First homestead reality check

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by ellebeaux, May 23, 2005.

  1. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    Hi, I need some advice -

    My first homestead plans are getting smaller and smaller by the minute as the realities of what I can afford sink in.

    Now I'm looking at a 750 sq ft, 2BR 1BA house on .25 acre for $138,000. Which is the absolute max I can afford here in Central Virginia. It's a great house, I really like it, with another 750 sq ft unfinished basement, A/C, a nice yard with a couple of big trees. City water and a septic system. It backs up to a baseball diamond so it is fairly quiet and the neighborhood is nice. It's also only 8 miles from my job. Right now I have a 45 minute commute and the shorter drive sounds real nice.

    My question to you is: How would you make this a 'starter homestead'? I guess chickens are out, but I can still have a garden and I was thinking bees. I think if I put up a privacy fence, no one would know they were there, right?

    I've learned how to make soap, hook rugs, and do some other things. Bought some canning equipment which will be my next project. I'm going to look into doing some kind of small solar project just to learn about that. VA still doesn't have any incentives to promote solar but maybe down the road, that will be an option.

    I could install a woodstove - the current owners removed the old chimney.

    thanks for listening,

    Beaux
     
  2. Jan Doling

    Jan Doling Well-Known Member

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    Drive farther, get more land.

    Chickens are not necessarily out. Check the zoning codes.
     

  3. Big country

    Big country Well-Known Member

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    Do you like hearing parents screaming at the top of their lungs at a kid for not getting a hit, scoring a run etc? I live next to a little league field, I would never do it again!
     
  4. Snowdancer

    Snowdancer Well-Known Member

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    If it's only .25 acre and there's a house and I assume a driveway, how big are those two trees? I'd think you may have a problem with enough area for a garden where there's not shade, again depending on those trees! Don't get me wrong, I love trees for their beauty, shade and the way they make a chunk of land a homey looking place. I just know they can shade out most sun loving veggies.

    I second Jans suggestion, drive a little bit, get more for less money and you may find a place where you can have those chickens, bees and a lot of vegetables/fruits. YOu can then do what you have planned without worrying about the zoning finding out or neighbors complaining. Sneaking in homesteading things like bees & chickens can work but you are always going to be on edge about the day the letter comes saying you violated some zoning and you have to get rid of the things you've worked hard to get and keep alive. :no:

    I understand I'm not in VA but that sure sounds like a lot of money for the size home/lot you are describing.

    Good Luck in your search and your decision,
    Kathy
     
  5. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I would ALSO drive farther, but then that's just me. *IF* I were to drive farther out, I would take a major road, drive a resonable commute TIME, and then look in THAT area or a little closer in. After all, 20 minutes of highway driving will usually take you much farther out than 20 minutes of in-town driving.

    That being said, my MIL had a small yard. She put a cage of meat rabbits under a large tree. Under the rabbits, she made compost and raised fishing worms.

    The compost went to her garden next to the house. Speaking of gardens, do you have enough sun for one? You will need an area that gets several hours of sun a day.

    For my place-I live in town- I found the regulations for bee hives at my cities website under "animal control". I am allowed 2 hives.

    A solid fence around your hives will cause them to fly up and over peoples heads. Once they have altitude they will STAY above peoples heads and fly straight to the area they are working. That way your neighbors will not be bothered, and they might not even realize that you have them. Remember that they will need a source of water to keep them out of your neighbors swimming pool.

    You can raise a great deal on 1/4 acre. Good luck!
     
  6. Swampfoot

    Swampfoot Active Member

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    I grew up across the road from a playground so make sure you look at it in the evening or weekend when the ball park is in use. There may be more noise and light than you expect. You will also get kids regularly climbing the fence to get stray balls from your yard.
     
  7. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    boy, I didn't even think about yelling parents, I just thought about the kids!

    The woman that lives there now, says it is very quiet - the parking lot is actually on the side close to the house and there is a buffer of woods so I believe her. and they would have to be a really bad hitter to get a ball to go backwards.

