it allow
What agricultural activities are you allowed to carry out on this land?
Are there any restrictions you need to know about?
Can you clear the land, for example, or can you cut down
forest that is part of your property, or are they protected? Can you
build a dam or deepen existing dams?
Finally, find out
about any future
plans for the area. You don't want to find out that your
earmarked for expropriation and a highway is coming straight through
your property and that was why the present owners are selling. This may
sound far-fetched, but I am writing from experience! We nearly bought a
house more than 25 years ago where this very situation presented
itself! Sellers can be very unscrupulous and so can real estate agents
at times. So buyer, be ware! Do your homework!
Buying Homestead Land needs Planning and
LOCATION OF HOMESTEAD LAND: Isolation versus Accessibility
We once looked at land that was
beautiful. It had everything we wanted; great views, established olive
groves, water and total silence except for the bees humming at a
distance. The drawback; a 7 kilometer white road. In other words, a
road that was rutted in summer and probably would be a mudslide in the
season, and where one could be totally cut off for weeks on end when it
snowed. Homesteading under these conditions is not fun!
Would we have to maintain this road?
How much would that cost per year when we had to get a grader out for
the job? Were we going through other people's fields to get to our own
house? Would we be able to use this road with the car we had or would
we have to buy a 4-wheeled drive?
We thought of more serious aspects;
snake bites and farm accidents. Did we really want to live so far away
from hospital services when we were in our mid-50s and then finally
We had to be practical, we moved on to
buy our homestead elsewhere.
HOMESTEAD LAND: The Importance of Water
when you go farming. Relying on town water or mains water
house use, but totally impractical and expensive when you want to
irrigate crops. You need to have a water source on your property. This
could be in the form of a river with pumping rights, boreholes, dams
Before buying your homestead land you
need to get a surveyor in to check the ouput of the existing wells and
boreholes on the property. Speak to neighbors to see if these usually
dry up during the dry periods.
Get your surveyor to check the levels
of subterranean water and see how far the water is. Any cost of a
borehole or well that needs to be established will be determined by how
far down they will need to go.
Never buy rural land for homesteading
without its own water. Be wary of any properties that share rights with
neighbors for water. What agreements you may have on purchase can soon
change when your neighbor sells to a new party.
HOMESTEAD LAND: Choosing the Best Layout for your Farm Land
Land should always have a view as far
as I am concerned. Otherwise, what is the point of having rural land
looking over some monstrosity such as cooling towers or a major highway?
should ideally have a
fields and woodland, especially if you have fireplaces and
as we do. You will need a constant supply of good wood. If you live in
the southern hemisphere your land should slope gently towards the north
or northeast, have natural shelters against prevailing winds and the
potential for a dam if there is not one already there.
If you live in a seismic area you will
need to stabilize your house with micro-piling. Make sure too that you
get a geologist in to check the land and find out if your house is
built on one type or different types of soil. Having a house that
straddles two or more types of strata will result in cracks in time to
Is you land in the path of hurricanes
or cyclones, earthquakes or prone to bush fires? If so how could you
minimize the effects of these and other natural disasters?
HOMESTEAD LAND: The Soil and your Farm Land
your soil arable?
Will it be able to
sustain the type of farming you have in mind? Does it suffer from long
periods of drought and will you be able to get water to it when needed?
HOMESTEAD LAND: What to Grow?
Has the farm stood fallow for a long
time? If you are an organic farmer this will be to your advantage as it
means that there have been no artificial fertilizers or chemicals for
some time. However, if it is in working farm you will need to establish
how the land has been farmed and whether any heavy usage of chemical
fertilizers and pesticides has taken place.
You may be thinking of raising
livestock on your homestead. But is the land big enough to support the
number of livestock you had in mind? Bring in a local stockman who will
be able to advise you accordingly.
Your best rule of thumb is to see what
your neighbors are growing and raising. This will be an indication of
what does well in your area.
HOMESTEAD LAND: Where to Build your Homestead
Views are important, as has been
established, and so I would take advantage of any pretty vista that
presented itself. However, there are other considerations to make.
You will want to protect your homestead
any prevailing winds and to shelter it from trees that
house warm in winter and cool in summer. However, keeping trees too
close to your homestead will do more harm than good.
Damage from fallen trees
to a house can
be extensive. Invasive roots can also cause a huge problem for the
foundations of a house. If the roots have sucked out all the moisture
of the soil near a house, particularly clay soil, huge cracks will soon
be evident in the brickwork. Therefore, any homestead should be built
at a distance of one and a half times their mature height, and no
If your surrounding
countryside is flat
then you will need to
plant a series of windbreaks in a line and spaced approximately 10
times their height. Therefore, if your trees have a mature height of 5
meters then you need to plant the next line 50 meters away. When
planting your lines of trees make sure that you are planting them in
the path of the prevailing winds. Failing to do that will result in a
wind funnel between trees and buildings, which is not what you want!
A windbreak that works
best is one that
is underplanted and interspersed with bushy shrubs among belts of
The homestead should also be positioned
so that there is room for expansion if you ever want to extend and
build on at a later stage.
No matter where you position your
homestead you will need to shift soil from where the farmhouse will go.
Remember that shifting soil is labor-intensive and therefore
expensive. Position your homestead where it will involve the minimal of
Access to your Homestead
Of all the developments you will make
to your homestead, road building is the most expensive. Therefore
position your house where it will be close to a public road and where
services such as electricity and phone lines will be economical in
HOMESTEAD LAND: Planning and Doing your Homework is the Key
If you have clear goals of what you
want in your homestead land when selecting your property you have
already made inroads into
the purchase of your rural land. The other half of the quest is that
once you have found that land, you really need to do your homework and
find out as much as you can about this piece of farm land before you
make an offer. These are the hidden assets or pitfalls that neither the
seller, nor the agent will pass on to you and you need to be
well-informed before making that final leap.
You can Add your Own
Comments regarding Homestead Land!
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readers, and hope
you will be one of those we hear from too. Feel free to write about your own experiences
in looking for homestead land and
However, please do not advertise your land here. We have other pages
for this, and any pages that are used for self-promotion will be
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