    I am trying to balance the distance versus the land thing. Part of it, is that since it is my first house, I want to have everything as fixed up as possible so I don't need to worry about major repairs for a few years. Plus I am so tired of spending so much of my life driving.

    Housing prices around here are outrageous - prices have gone up 30% for the past two years and continue to go up about 1% a month. I'm in a first time home buyer's program. They are giving me a 3.875% interest rate!!!! Plus, depending on the county I buy in, I can also get a 10% no interest loan towards the price of the house that I'd have to pay back when I sell the house. And I can get lowered closing costs. So they are really helping me out but there still isn't much in this price range, which is why it sounds so high.

    Beaux
     
  8. Grandmotherbear

    Grandmotherbear Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I lived in Northern VA for many years and think its utterly amazing that you found what you have found.
    If I was a woman alone, I'de go for it. Reasons- Affordability, gas, the possibility of a bike co,mmute in nice weather, you can do a LOT with a 1/4 acre lot with gardens. You will need 6 hours daily for your sunshine loving vegetables, but in VA you can also plant columnar apple tree- basically a straight 6-8 ft stick that bears apples, blueberries, strawberries in a pot or in a bag - multiply-grafted plums, mulberries, blackberries, etc etc. Look into raised beds and heavy mulching- specially if your earth is basically clay. Investiagte meat rabbits. I keep meaning to do a small rabbitry.
    Don't forget grapes.
    A small house is easier to clean, cheaper to heat and insure. I think it is a great start while you" dip your toes into " the homesteading philosophy. If your health changes so you can't "do "all that" you are in a good suburban type area and can find a teenager to mow your lawn, if need be.

    Check out the lighting on the ball field. I don't mind being a bloock from the ball fields- noisy because no trees to screen- but they put in new, high, bright lights about 2 years ago and keep them on most of the time for security. I could see a teensy bit of the night skiy before they did that. Now, I can see the moon and that's about it. With heavy curtains, I can sleep, but it is something I didn't think would be a problem with a kiddie ball field.
     
  9. Swampfoot

    Swampfoot Active Member

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    The housing market is something to consider. My first house was in Charleston, SC. I bought it shortly after the naval base was closed. After four years I sold it and made about a 40% profit. That sale helped finance the home and land I have now. If you can get a good deal (and it sounds like you can on the financing) then it may give you a chance to build some equity and also save for a later move to the country.

    One other thing to think about, are the schools good in the area? My house was about a mile from one of the best elementary schools in the area. That can be a huge factor in the resale value of a starter home.

    Oh yeah, my favorite ballpark sound bite. Picture a sweaty, red-faced man screaming at the top of his lungs to a bunch of six year old boys as a flock of geese flew over. "Don't look at the birds, keep your eyes on the ball!"
     
  10. BamaSuzy

    BamaSuzy Well-Known Member

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    To me it just seems way too high to be near a ballpark and with that small of a lot....if you really want a homestead you're going to have to look for something with a little bit more land....I wouldn't go in debt that much for that small of land.....I'd rather live in a tent on a bigger lot! or a mobile home or anything!
     
  11. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    Grandmotherbear - thanks for your input, I've never heard of columnar trees so I'll have to look into that. And I do feel like I am getting a good deal, the couple bought the house less than a year ago but she gave birth this week so they are moving back to Texas to be near family

    Terri - that's a great thought about the bees flying higher! I know nothing about bees (yet) but I do know that they are in danger from a mite disease and I think it just would be a good idea to keep as many around as possible

    Swampfoot - I love the geese story. Maybe I'll have some of my own to add someday. I don't have any kids so I didn't even think about the school aspect of the resale value.

    KYGuest and Jan - My plan would be to sell it and move further out in two or 3 years. It's on a private gravel road with about 30 small houses on it. Some are made of local fieldstone and are really cool. Some have been rehabbed and some are pretty junky but it's an 'improving' area. The other part is that all around is being developed, including the brand new Target that is the only one in a 50 mile radius. So the property values are supposed to go up significantly and in a couple of years, I'd be able to walk to all the major stores. I figure that will be just in time for me to sell!

    But maybe I will try chickens, the parking is on the street with about half the yard in the front and half in back. The trees are on the perimeter so the center of both front and back yards are very sunny. I figure I'll do flowers out front and veggies in back. A grape arbor at the gate or something. Man, I'm having alot of fun planning this all out. I hope it works!

    thanks for your thoughts,

    Beaux
     
  12. sisterpine

    sisterpine Goshen Farm Supporter

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    I vote get further out of town- that is a tiny piece of land and a lot of money for that small a house too. i know there is really no comparrison but my place on the mountain in montana appraised at 102,000. for 20 acres and an 1100 sq ft house and I thought that was really high!
     
  13. perennial

    perennial Well-Known Member

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    If you can walk to major stores that are coming, i would go further out. You see, with those stores, comes traffic and lots of people. I see houses near those stores here and i feel bad because they probably bought their house long
    before they came in and now their house's aren't worth as much . I think you would be better off renting and saving for a couple of years and then getting
    something you really want the first time.

    1. You will be really shocked at home much work you will want to put in a
    "fixed up" place that seems like it has everything. Why do that with the
    intention of moving out of it in the first place.

    2. You also need to think about resale of the place - not much land, smaller
    house, baseball diamond behind it - if you are having doubts at the price you are thinking of spending on it, then someone definitely will if you would be
    asking for more $$ in the future.

    3. If prices are low and you have such good incentives, find something
    you really like. We have almost a 1/2 acre and my neighbors feel close
    to me.

    4. Don't forget night games in the summer

    5. Draw a circle around where you work to how far you want to commute on a map and then start driving and looking.

    6. There are no leave son the trees in the fall and early spring - when games
    are being played.

    7. Maybe the person selling the house doesn't think it's a problem because she wants to get the heck out of there?

    No matter what you buy check it out at all different times and think of resale.

    Good luck on your decision
     
  14. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Sounds lovely for a start. Now I positively loath ball games and my house in colorado is across the street from a football field. So I would run screaming from anything near a ball field. But that is me, not you. If you thing you can handle the ball games and other wise love the house, and it is not priced at top dollar then it might well work for you. Try not to pay right at the appraisal if you can help it or you will lose money on it with all the extra costs involved.

    You can keep a few chickens in the backyard. Lots of people do. And a few rabbits if you like. And you can grow quite a large garden. Try getting dwarf fruit trees. They don't use as much room and bear sooner. Grapes will usually bear the next year after they are planted. And there are quite a few decorative edibles around. I've even grown asparagus and tomatoes and herbs in the front flower bed.

    If you can manage it, you might try looking for a piece of ground that you can get on payments for your future homestead. Then you can at least go out and do a little work on it and camp and decide where to build. And when you sell the house you will already have somewhere to go.

    Enjoy your dreams and good luck with your new home.
     
  15. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

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    It's so hard to give advice in an case like this. On one hand, it sounds like you would be settling for something that will be difficult down the road.
    Of course, you could pass and find that nothing else comes along for a long, long time.

    Here a some things I was wondering:
    What kind of chemicals are used in the maintenance of that ball field?
    I've always been horrified at some of the fertilizers, pesticides etc that they put down in a place where kids will be playing.
    Will there be isssues for your gardens? Will a mosquito sprayer come along and kill your bees?

    Are there zoning rules regarding how high or what kind of a fence you can put up? They can't complain about what they can't see. Could neighbors with second story windowns see into your fenced yard if you put up privacy fence?
    What about set back rules? Some fence laws require you to put a fence so far in from the property line that you only get to use a fraction of your already small parcel.

    The ballfield would ruin my peace and tranquilty, personally.
     
  16. perennial

    perennial Well-Known Member

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    Keep thinking about resale. If you were looking at that property 5 years down the line and it cost $190,000 would you want to live there for what you get.

    What about finding some land. Live in apartment, commute will still be close and
    i bet you could put a small modular on it later.

    Always remember you CAN NOT change what is around you.


    I'm not being negative, just a bit of a realist i guess when it comes to
    spending alot of money on something and how you will feel working all
    those hours paying on a house/yard your not completely happy with.
    I would also want to know if there are dogs in the neighborhood - we have
    some in ours and they are noisy.

    If you do decide that it's for you, i'm sure you can make it work and
    do all the things you want - where there is a will, there is a way!
     
  17. coalroadcabin

    coalroadcabin Well-Known Member

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    Beaux,
    I have lived in a 3 Br 1 BA house on a .25 acre lot in a subdivision. You can have a garden large enough to supply most of your veggies-we have. Our neighbors raised rabbits with no problem and if your locality will allow it, 3-4 chickens could work out just fine on .25 acres. We also live less than a .10 mile from the local school's ballfields and have experienced the lights and sounds of kids playing ball-it's really not too bad.
    Having said all of that, we purchased 10 acres way out in the boonies about 5 years ago and I can't wait to finally be able to build out there and get away from being closed in!! As far as $$$ goes, our current land value is $42,500.00 and if you spent $80,000.00 on a very nice double wide, you would have more square footage and more land for less than you could buy my current house for. I know with the first time home buyers programs, buying land and setting a double wide isn't always possible, but it may be something for you to consider. Either way, best of luck to you!!
     
  18. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

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    You're thinking the right way. You have a big opportunity to skim the cream out of a developing market, then walk away with $40-60,000 PLUS your own input in two to four years time. This is not the right thing to think about doing often in your lifetime. In fact, the chance may only come (first-time home-buyers grant) once. However, you CAN do it now; you have the opportunity to do it in not just a static area but an area which is going to sky-rocket; and all the good factors to help you are lining up to do it on this max-op place now. I can't see how you'd lose, except the time you spend in your job. If you're likely to spend most of the years in the job anyway, then this op lets you minimise the hours per day spent getting to-and-from. Put in a garage, put rabbits up with quail under in cages there, bees if you like, raised beds for vegies, grow strawberries and melons, tomatoes (maybe only cherry toms and Tiny Tims), pole beans and snake beans with chayotes (chokoes) and cucumbers, bush squash and pumpkins and zucchinis. Rainbow chard and rainbow cale with scarlet runner beans in the front yard (VERY decorative but eat them). Sweet potato vegetation is decorative and easy - plant runners from the tubers and keep doing it until the tubers have exhausted themselves pushing out runners. Nasturtiums are a recognised flower but the vegetation and flowers are edible and peppery-tasty. A simple two rows of mignonette and oak-leaf lettuce can keep you in salad greens for four or five months - pick'n'come-again - radishes, mustard, cress, rocket.
     
  19. homebirtha

    homebirtha Well-Known Member

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    I get the theory behind what you're doing. Actually, it's what we did. We bought a place planning to resell in two or three years, so we could have that money to put down on our "real" homestead and it worked great. We made $100,000 in two years!

    BUT BUT BUT... Two things send up red flags on this property. The big one is the ball field. Does it have lights? Have you been there when the lights are on? If not, check it out first. If it doesn't have lights, it very likely will at some point. What if they put up lights next year and your house is bathed in that light every evening for most of the year? I don't think you'd be able to give the property away at that point.

    The other thing that would worry me is the stores going in. In suburbia, most places that are near huge stores like Target are not desireable at all. No one wants to be able to walk to Target. They all want to drive there. The people who can walk there live in the trashy area where, again, they couldn't hardly give their house away.

    If I were in your situation, I would focus almost solely on resale value. What is someone going to be looking for in a starter house in two or three years. While you want to have chickens, most homebuyers don't. So some place that allows you to have chickens is going to send most future buyers running away screaming. It would be nice to be able to do a mini-homestead thing now, but focus on the future and what you have to do to get to your real homestead. Even if that means sacrificing some of your desires for now.
     
  20. phrogpharmer

    phrogpharmer Well-Known Member

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    I live about 1/4 mile from a ball field and during the summer I can hear people screaming until late at night, especially on week ends. It seems like you are considering paying a lot of money for a small lot with a small house.
    Good Luck.
    phrogpharmer